Learning to Love Myself as the Parent of a Child With a Heart Defect

Natalie Bonfig
Woman holding a heart pillow.

In February, we celebrate love — for our spouses, kids, family members and friends. For those of us who have a child with a congenital heart defect, it’s also called Heart Month.

We put our heart and soul into raising all our children. Once our kids enter our lives, our hearts open up in ways we never thought possible. The love we have for our children supersedes everything else in life. They become our life. After our journey into medical parenting begins, we put everything into helping our kids and quickly put ourselves last on our list. At least I did.

My emotions were pretty much based on how well my daughter was doing. When she struggled with a new health issue and diagnosis, I struggled as well. As my daughter grew up and her dreams were coming true, I felt good but didn’t really feel the joy and relief as much as I thought I would. Instead, I was exhausted and wondering where all those good feelings were. I hardly ever put myself first, and it showed.

Related:Helping Your Child With a Health Condition Prepare for Adulthood and College

Self-love means that sometimes you put yourself first.

What?

Yep!

Put. Yourself. First.

What am I talking about when I say self-love? It means doing big and small things out of love for yourself.

Self-love is…

  • Taking care of your body and your health. It’s taking care of the basics such as regular check-ups, eating healthy, a bit of exercise every day, and a good night’s sleep (with naps during the day).
  • Asking your spouse to take your child to the next appointment and taking that time to meditate, read or even nap!
  • Taking extra time in the bathroom to get some calming breaths in.
  • Going to a yoga retreat for the weekend. Alternatively, it can be heading out for a walk whenever you get the chance.
  • Telling yourself that you are doing a great job in all you do. That you are the best parent for your child. No one else can do it better.
  • Getting the personal care assistant to help.
  • Seeing a therapist on a regular basis.
  • Canceling an appointment if you need to simply for some self-care.
  • Calling your best friend and laughing.
  • Taking a night off all activities. Better yet, plan fewer activities altogether.
  • Researching a new diagnosis, but only doing it for an hour instead of late into the night.
  • Enjoying the now, also called the present moment.
  • Finding one activity for just yourself.

Related:Why It's Important to Thank the Medical Professionals Who Help Our Children

Before you can truly love anyone else, you need to love yourself. It’s that simple.

What are you doing to love yourself this month?

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

5 Self-Care Tips I Turn to When Someone With My Daughter's Heart Condition Dies

How Focusing on My Breath Has Helped Me Manage My Child's Complex Care

What the '10-Year Photo Challenge' Looks Like When You're Sick

When I'm My Harshest Critic as the Father of a Child With Medical Needs