Category Archives: CarlyMarie Project 2012

The CarlyMarie Project Wrap-up

My CarlyMarie project 2012 is complete and in the books… literally.

I created a beautiful book to keep with my memories, good and bad, so that now I can heal.  The project was meant as a way for me to share my grief in as much or as little detail as I wanted.  I chose to be very open and honest.  Too often parents of infants aren’t allowed to share these things with others.  We are told to grieve in silence.  “We are lucky we didn’t have them longer, it would be harder to lose them”  I find this very offensive and cruel.  I wanted to share exactly how I felt, exactly how others made me feel, exactly what my baby girl meant to me, exactly what I went through.

This project brought many of you to share things with me about Clara, about your grief, about things being spoken without us knowing.  I found an even deeper appreciation for our daycare provider after learning she has flashbacks and scares, that she was able to share the sheer terror she felt as she was giving CPR, that others spoke some very unkind words to her.  I also realized how lucky we are to have someone like her.  During the project someone shared that others are using Clara’s death to explain why immunizations cause SIDS and shouldn’t be given to children.  For the record SIDS is NOT caused by vaccinations.  My husband and I are extremely hurt to hear that our daughter is being used as an example of something unfounded and simply not true.  Not only that but no one asked to use her in this manner.  They are not honoring her in any way but simply spreading garbage and false information.  They are doing a disservice to SIDS awareness.

After this project was complete I also found out that my honesty has hurt some people.

I am sorry if my words offended any of you…  This project was in no way meant to harm or hurt anyone.  Everything I wrote were things that I have already spoken to the people about.  I have been open about these hurts, trying to explain why they were hurtful.  There have been a few, “I am sorry or I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  But for the most part my hurt was met with “I can’t change the past, you need to get over it.”, “You are a harm to our family and are tearing our family apart and need counseling.”, “You don’t understand God very well.”  Those hurts are the ones I wrote about on day 28 – memories of grief.  I need to be able to move past them.  For me, I need others to know that some things are extremely hurtful.  Again these words were not meant as a stab, dig, or to harm anyone, they were just an explanation of what impacted me so greatly and what caused me to feel that my grieve was either not important or should be silenced.  This project was about healing and that was my intention and goal…to heal.

I am silent no more, but I also experienced some healing and at peace with many things.  I know that this project was something I needed to help me find peace.  I got to share about my girl, I got to help create awareness for SIDS, and I continued to have my faith in God strengthened.  I Love and Miss my baby girl everyday and so do others, but no one feels the same way that I do and no one can take over my role as her mom. I AM CLARA’S MOM!  I always was, I always will be, and no one will take that away from me.  I have beautiful memories of her, pictures, and her handprint on my heart.

Thank you to all of you who support me and to you who shared your journey.  I am simply amazed at how “normal” I feel, how upset you would have felt, and how many of you have such loving comments to share.  THANK YOU!

If you are curious about the actual project you can visit the webpage at:


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day 31

Day #31: Sunset

As the sun sets on the project, it also sets on another day. I am another day closer to seeing my little girl again. For now I have 5 more sets of little hands to hold, hearts to touch, and a husband to share my life with.

Thank you to everyone for the support you have offered, the encouraging comments, and love. I have thankful to be able to share a little bit about my journey so far, the things that make me happy, things that make me sad, and the special things about my little girl.

During this project I found a “reason” to look through Clara’s things again and found a beautiful song that sums up my journey. It is the perfect song for the closing of the project and how far I’ve come since the day I said goodbye and how God and so many of you have “held” me even today. This is truly what it means to be held and I couldn’t be more thankful and blessed.

Held ~ Natalie Grant:


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #30

Day #30:  Your Grief — Tell the World

I have never been super great with explaining my grief but a friend on mine couldn’t have wrote it out better.  Thank you Kari for allowing me to share your words  today.  I think they are completely true to how many of us feel after the loss of a child, including myself.

We live in a society that doesn’t know how to deal with sadness. We are a people who have a hard time feeling without doing. The hard part of living in grief is that that there’s only a limited amount of “stuff” to do.  I have grown to hate the language of grief in our society. We talk about a “grief process” or the “stages of grief” or doing “grief work”, almost like there’s a checklist that a person can work through to ensure adequate and proper grieving.  Sometimes outsiders feel we should have completed that checklist and moved on.

I have learned to consider grief as a state of being…I am ‘in grief’ in the same way we talk about being ‘in love’. I think of the sadness of grief as being in a large body of water, like an ocean, and my only job is to get to shore by whatever means necessary. Gradually, the grief becomes shallower and easier to move in. And, even though I somedays have my feet on dry ground, I will always live in view of the water, and will occasionally get my feet wet.

