Advances in medical technology account for increasingly more couples receiving fetal diagnoses of complex congenital heart disease. Theory on internal working models of caregiving during parenting transitions informed this prospective, exploratory study. Data included conjoint interviews and measures of anxiety, trauma, and depression collected from six couples after diagnosis and after birth. Severity of illness was described using infant health records. Directed content analysis furthered understanding of the caregiving motivation to manage health care that included three categories of parental efforts: (a) to determine expectations of health care providers, (b) to reconcile illness- and non-illness-related care, and (c) to express agency as a parent. Synthesis of qualitative findings transformed into categorical ratings with parents’ levels of distress resulted in two profiles characterizing types of internal working models. Findings extend theory on internal working models of caregiving and offer direction for future research regarding parental management of health care for their chronically ill offspring. Implications for practice with families are offered.
- congenital heart disease
- fetal diagnosis
- parent–health care provider relationships