Why "Feeling Bad" For Zach & Tori Roloff's Baby Only Further Stigmatizes His Condition
"He’s happy and healthy. That’s all that matters," Zach Roloff recently told People in an interview about his infant son Jackson, born May 14. Like his father, Jackson has achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. It's not something that Zach and his wife, Tori, had hoped for, but they're well-prepared to handle it, and feeling bad for the Roloffs' baby only stigmatizes the condition. Males with achondroplasia grow to an average height of 4-feet, 4-inches and face an increased risk of medical problems — according to People, "babies may have breathing problems and delays in muscle development" — but Jackson is doing just fine.
According to the National Institutes of Health, achondroplasia is usually caused by a genetic mutation; 80 percent of people with the condition have average-height parents. But because Zach carries the gene, he and Tori knew that Jackson would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it. When they announced the pregnancy on their reality show, Little People, Big World in November, Zach said that he was "super curious to know if it's gonna be a dwarf baby or not." Jackson's diagnosis came during the 34-week ultrasound, but the couple didn't reveal the information publicly until this week.
Zach has acknowledged that he was bullied as a child, but he has a positive outlook on his son's future. "The world is changing. People are more open to diversity," he told People.
Tori appeared to be more nervous about the possibility of achondroplasia on a recent episode of their show. "No parent wants to hear that their child is different, no matter what that is," she said. Zach retorted, "But to me, that's not different. He's just like me." When she said it was "scary to think that your child has dwarfism," Zach reframed her concerns: "What's a better word than scary? Is it scary, or it is nerve-racking, or...?" When Tori brought up how achondroplasia can also come with medical risks, her husband reassured her: "I'm not gonna say, 'Oh, yeah, man, I wish my kid had dwarfism. All those struggles he's gonna go through? Heck yeah, can't wait.' I'm not gonna say that, but I'm also not gonna say I really hope it's an average height. Average height kids have issues, too," he pointed out. "There's diseases that kids get, you know?"
Now that Jackson's here, and healthy despite his achondroplasia, Tori's fears appear to have been assuaged. "We knew our chances of having a dwarf, but it didn’t matter," she told People. "We just knew we wanted to be parents." Raising Jackson will present its challenges, Zack told the magazine:
You have to encourage a dwarf child a little more, because it will take them five steps to do what others can do in two. But I knew, dwarf or not, I was going to parent my child with the mentality that not everyone gets a trophy. You have to earn it.
And as for concerned fans? Don't be: "I want people to know that he’s just like his dad: being a dwarf is just part of the whole package of who he is."