The challenge for the people around me is accepting that only I can get me to shore- I can’t be rescued from grief. But the beauty of that is that I learn not to be afraid of the water, because I’ve also learned how to swim.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #29

Day #29: Music

There are so many songs that remind me of Clara.  Each has their own reason for that reminder.  I thought today I would share 4 very special songs to me.

All American Girl ~ Carrie Underwood

This song came out around the time of our wedding.  I was 24wks along with Clara at that time.  Both Chris and I used to sing it and dreaming about a little girl.  This song also happened to play on the radio when we brought her home from the hospital.  It really became our Clara song and she even had a pink onsie that said “All American Girl”.  After she passed away I would change the radio station every time the song would come on.  It reminded me of all the dreams for the future we had for her.  We live in such a small town that chances were she would date that football star 🙂   It wasn’t until I went to a Carrie Underwood concert that I actually had to face the song again.  So there I was standing in the front row crying but now I love listening to it again.  Damon and Mason even mentioned the other day how big Clara’s smile used to get when we listened to it.

Puff the Magic Dragon ~

A song that was Daddy’s favorite.  He loved singing this to her and she seemed to always calm down when he did.  She would just stare at him and listen and smile.  I miss those days.  This really became Clara’s song and we have found a new one for each new baby.  This was also the last song we sang to her before we let her go for the last time.

Glory Baby ~ Watermark

Glory Baby was shared with me by a friend.  At first I could barely make it through the song.  It took a few tries but it has really grown on me.  I will often share it with newly bereaved parents of both infant and pregnancy loss.  This song reminds me that Clara is wrapped in loving arms until we meet again.

Held ~ Natalie Grant

This is by far the most personal song for me and my journey.  I am always thankful for the support we have received from everyone.  The song hits it right on for me.  From it feeling unfair, to growing in faith, to seeing the sun again, to knowing and feeling all the support around us, we will and are being held.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #28

Day #28:  Memories of Grief

Today is a day devoted to sharing my memories of grief, the bad and the good.  I often try to remind myself that each individual deals with grief in their own way.  Some people are aware of others pain while some are so deeply into theirs they are unable to see those around them.  Grief is always there even when I smile or say everything is okay.  Grief is but a song, picture, or word away and tears are often fought back to hide it.  I am a very private griever.  Throughout my childhood I have been taught that it isn’t okay to express how you feel especially when others don’t feel or believe the same as you.  I was taught that you reap what you sow…and during my daughters life and death, I was reminded several times that.  Many times I felt as though this was somehow my fault.  From 2 of our 4 sets of parents accusations that vaccinating my child caused this to the comments about allowing our children to resume daycare at the same location, I was left to feel very alone.

Today I will begin with some of the bad memories that have profoundly impacted me.  These things have left me with a silent grief that until now I have rarely shared with anyone.  I hope being able to share them will allow me to heal from the wounds that, even today, feel so fresh and bring tears to my eyes as I write this.

I live life to be a giving person.  I want others to be happy.  When I found out I was pregnant I wanted family to be involved.  Who doesn’t right?  We have family that were unable to conceive a child and when they asked for the opportunity to be there for the birth of Clara I said yes.  Witnessing the birth of any child is such an amazing thing, the feelings that are there are not reproducible in any other way.  I quickly realized that something was terribly wrong when Grandma stepped in to hold “her baby” before me (the exact words were “Let me hold my baby” as she tried to take Clara out of Daddy’s arms minutes after she was born).  As we were getting ready to move to our room, Grandma kindly offered to get some food since the hospital thought it would be about an hour before they could get some food located.  I quickly said yes please since it had been 36 hours since my last meal.  An hour and a half later they came back with a sandwich.  When Chris asked what had taken so long she responded, “We went to have a steak dinner to celebrate the birth of our baby Clara.”

Clara’s death didn’t ease the growing tension.  My grief seemed to take a backseat to hers.  While sharing my last moments with Clara in the ER people started to hear the news and came to support us.  I sat in a rocking chair holding my little girl for the last time and wishing that this was just a dream.  While I sat there rocking Clara she came in, walked over, and took my baby out of my arms… without speaking a word.  She walked over to her son, who was on the other side of the room, and hugged him and rocked Clara.  I was in shock!  After 15 minutes I actually had to ask for Clara back. We finally had to ask for privacy so that Chris and I could sit together and hold Clara one last time together, sing her favorite song, and kiss her goodbye.

