Dear Heart Parent

Dear Heart Parent,

I see you. You are hurting inside, lost, the path you were following has vanished from beneath your feet. What was once planned out and familiar, charted in books and chat rooms, is now lost to you. Your identity has changed without permission. You are now a medical parent. A heart parent. You are floundering for answers, but literally no one can give them to you. Trying to decide who will know your secret or not is exhausting, hearing the wrong response cuts like a knife. People can be flippant. Most don’t know how to deal with such heavy news and will try to assure you that it will be just fine. You’ll want to scream in their faces, “YOU DON’T KNOW THAT!!” Instead of screaming at acquaintances, you may start keeping your secret.

When I told someone that the chances of our baby having Down Syndrome were extremely high now, they nodded knowingly and told me, “God knows, doesn’t He? He knows who to give these babies to. You’re a special education teacher, and will be the perfect parent to this baby if they have…problems.” It felt like an actual, physical blow. I stopped telling people at that point.

You can keep your secret as long as you want to. Be gentle with yourself. Allow the grief to settle and surround you, wash over you in waves. But please don’t stay there. I did. I began to feel as if I were having a heart defect, not a baby. The moments of joy that you picture after giving birth start to fade away. I didn’t picture holding the baby, or seeing my husband with our child for the first time. I saw surgeons and hospital death statistics and birth plans that included the baby being whisked away immediately.

I am on the other side now. I can tell you assuredly that you are not just having a heart defect. You are still having a warm, snugly, gurgling baby. A human being that will instantly steal your heart. There will be loving strokes of soft cheeks. There will be tiny baby socks over warm, kicking feet. There will be joy at meeting this perfect reflection of you.

Hold on. The hard stuff is coming. But so is the wonderful stuff. It will be worth it. I promise.

All my love and support,

Holly


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