Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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Memory Monday

When Caroline came home from the hospital, she was completely stable.  That first week, her hospice nurses came by every day to check Caroline’s vitals, and every day they were stable.  They continued this way, so we cut down our hospice nurse visits to 3 times a week.

I remember the day that Caroline left stability like it was yesterday.

It was May 2nd.  I had planned to leave Caroline with her grandmother that morning for an hour or two to go in to work for a seminar.  I never made it.  I had a tough morning of a fussy baby girl and noticeable changes.

That day, her hands were much colder to the touch than they had been before.  I also noticed that her feet were slightly swollen.  This was the first time that Caroline had shown any change since coming home from the hospital, and it was a change predicted by the cardiologists that we had seen in the past.  Up until this point, a part of me still believed that there was a chance of Caroline’s heart healing itself.  She had done much better than expected so far, why wouldn’t it continue?

When Caroline’s hospice nurse came for her visit that day, I broke down.  I showed her that Caroline’s hands were cold and her feet were swollen.  The nurse reassured me that it was very mild swelling that should not be causing any pain, but I knew that it meant that Caroline’s heart was beginning to fail her.  I told the nurse, “It feels so wrong doing nothing.” She replied, “Listen.  You are not doing nothing.  You are doing everything.  You are pumping milk for her every day.  You are feeding and taking care of her.  I can’t imagine someone taking better care of her.”

What Caroline’s nurse said was true, but there was a deeper yearning meant by my comment.  It felt horrible to be in the position I was in, where there was no cure for my daughter’s condition and I was completely helpless.  There was nothing I could do for her other than keep her comfortable.  I didn’t want her to suffer.  As a parent, it just feels wrong, even when you know you are doing the best you can for your child and your family.  I have no regrets about the decisions that we made for Caroline, but that did not make them easy.

Caroline’s change in status made it all very real, and brought many tears the next few days.  Now that she was showing symptoms of her heart condition, I feared that we would lose her very soon.

Once again, Caroline defied the odds.  She remained happy and stable with us for almost another month.  In fact, the week that she passed away, there were a few days where her swelling had completely disappeared.  The day that she passed away, her vitals were stable during her nurse visit and her lungs remained clear, as they had always been.

I am so thankful for the time that we were given with Caroline, and that she was so comfortable with little use of pain medication.  We were able to see her sweet personality and she was able to spend quality time with her family.

There would be many more tears to follow May 2nd, but those tears were always and will always be tears of love.

 

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Eight

As television starts back up again, it is time for a post that I have been thinking about for a while.  I have always been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy.  I have often thought back to a scene where Cristina talks to Meredith’s therapist and tells her about Meredith’s pain level.  At this point in the show, Meredith has lost her mother, her father has never been there for her, and she is barely hanging on.  Derek doesn’t understand the loss in her life and the support system that she needs.

 

 

Since my daughter died, I have thought that this same fact is true for me.  I live my life at an eight.

 

I am willing to bet that the same is true for anyone who has lost a child.  On a pain scale of 1 to 10, we are always at an 8.  This is beyond the comprehension of everyone but those closest to us.  They are the ones that notice that we live our lives at an 8.  They are the ones who know that the smiles, while they can be genuine, are hiding the deep sadness that comes when a part of you has left this world.  Caroline is my first thought in the morning and my last thought as I fall asleep.  I try to be strong for her and put on a brave face, but sometimes I have to sit outside in the sunshine to feel close to her.  Sometimes I have to run out of the building at work to burst into tears because I can’t stand pretending that I’m okay for one more second.

If you are reading this because you know someone who has lost a child, be the friend who notices their pain.  If months have gone by and you think that they are doing okay, know that they are not.  Give them a hug and the chance to tell you how they feel.  They live their life at an 8, but you can make that 8 a little easier to bear.


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5 Months

Caroline, today you would have been 5 months old.

Your father and I miss you so much, sweetheart.  We can’t believe that you have been an angel for almost 3 months.  When I pray, I tell God that He better be taking very good care of you.  I’m still your mama and that means that I’m still suspicious of the best babysitter you could possibly have.  Missing you every day, sweetheart.

My husband and I had a moment this past weekend.  It was his weekend off from work, so we had the full two days to entertain ourselves.  We spent Saturday binge-watching Breaking Bad and we went out to dinner.  By the time Sunday evening came around, we were sick of staring at screens, but there is not a lot to do in this town.  We live far from family so visiting someone for the afternoon was not an option.  We fell into a well of boredom, trying desperately to think of something to do that would help us escape.

That was when my husband came and hugged me, and I responded, “Me too.”  I knew he was saying that he missed Caroline.  I cried for the first time in weeks.  If she was still here, we wouldn’t sit around watching TV all weekend – we would be busy taking care of our 5 month old daughter.  Life is so different now.

I suggested we go for a drive.  We got in the car and I drove us to a grocery store to pick out some flowers for Caroline.  The first two stores didn’t have what we were looking for, so we continued on to a third and got her a beautiful bouquet of purple and white daisies.  They look beautiful next to her urn and I hope she likes them.  Going to pick them out allowed us to do something for her and to actively be her parents for the first time in a while.  We took care of our little girl, and it was what we needed in that moment.