Every weeknight, as millions of viewers tune in to Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News Channel, they see a journalist’s journalist; a man dressed in a dapper dark-colored suit, vibrant necktie and classic pocket handkerchief as he delivers the news in his signature straight-forward style.
Baier, the former chief White House correspondent and one-time national security correspondent for Fox News Channel, saw his career on a meteoric rise after getting plucked from relative obscurity to take over the show for Brit Hume, a news veteran and Washington legend, who retired. Critics thought Baier would only last months. Today, the program is one of the highest rated shows on cable television.
As Baier’s career soared, by interviewing Beltway heavy-hitters and scoring big interviews, behind that well coiffed, cool exterior was a man facing serious personal challenges that would test his grit.
The drama hit him by surprise. His wife Amy had a relative easy pregnancy and the birth was euphoric. But less than 24 hours after celebrating little Pauli’s arrival, they were delivered devastating news.
Doctors discovered serious irregularities and malformation of Pauli’s tiny heart. Joy was suddenly replaced by fear, and the new parents found themselves relying on faith, dogged determination and a ferocious fighting spirit as Paulie battled for his life.
Baier would learn later that congenital heart defects are the number one birth defect in the U.S., and every other country. One out of every one hundred children born has some type of congenital heart defect and half of those will need surgery or other procedure.
In his new book, Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love (June 3, 2014; Center Street/Hachette Book Group). Baier shares the intimate details of his son’s battle with heart disease during the first days of his young life.
(Read an Excerpt: from SPECIAL HEART: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love by Bret Baier. Used with permission from Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group )
All the money he makes on the book will be donated to various non-profit pediatric causes.
Amid a busy Beltway news day–the building crisis in Iraq and fallout from Eric Cantor losing his race and relinquishing his role as Majority Leader, Baier answered Daddyhood‘s questions about his life-altering experience, the news business and fatherhood:
Daddyhood: As the dad, you’re looked on as “the fixer” of the family. Describe what it was like not be able to make things better for Paul and for your wife, Amy?
Bret Baier: It was incredibly frustrating! I always prided myself on being able to “out-hustle” anybody on a story in my job – work harder – work longer, make it work… fix it. But, I couldn’t “out-hustle” this – no matter how much I tried. So it was frustrating. But, at some point – you have to turn it over… and trust in the doctors and the Guy upstairs.
Daddyhood: Many parents, especially dads–are proud. They want to handle things on their own and not rely on family and friends for help. We don’t even like asking for directions! Would you put yourself in that category and if so how did you bring yourself to accept help?
Bret Baier: Yes – I am definitely like that. I can stick it through.. make it work.. be tough. And that all fell apart after my wife collapsed in the hospital after being overcome with anxiety a few days after giving birth and a few days before Paul’s first open heart surgery. She became the oldest patient in Children’s National. And in that emergency room, we turned it around. We decided we needed to be the parents Paul needed – who could create the environment that would enable him to live. That was being positive… and that meant accepting help from family, friends, and our faith.
Daddyhood: You talk about making sure to stay healthy as your son was going through surgeries and recoveries. Because of the demands of the job, news people are not typically known for their fitness and healthy eating. Did this experience with Paul change you in that way?
Bret Baier: Yes, I found myself trying to be healthier – and trying to get sleep. There were many sleepless nights – but, we tried desperately to force ourselves to get to bed to be on our toes for life and death decisions.
Daddyhood: What should dads know about heart disease among children and how common it is?
Everyone should realize that 1 out of 100 kids are born with a congenital heart defect and about half of them need a surgery or procedure within the first six months. But, Dads should also know.. that if NOT detected.. some kids can go home and seem normal, but have a CHD [coronary heart disease] that could either affect them right away – or affect them when they are older. Even if they’re healthy.
Daddyhood: As a father, are you more of a hands-on dad than your father was in your family or about the same?
Bret Baier: I like to think I am –yes. And this experience has made me even more so.
Daddyhood: What sorts of things are different?
Bret Baier: My dad worked hard – like I do – for the family… and he coached and threw the ball with me. But, when the heart to heart conversations happened… it was usually my mom. I am trying to teach my kids to tell us both as much as they can – and trying to ask questions and get them to open up.
Daddyhood: Tell us one thing about how you as a dad that may surprise people. Don’t worry it’s just between us dads…
Bret Baier: My favorite thing is putting our sons to bed. And I am the horse-whisperer when it comes to rubbing backs to get them to sleep.
Daddyhood: Your show Special Report is on from 6pm-7pm ET. While your job comes with many perks for sure, that does mean that on most nights you don’t get to eat dinner with the family. Do you miss that experience?
Bret Baier: Yes.. I try to have breakfast with them – and if I am lucky, I race home to put one of them to bed.
Daddyhood: There must be ways to make up for it, right?
Bret Baier: Weekends are where we try to right the ship on the time. And hopefully the soccer games and the fooling around then is stored in a kid bank in their heads.. when I have to work long hours during the week.
Faith and religion are important to you. But why was it important for you to let people know that anyone can overcome challenges like your family did?
Because everyone has SOMETHING! No matter what it is.. some challenge. Health of your child, your health, economic challenges, something else… that is tough. This book is how we got through.. and are getting through OUR SOMETHING. Hopefully it can help others. And 100% of my proceeds from the book will also go to pediatric heart research and treatment. There are some great things happening around the country and we hope to give them a boost.