The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Grief is not just a simple word. In fact, as time goes on, I have quickly realized that there are so many thoughts and feelings that accompany grief. It reaches to the very depths of your heart, mind, and body. Not only do I feel the grief mentally and emotionally, but it also affects my body physically as well. Often I find myself completely exhausted, feeling as though I have no strength left to stand. I honestly think that grief is a full time job.
Throughout this entire journey I have been overcome by guilt. It hits me in the most unexpected moments, and yet it does not pass. I feel it moment by moment, day after day. It plays over and over in my head. The reality is so hard to admit, the pain is just too great to bear. Yet the truth stands, I COULD NOT save my baby. I am her mom, she counted on me. It was my job to protect her, it was my job to save her. But I couldn't
Ever since that day in November, when I found out that I was pregnant, everything that I did was for her. I was so careful about the foods that I ate, how much water I drank, that I got enough rest and sleep, and that I took my vitamins without fail. I spent hours reading about what to do when your pregnant, and what not to do when your pregnant. I wanted to do everything possible to give my baby the best start to life.
But when we were told that our baby could not survive outside of the womb, I was left helpless. Even though I did everything that I could do to take care of her, it was not enough. They told us that she could not and would not live. But I am her mother, I wanted to save her. I wanted to protect her. I wanted to give her the best life. Yet the reality hung heavy over my head, there was nothing that I could do for her.
The doctor told me there was nothing that I had done to cause this, that it just happens. But still I feel guilty. There must have been something that I did wrong. The doctor told me there was nothing that we could do to save her, that there is a 0% survival rate. But still I feel guilty. There must have been something, anything, that I could have done to save her. She was so tiny, so helpless, she needed me, and I could not help her.
Last week I went to CPR training. It hit me in a way that I never would have imagined. The moment I saw those plastic baby dummies laying on the table, my mind went a hundred miles an hour. As they were talking about performing life saving CPR on an infant, the guilt hit me again. There I sat, learning about how to save the life of someone else's baby, but I could not save the life of my own baby. I got angry in that moment. I felt like the biggest failure. I was angry at myself, for not saving her. There was no amount of CPR that could have saved Caroline's life. I know that. But it still breaks my heart, just knowing that in her greatest time of need, I could not help her.
Slowly I have found that the nightmares are going away. But for months I was plagued with the worst nightmares. I would wake up sweating and crying, feeling the guilt tightening in my chest. I know that this is normal, that often nightmares come along with grief. Yet for so long I found myself staying awake. Keeping myself busy so I did not have to sleep. I would purposely read, write, or watch the TV just to stay awake. I did not want to have those dreams, where I was forced to watch my daughter suffering while I stood by powerless to help. It was better to be exhausted from no sleep, than to be exhausted from the intense pain and guilt that I would feel in the wake of the nightmares. I am so thankful that God is slowly bringing me into a safe place once again. I still have nights where I lay awake all night, my mind reliving memories over and over again. I still have nights when I am hit with an awful nightmare, and then another and then another. I still have nights when I toss and I turn, my arms aching and my heart heavy. I still have nights when the minutes tick by slowly, and the night seems to last forever. I know that a big part of my nightmares comes straight from the guilt that overwhelms my entire body. I just cannot live with myself some days, because I could not save her. All day those thoughts of guilt play through my head, of things I could have done, or things I wish I would have been able to do for her. Then all night those thoughts of guilt play through my dreams. It never goes away. It never gets easier.
The guilt accompanies me in my every day life. It eats at my heart and it eats at my mind. I want it to go away. I want it to leave and never come back. I know what people say, that it is not my fault, that I did everything that I could. But still I feel guilty, because the reality is that I am her mom. When a baby is born into this world it is so tiny, and so helpless. A baby relies on adults for everything. Babies need food, and warmth, love, and lots of special care. There is nothing that they can do to help themselves. When my sweet little girl was placed gently into my arms, I immediately felt those instincts kick in. I wanted to start taking care of her right away. I wanted to shield her from the hurt and the pain. I wanted her to know that everything was okay, and that I would be there for her always. I wanted her to know that I would protect her and keep her safe. But none of those things, absolutely none of those things could I give her. I could not shield her from the reality. I could not promise that everything was okay, and that I would be there for her always. I could not protect her, and I could not keep her safe. I am her mom, but I just could not save her.
It is so difficult to erase the guilt. I know that it will probably always be there, just like the grief. As much as I want it to go away, I know that it is a part of my journey, a part of the healing and grieving process. I have learned that it is okay to feel, and it is okay to hurt. When I am feeling guilty, I do not have to push it away, just because it does not seem valid. I know that many people tell me that I have nothing to feel guilty about, that there is nothing I could have done to save her life. But honestly, that does not make me feel better. Because the reality is that I wanted to save her, I wanted to give her everything and more. She is my daughter and I only wanted the very best for her. I am guilty, truly guilty, because I did not do that for her. I am a failure, because I did not protect her, and most of all I could not give her life.
When I realize that my feelings are real, and that the guilt is very real, I know that I am powerless to change it. So therefore I have started to think about it in a different way. Instead of focusing on all of the ways that I failed her, I choose to focus on all of the good memories. I choose to remember all the hours I spent talking to her each day. I choose to remember all of the songs that I sang to her. I choose to remember the countless minutes I would loose track of the world around me as I watched and rubbed my moving belly. I choose to remember the books I read to her, and the movies we watched together. I choose to remember all of the things I taught her how to do. I choose to remember the sound of her steady beating heart. I choose to remember the joy I felt as we watched her moving around on the ultrasound screen. I choose to remember the trips we took together. I choose to remember all the nights we baked and cooked together. I choose to remember the afternoons we spent outside on the deck. I choose to remember the quiet dark evenings in bed, when she would snuggle up all warm and cozy on whichever side I was laying. I choose to remember all the new joys that came along with being pregnant. I choose to remember the peace that overwhelmed me as we left that early Tuesday morning for the hospital. I choose to remember the kindness of all the doctors and nurses. I choose to remember the hours that Josh and I sat just watching her move and hearing her heartbeat on the monitor. I choose to remember the way she was moving around just before they covered my belly with the blue sheet. I choose to remember the pure love that filled every ounce of my body as they placed her in daddy's arms. I choose to remember every tiny detail of her precious and perfect little body. I choose to remember how it felt to have her in my arms. I choose to remember those 19 miraculous minutes where time seemed to stand still. I choose to remember how everything just felt right having our family of three together. I choose to remember the joy and the sorrow that were very present throughout the day. I choose to remember those tiny little fingers and those tiny little toes. I choose to remember the smiling faces and the sad tears that just seemed so fitting. I choose to remember giving her a first and only bath. I choose to remember softly combing out her curly dark hair. I choose to remember the beauty of my daughter. I choose to remember how everything just felt so right and so complete when she was there. I choose to remember that she was a gift to us from our Almighty God. I choose to thank Him each day, for allowing us the privilege of being her parents.
I know that the guilt will never go away. But when it hits me, I am learning that I need to instead focus on the blessings that we were given. God gave us the precious gift of time. I am so thankful that we were able to give Caroline a lifetime of love in the short time that we were given. Even though I will always feel guilty, and I will always feel like a failure, I know that during the time she spent on earth, I did the very best that I could for her. I tried my best to give her everything that I could, with the time that I was given. And for that.. I am thankful!