a family of Russian nesting dolls. The mother doll is open with a stethoscope inside of it.

Pretty Lady Chronicles: Heart Failure & Parenting Part 1 - The Impact

Editor's note: Check out the second article in this series, Pretty Lady Chronicles: Heart Failure & Parenting Part 2 - The New Normal.

I would love to say that heart failure has not impacted my ability to parent. I have stage four advanced heart failure and an implantable LVAD to sustain life. For obvious reasons, my ability to parent has definitely been impacted.

Putting pride aside

At times, there have just been limits to my ability to parent. I have also found myself in ICU, or on a ventilator. How can I parent or actively care for my children when in that state?  Although I am a single parent, relinquishing my “role” at times has not been an easy task. My diagnosis has repeatedly placed me in positions of putting pride aside and accepting my limitations as a mother. A cousin once told me, “Everybody needs somebody sometimes.”

Not only has heart failure directly impacted my parenting at times, but also the hopes and dreams of what I have been able to provide for my children. I received an unexpected diagnosis four months after the birth of my second son. In many ways, my life has been at a halt since then.  It has also been a major interruption in the lives of my children.

Letting go

Going back nearly 18 years, I can still remember the circumstances surrounding my diagnosis. My children and I had recently moved to a new state, I had one friend who resided there, and no family. I had walking pneumonia. My condition worsened, and I made a follow-up visit to the E.R. I had heart failure. However, I was adamant about leaving the hospital and returning once my mother arrived. As many parents do, I put myself aside. My main concern was caring for my children.

I can still remember hospital staff using various tactics to get me to stay. A nurse informed me that refusing care for myself could be considered neglecting my children. However, I refused to place them in the care of strangers. My defense was 'I am doing this for my children'.

Eventually, the severity of my health was explained in a way that I could not dismiss. This meant that I had to let go, and allow someone else to step in to care for my children. Unless you have been there, it’s hard to explain. Although this was best for my children, it was easier said than done.

Acceptance

This was my first taste of what would become a new normal of letting go, transitioning at a moment’s notice, and accepting that heart failure had impacted my life as a parent. This is not a woe is me, but this journey is not easy. Feeling incomplete at times as a parent is not easy. Acknowledging your inability to parent due to heart failure is not easy.

There has been a bright side. My heart failure diagnosis has humbled me as a parent and prepared my children for this journey called life. My children and I have become stronger, persevered through many adversities, and learned invaluable lessons all as a result of my heart failure diagnosis as well. Heart failure has impacted my ability to parent in many ways, and many lessons learned.

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