To My Son, From Your 'Heart Dad' Who Couldn't Be Prouder

Nolan Chenevert is celebrating his third year as a dad to his son Barrett “Bear” and the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association would like to take a moment to share this open letter by Heart Dad Nolan Chenevert to his son.

Dear Barrett,

I remember so vividly how excited I was when your mom first told me I was going to be a dad. I also remember how excitedly terrified I was the first time I held you. You were now someone I had to take care of, care for and teach. (Thankfully, Mom is here to help!)

I was officially a dad, your dad! My heart was so full, and my mind was racing with all the possibilities your future held. After a very moving and exhausting day (especially for Mom!), things turned around quickly. You turned blue and were having trouble breathing, and they wanted to transfer you to another hospital. It was like I had just been repeatedly punched in the gut. I ran the three blocks to where they had taken you. I stopped in the hallway outside your room and froze. You were right there, but I couldn’t go in or talk to you. I couldn’t do anything for you. I’ve never felt such an incredible feeling of being so powerless.

The author next to his baby who is lying in a hospital bed

A team of nurses and doctors had your incubator surrounded, and when I was finally able to see you, I noticed all the tubes, wires and tape that now covered your body. I just sat there in that hallway, trying to convince myself this wasn’t real, that you were going to be just fine, that your mom and I were going to be taking you home soon. Your plane had finally arrived, and it was time for you to get on it, without me.

Two major heart surgeries, multiple procedures and dozens of doctor appointments later, you’re here doing exactly what I imagined you would be doing. Your first day of life gave me such a wide range of emotions that it might seem like the days since would be boring, but every day is its own wild ride. I get significantly less sleep than I ever imagined I would have, but I can’t wait for my first hug in the morning. I shake my head when you get into one thing after another, but I love the smile you get when you’re having so much fun. I get to pick up toy cars and dinosaurs just to get them thrown right back out again, but you are learning to help. All of the trade-offs are worth it; you are here.

Being a parent is a feeling that is unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever experienced. I feel the greatest pride when I tell everyone about you. Throughout my life, I have always looked forward to celebrating Father’s Day with my dad. We would always get together with your grandpa and spend the day trying to do things we thought he wanted to do to celebrate him. I have nothing but happy memories of Father’s Day, both as a son and grandson, but now as a dad. I’ve now had a few Father’s Day with you, and I’ve determined it isn’t just about being celebrated by others for being a dad. It is just another day to celebrate the fact that I get to be your dad.

I couldn’t be prouder to be your dad. I love you!


The author holding his son

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