Chelsea Skaggs

@chelsb-skaggs | contributor
Chelsea is a content writer who also runs a virtual course Postpartum Together for postpartum moms to navigate the waters of postpartum and not feel alone. She is committed to authentic conversation and bringing up the hard stuff so you don't feel "like the only one." She is mother to two children- one who has a congenital heart defect.
Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.

Community Voices

When Mortality Brings Freedom

It’s not that I thought I was immortal prior to this year, but the need to examine and sit with my mortality and that of my loved ones didn’t regularly arise.

May you release your fears, your shames and your “shoulds” and may you lean more into your joys, your wants and the experience that is today.

We may be mortal, but the mere thought of that has the power to free us, not doom us.

Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.

Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.

Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.

Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.

Chelsea Skaggs

The Pain That Can Come With Raising Heart Month Awareness

Three days into heart month and I feel ready to tap out. Sound the bell in the wrestling ring to say I need to sit. I feel heavy. I feel scared. I feel lost in numbers and stories and a plea for more attention to be put here. This is the first time “heart month” really has a meaning to me. Sure, I’ve heard of it and have participated in activities in the past, but it never stung in my core as it does now. It was the end of May when I learned about her diagnosis. It was then that words fell on my ears like foreign phrases. It was then I learned phrases like “congenital heart defect” and “tetralogy of Fallot.” It was then I started picturing a tiny infant in an operating room with her chest opened. My privilege up until that day was that I didn’t really need to know much about how heart disease affects 40,000 babies a year in the U.S. But then it became my baby. With all I’ve learned on this journey thus far, I feel a fire to make sure those around me know too. I don’t expect them to dive in as deep as I have, but I want to give them opportunities to be more aware of what CHDs are and the effect they have on families. I want to bring light to this issue as I feel my anger, frustration, and sadness knowing that the leading birth defect is still so underfunded and there are so many babies to be saved. I want everyone to know, but raising awareness means talking about it. Talking about it means researching more. Researching more means flooding my mind with the statistics, facts, stories, and faces. Flooding my mind means I can’t go through the day without thinking about it — without thinking about how it is true for her — without thinking about what is to come and the fear that meets me often. It means telling our story and highlighting our pain over and over and over again. There are days I don’t think about it. These days I get to focus on the laughter, the way she smiles at her brother, getting her bottles ready at the right time and changing diapers. But the days when I must sit in the awareness, those days bring heavier thoughts and pictures that I can’t shake. I often think about my child dying. I often see the bins of clothes in various sizes and wonder if she’ll ever have the chance to wear them. I often plead with any Gods, forces, scientists, and doctors to make sure everything goes well and that she outlives me. I often look her in the eyes and demand she be stronger than I’ll ever know how to be. I often kiss every inch of her and feel the contradiction of fear and hope. Bringing awareness requires us to sit in the uncomfortable places. Sitting in those places is an emotional labor. When I set out to be apart of Heart Awareness Month, I didn’t realize how quickly and how deeply it would pull my energy, my mind, and my own tender heart. I didn’t realize how the stories and pictures and statistics would make me feel anxious. I didn’t realize that trying to spread the word would also spread me thin. Raising awareness isn’t just for those of us sitting in the muddy waters. It isn’t just for the personal stories to be posted with pictures and words of experience. It isn’t just a count of which babies made it through and which didn’t. It isn’t just for the mommas and the daddies who already feel the sting regularly. It’s not ours to carry alone. This is where we find our truest friends. The ones who will pull the load with us. The ones who will speak up and speak out. The ones who will take the time to learn, to listen, to try their best to sit in this space with us and to be the voice when ours is weary. In this season, spread thin and anxious, it is these friends that I cling to. These friends I call back. These friends I trust my heart to.

