Love & Family

My Hubby’s Two Feet Taller Than Me!

When it comes to true love, Francesca knows height truly doesn’t matter
  • Francesca Papagno, 33, has acromicric dysplasia – a rare condition where bone growth is delayed 
  • She says before meeting her husband Paul, dating was a struggle for her
  • Now married, they also have a son Marco, now seven

Here Francesca tells her story in her own words.

Walking down the aisles of a supermarket, I got on my tippy-toes to reach for a bag of popcorn.

‘Here you go,’ a stranger said, passing it down.

Standing at 124cm tall, or just over four feet, I’m much shorter than most other people.

Born after my brothers Joe, now 36, and Zach, 35, I appeared to be a regular baby. But my parents Georgie, now 63, and Giuseppe, 58, thought I was suffering hip dislocations when I was 18 months old, and took me to the doctors.

After hip surgery, the doctors realised it couldn’t be congenital hip dysplasia as they’d presumed.

When I was two, doctors noticed I had stunted hands and feet, and it was determined I actually had acromicric dysplasia – a rare condition where bone growth is delayed.

It can lead to stunted growth, but most of my body would be in proportion. With no family history, the diagnosis was a shock to my parents.

‘You’re perfect the way you are. You’ll just be the smaller friend,’ they always told me.

In primary school, I was only a little shorter than the other kids. The difference was I went to hospital twice a year for monitoring.

With my condition so rare, doctors wanted to study me and see if there were any signs I was growing.

Specialists suggested I’d never have a period due to a presumed hormone imbalance, so I grew up thinking I’d never have a baby.

But against expectations, I got my period aged 12 and hit puberty.

During high school, everyone else had growth spurts – and I realised how small I was. At 16 I reached my current height, as my peers got taller.

They’re towering over me, I thought.

To stand out in my own way, I blossomed into a lively, rambunctious person.

Finding trendy clothes was a challenge. So Mum and my lovely neighbour Kim, now 57, would alter my outfits to fit.

I didn’t want to wear kids clothing – I wasn’t a child anymore!

And to feel taller, I’d wear heeled boots.

By now my parents had separated, and I had two younger siblings – Mia, now 24, and Max, 19 – from my dad’s marriage to my stepmum Wendy, 55.

Mum married my stepdad John, 54, and I was surrounded by love.

My stepmum’s mother Joan, 88, was an amazing seamstress and adapted a beautiful, fashionable blue dress I’d been dreaming of since seeing it in the shops. I look a million bucks, I thought.

Faced with curious stares, I was thankful for my supportive mates and protective big bros.

With a passion for acting, I performed in theatre productions. And after leaving school in 2008 I worked in TV.

My 20s were a lot of fun, but dating was a struggle.

Attracted to men of a ‘normal’ height, my mind was in turmoil chatting to them on nights out. Did they genuinely like me? Were they mocking me?

Francesca Papagno and husband Paul
Francesca and Paul early into their relationship (Credit: Supplied.)

‘I came up to his elbow, in heels!’

While I was the ‘agony aunt’ in my circle when it came to my friends’ love lives, my insecurities left me feeling defeated in my own efforts.

But on Halloween in 2014, when I was 24, I was at a pub with a friend who told me a guy called Paul, then 26, was coming – a friend of her mate’s.

‘Don’t set me up with him!’ I said, panicking at the idea of a blind date.

But seeing his kind eyes, there was an instant attraction. At 185cm, he was two feet taller than me. I came up to his elbow, in heels!

Bumping into each other on a night out two days later, we exchanged numbers. And on our first date at a restaurant, we had a fabulous time. Before long we were officially dating – my first serious boyfriend, it was comfortable and effortless.

That December, Paul surprised me on Christmas Eve by turning up when I was performing in a show.

Giving me a bunch of flowers, the gesture took my breath away. And in April the following year, we moved in together.

Walking my sausage dog Annie with me, Paul soon learned to take shorter strides so I could keep up. Although we got some funny looks, I didn’t care – he was the one.

Miraculously, in January 2016 we fell pregnant.

I was absolutely stoked, but knew it might be a tough journey. Monitored as my bump grew, I soon had a beach ball.

‘My belly’s bigger than my height!’ I’d joke.

Thankfully, scans looked great, and we’d find out when our bub was born if they shared my condition. Not that it mattered to us.

In September 2016, our darling baby boy Marco was born by C-section. As he was handed to me, I wept with joy. And since day dot, we’ve been a wonderful trio.

Francesca and Marco
Francesca and Marco (Credit: Supplied.)

Genetic tests showed Marco hasn’t inherited acromicric dysplasia.

He’s ready to take on the world, just like me, I thought when he took his first steps at just 10 months.

In December 2019, Paul and I tied the knot with Marco by our side.

Now seven, he’s such a helpful boy and I love how proud he is of me when I pick him up from school.

Francesca Papagno wedding day
Francesca and Paul on their wedding day (Credit: Bliss Nayler art and photography)

Now my life feels bigger than ever.

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