By: Jenn Stachula
Dear Caroline, my sweet girl,
This is the story of the day you were born.
Oh, how we loved you, immediately and fully and completely, and oh, how our hearts shattered when we learned our time with you had ended. Five years ago, your dad and I clasped hands, and clung to one another as we walked our broken hearts into the hospital to have you; so much earlier than we dreamed, devastated with the knowing that you wouldn’t, couldn’t come home with us. We were so scared; not of having you, precious girl, but of letting you go. I had no idea how I would let you go. When your Aunt Amy died, years before you and your sister and brother were even dreams on my heart, I learned how to hold on close and tight, love completely, cradle those I cherished in the safety of my heart. I never dreamed I wouldn’t be able to do the same for you. I ached to bring you into our family, into our crazy clan and raise you with the love that was already yours. You were a part of me, us, this. Until that day, in the doctor’s office, when that sweet man cried with me when we couldn’t find your heartbeat, I truly believed you’d be safe inside me, and grow completely into the person you were made to be. I’m so, so sorry, I was wrong.
When we entered labor and delivery, I was greeted at the door with a tender hug from a nurse I knew well, one I had trained to care for moms like me. We cried together, and we held on a little tighter and longer. He whispered to us, “I am so, so sorry you’re here. We’ll do everything we can to honor you and your baby. I have asked the most compassionate people to be here and help care for you and your baby girl.” We walked together to the room where we’d start the process to meet you.
A young, clearly nervous nurse I had never met stood close beside my bed. The tears glistening in her eyes were held back by bravery, a tender brave front that just cut me to my core. I looked at her and gently asked, my words trembling, “Have you ever done this before, helped a mom like me?” A single tear slipped out as she replied, “You are my first.” Tears slipped from my own eyes as I grasped her hand and said, “I’ve never done this before either. We’ll learn together.” I asked her name, and she replied, “It’s Amy.”
My heart swelled, and for a moment, I felt the Universe and all that had been, all I dreamed would be, collide within me. She shared your Aunt Amy’s name.
I knew then, my darling baby, that you would be in good hands. Seven hours later, you were born into her hands, Nurse Amy’s, and she held you, cared for you with every bit of reverence you deserved. I will be grateful for her for the rest of my life.
Dad and I held you. We cradled you in our hands, still clasped together, you between us. I marveled at how tiny you were, and how much your little fingers and toes and body had grown perfectly but were just so achingly halted. Interrupted. But just perfect for as long as your heart had beaten.
I wondered then if when your heartbeat stilled, it had swiftly joined mine, to grow my heart ever more. It was your brother that later said, “She grew our hearts, Mom.” That you certainly did, sweet girl. I feel that every day. I carry you with me every single, beautiful day.
Your dad and I stayed with you, wrapped you in pink and satin, in a tiny wrap I had seen made by hands that knew what it was like to hold a baby so briefly, and dream of holding every day. We stared at you and felt the dream of you running and playing with your siblings slip away. We held fiercely to one another as we pondered how to let you go so quickly from my body to our hands, from our lives to your resting place. There are no words but one to describe those moments: sacred.
When they came for you, too too soon- it would forever be too soon- to take you to the funeral home, I wept every tear I hadn’t realized I’d been storing up. I trusted those funeral home boys, those well-dressed, too young, so serious boys who came for you, to hold you all the way there, to keep you in kind, safe arms. They promised, and we watched you leave.
The next moments (were they hours?) were a fog, and all I felt was empty, achingly empty without you, and ready to fill my arms with our little, ever-altered family. We were discharged and given papers to sign, papers I had designed years before for moms just like me and given brochures from Share that I had helped edit and write with love knowing who would be reading them. I never then dreamed I’d be one of the mothers I’d held in heart when I held that pen. I signed, smiled, thanked, hugged, cried, dressed, and then clasped your dad’s hand yet again. Together we walked out the hospital doors, ever changed, and reentered our life, ever more for having had you. As briefly as you shared this world, my darling, you rocked ours with such great love.
I will love you, hold you in heart, and spend the rest of my days teaching your siblings the lessons you left behind: to love as completely and fully as you are able; to hold on tight, and let go when needed—the same lessons my sister taught me. To keep an open heart and mind even when it feels pain will close you off forever; to seek the light within the dark, because that’s how joy is sought and discovered. And you, sweet Caroline Claire, were named for Joy and Light, the very same gifts you brought to our lives. Ever will you be our reminder to embrace those gifts wherever we find them, every day of our lives.
Love you forever,
About Jenn Stachula
Jenn is honored to be the Social Media Manager and Support Group Leader for Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support. She has been a supporter of Share her entire adult life, and has been working with the organization in various roles since 2011. Jenn enjoys writing, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family. As a writer, bereaved sister of Amy, and bereaved parent of Caroline, Jenn strives to give an honest, yet warm voice to both grief and love, and the ways they weave together in our everyday lives.