What it means to be a heart parent

It took just seven words to change my entire life.

Seven words which broke my heart, shattered my dreams and turned my world upside down.

Seven words from which I emerged a stronger and more compassionate person.


“There’s something wrong with the baby’s heart.”


In that moment, I felt fear colder and stronger than any I’d ever known before

In that moment, I knew I would do anything I could to save my child’s life.

In that moment, although I could barely grasp it, I became a heart parent.

What it means to be a heart parent - an insight into life as a parent of a child with CHD - Little Hearts, Big Love

I learned to hold on to hope and faith when there was nothing else left to do.

I learned to live in the moment and find joy in the darkest of times.

I learned to put my trust in the skilled hands of those who were caring for my child.


There were many moments when all I wanted to do was run and hide, to pretend this wasn’t happening.

There were many moments when the fear of the future felt overwhelming.

There were many moments when it seemed the only thing that kept me going was hope and the love, support and prayers of those around me.


This is what it means to be a heart parent.


I have looked at the huge hands of a surgeon and marvelled that they can perform such intricate surgery on something the size of a walnut.

I have sung my child to sleep in the anaesthetic room of an operating theatre.

I have handed my child to a surgeon, knowing that they will stop my child’s heart and prayed that I will see my child alive again.


I have spent hours pacing the corridors of a hospital whilst my child undergoes life-saving surgery.

I have spent hours sitting in intensive care listening to the endless beep of machines.

I have spent hours holding my child in my arms, thrilling at the joy of being able to do so.



I have learned that miracles can and do happen.


There are many moments where my feelings as a parent seem to be amplified:

Anxiety whenever my child is unwell.

Guilt on those challenging parenting days that come to us all – those moments when bedtime feels like it can’t come soon enough and I feel guilty for not enjoying the moments that I know I am so blessed to experience.

Joy and pride in all the little milestones that suddenly become extra special because of the journey it has taken to achieve them.


The road has been rocky at times and there are many dark moments still ahead.

I do not know what the future holds and I do not dare to try and look ahead.

This is a road I would never willingly have chosen to walk and yet I know I would walk it all over again for the joy and blessing of having my child with me.


I have discovered a faith that has helped me to endure throughout the dark moments.

I have discovered a strength that I never knew I possessed.

I have discovered a love stronger than anything this journey can throw at us.


This is my life.

This is our journey as a family.

This is what it means to be a heart parent.


Me and hubby holding Jessica in intensive care. You can barely see her with all the wires and tubes covering her.


72 thoughts on “What it means to be a heart parent

    1. This says it all—everything I have ever felt. My baby will be 22 years old in the coming weeks. Keep the faith and never lose hope! God Bless you always!

      1. Thank you Debbie – it is always so encouraging to hear stories of adult ‘heart babies’ – hope that your baby is doing well x

    2. I would like to know how are you doing, and how grown up your child is now. You are a blessed mom, and your child is a miracle! Amen!

  1. Beautiful Louise. You have a way with words for sure and your story is a powerful reminder of how lucky we all are to have our gorgeous children. Thanks so much for linking up to #thetruthabout again Xx

    1. Thank you Sam – being a parent is definitely a blessing even though it doesn’t always feel that way – especially during the more challenging moments but when I look at my girls, it often hits me just how lucky I am. Lovely to link up to #thetruthabout again.

  2. You are such an inspiration – I honestly admire you so much. This is a wake up call to mums like me that often find myself complaining about such trivial things. thank you for sharing xx

    1. Thank you so much. I have to confess that I do also find myself complaining about trivial things but every so often when I stop and look at my beautiful girls, it does hit me just how very lucky I am to have them x

    1. Thank you so much Sarah – I am very lucky to have her and that photo is one of my favourites – such a wonderful moment being able to have those cuddles in spite of all the tubes and wires x

  3. my niece and her husband are going through this at Birmingham children’s hospital, since last October,they are still there. I don’t know how they keep going, they remain so strong and Kaleb their son is a little fighter,you are amazing

