Mikel Watkins: Fatherhood

Editor’s Note: The following essay contains some explicit language.

Having a kid is supposed to be the best day of your life, right?

On October 27, 2020 at 2:27 p.m. at an undisclosed location in Indiana a beautiful baby girl was born. She’s 4 pounds, 11 ounces but she’s not breathing oxygen, and a “Hi, I’m your dad” was all that was said between father and daughter for eight days because of the big C, and no, I’m not talking about cancer. I’m talking about COVID, the global pandemic affected my perfect baby girl of all people. 

“Why her? Why not me?” I asked, as my fiancé and I watched our daughter get treated like patient zero from a camera in a hospital because we contracted said virus a week before her unexpected early birth. Eight days we suffered in silence, pain, and agony. Eight days our child was not in our care, our perfect baby girl, Willow Ivory Watkins.

This is her story:

3 EEGs 

2 MRIs

Poked over 100 times for fluids

Thickened foods 

Aspiration

Possible deafness

3 Medications

400+ therapy sessions (DT, OT, PT, Speech)

25 total days spent in a hospital 

Special car seats, chairs, baths and an overall different life than most 19-month-old babies

Does this determine who she is? No.

Is it our fault as parents she’s like this? No.

Do people think it’s our fault? Yes.

Does she speak? Yes.

Is she happy? Yes.

Have we adjusted to our everyday life and roles pretty well? Mostly.

Is it hard? Yes.

Will she always be like this? Yes, there’s no cure, only progress through therapy. Willow has a full-time job at 19-months-old.

These are the most common questions I’m asked almost daily as a father with a kid with a physical disability. To be frank, I’m scared people in general are so uneducated about this because we segregate kids with disabilities from the norms in almost every aspect of their lives including family get-togethers or even finding a babysitter to have a life outside of being her parent. This is our identity now, this is a big part of who we are, and to be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everything she does that she’s not supposed to do is a win and that’s almost daily. Her laugh lights up the room, she’s empathic because the emotional side of her brain always works overtime to feel everyone in the room. She has a thought process, something most kids don’t develop until they’re 3 or 4. She supplements her lack of movement in her hands by curling her wrist to grab things. Of course, she doesn’t know she’s different but she’s more than her disability.

So to conclude and answer the question I began the article with: Yes, the day she was born was the best day of my life, and I wouldn’t trade her for any other kid on this earth. Am I proud to be a father of a kid with a disability? You’re damn fucking right.

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