Powerful image of father comforting sick son in the shower goes viral

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The tender image, captured by the child’s mom, conveys the quiet strength of a father’s love

Heather Whitten could only watch helplessly as her son Fox—who was barely a year old—battled an unknown illness (which was later determined to be Salmonella) that would not let him sleep through the night.

Suffering from fever, non-stop vomiting and diarrhea, nothing that she or her husband, Thomas, did seemed to be working.

The concerned dad then decided that the only way to break his son's fever was to give him a bath. To comfort him further, the loving dad stripped down and stepped into the shower with his ailing son.

As the young boy nestles on his father’s lap, he is cleansed and calmed.

For two hours, Thomas locks his son in a loving embrace. Heather watches and can’t help but be moved by the power of her husband’s love for their son.

She felt compelled to capture the moment. Heather, who occasionally works as a birth photographer, manages to capture vulnerable and powerful moments in people’s lives and she wishes to do the same for her family, too.

“I was just overwhelmed with the scene in front of me. This man. This husband and partner and father. He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap. His whispers of reassurance to Fox, that he would be OK and that Thomas would take care of him were so steady and so honest,” she wrote on her Facebook post.

photo: Heather Whitten

photo: Heather Whitten

"It was just beautiful. It was not surprising or anything out of the ordinary; it's how he has always been with the kids."

"I snapped a couple of pictures," she told TODAY Parents. "It was just beautiful. It was not surprising or anything out of the ordinary; it's how he has always been with the kids."

What she loves most about the photo is that it conveys a message encouraging parents that “it is okay to get naked with your son and nurture him ... the important thing is really taking care of your kiddos.”

"I document our family just how we are. I kind of see something and I just grab my camera," she adds.

The photo—which was taken in November 2014—has been going viral since it was posted on Facebook just recently.

As of this writing, the image of the tender father-son moment has been shared more than 31,000 times.

Though the response was largely positive, Heather confesses that many misunderstood the photo, offended by the nudity and the awkwardness of the situation it depicts.

"I wanted to take it down just because I thought it would get blown out of proportion," she admits. "I thought the point was getting missed.”

But it has overcome the backlash and is providing a new image to an age-old truth about how caring dads can be.

More than sending out the message about a parent’s love, it also reinforces the truth that parenting isn’t always “attractive”; it’s about loving your child through the mess and the hardships, prioritising their comfort and well-being above all else.

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