Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel

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Memory Monday

Late nights were my shift.  I was able to tell pretty quickly each night whether we were going to have a restful or restless night.  

On the restful nights, Caroline would sleep softly in her bassinet, and I would pull it right next to me on the couch.  I would fall asleep to the sound of her breathing, the most beautiful sound, and get some rest before she woke up for her next feeding.

On the restless nights, Caroline was awake and not happy about it.  We’d spend time bouncing around the living room and rocking in her rocking chair.  I would sing to her or play her musical bunny, which she loved.  We would watch television together into the sunrise.  She’d often fall asleep in my arms, and that was just fine with me.

Holding my beautiful, sleeping daughter was always the best part of my day.


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Memory Monday

I didn’t know real exhaustion until after Caroline’s birth.  I went into labor overnight, so my husband and I got no sleep the night before Caroline was born.  Because of this, we started our marathon at a disadvantage, as many parents do.  In the hospital, nurses often came in to check on me as well as Caroline, and it felt like a time warp.  If the nurses didn’t write down the time of Caroline’s next feeding, there was no way I could remember.  Time is an enigma in the hospital.  My husband was so exhausted that I watched Caroline for the majority of the next night so that he could get some sleep.  I was still running on the adrenaline of Caroline’s birth and the wonder at how well she was doing.  The next day, grandparents helped me to get a little sleep, but there was so much planning to be done!  We were taking our little girl home!  We didn’t even have a car seat.  We couldn’t stand the thought of having a car seat installed in our car and driving it home empty, so we figured if we needed one, we would go out and get one.  Kindly, the hospital was able to give us one.  We continued making plans for hospice care, all the while taking care of our beautiful Caroline.

When we got home, time was less of a warp.  We started to get into a routine, but Caroline liked to be awake and fussy around 2-4 am.  My husband and I worked together to learn how to calm her.  I learned that he has infinite patience when he’s exhausted, and I do not.  At one point when I had gone several days on little sleep, I was looking for a pen to label my breastmilk.  I couldn’t find one, and I crumpled into a pile and broke down into tears.  At that point I knew I really needed some sleep – a simple problem felt like the world crashing down.  My husband, on the other hand, never got frustrated the way I did.  He always asked if I needed help, even when I was snapping at him.  I really don’t think I could have done it without him.

One night, I was so exhausted and Caroline would not stop crying.  This was a serious problem, because when she cried, she wasn’t breathing, and when your heart is in bad shape, not breathing is not good.  I was walking around with her and bouncing her, because looking around at different rooms and feeling the motion often soothed her.  As I walked around with her, I was telling her, “You are driving your mommy crazy, do you know that?  Yup, driving mommy crazy.  Calm down baby girl!”  Eventually she did, and I kissed her goodnight as we both tried to get some sleep.

I felt bad later for telling her that she was driving me crazy.  Who says that to their baby?  However, I think it was a moment that we needed to have.  I would never get to tell her as a teenager, so in my exhaustion it came out.  Strangely, it is one of our mother-daughter moments that I most treasure.

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Memory Monday

When it came to nighttime, we broke all the rules.

Caroline was always a little fussy in the evenings, but eventually she would settle down and go back to sleep.  She breathed best on her side and with the bassinet at about a 30 degree angle.  We used blankets to prop up the mattress so that she was at a good angle, and rolled blankets beside her so that she couldn’t roll to her back or belly.  As a newborn she liked to be swaddled in her sturdy fleece swaddle at night, but soon we transitioned to long sleeved footie pajamas at night instead.  We’d then place a blanket over her to keep her warm.

I know that none of this is how you’re supposed to put an infant to bed, but it worked for Caroline so we went with it.  We learned so much from her – she followed her own rules and as we learned what she needed, we adjusted.  When you’re the mom of a baby with Trisomy 13, the parenting book has to be thrown out the window so that you can find creative ways to best support your child.

I would pull the bassinet up close to me, listen to Caroline breathe, and we would both drift to sleep.


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Elusive Sleep

When you lose a child, your body revolts against the harsh reality that you are facing.

Since Caroline died, I have had a hard time sleeping.  At first, I felt so well rested since I was no longer waking up every 3 hours to feed her.  I miss that exhaustion.

Now, it seems that I can never sleep more than 5 hours a night.  Sometimes my cat is to blame; he has recently gotten in the habit of meowing loudly in the middle of the night, looking for attention.  However, I think that my mind is not able to rest the way that it used to.  Every thought is of my daughter.  She is my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night.

I used to spend my nights listening to Caroline breathing in her bassinet right next to me.  Every breath was reassurance that she was still with me.  With her condition, we had no idea how much time we would have.  It turned out we had more time than I had dreamed of, but of course it is never enough.  My arms still ache to hold her and I spend every moment missing her and wishing that I could have watched her grow up.

Now I spend my nights tossing and turning in bed, wondering if I’ll ever sleep well again.

Only time will tell.