On March 1st, ‘We’ve Got This: Stories of Disabled Parenting’ was launched by editor Eliza Hull. The book is a collection of stories by 25 parents who identify as deaf, disabled or chronically ill. Each story explores what it means to be a parent, and the discrimination parents with a disability can experience.
If you’re interested in reading the book, you can pick it up here.
To celebrate the launch of the book, we reached out to Forward ambassador, Joel Sardi to reflect on his own journey of fatherhood. In 2020 Joel welcomed his beautiful daughter, Esmé, into the world and became a first-time father.
By Joel Sardi
30 minutes before writing this, I fed my daughter, Esmé, her bottle, held her whilst reclining horizontally in my chair, and she fell off into her beautiful and peaceful state of blissful sleep. This is a ritual I enjoy like no other. One hour before that, we were excitedly chasing each other around the house in a ‘cat & mouse’ fashion. Three hours prior, we had been cruising through Bunnings & selecting the freshest herbs to plant at home for her to repeatedly pick off our garden and bring me to smell until the bush had no leaves left to pick.
We had been at a home-maker centre today looking for our dining table, whilst coaxing Esmé away from the comfortable couches on display, (in her eyes, couches mean “cat & mouse” time) you can imagine how our intended short visit to the shops turned into a great big adventure of which I loved. This morning whilst going through my morning routine, Esmé made it her mission to ensure that on a rolling 2-minute roster, she would waddle in, check I had not left the bathroom, wave, blow me a kiss, shortly followed by a wave goodbye and waddle back down the hallway to find my wife, Elisa. She leaves the door open and me in plain sight in all my glory! I would change not a moment of the day that has just transpired.
Before Esmé was born, Elisa and I had discussed how being a quadriplegic would spring challenges upon us and myself personally. Physically, of course, but also emotionally. Writing this now, 16 months after her birth, there have been plenty of challenges, some much harder than others. The one element that remains true and consistent is her understanding that Elisa is her MUM and I, her DAD. Irrespective of aesthetics or what’s going on in our minds regarding what I can and cannot do for her as a father, she knows no other, and she does not want for more. She loves and is completely comfortable with Elisa and me, period.
I may not be able to walk on the beach with her or take her swimming; that is her and Elisa’s special time together. Esmé and my special time, she sits on my lap, snuggles into my chest and is as comfortable as can be. She knows that she is safe, warm and in the best seat for a free ride around town. We disappear on my chair for adventures along paths far & wide, exchanging incoherent dialogue & the joy never seems to fade from her face. These are moments nobody else gets with Esmé; these are our special moments.
In May of this year, we will be welcoming another Sardi into the world, and Esmé will be able to call herself a big sister. These are moments that will be the ingredient to what I will call ‘life’ when I’m laid to rest in many years’ time, moments that I don’t feel could improve. Spinal cord injury or not.
I can not speak to others’ daily experiences of parenthood, those with a spinal cord injury or not, yet I do not compare nor either do I want for anything else. From the moment my eyes open in the morning to shutting them at night, I am a satisfied, proud, happy and content Husband, Father and person. Parenthood is quite simply the most rewarding, challenging and grounding experience I have encountered in my short time on this Earth.