Fatherhood, redefined… — 5 Minutes for Special Needs


My life changed drastically the day we adopted Jack. I just didn’t know how much it was changed.

We struggled to have our oldest child. She was born early, but healthy. Shortly after her birth, I had a large lump removed from my breast. 2 months after that, I had a complete hysterectomy. We knew we would never have another biological child, and we weren’t even sure we wanted to adopt at that point.

However, when J turned 5, she started questioning us about babies and why she couldn’t have a sibling. Our hearts began to change, and by the time J was 6 and a half, we had prayed enough, thought enough, and felt strongly enough to complete a home study and begin the adoption process.

The day I met Jack was surreal. I won’t go in to the details, because, quite frankly, it’s a bit disturbing. To this day, I struggle with my feelings.

Anyway, Jack was just 4 pounds. I had never held anything so small and fragile. His foot was not as long as my thumb.

My husband met him the next day as we waited for all the legal papers to be signed. I watched (although my vision was blurred through the tears) as he held his son for the first time. I saw his heart melt. I saw visions of backyard football games, wrestling on the living room floor, and hours of fishing in their futures. My daughter held her brother and my husband smiled with pride at the family we had created. It was one of the best (and saddest) moments of my life.

For a few weeks, our life was filled with perfection. Friends visited. We had a baby shower. Even the sleepless nights were welcome!

Then Jack started having issues. He was struggling to feed. He was constantly throwing up. He wasn’t trying to roll over. He barely moved his arms and legs. I began to see red flags. Everyone around me told me I was crazy–to stop being a nurse and just be a mom.

Two weeks to the day after we finalized our adoption in front of many of our friends and family, I watched my husband crumble. As a neurologist cradled my son, and held my hand, he told us Jack had cerebral palsy. I bit my lip and tried to hold back tears. My husband stared at the door as if he wished he was anywhere in the world but in that room at that moment.

In the months and years that have passed since then, I have been given the opportunity to watch my husband redefine fatherhood. Who cares about football and fishing? Those boys can play Star Wars! Feeding tube? Who cares that he has a feeding tube—my husband can hop from our bed to silence a pump in 5.3 seconds without ever waking the sleeping boy! Jack squeeeeels with delight when his Papa walks in the door from work….and Papa always has open arms and snuggles. Fatherhood for him has become the simple joy of watching our son wake up daily. Fatherhood is giving thanks for being able to fight the insurance company, because that means Jack is still here.

Many times, as society, we define ourselves by our lives…what our jobs are, what car we drive, what kind of home we have. But in our world, we define ourselves by our children. We celebrate things that others consider inconsequential. Adventure is a week without doctors appointments. Excitement is popcorn and an old musical on the television. Fancy dinner is whatever I can manage to throw in the crock pot.

I am proud of my husband for the man that he has become for the sake of us. I used to be sorry that he wasn’t going to have the son he dreamed of—but we have a son who is more than we could have ever dreamed of, for he has brought us the most important things in the world: faith, and hope, and love.




Email Author    |    Website About Heather P

Heather is a mom of two, wife, and nurse educator doing what she can to save the day! She lives in Orlando where she is routinely spotted driving while singing ABBA--all on a mission to advocate and educate!

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1 Sebastian June 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm

It’s been a life changing experience but rewarding. I do give Heather all the credit in the world for helping me navigate this journey, she does this with amazing grace and I could not do it without her. I love you Heather!

2 Diane June 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I am typing through my tears at the beauty and love in your words. . .God knew what he was doing when he blessed you and Sebi and J with Jack. . .I can only imagine God smiling at the faith, love and hope your family lives every single day. Hugs, prayers and always hope, Auntie Diane

3 Heather P June 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Love you…so much. God knows so much better than us…even if we don’t understand His choices all of the time! 😉

4 Jo June 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Ah tears here. You all are lucky to have each other.

5 Heather P June 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Thank you Jo… Indeed, we are!

6 James June 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm

…I got all geared up to leave a comment…and I can’t find the right words at all. Thank you? I just feel so privileged to know your family and your story. :O)

7 Heather P June 16, 2012 at 9:35 am

The feeling is totally mutual! We are blessed beyond measure to have such great friends around us! xoxo

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