The wake and funeral weren’t much better.  I was told what music wouldn’t be played at “her” babies funeral, everytime someone hugged Chris or I she started bawling loudly as to get attention, and my own mother brought up how SIDS in Japan is so low because they don’t immunize babies until they are over a year.  I think the thing that affected me most, however, was the wake.  We were not the ones standing/sitting by Clara…no we were halfway down the long line of hugs, thanking everyone for their support, crying, and watching as the same set of grandparents stood at Clara’s casket hugging their friends and crying out how unfair it was that “their baby” was dead.  It was at that point I realized my grief had taken a backseat to theirs.  I should have listened to the friends and family who came over and asked it we wanted to have them talk to these grandparents and ask them to sit down or excuse themselves for a few minutes.  At that point I was telling myself and others that everyone grieves differently.  I had no idea how greatly that image would impact my own grief.

After the funeral there was the task of sorting and dividing out the beautiful flowers others had given in Clara’s memory.  This too was quite the production.  Remember a few days ago I said how the flowers were a reminder of Clara and how hard it was to throw the dead ones away?  Same goes for giving them away too.  I will never forget the argument that ensued when someone didn’t get the flowers that were sent for her in memory of “her” baby!  I guess I assumed that these flowers were sent in memory of Clara and that since Chris and I were parents, we could choose the ones we kept and offer the rest to family and friends.   I felt like someone had knocked my legs out from under me.  Not only is my child dead but someone is more worried about what flowers were “theirs” rather than allowing the me to at least choose the ones I wanted to take home.  Again my baby was someone else’s, my grief took a backseat to someone elses.

I can’t even begin to describe how alone I felt…

I didn’t think I could feel anymore lost until I was told that “Sometimes, when we get off God’s path, He has to do something drastic to bring you back.  You let someone else take over your life and raising your child.  Now you suffer the consequences.”  In the next breath I was then told “We think God didn’t have anything for us to learn from Clara’s life and passing.  God did this so that your eyes would open and you could see the problems you created and now you have on your hands.”  NO ONE has the right to say something like this.

I am not sure if I will ever be far from the grief of losing Clara.  I also don’t know if how long it will take to heal from the wounds and grief I feel from those around me.  I have grown to know that I can help others even when I am in such grief that I don’t think, I myself, am going to make it.  I know that helping others deal with grief helps me deal with my own.  I also know that I have the most supportive husband in the world who will move mountains to help me not feel so sad, hurt, and discouraged.  The whole journey has solidified my reliance on God and being able to freely have someone to listen even if I never hear a word back or see any changes.  I thankful for and love those who shared the walk with us, even those who sometimes walked on their own sidewalk across the street from us. 😉

Good memories of the grief journey are harder to come by…

I have so many good memories of the time we had with Clara and I try to focus on those memories to block out the painful ones of her death.  But there have been a few positive things that have happened during our journey after Clara’s death.  Damon and Mason are well adjusted boys who know just when to say the right things to make us proud.  They share some of their stories of Clara or the funeral with us and we are blessed to have that.  We also have a wonderful, loving daycare provider and family who have become family to us.  Our relationship with them is one of trust, love, and understanding.

After a parent loses a child they are left with such heavy, empty arms…and a lot of love to give.

There are also 2 almost 3 new faces of hope from our journey.  Their names are Lincoln, Preston, and our soon to be announced new baby.  After Clara was born we knew we were done having kids.  Chris and I had a complete family of 5.  We were so in love and our boys were so happy.  Shortly after Clara passed away we realized that we had so much love to give.  Were we selfish to not offer it to more children?  Were we trying to replace Clara?  Is this normal to feel this way??  We talked about it several times before we knew that we were not increasing our family to replace her.

Almost 11 months after Clara passed away we were blessed with the birth of Lincoln.  A boy!  We were relieved and yet sad.  For us the opposite gender is just what we needed.  Lincoln has kept us busy and has taught us what it means to trust again.  When he was just 5 months old he was diagnosed with “PELVIS Syndrome” and possibly would have lifelong medical issues. During that time we also found out Preston was on his way too.  Preston was born just 26 months after Clara passed.  Preston is so laid back and reminds us very much of Clara.  We did say we had love to share right?!?!  Well now we will add another face to the family March 2013.  With each new baby comes a flood of emotions as each one smiles, walks, talks, or hits other milestones.  I am sad for what I missed with Clara but fortunate to have the opportunity to see another child hit them.

We have again decided that our family will be as complete as it can be on earth.  We are happy to be raising 4 soon to be 5 children and are ready to share our love with the 5 kids we hold hands with everyday.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #27

Day #27: Artwork

My favorite piece of artwork…

…is the Mother’s Day gift the boys and Clara made at daycare.  It would be the only Mother’s Day gift I would get from her.  Just 2 days later she was gone.  They were proudly displayed on our front door and haven’t moved since that day.

