Rad Dad: Rick Smith, Noah’s Dad

rick-smith-noahs-dad“I’m so sorry.” Those were the first words Rick and his wife heard shortly after delivering their blue eyed baby boy. They were just told their son, Noah, has Down syndrome. “My wife was then offered antidepressants, which she declined. While she was shocked and taken back by their son’s surprise diagnosis she knew what she was feeling was normal, and didn’t require antidepressants.” Rick’s wife is a doctor and was shocked at how her medical team was responding. She denied the antidepressants and Rick armed himself with his laptop and began researching Down syndrome to better understand this journey they were about to embark on.

“I found a lot of blogs, a lot of information but didn’t find a lot of video,” recalls Rick. And that’s the inspiration for www.noahsdad.com, an online story about his son and their family that includes personalized commentary with daily 1 minute videos of what is going on in their lives that day. “I think there is a lot of power in storytelling so I decided to tell a story…and not the story the OBGYNs are telling, but give people a window into what really happens every day,” said Rick. And it is working. Noah’s Dad has over 15,000 likes on Facebook and nearly 7,000 followers on Twitter. “It isn’t just about our family, we want it to be about all the families and their living stories, we’re living a pretty typical life, no one has their child sitting in the corner…we just want people to see our stories and say, ‘Down syndrome isn’t really that big of a deal,’ because it really isn’t a big deal,” clarifies Rick.

Some of Rick’s favorite dad moments are shared next.

noahWhen asked about his favorite dad moments, Rick paused, chuckled and then said, “There’s a lot!” His first memorable moment was the day Noah was born. “When they hand you your child for the first time, that’s amazing,” notes Rick. “We didn’t know Noah had Down syndrome until 3-4 hours after he was born, so I had the opportunity to know what it was like to know Noah without Down syndrome and to know Noah with Down syndrome,” recalls Rick. “So being able to tell him that my love for him was always the same is important to me. I can honestly say there is no difference or change in my love.” The tenderness and pride in Rick’s voice when he speaks of his son and the countless photos and videos he posts online definitely back up that statement. There is a badge of honor that comes with being Noah’s dad for Rick.

rick-5Bedtime is another special time in the Smith household. Coming home and reading, bathing or just lying around with Noah is what Rick looks forward to most each day. “It’s just a special time of day so I try to be intentional and unplug, carve time out for family walks or other things to do to connect,” notes Rick. There’s comfort for Rick, and we’re sure for Noah too, in the routines of being together at night whether its reading, praying or snuggling.

Another thing Rick finds special is just getting out with his son. “I like to take Noah and go to Best Buy or to eat and sometimes we leave mom at home so she gets a break too,” says Rick. “It’s a win-win, I get time with my son, hopefully building a tradition of just hanging out and it gives mom some time to do her thing too.”

rick-4 Rick is humbled by the response he is getting from the online community. In January www.noahsdad.com posted a story on the Target ad that included a young boy with Down syndrome. The post went viral and received a lot of praise and attention.

After minutes of talking with Rick, it’s clear his blog started because he hoped to give back to a community that was there for him in the early days of his son’s diagnosis but what is even more apparent is the heart of his blog is about a dad discovering the joys, fears and tears of raising his first child; the Down syndrome aspect is there, it is important but it isn’t the whole story. “I hope the main message is that our life is more normal than not…we go on vacations, we do things and yeah we do have to be creative with our schedules because of therapy appointments but it doesn’t seem like we are that much different from others,” said Rick. “The best emails we get from community members are ones that say our videos helped them see that raising a child with Down syndrome is nearly exactly what they imagined before they received the diagnosis.”

rick-6 And how does Rick keep his connection with his wife? “I try to do the dishes often,” chuckles Rick. “No seriously, we are partners. When I said for better or worse, sickness and in health I meant it.” Team Noah is definitely united and each knows what they are good at doing. “My wife is a way better cook than me, so she cooks but I know where all the good take out spots are…so when it’s been one of those days, I offer to pick up take out.” What’s his advice for other husbands? “Ask what you can do to help; most wives will tell you, but you’ve got to ask!” So moms, when they ask, make sure to give an answer! With Father’s Day looming we wanted to know what was on Rick’s list and some gift ideas for other Rad Dads.

rick-8 So what is on Rick’s Father’s Day wish list? He’s a camera guy so any camera gadget like lens or other fun trinkets and he’s not so much a tie guy but he loves shirts. If shopping hasn’t moved from your to-do to your completed task list—don’t fret, Rick has some great suggestions, which include:

  • Amazon.com—free overnight shipping and there’s something for everyone there.
  • iTunes gift cards for the techy dad
  • Good steaks for the grill or certificate to a steak house

And our favorite Rick tip:

  • Get a babysitter, get a couples massage and everyone wins!

Thank you Rick for making us laugh, for being an inspiration and for being an AbilityPath Rad Dad!

Do you know a Rad Dad? Share him with us—well at least his story—on our Rad Dad Forum! And Find your favorite dad photos to post on our Facebook page for “Foto Friday,” which will be all about dad this week!

Rick is a communicator, Down syndrome advocate, and idea shaper. He lives in Texas with his wife Abbie, a pediatrician. Together they blog about Down syndrome, their son, and the images and pictures that tell his story. There goal is to show the world that Down syndrome is ok, and equip and mobilize others to do the same.