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How having a baby with a heart condition changes your parenting perspective

I have a daughter with a heart condition. She underwent corrective surgery in August last year and it was every bit as awful as I’d expected it to be. And worse. I still re-live those three weeks in my head and they make me shudder. It was all worth it of course. My little girl is happy, content, gorgeous and will luckily have no recollection of what she went through. We, on the other hand, came out the other side slightly different people with a change of perspective.

When you have a baby with a heart condition, you already feel poles apart from the parents of ‘normal’ babies. As much as everyone tries to understand what you’re going through, they can’t. They have no idea what it’s like to be told your newborn will need to have their heart stopped one day and go on a bypass machine, or that your baby could be susceptible to ‘blue’ spells that will require a ‘999’ call. Like all new parents, we got stuck into the daily routine of feeding, changing and lack of sleep, but also had the worry of Phoebe’s oxygen saturation levels being measured on a weekly basis to see how she was coping.

Her heart surgery made us feel even more detached from others. If anyone is looking for something to change their approach to parenting, heart surgery will definitely do it. The night before her op, I kept thinking how I’d never again complain about being tired, or moan about the trivial everyday things that come with having a baby. All I wanted was for her to be ok and she could cry and keep me awake as much as she liked.

I remember having a quick look on Facebook during our hospital stay and seeing a long line of statuses from parents moaning that their child hadn’t slept that night or had a cough and cold. And it made my blood boil.  I wanted to shake them and tell them to get a grip and stop being so ungrateful. Yes, it’s not nice when you’re tired and by all means, moan about it to your husband, text your best friend and offload. Just don’t write about it for all the world to see. If your child’s generally healthy but just won’t sleep, it’s exhausting, but at least they’re not in a hospital somewhere on a ventilator.

My lack of patience for whinging parents isn’t the only trait I developed during those weeks spent in hospital. I also found that I have an intense dislike for pushy ones, too. The ones who compare their child’s development to yours and show off that their baby walked before they went onto solids. Credit where credit’s due and all that, but does it matter? My girl is slightly behind on her development and I really couldn’t care less. We will of course keep an eye on it, but she has a bit of catching up to do. Plus, she’s had major cardiac surgery, which is much more challenging than sitting up.

This may sound like a one woman attack against parents who do have a moan and do invest a lot of time on their child’s development, but I promise it isn’t. All they want is the best for their children and that is no bad thing. I just sometimes wish people were less vocal about the niggles of parenting and just enjoyed it for what it was.

I’ve no doubt at all that at some point, I am going to be exhausted and want the world to know. Or I’ll moan about how my favourite top has been stained with butternut squash that has been spat out. But I will do my best to refrain. I’d much sooner be wearing an orange tinted top and be at home with my baby than sat next to them whilst they sleep in a hospital bed. So, by all means, have a moan – it’s good for the soul. But please remember your audience.


  • Amy Tocknell says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about what you guys have been through and what a refreshingly honest approach to being annoyed by Facebook braggers and moaners! Thank you Jenny. xx

  • Jenny Green Jenny Green says:

    Thank you for your lovely comment, Amy. Yes, the braggers did get me down a bit! Funny how these things make the outside world look different somehow xx

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