“These articles are really nice, and very true,” my husband said to me one evening as he clicked a link to yet another blog post about how strong and awesome special needs moms are. “But what about the dads?”
What about the dads?
So, Dads… about you.
We notice you, we love you, and we appreciate you, so very much.
Just like us moms, you’ve cried at diagnoses, you’ve been to doctors’ appointments, and you’ve paced, sick with worry, in surgery waiting rooms.
Maybe you can’t always be there physically – though you so desperately wish you could be – but you ask questions after each therapy appointment, you call the pharmacy to get refills on prescriptions your child needs, and you read over every school report.
You support your family in the best way you know how, and often this is doing. You work hard at your job to earn raises to cover the copays, medications and specialized equipment. You stay up late researching conditions and diseases and delays and side effects on your computer. You learn how to work the medical technology that is keeping your child alive, and you get up at all hours of the night to monitor pumps, machines, temperatures, numbers and levels.
You stay. You might not think this is commendable – of course you stay, right? – but I’ve seen it so much. Fear and stress and and grief and anger cause so many fathers of special needs babies to leave. You stay and you selflessly put your family’s needs before your own.
You do anything you can to make your child feel more comfortable, safer and more loved. You push wheelchairs for miles, you carry heavy children who aren’t able to walk, you read or sing for hours if it makes your child rest comfortably. And you carry the burden of wondering how you will continue to be strong if and when you have to bury your baby, who is your heart and your life.
You’ve heard other dads brag about their child being in the 98th percentile for height and weight – a future college football player, no doubt – while you watch doctors write “failure to thrive” on your son’s chart. You’ve listened to your friends joke about meeting their daughter’s teenage dates with a shotgun by their side, while you silently pray you will get to see your daughter attend her prom.
Maybe you don’t talk about it as much or show it as emotionally, but you feel it as deeply as mothers do. You try to grapple with the picture of your family being developed much differently that you originally envisioned. You feel helpless, wanting to do everything in your power to protect your children from pain. And you love and lead fiercely, wrapping your strong arms around your baby so gently and carefully.
I want you to know, dads, that you are noticed, you are loved and you are whole-heartedly appreciated for all that you do for your family. We sometimes forget to thank you or don’t often enough acknowledge your extremely crucial role to our family. But we appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
And a very-deserved thank you to my own incredible husband, Evan.