    1. Oh my goodness, that is a long time to be in hospital. Glad to hear that Kaleb is a little fighter and hope that he will be well enough to come home soon x

  4. I am also a heart parent it isnt easy at all my 22 month old daughter has h.l.h.s .

    1. My daughter has HLHS too. Definitely agree that it is not easy. Hope your daughter is doing well x

    1. Thank you Philippa – digital photography is something I am very thankful for – it allows so many memories to be captured x

  5. Awwwwww … what a brilliant piece! Indeed, though huge hands of the surgeon sorting out tiny little hearts, I can’t imagine how they do but I’m glad they do. I can’t imagine how it must have been hearing those 7 words and I’m thankful to get glimpses from your fabulous writing. Thanks for sharing your journey and reminding us about this privilege of life.

    As for the wanting bed time to happen quick enough; I can relate with that feeling if ingratitude for not enjoying precious moments that one can’t get back. It must more poignant for you considering what you’ve been through.

    May you keep seeing His miraculous hands in your lives. #CommentLuv

    1. Thank you – I am so thankful for getting to where we are and I think I’ve got a little better lately at stopping and remembering to appreciate those precious moments more x

  6. Absolutely love this, thank you for writing and sharing this. It’s like you have taken the words right from my mouth. My son was born with HLHS and has undergone 2 open-heart surgeries and a heart transplant. I have shared this on my Facebook page because people who haven’t lived it, just don’t get it, but like you said it has made me a more compassionate and better person.

    Thank you,
    Fellow Heart Mom,

    1. Thank you Rachel – it is hard sometimes to explain what the journey is like to those who haven’t lived it and I’m glad you enjoyed my post and that it helps illustrate the journey to others. My daughter also has HLHS. Hope your son is doing well x

  7. Hi Louise

    I remember you, you were in the same time as my son Jayden in December 2011. Im so glad everything went well for her and you also have a living miracle! xx

    1. Thanks Jennifer – there were quite a few of us in around that time weren’t there. Not the best place to spend Christmas but at the time we were just so thankful that we were able to be together. Hope Jayden is doing well x

  8. Beautifully written, nothing can ever explain how it feels to be a heart parent but this blog has really helped to try and show friends and family how we feel. My son has just had his 4th surgery and hopefully the last one for a few years and at only 6 months his doing amazing to recover so well. I hope your daughter is doing well. Thank you for writing down how we all feel.

    1. Thank you Louise, so glad to hear that your son is doing so well after his surgery and hope that he won’t need another one for quite some time x

    1. Thank you Don – I’ve also kept a blog of my daughter’s journey and it helped immensely during those days in hospital. Just had a look at Leon’s blog – love his bear and the photos of him with Batman on his birthday, hope he is continuing to do well x

  9. I have never been able to put it into words myself but from one heart mummy to another this is beautifully written and so exactly right. I hope your little one is doing well and long may that last. xxx

    1. Thank you Tracy – she is doing well at the moment. Hope your heart warrior is also doing well x

  10. Thank you for the wonderful article. I too can relate to everything you said. My heart baby is 17 (and was diagnosed with TGA, VSD, ASD and pulmonary stenosis,) and is an amazing young woman. She is athletic, smart, funny and getting ready for grade 12! She still has some heart issues to contend with but is doing great! I wish I had taken more pictures and wrote my thoughts down when everything was happening. But, as you probably know, you are living in the moment and sometimes just trying to get through the day. Hope everything continues to go well for you and your family! Miracles do happen!

    1. Thank you Pat, so glad that your daughter is doing so well – my heart baby is 4 so hearing stories about young adults always helps to give me hope for the future. I hope all continues to go well for your daughter and wishing her the best of luck for starting grade 12 x

  11. Wow, just wow, what a beautiful post, I could feel all the emotions welling up as I was reading this. It must be such a hard thing to deal with (stating the obvious here!) but the fact that you and your beautiful family have come out of it the other side, stronger, is an inspiration.

