This blog looks at something of a taboo subject. It’s the way that parents react when they find out they are having a child that is not “perfect” but has complex health needs. Many parents are understandably shocked, scared and worried. This blog features a father who felt that he was getting a broken baby and wanted her aborted.

It was in 2007 when Heath White – a pilot-turned-FBI agent from Texas – learned that his wife Jennifer was carrying a baby girl with Down’s Syndrome.  This was totally at odds with his lifetime quest for perfection: “My main concern was what people would think about me – what weakness inside me caused that,” he said. “Learning you’re having a child with Down’s is like experiencing a death, that’s what I felt like. Like I was getting a broken baby.”


Heath found the situation so hard to come to terms with that he tried to persuade Jennifer to have an abortion. Jennifer, however, managed to stay strong. Despite her own turmoil that the love of her life didn’t want the child, she made it clear to Heath that she was keeping the baby and it was his choice whether or not to remain part of the new little family.

Paisley was born on March 16th 2007 and, whilst he smiled in photographs, Heath said he did not feel connected to his daughter. However, months later, he suddenly realised that Paisley was no different from any other child. He cites the turning point as being when he tickled her and she giggled and tried to push him away. “’Her laughing and smiling and reacting with me, that’s when I realised she’s just like any other kid – she’s my kid.”

Before Paisley’s birth, Heath had been a competitive runner and he had a desire to make this something that they could do together – him running and pushing her in a special stroller.  Their first race together took place just before Paisley’s first birthday and for the next five years they took part in nine marathons and numerous 5K and 10K races. Heath describes the experiences as: “it was just me and her, nothing between us”.

When Paisley was 18 months old, Heath began writing a letter to her, sharing his conflicted feelings about her birth and how he now loves her beyond words. Whilst he realises that the letter could upset her, above all he wants to tell her just how much he loves her. He also hopes that it will reassure other worried parents that they are not alone. “Nobody knew the way I felt before she was born, and if I can keep one family, one person from having to live with the guilt and almost making the mistake that I almost made, it’s going to be worth the pain that Paisley will feel later in life knowing the way that I felt,” he said.

You can see the full E:60 interview with Heath White here.

If you are struggling with any aspect of caring for a child or other loved ones with complex needs, do browse through this website and then get in touch with us if you feel we may be able to help you further.

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