In honor of Heart Month and Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, I’ve been participating in the #CHDAware Challenge on Instagram, organized by the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association.
Today, I posted about being a heart mom. One phrase I wrote really got me thinking: “My role as a heart mom…has helped me become a truer version of myself than I think I ever was before.”
I became a heart mom on December 15, 2017, the day we learned about Evan’s heart defect. Since that day, I’ve been reading the articles, doing the research, talking to the doctors, and doing all the things I can to give Evan the best life possible. In this nearly 14 months, I’ve truly learned a new language, full of acronyms, abbreviations, and fancy scientific words that never would have made since to me 15 months ago. Being a heart mom is not something I would have chosen for myself, but I am strangely so very thankful for it. It’s strange to be thankful for a title I would give back in a heartbeat (no pun intended…ok, maybe it was) if I could. My role as a heart mom, though, has taught me so, so much and, in a lot of ways, has helped me become a truer version of myself than I think I ever was before. Heart moms are a unique and beautiful tribe…a special kind of strong with a common understanding that no one who isn’t a heart mom can comprehend. So, today, here is to all the heart mamas, who are too many amazing adjectives to list here. <3 #chdaware day 8- Heart Mom
The question that keeps playing in my head, is Why? Why has this role as heart mom helped me become…me?
It forced regular life to come to a halt.
When we found out about Evan’s defect, and especially when he was born, regular life as we knew it got put on hold. In life, whenever we step away from our normal day-to-day, it’s an opportunity to see things in a new way or learn something we probably would not have learned otherwise. Of course, I would have preferred for that stepping-away experience to have been a vacation or something, but the indefinite length of this departure from our regular life made it even more necessary to look at things differently.
I was able to take a closer look at my priorities and the way I spent my time, along with being intentional about things that were and were not worth the energy and mental space of getting upset…to name just a couple.
I clung to my boundaries.
I remember telling my husband once while we were at the Ronald McDonald House that my survival through our time in the hospital revolved around two things: My boundaries and my routines. I’ve always been a person who took comfort in a routine, but this was even more important when there were so many unexpected things happening in our lives.
I certainly wasn’t checking my work email in the evenings, and I guarded our weekend just-the-three-of-us breakfasts with Emerie. Boundaries like these really taught me that holding my boundaries, even when times weren’t as tough, is very beneficial to my stress level.
I learned what can happen when I don’t speak up.
I am a chronic people-pleaser, often putting myself in situations I didn’t want to be in just because I couldn’t bear to tell someone no. Early on, there were times when I may have wondered about something but never asked the hospital staff for fear of looking silly or inconveniencing someone. The comfort I felt when I understood something better was a lesson in itself on the importance of always speaking up.
More notably, for example, I ended up riding out some frustrating symptoms of an inconsolable baby while I waited days for an appointment with a specialist, and I should have been calling doctors repeatedly and insisting on Evan being seen…which might have helped us avoid one of his lengthy hospital stays, or at least helped shorten it.
Now, I speak up whenever I think it might be even remotely necessary. It’s better to take the risk–which is really just in my perception–of maybe offending someone or making myself look stupid than to see what could happen if I don’t say anything.
Although these ideas are really specific to Evan’s time in the hospital, they apply to so many aspects of my life outside of it as well. I appreciate things differently than I did before. I commit to my boundaries because I know how they benefit me. I speak up when something needs to be acknowledged instead of assuming someone knows or staying quiet for fear of negativity. Sure, these are all things I thought I knew the importance of before, but they are solidified now that I’ve got some pretty significant life experience under my belt.
Sometimes, that experience is all it takes to really drive the lesson home.