Some relatives openly told me that our lineage does not produce ‘bad seeds’, meaning children with disabilities, and so I should abandon Susan and “her” child. They advised me to quickly leave her before she got pregnant again,” he says.
Despite the discouragement, Patrick remained unmoved, and he in fact went on to formalise his union to Susan in church this year.
“I had dated Susan for two years before she got pregnant with Princess. Back then, I had made the decision that she was going to be my wife, so having a child with disability did not change my mind about that. I have never considered leaving her – why would I?”
Men, he says, are the worst detractors.
“They jeer at me, telling me that my wife must have bewitched me. They tell me that I am poor because of my decision to stay with a disabled child.
It is true that raising a child with special needs is expensive, and I most likely would have been doing better financially had I taken off when she was born, but this is my child, and I will not abandon her. I will give her the best that I can, for that is what I vowed to do the first day I held her in my arms. Nothing has changed,” he says.
A man, he says, should be the pillar that supports his wife and children, fulfilling their emotional, physical, psychological and financial needs.
On the other hand, some of Susan’s friends and relatives offer her ‘interesting’ advice.
“They say it is hard for a man to stay with a woman who has a disabled child. Because of this, they ‘advise’ me to hold on to my husband no matter what, that even if he abuses me or beats me up, I should never leave my marriage because I am lucky he has stayed with me.”
One of the greatest challenges Patrick has encountered so far is finding other fathers who openly talk about their experiences raising children with disability.
“I have found that most parents who readily talk about their disabled children are women. I wish more fathers can do the same,” he says.
Such a support group, Patrick believes, would be a source of encouragement, and an invaluable forum to exchange ideas and helpful information about raising their children better.
“It would be good to connect with other fathers out there who have children with disabilities, so that we can all learn from each other.”
Patrick can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I originally published this story in Daily Nation.