Daycare Artwork…

Elaine always displays the kids names on the wall and changes them as the seasons change.  It took her a long time to change out the spring season because she would be taking Clara’s name down.  When she was ready to change the artwork she asked me if I wanted to have the caterpillar.  Of course I said yes!  I keep it tucked away but I think putting it in the case with her angels and flowers is the next home for it.  It matches her butterfly baby book perfectly.

Pinterest Artwork…

The last piece of artwork I wanted to share is the gift idea I found on Pinterest.  I really wanted to make handprints of each of the kids for Chris’s Christmas gift last year.  I quickly was in tears when I realized I didn’t have any handprints of Clara. It took me a few weeks to come up with doing the footprints instead.  I don’t have any prints except the ones the hospital made but they worked just fine.  My artistic skills are a bit lacking but the gift meant enough to Chris to bring tears to his eyes.  I say that means more than how pretty it looks.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #26

Day #26:  Their Age

No matter how you look at the numbers it doesn’t feel like long enough.

We hold our breath with each new baby until they reach “milestone” birthdays. Not your normal ones but ones that mean the world to us. Our first milestone is always 111 days old, then it is 4m when SIDS risk drops, 6m when SIDS risk drops again, and 1 year.

We would never give up the short time we shared with Clara and beautiful memories to not experience the pain of losing a child. We were extremely blessed to have the few months we did have with her and our memories of her are forever cherished in our hearts.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #24

Day #24: Siblings

Siblings are affected in ways we sometimes don’t recognize.

Damon and Mason were just 4 and 5 when Clara left us.  Both loved her very much and were confused when we brought them home without Clara that May day.  They thought there was a fire and that was why there was a firetruck and ambulance that came to Elaine’s.   After careful consideration by Chris and I and talking with our funeral home we decided that it was best for the boys to see Clara, touch Clara, and allow them to ask questions.  Bittner Funeral Chapel was amazing at answering so many of the boys questions and helping Chris and I be comfortable with our choice to allow the boys the more hands on approach.  It was extremely difficult for us because we were getting so much negative feedback from family on what “should and shouldn’t” be allowed for the boys to participate in.  As a couple we decided that they are grieving too and it was important for them to say goodbye too.  I will never forget the image of the boys touching and walking with the casket as they laid her at the cemetery.

That said these two boys have such an understanding of life and death.  They are the first to tell you that Christmas and Easter are worth far more than presents, it is because of these holidays they will see their sister again someday but not until after Mom and Dad die first.  We love them with all our heart!

Today’s picture is of a drawing Damon made just weeks after Clara passed.

Damon has Clara on his shoulders do he can play with her and protect her.  He said Mason is holding Mom’s hand because he is sad and Chris is waiting to hold Clara.  Today they have 2 more brothers.  Lincoln is 2.5y and Preston 1y and Damon and Mason run them around on their shoulders every chance they get.  It is their favorite thing to do.  Mason once told me that they want to do play with the babies as much as they can since they didn’t get to do that with Clara.

I am a big brother!

When the boys announced they were big brothers they wanted to make sure Clara was included on the shirt.  They said we are already big brothers.  We decided to add Clara as an angel watching over our family.

I am Thankful For…

Parents aren’t the only ones who deal with the hard question of how many kids do you have.  Surviving and future siblings also endure how many brothers and sisters do you have.  Both boys have asked many questions about how to answer it.  “Is is lying to say I have brothers only?”  “What if they ask about how many are living at home right now?”  “What if they ask why my sister isn’t in my pictures I bring to school?”  Both boys are proud to have a sister and both usually include her in any “family” artwork or “about me” papers.  Last year at thanksgiving Damon brought home his “I am Thankful For” placemat.  I LOVE IT!

Future Siblings…

We can’t forget future siblings in the mix of losing a child.  Lincoln and Preston both love looking at pictures of the sister and saying her name.  We hope as they grow up they will love her just as much as we do.


The CarlyMarie Project ~ Day #23

Day #23: Their Name/Their Photo

Easter 2009

This project is in Memory of Clara Mae Ortman

Here is her Easter picture taken in 2009.  This is our most favorite dress and the one she was buried in.

Mommy’s Favorite Picture…

Taken just a few short weeks before she passed, this is my favorite picture of her cute smile and her stunning blue eyes.

Daddy’s Favorite Picture…

This is Daddy’s favorite picture and the one that is on her memorial.  He loved making her smile.  I am so thankful he got this picture of her.

Clara’s Last Picture…

Who knew the morning before she passed away I would take our very last picture of her.  That morning she slept in and I only spent about 30 mins with her before work.  This picture is a treasure and sadness all in one.  I had no idea that 6 hours after this picture was taken we would be sitting in the ER seeing the same image but with a baby that  was no longer breathing.