When I reminisce about past Valentine’s Days, my mind inevitable wanders back to 2011.
Yes, there are many other memorable Valentine’s Day I could think about, including my engagement, but this particular year stands out most of all.
That’s because February 14, 2011 was the day before my daughter’s first open heart surgery. She was seven weeks old.
At this point in her life she had been almost exclusive tube fed, with a few bottles here and there for practice. The doctors said it was too much work for her heart to eat on her own.
At this point in her life she had slept almost 24/7 in an isolette, only able to come out for a few hours a day to be held or for skin-to-skin cuddles. The doctors said it was too difficult for her to regulate her own body temperature.
There had been no tummy time. No nursing. No bouncy seats, no stroller walks, no expected milestones.
On this Valentine’s Day, my husband and I sat alone with our daughter in her hospital room. We were allowed to hold her all day, and we passed her back and forth between us. We mentally prepared for the moment we would hand our first born over to a team of doctors and nurses the next day. We cried and talked and were comforted by our favorite nurse, Kristen. That was all we could do.
It was ironic and quite appropriate that the day of celebrating hearts was the lead-in to the day our daughter’s tiny heart would receive its first repair.
From that year on, “Happy Heart Day” took on a new meaning for our family.