Dad Behind the Diagnosis

When you become a parent, it changes you. But when

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 will see it developing; in the end, many husbands and wives make it through the rocky path. They learn to navigate their new life together and their relationship not only survives, it thrives.

In these relationships, 98% of the time, the mother ‘s life revolves around a child with special needs. It is usually the mama who takes them to their doctors appointments and therapies. The mama packs her bag and stays by their child’s side for hospital admissions. The mama will often leave her job to stay home and care for their precious child, and it’s usually the mama who keeps everyone abreast of their child’s health. It is the mama who openly expresses her feelings about living a difficult, yet wonderful life.

However, when your relationship is strong and makes it through the ups and downs, it’s the Dad behind the diagnosis who becomes a different man. He will become someone you will love exceedingly more everyday. He will listen more and learn patience. He will begin to see things in your everyday lives, with new eyes. He will think more with his heart rather than his brain and his new eyes will fill with tears at the sight of your beautiful, miracle child, when they’re doing something ordinary; something he or she was never supposed to do. All of these changes happen because your child was born with special needs.

The mama is usually the one seen crying, as she has endured yet another blow of bad news from the doctor. It may seem like the mother carries most of the load, but nothing could be further from the truth. The dad is often overlooked. A majority of the time, dad is working— a lot. Most likely your family’s finances depend on his paycheck, but he finds himself wondering how his child’s day is going, more often than not; and when he isn’t working, he’s taking care of the home front and your other children.

What you don’t see from dad, unlike mom, are his emotions. They are hidden by a strong face and he rarely lets his emotions loose, so he cries alone when no one is around. Much of the time, he wishes he was at all the doctor's appointments; hearing the news and new information from the doctor, because he wants to know everything too. However, he usually remains silent about his frustrations about this life, because he has learned to cope with it differently than mama has. This is often why most forget about Dad; his role is equally as important, just less emotional and more silent than mama’s.

Something else we don’t see is his heart aching for his child, as his mind swirls with thoughts of “what was supposed to be.” He thinks of how life should be with his child, playing catch in the backyard, not lifting him into bed at night, because he’s gotten too heavy for mama to do it. He thinks how he should be playing dress up and having tea parties with his daughter. Instead he is setting up feeding pumps to ensure her nutrients are given through a feeding tube for 18 straight hours.

Although life is different than he expected, he holds onto hope that his miracle with so many special needs, will get better. He experiences what true love really is, because of his child with special needs; so he accepts this life and puts on a brave smile for his family. He goes to work so they can pay the bills and he is always there to hold his wife when she doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. Dad experiences the joy, the heartache, the love, the fear—all of the emotions. He is willing to go unnoticed, unheard and unseen not because he isn’t equipped to live this special life, but because he is willing to be the strong, silent backbone for his child/children and his wife. He is selfless and puts his own needs and feelings aside so he can power through life and take care of his family.

In a society where moms of children with special needs are often praised, we fail to see the unsung hero behind the scenes. Dad is often snuggling, bathing, giving medications, working so he can allow for 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!”

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