When we think of babies, we often think of perfect little bundles of joy being born into the world. But more often enough the reality is that some children have challenges, and for many parents that comes in the form of medical diseases. For celebrity couple Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe it was certainly a shocking wake-up call when they learned years ago that their newborn daughter, Sophie, had spina bifida. Now, in a new interview with Aspire TV’s “Exhale,” Kodjoe and Parker open up about their daughter’s illness and what it took to come to terms with it.
For those unfamiliar with the disease, spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the development of the spinal cord. Spina bifida often causes paralysis, bladder complications and other physical and developmental conditions among children.
And as Kodjoe explains, learning that his daughter had such an ailment was initially heartbreaking for him and Parker.
“We went from being the hot Hollywood couple with a perfect-to-be baby to completely devastated, shocked,” said Boris . “It was something we couldn’t possibly have ever anticipated. We were helpless, we were lost. It took us quite a while to find our bearings and get used to this new norm that we were facing.”
Surprisingly enough, Kodjoe explains that the hope they needed to embrace being parents to a child with spina bifida came from Sophie, whose attitude, they say, never made them feel like she was a victim or imperfect.
“Sophie was actually instrumental in teaching us how to do that. Her spirit, her attitude was always … she was this little baby who was always smiling and she looked at us like, ‘Why are you crying?’ ” he confessed. “So we figured, OK, this is what it is. This is our norm. She doesn’t know any different and it’s up to us to prepare her and equip her for this life that’s hers and make sure that she has all options and all opportunities that anyone else would have,” Kodjoe explained.
Parker added that part of their worry was Sophie’s future and how she’d interact with other kids when she eventually went to school.
“How do we explain to the teachers that we have to show up every three hours and interrupt her and get her attention and say ‘Let’s go to the bathroom?’ What about her friends? What about when she starts dating? She can’t do sleepovers. She still sleeps in a diaper. What about the questions?” Parker asked.
However, Parker says that she eventually learned to stop worrying about the future and only focus on the present, enjoying and taking in every moment with Sophie as it came.
“Someone said, ‘Answer the question that’s asked.’ Meaning, don’t worry about what’s going to happen when she’s 14. If a 5-year-old classmate comes up to you and says, ‘Mrs. Kodjoe, why are you always here?’ and I say, ‘To help Sophie go to the bathroom.’ That’s the answer to the question. And you know what happens? They all go, ‘OK.’ And I don’t have to put anymore on it. So that was the beginning of my healing process. [It] was each day at a time.”
And, clearly, that new mind-set was for the better. –nicholas robinson