Wednesday, February 8, 2012

a comparison

I normally don't plan on comparing my children too much... after all, Andrew is a boy, Kerigan is a girl.  He's five, she's 7 months old (almost!)  He is into your typical "boy" things like cars, trucks, dinosaurs and dirt.  She loves her babies and puts everything in her mouth!

But when I was sitting down to think about what I wanted to post for CHD Awareness week... I couldn't help but compare this.
This is my son.  He was 7 months old in this photo.  This was his second open heart surgery.  It was a 12 hour surgery that completely repaired his Tetralogy of Fallot.  They call this his "full repair" surgery, but his little heart was far from repaired.  At the time of this surgery, Andrew couldn't sit up.  He was nowhere near crawling and barely holding his head up on his own.  He was going to physical and occupational therapy once a week.  I had to take a year off from work just to keep him out of day care because if he would have gotten sick, he could have died.

This is what congenital heart defect looks like.  This is how we were introduced to parenthood.  This was the only life we knew.

Until this:
This is our smiley, bubbly daughter today at 7 months old.  I can't help but to compare.  This is what healthy looks like.  Bright eyed and happy.  Giggles and smiles.  Baby food, sitting up, learning to crawl.

It's quite an amazing difference, don'tcha think??

I stare at both of these pictures and it almost takes my breath away.  It leaves me almost speechless.  I was talking to another heart mom friend when I was pregnant with our daughter.  I remember being scared that I didn't know if I could love another baby the way I loved Andrew.  Especially with everything he had been through.  He was such a special baby, and we had poured every ounce of our lives into caring for him.  Keeping him alive.  I remember my friend (who has one healthy child and one heart child) saying... of course you love them both... but the love is "different."  She couldn't have been more right.

It is an odd feeling, parenting one perfectly healthy child, and one with a CHD.  You do treat them somewhat differently, for example, when they are sick, you tend to worry about the heart child more.  You "worry" more about the heart child in general.  It is hard to look at them both and think of how their futures could be so different.  Whether this is right or wrong, it's just the way it is.  At the same time, it is an amazing experience to parent a healthy child.  One who you got to wrap your arms around and cuddle the moment they were born.  One who was born pink and chubby.  Loves to eat and grows like a weed.  One who is ahead of all her milestones.

I'm so blessed to have gotten to experience both kinds of love.  I wouldn't trade either experience for anything.
Many of you have noticed and commented on Kerigan's heart shaped birthmark between her eyes.  It was present from day one.  And we noticed it right away.  

And we don't think it is a coincidence.

Her birthmark means so much to me.  It is such a symbol of our lives brought together by CHD.  We are a CHD family, whether it is the life we would have chosen or not- that is the life God created for us and we wouldn't change a thing.  Kerigan came into that life 7 months ago.  She has a brother with a CHD.  She will be forever embedded into this heart journey and she will eventually learn what it means to be part of something so special.
 Kerigan forever wears a "heart" for her brother.  And I just get goosebumps every time I see it.  There almost aren't words to describe it.  God is the only explanation I have.  He created her with this perfect little heart shaped birthmark... and a perfect heart.  It's like a trade off.  
Thank you God.
One perfect heart...
One broken heart...
Two amazing miracles...

To my sweet boy:

Never be ashamed of the scars that life has left you with.  
A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed,
you endured the pain and God has healed you.

*For CHD awareness week we are storming Pinterest with the faces of CHD!  Andrew's story is pinned.  Please visit this link and pin your CHD story or others stories to help spread awareness!

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