When TLC’s Little People, Big World first premiered in 2006, it felt surprising to consider that Zach Roloff and his twin brother, Jeremy, once shared a womb: unlike his averaged-sized brother, Zach was born with achondroplasia dwarfism. The Roloffs have since spent more than a decade proving to viewers that living with dwarfism isn’t actually a bad thing, but when Zach and his wife Tori announced back in November that they were expecting, speculation grew over whether their baby would inherit the genetic disorder. Zach Roloff wasn’t scared to have a baby with dwarfism at all, though, and his perspective is one everyone needs to hear.
In July 2015, Zach and Tori married at the Roloff family farm, and four months after their first wedding anniversary, they shared their pregnancy news with the world in a video for TLC. Given that Zach and Tori’s baby would be the first grandchild for Zach’s parents, Matt and Amy (who were also born with dwarfism), the announcement was a pretty big deal. But the possibility that Zach and Tori could have a baby with dwarfism was clearly something the parents-to-be had been thinking about right from the beginning: in the clip, Zach said he was “super curious to know if it’s going to be a dwarf baby or not,” adding that if the baby did have dwarfism, it would be “a super emotional time” for him.
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Knowing that your baby could be born with dwarfism — or any kind of abnormality — would likely make most expectant parents nervous, and in the season premiere of Little People, Big World earlier this month, the couple shared their mixed feelings ahead of a scheduled ultrasound. But while pregnant Tori admitted that she thought it was “scary” to consider that her baby could have dwarfism, Zach explained that, for him, it didn’t actually feel scary at all.
In the clip, Zach explained that while he said he could understand his wife’s fear, it wasn’t something he shared. And when Tori pointed out that “no parent wants to hear that their child is different, no matter what that is,” Zach explained, “OK, but to me, [having dwarfism is] not different. He’s just like me.”
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It makes total sense of course that Tori felt nervous — even without knowing that there’s a chance your child could be born with dwarfism, it’s an uneasy feeling to prepare for an ultrasound knowing that you could be given unexpected news. And as the couple later discussed in the clip, the reality is that having a baby with dwarfism would also bring with it the risk of additional health complications: according to the March of Dimes, babies born with achondroplasia can experience further complications like apnea, chronic ear infections, compression of the spinal cord, and hydrocephalus.
It’s possible to argue then, that the medical risks alone would be a legitimate reason to not want to have a baby born with dwarfism. But Zach — an actual human who was born with dwarfism, who also had to undergo a number of surgeries as a result — said that still wasn’t enough of a reason for him to be worried. He told TLC,
But even if the concern was warranted, Zach and Tori’s discussion also highlighted the subtle ableism that is perpetuated in so many conversations that take place during a pregnancy. So often, the desire to encourage as safe and healthy a pregnancy as possible ends up translating into an implied message that safe, healthy, complication-free pregnancies are what “should” happen in all cases.
That’s well-intentioned, obviously (who wouldn’t want safety and health to be priorities?), but the truth remains that so much about pregnancy and childbirth is out of anyone’s control that nothing is ever guaranteed. And even the popular line that “all that matters is having a healthy baby” ignores the fact that, well, not all babies are born healthy. Ultimately, even if Zach and Tori had found out that their baby had achondroplasia — or any other disorder for that matter — her pregnancy would still have been deserving of just as much love and celebration as it was otherwise.
What’s more though is that, beyond simply being OK with the idea of having a baby with dwarfism, in an earlier episode, Zach admitted that he actually thought having a baby with dwarfism would be pretty awesome. During a double dinner date with Jeremy, and his wife, Audrey, Zach told the group that he wanted “to have a little dwarf baby,” and that “a little dwarf baby might be the cutest.”
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That may be a difficult idea to grasp for average-height people, but from Zach’s view, it makes total sense. For one, living with dwarfism is literally all he’s ever known, and despite the challenges that he’s faced, it clearly hasn’t been something that has held him back. More importantly though, it would mean he’d be able to be a unique role model to his kids as someone who knows what it’s like to live with dwarfism — just like his parents were able to do for him.
Of course, the entire reason the Roloffs have been able to make a living from their TV show is because they are different from the average family, and viewers are understandably curious about what their lives are like. Given that fact, it also makes sense that fans of the show would want to know about the likelihood that Zach and Tori’s baby could have been born with dwarfism.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that curiosity, but what Zach has repeatedly explained is that there doesn’t have to be anything sad or scary about having dwarfism. And if he were to one day become the father of a baby with achondroplasia, it’s hard to imagine a better person for the role than someone like Zach, who knows that his child will be just as perfect as anyone else’s, regardless of height or genetic makeup.