“We knew we were leaving our previous life behind, but we were okay with that,” Zach, 27, says in the current issue of PEOPLE of welcoming son Jackson Kyle on May 12. “We’re not doing things on our schedule anymore. We’re on Jackson time!”
“Jackson time” means Tori, 26, is nursing about 11 times a day and the new parents are getting around four hours of sleep each night.
“I’ve learned I can exist on no sleep,” says Tori. “Zach is having a bit of a harder time with that.”
But Zach — who has shared his life on his family’s TLC reality series Little People, Big World since he was 13 — says there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his son, who, like him, was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.
“You have to encourage a dwarf child a little more because it will take them five steps to do what others can do in two,” says Zach, a soccer coach. “But I knew, dwarf or not, I was going to parent my child with the mentality that not everyone gets a trophy. You have to earn it.”
Males with achondroplasia grow to an average height of 4’4″ with a normal lifespan, and babies may have breathing problems and delays in muscle development. Zach knows the genetic condition will make Jackson’s life tougher, but “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.”
- For more from Zach and Tori — including all about their love story and updates on the rest of the Roloff family — pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Zach and his wife Tori, who is average size, knew going into the pregnancy that their child would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting achondroplasia. When Jackson was diagnosed during an ultrasound at 34 weeks, the couple told their family, but waited until after the birth to discuss the diagnosis publicly.
“We knew our chances of having a dwarf, but it didn’t matter,” says Tori, a kindergarten teacher. “We just knew we wanted to be parents, however God wanted it to happen.”
Now the Roloffs hope their story will help educate and reassure other parents of dwarfs.
“Tons of parents e-mail me to say what an inspiration we are for their kids, showing that it’s possible for them to get married and have a family,” says Zach. “The other day we met a couple who have a dwarf child. They started watching our show and it made them feel that it was all going to be okay.”
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As for their own child, the parents have very simple goals for his future and their roles as his parents.
“I just pray that he’s caring and thoughtful, like his father,” says Tori, who is taking a “gap year” to stay home with Jackson before returning to teaching. “I just want him to be a good person.”
Adds Zach: “Whatever he wants to do in life, we’re going to find a way to help him do it. That’s our job in life now.”
Little People, Big World airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on TLC.