Red paper hearts are not the only type of hearts celebrated in the month of February. This week launches Congenital Heart Defects Awareness week. CHD is considered to be the most common birth defect. Approximately 40,000 babies in the U.S. are affected by CHD each year.
This year, Colman’s mom, Heather Maloy, has taken her words off of the computer screen and onto paper. Her book, I Hate Pinatas: Surviving Life’s Unexpected Surprises, is a memoir of her family’s story.
Heart surgery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This is what Heather Maloy learned first-hand when her son, Colman, was diagnosed in utero with a combination of congenital heart defects, which are fatal without surgical intervention. I Hate Piñatas is a compelling story of hope and strength that vacillates between heartbreaking and outrageously funny as Maloy takes you through what three heart surgeries in three years looked like for one family.
Heather recently answered some questions for us as part of our ongoing series, I Am a San Antonio Mom. She is also giving away a copy of I Hate Pinatas to one of our readers and donating $1 from every purchase to the Children’s Heart Association during the entire month of February![hr]
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in the Rio Grande Valley but grew up in Victoria, Texas. I’m the oldest of three children and have a sister and brother.
After I attended college for a year, my dad suggested I try going to court reporting school. At first, I balked at the idea. My experience with court reporters was limited to the old woman from the TV show Night Court, which didn’t exactly make the idea of becoming a court reporter appealing to an 18-year-old. However, there wasn’t a court reporting school in Victoria, so I jumped at the opportunity to come to San Antonio and attend school. I loved it! I finished the two-year program in sixteen months and was a court reporter by the time I was twenty.
I started working the day after I received my Texas Certified Shorthand Reporter certification and met my husband, Kevin—a local criminal defense attorney—a month later when I was working in criminal district court.
Kevin and I have been married for 15 years and have three boys. Liam is 12, Colman is 10, and Rowan is 4. People often ask, “Didn’t you ever want a girl?”
My answer? “Three times.”
In all seriousness, I love being a mom of three boys.
I work full-time for a juvenile district court. I started writing a private blog about eight years ago to keep family and friends updated on our son, Colman, who was born with complex congenital heart defects in 2004. Eventually, I started writing the blog, Crazy Heart Mama. I just published my first book, I Hate Piñatas, which is a memoir about what three heart surgeries in three years looked like for our family.
Tell us about how you decided to write a book. What was the process?
That’s a tough question. I didn’t start out intending to write a book. After going through two open-heart surgeries with Colman in the span of four months, I discovered CarePages and promptly started one for Colman. I invited family and friends to subscribe so they could keep up to date on what was going on with him. Somewhere along the way, I rediscovered how much I love writing. The blog became therapeutic, and I looked forward to typing out a post about doctors’ appointments or days we were in the hospital. Once I’d put into words what had gone on that day, everything felt more manageable.
Even though Colman had been through three open-heart surgeries, it was a whole different ballgame when he went into heart failure at the age of eight. Colman had friends and classmates who wanted to know how he was doing, and I wanted to keep them updated in the easiest way possible. Our beloved cardiac team here in San Antonio had informed us there was nothing more they could do for Colman and that he needed to be transferred to a transplant center. Within 24 hours, we were being taken by air ambulance to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. When Colman finally came home almost three weeks later, he was on 11 medications and two different therapies to help keep his lungs healthy. That’s when I started blogging publicly as the Crazy Heart Mama. Because I was one.
At this point, I started getting feedback about my writing, and I had people asking me if I’d thought of writing a book.
Um, no. There was the pesky time factor—the fact that I don’t have enough of it—and the three kids and the husband. I wondered if any of those people were actually reading my blog. Because then they’d know I have a kid in heart failure who’s on ELEVEN medications.
But the seed was planted, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, mainly because having a child with significant health problems is isolating and lonely and incredibly scary. And what if my story helped another mom feel better about the situation she was in?
I started researching, and there were approximately three books about having a child with congenital heart defects. Three books to serve a population of a little over two million people just in the United States alone. I read all three in a matter of days, and they were good books, but they weren’t the kind of book I wanted to write. I wanted to write a memoir that read like a novel, with lots of dialogue from all of the colorful characters who make up our respective families. I wanted to write a book I would’ve liked to read when I was pregnant and told our baby would need three heart surgeries to survive. I wanted to write a book that provided the heartbreak, laughter, and hope, because that’s what I experienced. I wanted to write a book that would have crossover appeal and raise awareness for congenital heart defects. Because, frankly, when you have a kid with a heart defect, you’re aware. I wanted to write a book that would reach out and touch the people who were unaware as well.
So I told my friend Janene, a fellow writer, that I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know where to begin. I expected her to tell me I was crazy. Instead she said, “Just start writing.”
And I did. I sent her my first few chapters, and she helped me with form. I’m used to punctuating the spoken word as opposed to the written word, so there was a little bit of a learning curve. After that, I’d send her a couple of chapters at a time and she’d send me chapters from the novel she was writing. We kept each other on track, and she gave me enough confidence in what I was doing to eventually turn my book over to a professional editor.