    We are having some worries our selves at the minute, my cousin has unfortunately had to have an MRI scan this week to find out how bad things are and what and when surgery will be. She had done really well to make it to 22 without more surgery I think she was 7 or 8 the last time? This is worrying enough! I can’t imagine going through it as a parent I really can’t.

    1. Thank you Jenni – so sorry to hear that your family are having worries with your cousin’s heart and hope that all goes well with the surgery when it takes place x

  12. I just wanted to say how brilliantly written this is. It perfectly describes the tortuous journey of being a heart parent, I found myself nodding in recognition with a big lump in my throat! Thank you for sharing and explaining it so well. My Son is only 8 weeks old is currently stable but if I’ve learnt anything it’s to take each day as it comes and not take the future for grantee.

    1. Thank you Elspeth – I think learning to take each day as it comes is probably the biggest lesson we learn as heart parents. So glad that your son is currently stable and hope that all goes well for him. x

  13. Louise,

    I am not eloquent, and according to my husband I use 70’words when I could have used 7, but I wanted you know how beautifully your writing is.

    I am a 27 year cardiac mom. We were told day three, that he was probably going to lose his battle within months! That was not to be the last time we heard those words!

    He is sitting on the couch next to me playing on his iPad and driving me crazy….NEVER EVER give up, and just keep breathing. Sometimes it’s the only way to keep going. It’s a roller coaster of a life, but SO COMPLETELY worth the ride!

    1. Sherry, thank you so much for your lovely comment and your words of encouragement. I am so glad that your son has defied medical expectations and is doing so well, long may it continue! x

  14. Louise,
    Beautifully written….
    As I was reading – it described a lot, of what I had experienced 30 years ago ~ as a “Heart Mommy”, Then experienced AGAIN – 5 years ago, as a “Heart Grandmother”!! Twice in a lifetime is unfair…
    My Daughter, and (her baby) – my Granddaughter.
    FYI: Not my sons, or my Grandson – Interesting!
    I highly recommend that every “Heart Family” ask to be screened by your hospitals GENETICS Department.
    My love, thoughts and prayers are with you, your baby and your family.
    ~ Nancy ~

    1. Thank you Nancy – so sorry that CHD has struck twice in your family. I hope both your heart babies – your child and your grandchild – are doing well x

  15. This is so beautifully written and so true. My baby is 26 years old and doing so well – it was difficult to be given someone as precious as her but we’ll worth it – I would never change my Clairo and for those who are afraid it may happen again I had two children after Claire whose hearts were 100% healthy -keep strong and call on me if you need anything xxx

  16. I edit Tots100 and I was just putting together a post for Amber from Goblin Child as she has chosen yor photo for our photo Friday comp, but when I came on to find your blog link I couldn’t help but read a bit about you and then your story about your brave little girl. Half an hour later and I am still reading. You write absolutely beautifully. xx

  17. I am not a heart parent but heart patient. That post was lovely. My mum didn’t have the Internet or forums she was on her own. The heart is strong muscles and will go forward as best it can. I hope that what I went through nearly 30 years ago has been able to help teach the docs of today how to treat your precious beings. I hope you have many years ahead and wonderful memories to make. Good luck and enjoy. Your little girl is gorgeous and well done on the truly powerful post. X

    1. Thank you Charlotte – it must have been hard for your mum – being able to connect to other heart families is one of the wonderful things about the world wide web. Hope that you are doing well and thank you for your lovely comment x

  18. I became a heart parent on the 17th June 2015 and you have absolutely summed up exactly how I felt when my baby was born. Your story gives us all hope for the future. Each time I look at my little boy and the scar on his chest I am reminded how lucky I am to have him. You are an inspiration to me, thank you for sharing your story about your brave little girl. God bless you and your family xx

    1. Thank you Victoria for your lovely comment, hope your little boy is continuing to do well. These little heart warriors of ours are amazing aren’t they? Wishing you and your family all the best for the future x

  19. When I read your post. It really touched my heart. It was like all my feelings were expressed in every word you wrote. God bless you and your family. I am a heart warrior mom. My son 16 years old now . But, at age 2 survived 2 open heart surgery in one day. Everyday I am thankful of this miracle. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Marilyn. Hearing stories from heart moms with older children than my daughter always helps to give me hope for the future too. Hope that your son is doing well.

