JeffHeadshotOct2011As Dad Sees It, Jeff Wenzler, Special to Parenting“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” – Mother Teresa

Five years ago, my wife Jennifer and I had been given devastating news about our unborn son Jonah. We were told to expect a second trimester “event.” “Event” was defined as a miscarriage or a pre-mature birth with the high probability of birth defects.

During Jennifer’s four and a half months of bed rest I was advised by a doctor to “cut our losses” because it would only slow us down. One night I couldn’t tell my wife what happened and I surely couldn’t sleep so I started to do something I hadn’t done in years … I journaled. By early morning, I came to a conclusion. I emailed my story to your Catholic Herald before my wife even awoke.

I felt compelled to share a father’s perspective. It is something I don’t know if we fathers share enough. Our wives seem to be so much better at sharing their thoughts and feelings, but this was one of those pivotal moments in life when I found myself struggling and wanting to share with others.

I wrote in my 2007 letter to your Catholic Herald, “Life shouldn’t be predetermined by my needs to have an ‘easy’ life…. I am not sure what is in store for us and Jonah these next weeks, but to think of anything less than allowing God to unfold in this beautiful, yet challenging moment of creation, would be unconscionable. If Jonah crawls back into God’s hands from my wife’s womb or he crawls prematurely and awkwardly into our human arms, I will know that life was given a chance to exist unhindered by any act of self-centeredness.”WenzlerFamilyJeff and Jennifer Wenzler pose with their children Jonah, 5, Bailey, 3, and Cecilia, 7, in this September 2011 photo taken in Back Bay Park in Shorewood on the Lake Michigan shoreline. (Submitted photo courtesy Jeff Wenzler)

Your Catholic Herald published our story and followed our pregnancy. Amazingly, through sustained faith and prayer, and sharing our fears with you, the reader, Jonah graced our lives – two days after his due date – and had no birth defects whatsoever!

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”  – M. Scott Peck

With each hug we give Jonah as we cherish his life, I think he grows stronger and taller. Ironically enough, he is anything but delayed. He is heads and shoulders taller than kids his age. His strength proves that doctor who advised us to abort his life thinking he could have developmental problems wrong. Just the other day he woke up before my wife and me, brushed his teeth, put on his school uniform and made himself breakfast. I can’t get my 7-year-old to do that!

When I ask Jonah what he wants to be when he grows up, he tells me a fisherman, a baseball player or Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars.” I wonder which one pays better? Saving the universe has its benefits!

For now, I just enjoy the occasional day on the lake or at the ballpark with this growing miracle.

After making it through that trying time, Jennifer and I decided that maybe it was a sign to do what we always talked about – adopting. While dating in graduate school at Boston College, we served together on a mission trip overseas at an orphanage. We went through the process to adopt a little girl from Africa, but God had other plans for us – we were blessed with our third child, Bailey.

Although we didn’t adopt, God provided a new path for me ­– to start a non-profit servant leadership organization that takes teens to developing countries to work with orphans and children with disabilities.

The doctor who advised me to “cut our losses” when the odds were against our having a healthy child did me a favor. He motivated me to show teens – future parents – that disadvantaged children, whether with cognitive or physical limitations, HIV, or living in poverty, can teach us all a whole lot about “LIFE.” I look forward to the day where Jonah can provide a helping hand in service and at the same time learn why his life is so valuable and blessed.  

(Jeff and Jennifer are running a zone defense with their three wonderfully active children! Jeff is the founder and executive director of Pivotal Directions, a servant-leadership program for youth. Jennifer works for Biogen Idec, a health care company that provides Multiple Sclerosis therapies. They are parishioners at Lumen Christi, Mequon.)