When you’re an expectant parent, the excitement you feel about the upcoming birth of your baby knows no bounds.
You prepare as much as you can by investing in all kinds of toys and clothes. And, in your eager anticipation, you neglect to consider the fact that there is a possibility that your own child could be born with a condition which will have a substantial effect on their lives. One young, expectant couple, Sara Heller and Chris Eidam, found out that their unborn baby, Brody, had a bilateral cleft lip and palate at their 24-week ultrasound. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and about 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip each year. Cleft lips and palate are actually reasonably common birth defects that occur while the baby is growing in the womb. When certain tissues in the baby’s body don’t fuse together, this usually results in cleft lips and palate. Cleft lips can make it difficult for babies to do basic things like eat, drink and even breathe. If sufferers of the condition do not receive corrective surgery when they are babies, the child will most likely not be able to talk.
This meant that their baby would be born with partial facial disfigurement and might suffer from several other health problems. The doctors asked the couple from Omaha, Nebraska, if they wanted to keep their baby or consider terminating the pregnancy. However, the couple was determined to make it work despite the difficulties that their son’s birth defect might pose. They were prepared to accept the fact that his face would look different to that of other babies and refused to let the news curb their excitement at becoming parents. Sara and Chris told themselves that if their baby did turn out to suffer from other health problems, they would provide him with all the medical care he needed. They knew that no matter how their baby turned out, they would have nothing but unconditional love for him. And they wouldn’t let anyone talk them out of keeping their little bundle of joy. The couple then became determined to change the way in which society views and treats babies with deformities and birth defects. Sara constantly stresses the importance of feeling proud of your children in spite of what society says about them:
“It is OK to be proud of your baby no matter the circumstances. We wanted to change what ultrasound/newborn/first year pictures on our Facebook/Instagram accounts looked like. We wanted to spread awareness of cleft lips and palates.”
Sara and Chris are incredibly proud of their baby and just like most parents would, they shared photos of him on their various social media accounts. And as a result, they received a lot of love and praise from their friends, family and even total strangers. Many people were very curious as to why and how Brody’s face appeared that way it did and even went as far as to sent direct messages to Sara asking her what was wrong her son’s face. Naturally, Sara was initially pretty upset with the intrusive and often insensitive questions. However, she then decided to use the situation to educate people about her son’s rare condition:
“I decided to educate rather than create a confrontation because that is what I want Brody to do in the future. I will want him to educate, to be an advocate for younger cleft kids who don’t have their own voice yet.”
According to the couple, many people have responded to their family with immense kindness and generosity. In fact, Sara also explained how, when she was with a friend at a restaurant with the baby in town, a waiter brought them a folded piece of paper from another guest with a check for $1,000 inside. The note read “for the beautiful baby.” The money was very beneficial for the young couple and their family and they were able to use it to pay for some of Brody’s medical expenses. For instance, some of the money went to towards repairing their son’s lip. Just last year, Brody underwent surgery on his lip and he has recovered extraordinarily well from the surgery. Sara has received all kinds of support from other people affected by birth defects:
“This experience has shown us just how strong the cleft community is. We’ve been contacted by people all over the country. they are praying for us and asking us to reach out if we need anything.”
Sara and Chris’ baby is recovering very well from his lip surgery, however, the chances are that he will he will need to undergo more surgeries in the future. But hopefully, he will be able to live as ordinary a life as possible in spite of all the medical care he will receive very early on in his life.