“Just start writing.” It was the best advice ever.
Why do you call San Antonio home?
San Antonio has just always felt like home to me. I think San Antonio has one of the prettiest downtowns of all the Texas cities. When I was offered a job here right after court reporting school, it seemed like the perfect place to stay. Then I met my husband, and we moved to Alamo Heights, which has the small-town feel I’m accustomed to but all of the amenities of a big city.
What do you love about San Antonio?
I love the history, people, and food.
What’s been the greatest joy of motherhood?
Deep belly laughs, long talks with my older boys, and the time of night when everybody is sound asleep in their beds.
What’s been the greatest challenge of motherhood?
Handing my son, Colman, over for heart surgery when he was three days old. Then I handed him over two more times when he was four months old and three years old.
If we peeked in your purse right now, what would we find?
Boogie wipes—in grape and fresh scent, Kleenex, an old grocery list, lip gloss, Purell hand sanitizer, $20, sunglasses, ID, credit and debit card.
How do you hope your life influences and/or inspires other women?
I hope my story encourages women to be strong in the face of adversity and to be good advocates for their children.
Describe your typical weekday.
6:00 A.M. Awakened by my four-year-old to “snuggle.” This includes, but is not limited to, kicking me and whining that he’s hungry for breakfast and thirsty for chocolate milk.
6:30 A.M. Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen.
6:35 A.M. Pour myself a cup of ambition.
6:36 A.M. Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.
Wait! I think that’s the start of the Dolly Parton song “Nine to Five.” But in all seriousness, that part of my morning is pretty similar to the song.
6:37 A.M. Procure aforementioned chocolate milk.
6:40 A.M. Get dressed and run a brush through my hair.
6:50 A.M. Wake up the big boys so they can start getting ready for school.
6:55 A.M. Draw up and put out medications for Colman.
7:00 A.M. My husband and I trade off making breakfast. (I use the term “make” loosely. I’ve been known to make dinner by driving through Taco Cabana.) We usually put out milk, fruit, and cereal. One of our kids is on a Pop-Tart kick. (Don’t judge.)
7:20 A.M. Remind Colman to take his medicine.
7:21 A.M. Remind Colman to take his medicine.
7:25 A.M. Dress Rowan.
7:30 A.M. Remind Colman to take his medicine.
7:35 A.M. Yell, “Finish up, guys! We need to leave.”
7:36 A.M. Stop Colman on the way out the door and do the “smell test.” Send him back to brush his teeth.
7:38 A.M. Colman passes the smell test.
7:40 A.M. Load everybody into the SUV.
7:50 A.M. Drop off Colman at elementary school.
8:00 A.M. Drop off Liam at junior school.
8:10 A.M. Drop off Rowan at preschool.
8:15 A.M. More kisses. More hugs. (This is the only time I get REAL loving.)
8:20 A.M. Run into Starbucks for coffee and say “hello” to everybody because they all know my name.
8:35 A.M. Arrive at work.
8:36 A.M. Sigh. (I love this place.)
9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. In court.
12:00 P.M. Sometimes I have a grown-up lunch. Most of the time, it consists of running errands (i.e., dry cleaners, pharmacy, and a quick pass through the grocery store). A couple of times a week, I’m able to get a workout in.
1:30 P.M. Back in court or my office catching up on transcripts.
5:20 P.M. Pick up Rowan at preschool and head back home to meet the big boys.
5:35 P.M. Home. Start dinner or call Kevin to pick something up. Help with homework. Pray nobody asks me a question about math.
6:15 P.M. Dinner (unless it’s one of the days we have Boy Scouts or tennis).
7:30 P.M. Bath time.
8:00 P.M. Tuck Rowan into bed.
8:30 P.M. Big boys turn in telephones to central charging station.
9:00 P.M. Lights out for Liam and Colman.
9:15 P.M. Shower for me.
9:30 P.M. My time to write or read.
11:00 P.M. Eyes slam shut.
What four words best describe you?
BOSSY! (I understand this is not politically correct, but it’s the truth. I would also use this term to describe a man, by the way.) Honest. Funny. Loyal.
Where would we find you on the weekends?
In my SUV running children to various activities or at the grocery store. I feel like I live part-time at H-E-B.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
A fountain coke with chips and queso—or guacamole. It’s a toss-up. A friend of mine refers to this as our death row meal.
What are some of your favorite San Antonio spots?
Date night usually consists of dinner with friends. The Sandbar, Silo, and Bliss are some of my favorites. I love getting my hair washed and blown out at the Blow Dry Bar on Broadway. My little sister gave me a gift certificate. Best gift ever. The kids like the Witte and the Zoo, and we’re looking forward to the Do-Museum opening. As far as dessert, I’m good with anything chocolate.[hr]
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!