Becoming a parent for the first time can be an anxiety-inducing situation. And if you know that there’s a fair chance your baby may have a medical issue or disability, it can become even more difficult.
That is what Zach and Tori Roloff, two of the stars of TLC’s reality series Little People, Big World, had to face as they prepared to welcome their first child into their family. Zach has achondroplasia – a common form of short-limbed dwarfism – and although Tori does not have the condition, the pair were understandably anxious about meeting their new baby.
Zach Roloff first came to fame on the show Little People, Big World, which chronicles the lives of his family on their farm near Portland, Oregon. He and his parents, Matt and Amy, have dwarfism, but his three siblings – including his fraternal twin, Jeremy – do not. And when the show first started in 2006, the Roloffs believed that they had been given a good opportunity to educate the world about the lives of “little people.”
“The Learning Channel [TLC] came to us about five or six years ago, and so we suddenly realized we were given a great opportunity to educate people about dwarfism,” Amy Roloff told Ability magazine in 2010. “When it was offered that we do a show about our lives, my husband and I were like, ‘Wow, nothing like this has even been on the air.’ Nothing had depicted dwarfism in an everyday way.”
She was especially pleased that the show was able to offer support to parents with children unexpectedly diagnosed with dwarfism. Once, for example, an airport security guard approached her and told her that the show had helped him and his wife. “They had found out that they were going to have a dwarf child, a dwarf baby. So just the experience of having watched our show encouraged them and inspired them.”
She added, “They were having a baby, it happened to have dwarfism, but through our show, they were also able to see adults who were dwarfs. So it gave some dimension to their expectations. It got them thinking, ‘You know what? My child’s going to be okay. He’ll be able to be whatever he wants.’” And it was just these issues that her son and daughter-in-law had to consider when Tori fell pregnant.
Zach and Tori met in 2011 when she took a job at his family’s farm, and they instantly liked each other. Both were shy people, however, and it took the friendly intervention of their fellow workers to bring them together as a couple. Eventually, though, and after a few months of circling around each other, Zach asked Tori out. Their first date lasted for five hours – and after that, there was no looking back.
So in 2014, on a beautifully warm day, Zach walked Tori around the farm after their working day was over. Accompanied by their beloved pup Sullivan – and some family members hiding in the trees to take photographs – Zach got down on one knee by a campfire and asked Tori to marry him. Her answer was an emphatic yes.
And Tori soon took to social media to share the good news. “Three years ago today, this man walked into my life and changed it for good. Last night he got down on one knee and asked me the most important question of a relationship. And of course I said yes,” she wrote on Instagram. Fans of Little People, Big World were delighted.
The couple got hitched in July 2015 in front of 200 family and friends at the Roloff farm. Although Zach’s parents had split up not very long ago, they and the rest of the clan turned out to support the couple. And TLC cameras were there as well; the wedding would be filmed for Little People, Big World and air in August that year for a special edition of the show.
Zach and Tori had a great first year of marriage, using the time to travel and enjoy the company of their dog and each other. But they knew they wanted a child, and come November 2016 they had a happy announcement to make: Tori was pregnant. “We are super excited and can’t wait to be parents,” the pair told People magazine.
However, there was some trepidation mixed in with all the excitement. Specifically, Zach and Tori didn’t know if their baby would be born with dwarfism or not. An episode of Little People, Big World followed them as they discussed the question. “It’s a big deal,” Tori said. “It is scary. No parent wants to hear that their child is different, no matter what that is.”
Meanwhile, Zach pointed out that to him, a child with dwarfism wouldn’t be “different” but just the same as he was. Tori, however, considered the issue some more. “There are certain things that would come along with having an achondroplasia child that would be more difficult than having a child that was average height,” she concluded.
And it’s true that achondroplasia does come with issues beyond that of just shortened height. Those who have the condition may also suffer from breathing problems, spinal compression leading to leg pain and frequent ear infections. And sadly, babies with achondroplasia also have a higher risk of dying in infancy. Taking all that into consideration, most people would likely agree that Tori was quite justified in mulling over the potential consequences of her pregnancy.
Fortunately, though, no major problems arose during the Roloff pregnancy. In January 2017, moreover, Tori popped up again on Instagram to share the gender of the baby. “It’s a… BOY!! Zach and I are so excited to finally find out what we are having! We were so blessed to be able to share the moment with such close friends and family,” she wrote. But that didn’t answer the achondroplasia question.
Then on May 12, 2017, the moment fans had been waiting for arrived, as Tori gave birth to baby Jackson Kyle Roloff. And while he did indeed have achondroplasia, he was otherwise perfectly healthy. Furthermore, after a few weeks of basking in the joy of their adorable new baby, the proud parents gave an interview to People. “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,” Zach said.
Indeed, Zach and Tori didn’t care what their son looked like just as long as he was happy and kind-hearted. “I just pray that he’s caring and thoughtful, like his father,” Tori said to the magazine. “I just want him to be a good person.” Zach added that he thought their main job as parents would be to help Jackson achieve “whatever he wants to do in life.”
And as the next few weeks passed, little Jackson became a constant presence on his parents’ social media feeds. When he was one month old, for instance, Tori made an Instagram post telling her followers how Jackson was doing. “He is eating and growing like a champ. Loves watching soccer with daddy. Starting to find his voice. Sleeps five to six-hour stretches at night,” she wrote.
Then in June the pair released a video through TLC, in which they discussed the finer points of child-rearing. “Feeding’s been alright. Changing the diapers, I knew I was going to be a professional, and that’s what it turned out to be,” Zach said. He also explained that he wasn’t afraid Jackson’s condition might hold him back. “He can experience as much as the world as Tori and me have been able to, and hopefully much more.”
But it remains to be seen whether or not Jackson will appear alongside his parents on Little People, Big World. When the press release for season 17 was released, in fact, it made no mention of whether the youngest Roloff would feature. After all, there’s every chance that Jackson’s parents want to wait until he’s older. Despite their presence on Instagram and reality TV, they can actually be fairly private people.
But their adorable updates on social media continue apace. For example, on Father’s Day 2017 – Zach Roloff’s first as a dad – Tori left a cute message for him on Instagram. “There’s not a single person I’d rather be taking this journey of parenthood with,” she wrote. “Seeing you with Baby J makes me fall more and more in love with you. Jackson and I love you so much, and we can’t wait for many more Father’s Days ahead!” And fans will probably agree that it’s also been great sharing the experiences of parenthood with the both of them.