Dear Baby Boy,
We’ve come so far this first year and I want to tell you how proud I am of you. Your strength, love and perseverance is impressive. You have shown so many people what it means to fight. I am proud to be your mom. And on your first birthday I want to take some time to tell you about my experience during this year. I think it’s important I share with you what happened from my perspective. As you grow up we will tell you how strong you were, but one day when you are old enough you will want to know what it was really like for us. I owe you that honesty.
The day you were born we had no idea you had a heart defect. We had no idea you would have a life-threatening condition. We didn’t get the warm welcoming we expected. There were no footprints, no photos, and no visitors. Your dad and I were scared. I struggled those days leading up to your surgery. I selfishly was afraid to fall in love with you because I was scared I’d lose you. I remembered losing my mom when I was 20 to a short but ugly battle with cancer, and I remembered the pain. I couldn’t go through that again. Your dad and I agreed that if we lost you, we wouldn’t let it break us. We made a pact to grieve together and seek therapy immediately if that happened. But, it didn’t happen. You made it, and I finally let myself love you completely. I snuggled you as much as I could, and when we brought you home, we cried. You cried more than I expected. It was as if your home was in a hospital and this “place” lacked the sights and sounds of an intensive care unit, but we moved on. I thought we’d be fine.
Then in January you went into heart failure. After a day discussing best case and worst case scenarios with doctors, I went home and cried myself to sleep. Talks of transplants and intubation flooded my mind. In the morning I woke up to your cries, except you weren’t there. When I realized I had only imagined you crying and that you were back in the hospital, I sobbed uncontrollably in your dad’s arms. That morning broke me. I drove to the hospital and got off at the wrong exit. I drove in circles convincing myself I couldn’t do this. I spent the morning planning to run away. I decided I was moving to Montana to live in a tiny house and work at a coffee shop. I would rent a car and drive there immediately. Listening to painfully sad music, I cried on 5th Avenue, staring at the Children’s of Alabama building. I felt like I failed you. I felt confident I was a bad mom and you’d be better off without me in your life. I was sure your heart was failing because of me. I felt the guilt and remembered the questions from family and friends that slyly implied I had done something while pregnant to cause this. I felt guilty for robbing your amazing dad of the joy he anticipated. I felt disingenuous for having him hold my stomach while you kicked the day before you were born only to see you lifeless one week later. So I decided to leave. Then your nurse called to update me. She simply said you were okay and had eaten. I quickly returned to your hospital room and moved on. Once I saw your face, Montana faded away. Because if you know me, I would never live in Montana, I would never own a tiny home, and I loved you. I called your dad and told him I needed him to be there for me. Like the amazing dad he is, he left work to be with us. What I want you to know is that while reflecting on this all of those thoughts may seem selfish, I was battling postpartum anxiety. PPA, the close friend of postpartum depression. PPA hit me hard this first year. I didn’t advertise it, and I tried to hide it. But sweetheart, it was real. I was afraid to love you because I was afraid to lose you. I was ready to run away because I felt like a failure. Those emotions were overwhelming, and the thoughts were even louder. I cried so hard at times it felt like my lungs had disappeared. I couldn’t breathe as my chest was incessantly buckling with each sob. I was sure I would be unfit to parent you, but I was wrong.
I hope that one day you’re proud of me for talking about my anxiety. I hope that this taboo topic is more a badge of honor to you. As the leaves fall and the air chills, I’m reminded of how difficult this all was one year ago. I’m nervous, I’m a bit angry, and I’m worried. I’m scared your doctors will call me to say they made a mistake and you’re in danger. I’m nervous that if you go into cardiac arrest we won’t be able to save you or somehow you won’t be the same. I’m scared that all this hard work and progress will be halted by some unforeseen circumstance. Parker, I need you to know that this anxiety is real. It can be debilitating at times. However, you and your beloved “da-da” keep me going. I hope you know that it is okay to share your feelings and talk about topics such as anxiety. We will always be here for each other because that is what family is all about.
On this first birthday we celebrate you. We honor your strength and your fight as a heart warrior. Please know there’s a part of me that is celebrating me too, for not letting this anxiety get the best of me. It’s taboo, and it’s not talked about. Parker, I hope you’re proud of me, and I’m sorry if I let you down. You’re my hero, and on that dreary Montana-day, you saved me. I independently sought help and started treating my anxiety. You are more than your defect, and I am more than my anxiety. You are my son, and I am your mom. We have medical conditions, and we will persevere together hand-in-hand.
I love you forever,