Heart Mama Life Has Helped Me Embrace Vulnerability

I’ve spent the last 12 months standing on the sidelines watching my baby girl fiercely battle the congenital heart disease (CHD), Tetralogy of Fallot. At the tender age of 1 she has endured two open heart surgeries and two heart catheterizations… with her next surgical intervention already scheduled for February. She’s been hospitalized during her first year more than most adults will ever be in their lifetime. Having the strength and faith to hand her over to her surgeon time and time again never gets easier. On the contrary, it only gets harder as I watch her personality blossom, as I help her reach developmental milestones, as I fall deeper in love with her. My first year as a “heart mama” has been hard; harder than I ever imagined it would be. I cry a lot… every day. I still struggle to cope with her CHD diagnosis and the fact that her prognosis seems to change after each surgical intervention. We no longer plan mini-getaways with our heart-healthy children, even weekend outings are scarce because our life revolves around managing her CHD: her daily medication schedule, the hospitalizations, the recovery and the interim of keeping her healthy until it’s time to hand her over again. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way; with her is the only place I ever want to be. But it’s a lot to process, a lot to bear, a lot to accept and come to terms with. It’s so damn hard. I shuffle between smiling and beaming with pride while picking up my twin boys from preschool, to crying and slamming my fists into my steering wheel while sitting in the parking lot of the hospital… often on the same day. There’s no in between, the emotions are complex and so different and my heart is just trying to keep up with it all. Somehow along the way, I have had to learn that vulnerability and strength go hand in hand when you are the parent of a child fighting a disease. I have gained strength by allowing myself to have those weak moments where I just had to let it all out to whoever was right there and willing to listen. I vividly remember I was in the hospital cafeteria one day waiting, literally staring at my watch counting down the agonizing minutes and hours while my baby girl was in her first open-heart surgery at 1-week-old. I got up, walked to the restroom and then completely fell apart. I could barely breathe from crying so hard. I remember a woman coming up from behind me while I was standing at the sink sobbing… she placed her arm on my back and said, “It’s going to be OK. I am praying.” I used to be embarrassed knowing I let a stranger in from time to time, but in retrospect I am so grateful to those people who were there to listen and offer me support — in the form of a hug from a stranger, two little shoulders to cry on from my twin boys and even a supportive shrug from a colleague who just so happened to catch me during a vulnerable moment. They allowed me to be vulnerable and helped me realize it was OK. Weakness doesn’t make me any less capable of being a great parent, it just makes me human. I now know first-hand that some seasons of life lend themselves to vulnerability, and right now it’s my turn. I am grateful I am still able to marvel at my set of heart-healthy twin boys who have learned independence and compassion while witnessing their baby sister battle a complex heart disease. I still worry about my baby girl’s heart function every single second. While she’s asleep at night, I can’t help but wonder if each breathe she takes will be her last. I do my best every day to push past the fear and allow myself to look into her future. Our future, together as a family. I still fail… all the time. Sometimes fear still wins. But I keep trying over, and over, and over again to be the best mama I can be, during the most vulnerable time of my life.

Chelsea Skaggs

Parenting a Daughter With a Congenital Heart Defect

Sometimes I forget that anything big is looming in our future. Sometimes I lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all I can think about. Sometimes I see my child and know she will overcome everything — beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy. Sometimes I see my child and just beg and plead she’ll see next year, and that I’ll watch her grow up alongside her siblings. Sometimes I read stories about victory from others in similar medical situations, and I feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead. Sometimes I see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and I crumble inside… trying to relate to those feelings in case they should ever become my reality. It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster… it’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment, or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties for fear it would cause me to hurt more deeply. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve come up with to describe the waiting period for a big medical intervention for my ill child. Do you remember a time when you were in a new relationship? It was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up? But then you realized you were getting very close and the fear of it not working out took over? That’s how it feels to me to have a child with a congenital heart defect (CHD). From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea my daughter’s body isn’t functioning like it should; she looks like the majority of babies. But inside… it’s a balancing act of time. It’s giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery, but not waiting too long because if we did her body would suffer. Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that daily we envision our child on a medical table going through a massive operation. You wouldn’t see the fear we have about a faulty move of the doctor’s hand, or a sterilization procedure not being followed thereby welcoming infection; yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo too. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities. I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it. Most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. Some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening. But when you have something so big in the future that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine, but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family… you naturally think about it more often. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches. You have to fight for the ability to bring the type of energy you want to your day. So to the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child — I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with caution. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories and also feel the sting of someone’s losses. Your feelings are valid; they are raw and real and to outsiders may seem scary and unsettling, but they are yours and they are important. So if you’re feeling anxious and fearful — here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this but we are in it together.