E is now three and a half months old. She is thriving, she is healthy, she is wonderful. I am so grateful for her.
She did not replace Caroline in my heart. She never will. The pain of losing Caroline has faded slightly, but it will never go away completely this side of Heaven.
I wanted to write this post, because, well, I think people need to know this side of pregnancy and infant loss. I've had a few people kind of act like Everleigh has replaced Caroline. That Caroline is no longer important because I have a living daughter to take care of now. No one has come out and said that so explicitly, but I know it's gong through their heads. And to a certain extent, I can understand why they think that way. For most people, Caroline is a nonentity. They had no emotional connection to her outside of her being our daughter. No one ever got to know her outside my womb.
Everleigh is here on earth with us, and people can know her and get connected to her. It's only reasonable to assume that she would take precedence in my heart because she's here. But that's not true.
I still attend a loss group (kind of a group therapy type group) through the perinatal hospice organization that Cameron and I dealt with. Some people have asked why I still go. Well...because I like to. It makes me feel better. It helps me with my loss, while I can simultaneously help others through their losses. Several of us have since had other babies, and having that first baby after a loss (what some call rainbow babies) is a unique experience. Those ladies understand all my mixed emotions. They understand why I still fear losing Everleigh more than the normal mother would fear. They understand that watching the new baby hit milestones is a reminder that the lost baby will never hit them. They understand that on the birthday or angel day of that lost baby, it will always be hard. They understand how bittersweet mother's day is because one of your babies isn't with you here on earth. They get all the weirdness that comes with life after loss.
And it is weird. If you haven't been there, it doesn't really make sense. That's ok. I wish I didn't know what it was like. I wouldn't want anyone to have to feel that way. But, I have lost, so I do feel.
For the rest of my life, when people ask how many kids I have, I'll have to think before I answer. Should I include Caroline and explain, or should I just include my living children for simplicity's sake? December 15th and Christmas will never be the same for me. Mother's day and Father's day will always be awkward. October, when we got her diagnosis, will always be a little strange. Watching Everleigh grow up will be a reminder that Caroline didn't get to. Family pictures will always be missing a person. There will always be a prick on my heart about all these things. So you see, the loss never ends. The pain is dulled, and I can rejoice in what I do have (and believe me, I do), but it never ends.
I take a picture of E every day. Partly because her grandmother (my mom) insists on it because we live so far away and she wants to see her grandbaby in any way possible. Haha. But there's another reason. I want to have a picture of her every day in case it's her last. It's hard for me to admit this, because it stems from fear, and I hate to be afraid. To me, it smacks of a lack of trust in God, and I hate feeling that way. But I can't help it. I can manage it, and I can make sure it doesn't overwhelm me and cause me to truly lose faith in God's goodness, but I can't help that I have a knee-jerk fearful reaction because of the loss I experienced. I take a picture every day, and I take lots of videos, because I want to have those memories in case something happens. I take videos of her just talking or playing on her activity mat. I take pictures of her sleeping, yawning, smiling, frowning. I have videos of everything I can. Because if, God forbid, she has to leave me before I want her to, I want to have those mementos of her to cherish. I never want to forget those precious baby coos and giggles. I want to know exactly what shade of blue her eyes are. I want to see how her mouth falls open when she's fast asleep. Loss does this to you.
I don't take these things for granted, my friends. I treasure them for the blessings they are.
When I used to write that Caroline changed my life, I meant it. It wasn't temporary. She still exists to me. Today marks 17 months since we lost her. I'll always love and treasure the one I lost as much as the ones I got to keep. It will look different, but it will be true just the same. I don't cling to the grief, or the pain, or the 2 yr old inside screaming, "It's not fair!" I cling to the precious blessing she was and is. I'm not overwhelmed by sadness and loss, but I can't forget one of my children. You see, she never ends, so my loss won't either. Not this side of Heaven.