Friday, October 4, 2013

A Perfect Paradigm Shift

Imagine this: You're a perfectionist. Not the kind who has to have all the photos straight on the wall, but the kind who has to have every aspect of life planned and executed with precision. You've been in great shape since childhood—a standout athlete. You finished at the top of your class in both high school and college. First you got accepted into law school and then pilot training for the Air Force, and you'll later become an FBI agent. You married the girl knew you would marry since middle school, and she loves you. You have a healthy baby girl. Now you're expecting again, and the doctors tell you your new addition has Down Syndrome. Your perfect image of your perfect life is shattered. What do you do?

This was question faced by Heath White, competitive runner and chronic overachiever. After learning that his second daughter, Paisley, had Down Syndrome, he was crushed. A daughter with a disability was unexpected and unwanted. Heath's wife, Jennifer, says after they found out about Paisley, Heath became distant, and she was terrified that he would run away.

Heath admits to doing everything he could to get Jennifer to get an abortion, but she had already made her decision.

“I contemplated it for maybe and hour. He did it for months.”

Heath was worried that the imperfections in his daughter would reflect on him, show the world that he was an imperfect man. But he could not sway Jennifer.

“I remember the day she was born,” Heath says, “and I remember my mom saying, 'Oh, she doesn't really look like she has Down Syndrome,' and I told her she was lying.” After Paisley was born, Heath stopped running competitively and struggled to accept his daughter and himself.

But one day, he had an epiphany. He was playing with Paisley, tickling her and messing around, and she laughed and interacted with him just like any other child. That moment changed him forever. This was his daughter, and he wanted to grow with her and show her to the world.

Heath started running again, but now he pushed Paisley in front of him. He wanted to show people his pride and love for his daughter, because if doing that can keep just one person from making the mistake he almost made, it would make his next endeavor worth the heartache.

This endeavor involves revealing to Paisley how he felt before she was born. He knows that he could keep his feelings secret from his daughter and never tell her about his emotional conflict with her condition, but he hopes that by telling her the truth, it will help her through struggles she will face later in life. That why when Paisley was 18 months old, Heath began writing the letter he will one day give to her. “I want her to know that she was everything to me.”

When Paisley was five years old, she and Heath completed their last race together. It was a bittersweet moment, sad because it would be the last time Heath pushed his daughter ahead of him, but significant because it would mark their 321st mile together. It's an important number to the family since Down Syndrome is a third copy of the 21st chromosome. But why stop there?

“Paisley doesn't need me to push her,” Heath says. Jennifer reaffirms that Heath thought, “I don't want to take care of a person for the rest of my life,” but now he thinks, “I may not get to take care of her for the rest of her life.”

It's amazing how one person, one experience, can change your entire perspective. What do you think? Did you watch the video? (The video is much more touching than typed words!) Share your thoughts, please!


  1. That was a gripping story and beautifully told. It is a heavy load to carry for a parent and this
    story expresses it so well. Thank you for sharing it.

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  3. I spent a summer working at a sheltered workshop with "disabled" people. Turned out I was the dorky one -- slow at everything, and I found myself grateful for the patience and friendship of my co-workers. Everyone is good at something and everyone should be appreciated. I never forgot that lesson.