By Caroline’s Mother
Dear AHC Parents,
If you are reading this, I am so sorry. What you are going through or have gone through is beyond description. While right now you may feel that your life will never feel happy again, I want to assure you that there is, in fact, light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
My husband and I made the heartbreaking decision to give our second baby girl, Caroline, back to God in January, 2004. Multiple ultrasounds, MRIs and blood tests had confirmed an encephalocele. Basically, there was a hole in my baby’s head, and her brain couldn’t develop appropriately. As hard as it was to make this choice, it was harder trying to find a way to explain it to our then four-year-old daughter, Madeline. To this day, I don’t know exactly how we did it, but the words came and Madeline understood that sometimes a baby is born a baby and comes home to live with the family, but sometimes a baby is born an angel and doesn’t come home; instead, she goes straight to heaven to live with God.
In the days following our decision, I was empty. I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I would see other women with babies and make immediate judgements they didn’t deserve a healthy baby if I couldn’t have one. Weeks went by and I rarely left the house. The thought of having to explain to people who may not have known that I was no longer pregnant was impossible to bear. I can’t explain the full impact of the devastation, but I know you understand what I mean. I wanted this baby so much. Just the year before, I had had an ectopic pregnancy and thought that was as bad as it could get. I was so wrong. Caroline was not just planned. I prayed for her, dreamed of her, and loved her before I knew her.
Twelve weeks after we let Caroline go, a very stubborn but wonderful friend parked outside my door and refused to leave until I came out. She literally dragged me to a meeting at our church, a place I had avoided for months because A) I had the expected Catholic guilt about the decision I made, and B) quite frankly, I was angry at God for making me make that decision.
This meeting turned into a 12-week program that guides women into recognizing their gifts and encouraging them to share them. This program saved my life. I felt so lifted and encouraged and loved by the other women in this group, none of whom were just like me or had gone through the same experiences I had, but all of whom loved me anyway.
These women who started out of strangers, held my hand as I reentered society. They listened open-heartedly when I talked about her. They didn’t squirm or look pitifully at me. They said my Caroline’s name out loud. I can’t tell you how much that means that simple validation of my baby. How odd it seemed that the people who were closest to me couldn’t do that, talk about Caroline and say her name, yet these people I just met could, would, and did.
Eventually, I could get through the morning without crying. Then a whole day. Then a week. I still think of my baby every hour of every day, but I can do so now with less sorrow and more confidence. There are moments when I feel her loss as if it had just happened, but I know those moments will pass.
But then there are all those people who feel its their business to ask “Are you going to try again?” I know that they are hopeful for me because they want me to be happy, and people are uncomfortable about this kind of thing. But I am not ready to face that kind of heartbreak just to make other people feel better. Maybe someday we will add to our family. Maybe we will try again to have a baby of our own or maybe we will adopt. But maybe we won’t.
I realize now that I am blessed beyond all the bad things that have happened to me. My husband is an amazing friend and father. My daughter is pure sunshine. My friends and family enrich my life in so many ways that I don’t notice that something might be missing. I found that focusing on sharing what I have, rather than mourning what I have not, is a much better way to honor Caroline. I still cry, but I laugh more. I still feel pain, but I feel joy more. The bottom line is, I feel that right now, almost two years after Caroline died, I am okay.