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Challenge: NICU Parenting

To The Parent Who Just Found Out Their Baby Has A Congenital Heart Defect

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Dear Friend,

I don't know you, yet I consider you my friend. You have just gained membership into one of the clubs that no one really wants to belong to. I am a member, too. Our babies were born with congenital heart defects (CHD).

I know you are scared, friend. I know all too well. My first baby was diagnosed prenatally at 21 weeks with a CHD. We were devastated and scared. Our dreams of having a "perfect" healthy baby were initially crushed by the news. Following the announcement of "Congratulations, it's a girl!" was the almost immediate declaration that something was seriously wrong with the structure of her heart. Of course, details would not be available until much later, but the bomb had been dropped.

Our focus immediately changed from being consumed with selecting nursery colors to being consumed with finding pediatric cardiologists and touring children's cardiac units and NICUs. With our son, it wasn't until he was two months old that we learned of his CHD diagnosis.

I understand what you are going through right now. I get it. I know you are probably feeling so isolated, but I am here to tell you something very important. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Not even close. You may not know this yet, but CHDs are the most common birth defect. Approximately 1 in 100 babies are born with some form of congenital heart defect. I had no idea how common this was until our family was affected.

You will soon come to learn that you have an instant connection to other "Heart" moms and dads. No one understands what you are feeling like other Heart parents. Sometimes it is difficult or impossible to verbally explain what you are feeling — your fears, your questions, your worries. In these cases, please remember that all the other members of our club know exactly what is in your heart.

Our family's motto for our babies has always been "Believe."

Believe in miracles. Believe in doctors. Believe in yourself and the strength you never knew you had. Just believe.

The advancements in medicine today are amazing, and they continue to evolve every day. It is awe-inspiring what surgeons can do with a heart the size of a baby's fist. Things were uncertain for my daughter for a while after she was born, and she has been through a lot including two open heart surgeries to date. She is seven years old now, and my son recently turned two. Both are doing very well. They are perfect to us.

Believe.

Yes. I get it, friend. I understand exactly where you are. I am right there with you. So many of us are.

Don't ever hesitate to reach out to someone for support when you need it. And always, always remember that you are not alone.

Sincerely,

A Fellow Heart Mom

To read more from Mia Carella, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and visit her website.

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