Becoming a new parent is downright scary. Despite all of the cliche phrases people throw at you during those nine months of pregnancy such as, “get your sleep while you can” and my personal favourite, “those 50 lbs will just drop right off once the baby comes out!” there is absolutely nothing that can truly prepare a first time mother or father for what lies ahead.
That being said, certain things can certainly help ease the transition. A few of the most important are a good support network of family and friends, coffee, a mountain of pre-purchased diapers, and of course having a healthy baby.
My son, Atticus was born with a congenital heart defect known as a bicuspid aortic valve. He was only minutes old when our family doctor placed a stethoscope to his tiny chest and remarked, “I hear a murmur.” We were told that many babies have heart murmurs and not to overthink it. 24 hours later our doctor came back to recheck, and confirmed that he still heard the murmur. He is a remarkably thorough practitioner and as such, decided to order an EKG (electrocardiogram.)
My husband accompanied Atticus to the room where a team of nurses attempted to attach the machines nodules to our newborn. When the test came back inconclusive due to our surprisingly squirmy infant son, we were sent to McMaster Children’s Hospital for a second attempt. At this point Atticus was only two days old and both my husband and I, lost in the fog that envelopes you in those first few days of parenthood felt the doctor was being overcautious. As such, we were filled with a sense of false security as we carried his car seat through the underground parking lot and up to the cardiology unit.
Me, a natural worrier, kept telling myself that nothing was wrong and for once I actually believed it. I had no motherly instinct when it came to this. All I knew was what I could see, and to me, my son looked perfect.
At five days of age we sat in the paediatric cardiologist’s office, exchanging looks and waiting for her to deliver the news. Atticus was undergoing an echocardiogram, a test that would produce detailed photographs of his heart. As the doctor clicked away at her keyboard and tapped away at the mouse I could envision the moment when she would smile and tell us that everything was fine. Instead, we received a shock when she told us that our son had a faulty heart.
Instantly the fog lifted and the dreary news settled into its place. How did we feel? We were devastated. There is no way to articulate this except to say that I felt responsible. As a mother, it was my job to shelter him, and before he even entered this world I had failed at this most basic task.
I started this blog for a few reasons.
- I needed an outlet for my own thoughts and somewhere to document and share our journey.
- I wanted to create a space where other new parents could come, and especially parents who found themselves challenged by this condition. 1-2% of the human population is born with a bicuspid aortic valve, and I discovered very quickly the internet is a black hole of unpleasant information and worst case scenarios.
- Maybe most importantly, I wanted to help foster an environment of hope.
Becoming a new parent is scary, and having the rug pulled out from under you so early on in the process is a horrible way to begin. Atticus is now twelve weeks old and thriving. I will update on his condition as we go, but for now I wanted to say welcome, and thanks for stopping by.
Oh, and incase you are curious about the blog name… “the Fish” refers to his aortic valve, which is commonly compared to a fish face. Whereas a normal aortic valve has three leaflets, my sons only has two. When the leaflets open and close against the walls of the valve, they resemble a fish’s mouth.