THE COMPASS

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A FATHER’S DREAM BY DANNY DA SILVA

A long time ago I was once a good man. I had done everything right and was now awaiting the birth of my second child to complete my family. The birth of my youngest son was going to be a memory that I would cherish much the same way as I did my oldest son. The journey of the “second child” is one that we sometimes take for granted especially if all signs point to a normal journey. Unfortunately, in my case my wife’s typical pregnancy would change in the blink of an eye. My life took a turn into a world that until now was foreign to me. Overnight it seemed as though the world that I knew so well came crashing over top of me and for a long time I wondered if I could ever get out of the rubble and find my way again. I was now the father of a child who had medical complications and a disability.
Learning how to raise a child with a disability is a difficult process as you have to learn how to understand the demands and challenges of raising a child with more complicated needs. This process isn’t easy and can have profound effects on the father. No father wants his child to be sick, or harmed in any way. It is not an experience anyone expects to have, but nonetheless I must have it. Like most fathers, I selfishly dreamed up a life for my unborn son. I had mapped out all of the things he was going to do and see even before he was born. I had lots of dreams. When I was told that my son was going to have extra obstacles in life and no one could really tell me what the future would hold for him, those hopes and dreams I had quickly disappeared before my eyes. I quickly realized early on in my journey that I was grieving the loss of the life I thought I was going to have with my son.

I felt so sad, confused, disheartened and angry that at times I felt like I was walking a very thin line between sanity and insanity. I suppressed my emotions, thoughts and tears. It was the only coping mechanism I had. At times the anger inside of me was too much for me to handle and sometimes I lashed out. Right or wrong, I lashed out. The unfortunate outcome of that is that I hurt my loved ones, more specifically my wife and two young children. As a father I was the one responsible to make sure my son was safe and protected and I was angry at the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it. Even though there was nothing that I could have done, for the longest time I had felt like I had failed him. I had felt like I was less of a man because I couldn’t protect my family.

I felt so sad, confused, disheartened and angry that at times I felt like I was walking a very thin line between sanity and insanity. I suppressed my emotions, thoughts, and tears. It was the only coping mechanism I had.

The highs and lows I faced took me to rough and dark places. Being a father of a child with a disability I felt at times overlooked and under-supported. I didn’t know who to talk to. I was already a very guarded and private person and now I was in crisis mode and I didn’t know who I felt safe sharing my feelings with. I definitely couldn’t share with my wife because she was also struggling to find the answers. I felt like there wasn’t any emotional support and I was embarrassed to ask for it. I didn’t know who to turn to to talk about my stresses and the challenges I was facing. None of my friends and family had experience with this topic so I felt I needed to keep things bottled in and hope that no one saw me crack. I had to look strong in front of my wife and two sons; after all I was supposed to be the pillar that held the family together.

The birth of my son has made me and the people around me better people. As time continues to pass, I am continuously growing and learning to deal with the difficult challenges that are put in front of us. My son has opened my eyes. Although he is only four, every day he is teaching me to be a more compassionate, empathetic, loving husband and father. In life I thought the father would teach the son, but in reality it is the son teaching the father.
A long time ago I was once a good man; now I am a better man.

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