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Friday, June 17, 2016

Two Years- Happy Birthday Caroline

June 17, 2014     
The day our family went from two to three!

     Happy 2nd Birthday to my beautiful daughter, Caroline Joy!

     This morning I woke up feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I could not cover my daughter's bedroom door with pink balloons, frost a pink cake with sprinkles, and slip her into a special birthday dress. This morning I felt sad that I couldn't watch her face light up as she tore through the wrapping paper on her presents, or watch her dance around the room with a shine in her blue eyes. I felt sorry that I couldn't watch her kiss her little brothers'cheek as he woke up, and see them play with the birthday balloons together. I was sad that I couldn't hear her precious little voice, and laugh at her squeals of joy. I felt sad. I felt sorry. It hurts at how much we miss.
     But this morning, in the twinkling light of her pink candle, I remembered her life. Her most precious life. When I brushed the tears away, and allowed myself to smile, I felt that joy. The joy that she has and continues to bring into my life. The joy that I have felt ever since that first moment I discovered I was pregnant. The joy that I still feel, two years later, every time I think of my Caroline.
     She had a special way of turning my sadness into joy. There were so many days, when I was heading home from work, when I was just a crying mess. I was so sad, so angry, so confused, and so hurt. I could barely see through my tears. But it was in those moments, that she would choose to move her little body! Her kicks were few, but they always came at just the perfect moments. There was nothing else I could do but break into a huge smile. She just knew how to make her mommy smile and laugh. I still remember the moment when I felt her first kick, it was about a week after we learned that she had Limb Body Wall Complex. I was sitting at the table, working on student evaluations, the sun was streaming into our dining room window. I had just turned on my Pandora station of children's music, which I played to her often. Suddenly, I felt the most gentle, tickling movement. At first it didn't fully register to me. But then it happened again. I knew it was her, and that she was finally big enough for me to feel her move! It was a very special moment, because just days before, the doctor had explained  to us, that because of the way her body was formed, I likely wouldn't feel much movement at all. But there it was, those first butterfly flutters in my tummy! It was the best! Let me just tell you, I did not stop smiling for the rest of the day. My whole pregnancy was like that, filled with so many ups and downs, but anytime I got down, there was always something that would happen to make me smile.
     I learned during that time, just what it meant to experience joy. Real joy. Now joy is different than happiness. Because sometimes I just did not feel happy at all, usually the complete opposite.  Happiness is an outward expression or an inward feeling when something is good or pleasurable to you, it is usually temporary, and based on your circumstance or situation. But I discovered that joy comes outside of your circumstances. I did not always feel happy, but yet my heart felt like it was smiling when I thought of my daughter. Our situation, what we knew was coming, was just pain awful. Every single part of it felt cruel, harsh, and unnatural. We were walking down such a painful road, one that I wish no one would ever have to experience. But through that journey, and even now today, I have learned that joy dances right alongside of grief. I struggle with finding the words to explain how it all works, and I think that is okay. Because it is only in those deepest, darkest moments, when it completely makes sense. How you can feel so sad, so empty, so hurt, and yet in your heart there is joy?  I can not explain it, but I do know that it must come from God! Today, as I remember those precious moments that Caroline and I shared together, I think about God's blessing on me in those moments. I am so thankful that He was able to fill my heart with that joy, because otherwise the grief and the sadness would have been too much to bear.
     Two years ago my Caroline entered into this world, at 5:16am. She came into this world silently, but made a big impact on those who know her story. I remember gazing at her perfect face, and stroking her dark hair (I am still amazed at how much dark curly hair she had). The moment they laid her on my chest, I wanted to protect her. I wanted to hold her and never let go. I think that is a mommy's instinct, the need, the desire to protect her children. But as the doctor  gently placed the stethoscope on her tiny chest, and gave us a solemn nod, I knew that my time to protect her was limited. I knew that I would only be able to hold her for so long. Yet I clung to her, and held her just a little tighter. I started memorizing her face, every perfect detail. No matter the chaos going on around us in that operating room, hearing them call out her time of death, I was her mommy, and she was my baby. I was going to protect her forever, even if I had to let her go.

     Now here I am, two years later, looking at pictures of that special day. The day that my daughter was born. I look at pictures that a nurse so graciously took for us, of the first moments we shared with her. I am so thankful for all of the emotions and feelings that come to my mind as I remember her and remember that day. After two years, I have learned that emotions and feelings are good. It is how our body processes and heals. It is not easy, in fact, I still believe that grieving is a full time job. But it is so necessary. There are days when I go about my life, feeling like I have completely adjusted to this "new normal". Days when I feel genuinely happy, and smiling and laughing are so natural and easy. There are days when I just do not feel much of anything, and that is a nice relief. But there are days when the grief is still so close, I can feel it like a knot in my throat. It is so real. The difficult part is not knowing when those days will happen. Not knowing when that next trigger is going to push that knot right down to my heart. But I have come to learn that it is all part of the journey, the journey of grief and of loss. There will be good days, and thankfully there are more and more of them as time goes on. But you also never know when something will cause you to take a step backward again, and to feel those tears just begging to be released.
    But when I think about my daughter, and her precious life, I know that she is worth it all. I would not trade my life, as difficult as it can be, for anything. Because being her mommy is the greatest gift in the world. I am so blessed to be able to love her, to celebrate her, and to share her story. I know that every single tear I have cried, is only because of the depth of love that I have for her. I know that when I get angry, or jealous, it is only because of how much I wish she could be here in my arms right now. I know that the strength that I have to continue moving forward, one step at a time, is because she fought to meet me. I know that the hope that I feel, is because of the promise that I will one day see her again!
     So today we celebrate our sweet Caroline Joy! Today we celebrate her life, and all  of the many ways she has taught us about love, joy, and strength. Today we thank God for giving her to us, and for allowing us to be her parents. Today we thank God for being such a good and faithful Father, who never leaves our side. Today am thankful for all the people who support us, love us, and help us celebrate our daughters life. Today I am thankful for all the prayers! Today I am thankful that in a world that WILL fail us, we have a God who will NEVER fail us. Today I am thankful for Caroline's little brother Noah, who even in this moment is making me laugh and smile. Today I am thankful that I can tell Noah all about his big sister, and that we can celebrate her birthday together. Today I am thankful for the 56,064 people who have visisted this blog site and read about Caroline's story (what an impact her life has made on so many people). What a blessing! I am so beyond blessed!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my beautiful daughter! You are so loved and so missed my sweet girl. We are sending up lots of big birthday hugs to you today, as we know you are having a special celebration up in Heaven today! We love you Caroline Joy!  Until we meet again...

I want to be close,close to Your side
So Heaven is real and death is, a lie
I want to hear voices of angels above
Singing as one
Hallelujah, holy, holy
God Almighty, the great I am
Who is worthy, none beside Thee
God Almighty, the great I am

-The Great I Am

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