When you become a parent, it changes you. But when your tiny, brand new baby is given a life-altering diagnosis that thrusts you into the world of special needs, it really changes you.
Some people change for the better and some change for the worse. Your relationship with your spouse can get stronger or it can fall apart. The first few years of this new life will reveal that change. Slowly but surely, you’ll see it developing. And in the end, many husbands and wives make it through the rocky path and learn to navigate this new life together and their relationship not only survives, but thrives.
When your relationship is strong and makes it through, the dad behind the diagnosis will become a different man. He’ll become someone that you will love exceedingly more. He’ll listen more and learn patience. He’ll see things in everyday life with new eyes. He’ll think more with his heart, rather than his brain. His eyes will well up with tears at the sight of your beautiful miracle child doing something ordinary that he or she was never “supposed” to do. All of these changes are due to your child who was born with special needs.
In these relationships, 98 percent of the time, the mother’s life revolves around the child with special needs. It is usually the momma who brings them to the doctor appointments and therapies. The momma packs her bag and stays by their side for hospital admissions. The momma will often leave her job to stay home and care for this precious child. It is usually the momma who keeps everyone abreast of the child’s health. It is the momma who openly expresses her feelings about living this wonderful, yet difficult life.
And it is the momma who is usually seen crying as she endures yet another blow of bad news from the doctor. From the outside looking in, it seems the momma carries most of the load. However, nothing could be further from the truth…
The dad in this picture is often overlooked. Most of the time, Dad is working. A lot. He finds himself at work wondering how his child’s day is going more often than not. Finances usually depend on his paycheck. If he isn’t working, he is taking care of the home front and other children, a duty just as important as any other.
Most of the time, his emotions are hidden by a strong face and he rarely lets those emotions loose, so he cries alone when no one is around. Most of the time, he wishes he was at those doctor appointments hearing the news straight from the doctor’s mouth because he wants to know everything just as much as his wife does. Most of the time, he is silent with his frustrations about this life and he learns to deal differently. This is often why others forget about Dad, he plays a quiet but important role.
His heart aches for his child and his mind swirls with thoughts of what was “supposed” to be. He thinks of how he should be playing catch in the backyard with his son instead of lifting him into bed at night because he’s gotten too heavy for momma to do it. He thinks of how he should be letting his little girl play dress up with him and having tea parties instead of setting up the feeding pump that will give her nutrients through a feeding tube for 18 hours straight.
While he holds onto hope that his miracle with so many special needs will get better, he experiences what true love is daily through his child and accepts this life, puts on a brave smile for his family, goes to work to pay the bills and is always there to hold his wife when she feels doesn’t know what to do or where to turn.
This dad experiences the joy, the heartache, the love, the fear… all of it. He is willing to go unnoticed, unheard, unseen not because he isn’t equipped to live this special life, but rather because he is willing to be the strong, silent backbone for his child and wife. He is selfless and puts his own feelings aside so he can power through and take care of his family. In a society where the moms of children with special needs are constantly praised, the dad is often the unsung hero behind the scenes, snuggling, bathing, giving meds, working and allowing his family to thrive.
The dad behind the diagnosis may be hidden from your view, but he is there. Quietly supporting his family… and doing an amazing job.
Kudos to all those great dads out there who are raising a child with exceptional needs with their spouse or by themselves! In case you haven’t heard this in a while… You. Are. Amazing.
This post originally appeared on My Blessed Little Nest.