Tips for fathers

Perhaps you have just recently received news that your unborn child will be born with a congenital heart defect. Or perhaps your healthy child has just been diagnosed with a CHD. You may feel shocked and unsure of what the future will hold. Here are some tips as shared by CHD fathers. If you are a CHD father and would like to share a thought or tip, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

You’re not number one…at least not for awhile. Your wife loves you, but when her child is facing a procedure or open heart surgery, that child will be her number one priority. Whatever she can do to help that child, she will do. Let her do what she needs and help her in any way possible.

You can help! Be involved in your child’s care! Change diapers, give baths, help out even if you feel intimidated by the IV’s and monitors. The nurses will be happy to assist you or give you tips on how to go about helping.

You’re going to have to force your wife to take breaks! Be prepared to tell your wife to go eat and to sleep! When you are about to tell your wife to go do one of these things, make sure one of the nurses are standing right there. Most often, the nurses will agree with you and two against one is much more convincing. Which leads into the next point…

Nurses are your best friends.

They know all the ins and outs of everything. Ask questions, ask questions. No question is off limits. They love to see parental involvement. When you find a favorite nurse, request her to take care of your child.

It’s okay to take a break together. It may be difficult to leave the hospital but if you need to take a walk together or go to dinner, do it. The time away will help you feel “normal” and better able to care for your child.

You can do it…you can get through this! Lean on your faith and each other. Encourage one another.

Ask for help.

You can live on hamburgers and cafeteria food…it’s not ideal but it’s doable.

It’s okay to cry.

Look for blessings…you will find them.

--Shared by Matt Ruma, Father to Joshua (HLHS)

  • At the hospital, be an integral part of the care team, attend rounds when you can and ask questions.
  • At home, try to treat your child with a CHD as normal as possible. Help them learn the sky is the limit.
  • While at the hospital it is important to take time for yourself. Take a walk, find a quiet place to sit and read, find a trail to walk outside. Taking time for yourself will benefit everyone involved. It will help you clear your thoughts.
  • Learning how to care for your child at home can become very overwhelming. Don't keep all your stress and anxiety inside, share your feelings with someone. Also ask questions as many times and you need to!
  • As a father, you need to protect your child. You can’t do this by yourself. Realize your child’s care team at the hospital is an important part of being able to provide and protect your child.
  • Be careful when you choose to research your child's CHD on the Internet. There is so much information on the Internet and it can be very overwhelming and it can also create a lot of unseeded anxiety. It is important to realize no matter what CHD your child has, it is unique and the information you find may not always apply to your situation. CHD's are very scary and doing a lot of research can really heighten one’s anxiety. There are definitely a lot of unknowns in the CHD world!

--Shared by Brett Butcher, Father to Brittney Butcher, (Post heart transplant/restrictive cardiomyopathy)