By Kim Edgren
21 Jan

Not a Piece of Cake

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Being a mom is a beautiful gift that at one point in my life I thought may never happen. Being a CHD mom comes with so many blessings, but worries as well. Along with all the worries for my children’s health and happiness comes fear of what my heath trials may put them through.

I have tried to enjoy moments and find ways to create memories with them every day. But, I have wanted to give them a few special memories, too. I started a tradition with my oldest daughter Alex on her 16th birthday. I wanted to take her away, just the two of us, to celebrate the milestone. As my middle daughter’s 16th approached, I of course had to keep up the tradition!

However, having children spread over years—in this case, six—means I am that much older. And in that span, I have had a few cardiac bumps! Luckily, Livi is not our adventures girl so I was fairly certain I could keep up with whatever she decided to do. Until we ended up in Puerto Rico climbing a mountain in a rainforest!

I have been to El Yunque before on a nature hike to look at a waterfall, so I was feeling confident about our extended hike with a swimmable waterfall and observation tower. I read the description, the warnings, and, perhaps showing my stubborn side, decided it was going to be a piece of cake. We booked it prior to walking some six miles the day before in the beautiful, tropical (read: humid) weather! But, there were flora and fungi to explore so off we went.

Here is where the curse of being a CHD mom came in; I knew after climbing to the top of the tower and taking in the breathtaking view, while catching my breath, I may have overestimated my abilities. And, being away from specialized care and cell service, I started to worry about something happening to me in a rainforest in Puerto Rico alone with my 16-year-old daughter.

But my real worry was not for me, it was for her. There was no way I could die on a mountain with my daughter, alone. As we started the hike to the waterfall, taking the ascending path instead of the descending path due to the wet conditions, I realized I may be in trouble. The incline was steep, and it was humid… and I was a little panicked.

I kept going, having my share of palpitations and shortness of breath—but going. It was hard, and it was scary, but I was not giving in. And we made it to the waterfall, which of course Livi decided she did not want to swim in after all! We had an option going back, two paths—the one we came on, and the one we avoided coming down because it was steep but went by a beautiful river. I am stubborn, but not stupid! We went back the way we came while I willed myself that I could do it.

As we sat at lunch talking about the beauty of the forest, I felt tired but OK. I knew I pushed myself physically but more importantly, mentally. Fear most likely played a larger role in my feeling on the mountain then any real physical limitation—the what-ifs not just for me, but for my daughter. If something had happened to me, hopefully not as drastic as death, how would that impact her?

That is often the real fear of living this life and bringing children along for the ride. What happens when I am not here? But, that is not just a fear for us CHDers, and I try to remind myself of that. Life must be lived and memories must be made, hopefully helping with any losses when they come. Conquering El Yunque that day with Livi was worth it.

I have one more daughter, and she will be 16 in three years… can’t wait to see what adventure our wild girl comes up with and how much fear I will need to conquer.

Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine and/or making a change in physical activity.

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