As I begin this post, I'm not really sure what to say. I find that my emotions are all jumbled up and there's not really one overarching theme to them. I feel the pain of loss, although not as acutely as I once did. I feel relief that the pain is no longer so bad, and a smidge of guilt for feeling like I've "moved on" (even though I know I shouldn't). I feel sorrow for all the stuff I'm missing with Caroline, especially now that I have little E to show me what I could have had with Caroline if she hadn't had anencephaly. I feel joy for having little E to temper the grief.
I knew when Caroline was born on December 15th that Christmas would never be the same for me again. And that's true. Every time I unpack our Christmas decorations, I pull out the ones we bought for Caroline that year. I put up her stocking and put her ornaments on the tree. I remember doing all of this that first year and how I felt at the time. It just makes Christmas a little bit bittersweet.
In some ways, I can't believe it's been two years since Caroline came and went in a moment. In other ways, I feel like I've lived an entire lifetime since then. But it has most definitely been two years. Two years of remembering her instead of holding her. Two years of grief and healing. Two years of what ifs. Two years of amazing support from other ladies who have gone through similar things. Two years of passing along that empathy to others who have come after me in their loss journey. Two years of "my grace is sufficient for you."
I think one of the hardest things for me this year is pictures. I only have the pictures I have from the one day we were able to hold her out in the world. There are no more opportunities to take pictures of her and with her. I have no pictures of her changing and growing. No pictures of her with her sister. No pictures of her having a birthday, eating cake for the first time. No pictures of her learning to walk or eat. And I think that I'm feeling this loss so greatly right now because E is about to turn one. She's ten and a half months old, and in January, she'll have her first birthday. This entire year, I've taken pictures of her daily. Literally. I have pictures of her every day since she was born. I've mentioned in previous posts why I do this, but I think subconsciously, I knew I could never have enough pictures of Caroline, so I have made an effort to take them of E. I just finished taking a bunch of pictures for Christmas. And it puts a knot in my chest to know that I will only ever have a set number of pictures of Caroline. It doesn't bother me all the time, but at moments like this, it hurts a little more than usual.
As E grows up and hits more developmental milestones, interacts with us more, and just grows in general, it sometimes hits me in my weak moments that I won't ever have a chance to see any of that with Caroline.
All in all, I feel like I've mostly "move on" in life, as much as is possible without forgetting Caroline. I don't feel the loss quite as frequently as I used to. I can go about my day to day life without being weighed down by grief. But there are definitely moments, especially on days like her birthday, where it kinda all comes crashing back. I don't cry as much as I used to. And I don't feel the same sharp, pricking pain in my heart. I always kinda have a catch in my heart when I think or talk about her, but it's not as hard as it used to be.
I just wish she was still here.
Even two years later, I still wish I could have her back.
I have to just take a deep breath, pray for strength and grace, and then go on. I think I'll probably do that for the rest of my life. It might happen less and less frequently as time goes on, but I think there will always be a part of me that just wishes for the chance to know her here on earth. There is a part of my heart that will always belong to her and shudder to think of her loss. That's just my reality. Sometimes, I really don't like that it's my reality. I wish it could just go away, that all the pain and loss and grief could just vanish from my life, that I'll wake up and it was all a bad dream. Not wishing Caroline away, but wishing the pain away.
Alas, that is not to be. And I wouldn't really wish it all away, because it has made me who I am now. I am a much more compassionate person now. I'm a much better mother, I think, than I would have been otherwise. I had a very, very sweet time with Jesus through that whole time, and it changed me. So although it hurts sometimes, and although I miss Caroline a lot, I'm glad to have walked the journey to this point. I'm glad I'm still walking. I'm glad God has allowed me to support others with empathy who have had to walk a similar journey.
So today...Happy Birthday in heaven, Caroline. We miss you here on earth and look forward to seeing you again someday. Thank you for being my first baby girl and teaching me so much in your short time with us. I love you forever.