  20. Louise you summed it up perfectly.. totally the way we feel especially the running and hiding I often feel like that x x x x x

    1. Thank you Jess – I still have moments of feeling like I want to run and hide too – especially when I start thinking about the next surgery x

  21. So accurate them first few lines brought a tear to my eye and left a lump in throat . hearing those words at my 20 week scan will stick with me forever ❤

    1. They are definitely words that stick with you forever aren’t they? Hope your heart warrior is doing well x

  22. I understand this all so well. I lived most of this except that my baby never got that life saving surgery. She was born ar a time when they did not know so much about this if anything. I was told that she had a different defect, After she dided in a brain surgery due to an abcess because of the heart, they found what was wrong with the heart. The doctor told me, “I don’t understand how she ever lived”. God had his reason is all I know. I would have fought the world if it would have saved my child. She was so very special and loving. Dawn was born om July 17th of 1967 and died on May 5th of 1975. I feared every day that I may loose her yet cherished every second that I had been given with her. Even though I miss her still today, I know where she is and she is well and happy with Jesus. All she ever wanted was to run and play with the other children. Through all she went through, she never complained. Dawn taught me so much and is the reason that my faith is so strong today.

    1. My eyes are really bad. Please excuse the bad typing. I can hardley see this keyboard.

    2. I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. That feeling that we would fight the world if we could save our children is one I am sure many parents can relate to. There is so much that can be done today to help children with heart conditions survive – I am so sorry it wasn’t available when Dawn was alive. Thank you for sharing your story xx

  23. Lovely Louise.

    Because my children have their own health needs, I can identify with this from a parent’s perspective completely.

  24. This described so much of my life the past two years. Hopefully my daughter doesn’t have to have surgery again but they can’t say for sure that everything is completely fixed. She had a coarcation of the aorta and a large vsd. Both have been repaired. She also has a small asd that they can’t say is closing but it hasn’t grown much of any so no surgery as of yet

    1. It is an emotional rollercoaster isn’t it? I hope that your daughter will manage to avoid the need for another surgery x

  25. It’s 3am and I can’t sleep…my son has an appointment tomorrow with a heart surgeon. He was born with Aortic Stenosis and at 6 weeks he had a balloon dilatation done which was successful and has lasted 23 almost 24 years.. We have been blessed! Honestly, he has done so well that we weren’t prepared for this at all. As the cardiologist was telling us the results of his last echo, I immediately went back to the moment we were told of his Aortic Stenosis and the gut-wrenching feeling of handing my baby over for surgery flooded my heart and mind all over again. No matter how old they get they are still our babies. Please pray for him as he faces his reality as a young adult.

    1. I’m glad that your son has been doing so well but sorry that you are coming up to another anxious time with him seeing the heart surgeon. I know that handing my daughter over got harder as she got older and I can’t imagine it gets any easier as they become adults either. Keeping you and your son in my thoughts and prayers and hoping that all will go well with the next steps on his heart journey x

  26. Thanks for sharing such a nice post.Now a days Heart disease has become a great threat to humankind.“For a Child’s Heart” has been started with the goal of helping children with congenital heart disease seeking treatment at National Heart Foundation and Research Institute (NHF). The NHF Cardiac Team is renowned for providing excellent care at subsidized costs

  27. Being a heart parent is a journey of strength, love, and unwavering courage. It’s about finding hope in the face of fear, celebrating every milestone, and trusting in the expertise of caregivers. It’s a testament to resilience and the extraordinary capacity for love that parents like you embody.

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