My Son Was Born With No Arms Or Legs And It’s Nothing Like You’re Thinking
The following is an excerpt from Boris Vujicic’s book ‘Raising The Perfectly Imperfect Child: Facing Challenges With Strength, Courage And Hope’ that was syndicated for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
I wish the doctors who had given us dark forecasts for Nick’s development could have observed him as a baby, mastering ways to move about without benefit of arms or legs. Dushka and I were inspired, touched, and thrilled as we watched our baby boy lie flat on the floor, then brace himself by placing his forehead on the carpet, and arch his back until he could scoot his lower body forward, slowly raising his body. Later he figured out a way to accomplish this by bracing his forehead against the couch or a wall. We never would have come up with that method; instead, he figured things out himself.
Neither of us realized it at first, but our attitude toward our son was evolving. We were becoming quite proud of his accomplishments. You could say we were his most enthusiastic cheerleaders. We still saw ourselves as his protectors and guides, but we also were discovering that our son had a lot to teach us. This was all part of a shifting focus from seeing our son’s disabilities and limitations — the things he could not do — to marveling at his abilities.
We learned early on with Nick that it was wise not to bet against him or to place any sorts of limits on him. Time and again, he not only proved us wrong; our son flat-out amazed us. In the spring of 2015, Nick posted a video on his Facebook page that serves as a perfect illustration of this point in several ways. First of all, when Nick was born without limbs, we never dreamed he would be able to move about on his own. Second, we thought it was highly unlikely he would ever marry. Third, we thought he would never have children.
This joyful video demonstrates that we were dead wrong on all accounts. It’s just a brief clip, but it begins with Nick madly scampering into view with his giggling son Kiyoshi bounding after him, catching him, hugging him, giving a quick kiss, and then scampering off to continue their game of hide-and-seek. It’s a simple moment, but it’s especially poignant and powerful when you consider that we had so little hope for our son when he was first born.
The child whose birth made us despair has proven to be such an incredible blessing. This particular video is one of hundreds of inspiring videos Nick has done. They all serve as testimonials to how foolish it is to place limits on our disabled and special-needs children. By the way, just a few hours after that particular video was posted, admirers around the world had viewed it more than 1.5 million times.
Running Without Limbs
When Nick was an infant, we were delighted that he could roll over, sit up, and stand just a few months behind what is considered normal. Dushka and I had doubted that our son without legs would be able to achieve mobility on his own. So imagine our surprise when Nick began moving about the house upright and walking. We couldn’t even figure out how he was doing it at first. After observing him, we saw that he used his larger foot to raise himself up and then rotated his hips to move forward. If he did this slowly, there was a barely perceptible hop to his motion. When he went faster, it was like a gallop.
We learned early on with Nick that it was wise not to bet against him or to place any sorts of limits on him.
I am always touched when Nick talks about his recurring dreams of running at full speed through a field and about what a joy it would be to do that one day. The truth is that he can dart about quickly on his own for short distances. His brother and sister and cousins will attest that as a youngster he was quite the competitor in their rough-and-tumble living room soccer matches. In that confined area, Nick was pretty much equal to them all.
Dushka and I were grateful for his mobility and his determination but also more than a little concerned that Nick would injure himself or be injured by his playmates. He was so aggressive and uninhibited in his play that other children forgot about Nick’s vulnerability. If he fell, he didn’t have arms to catch himself or to protect his head from hitting the floor or furniture. I was a bit of a wet blanket at times, always cautioning Nick and the other kids not to play so rough and to be careful. Of course, none of them paid much heed to old worrywart me. As Nick would say, “Dad, it’s not like I’m going to break an arm or a leg!” He did manage to get through childhood without any serious injuries, even though he took some nasty falls.
As an adult, Nick often tells stories of his daredevil exploits like surfing, skydiving, and snowboarding. He’s also been known to have his friends and caregivers deposit him in overhead compartments on airplanes to frighten other passengers or to place him on baggage carousels as a prank. Rest assured, this sort of behavior didn’t begin in adulthood — he was fearless and uninhibited from the start.
One of his favorite childhood pastimes was racing up and down the neighborhood streets while lying on a skateboard, often towed behind the bicycles of his brother and other playmates. I’m glad I didn’t know until years later that they would sometimes mount him on their handlebars and wheel him around all day.
Boris Vujicic is the father of Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs. He is the author of ‘Raising The Perfectly Imperfect Child: Facing Challenges With Strength, Courage And Hope.’