Babies are adorable. They just are.
During an ultrasound 24 weeks into Nebraskan mother Sara Heller’s pregnancy with her son Brody, she learned that her baby would have a bilateral cleft lip and palate. After the initial shock, she and Brody’s dad, Chris Eidam decided to embrace their son’s unique beauty. Furthermore, they began their efforts in advocating for the normalization and acceptance of cleft lips and palates. Through sharing photos of their son on social media, these parents document their journey with their son and show their followers that cleft babies are as happy and loving as any other baby.
As Heller shares her and her son’s story, she usually receives positive and supportive feedback. Unfortunately, one particular comment Heller received several weeks ago was different.
Someone Heller didn’t know commented on a picture of Brody with his gastronomy tube (g-tube), a tube inserted in the abdomen which goes to the stomach and helps Brody receive nutrition. The commenter wrote, “What’s wrong with your son’s face?” Naturally, Heller felt that the comment was a “stab to the heart.” In that moment, Heller experienced a complex concoction of emotion and questioned the situation itself, saying “He’s three months old and he’s being bullied?” She was concerned as a parent, wondering if later on in life her son would be recognized only for looking different and thinking of how she would want him to respond in such a situation.
Heller decided to do what she would want Brody to do: create the opportunity for people to learn about the things they don’t fully understand. She responded to the comment with a link to an article in a respected medical journal that explained cleft lips and palates. “I will want him to educate, to be an advocate for younger cleft kids who don’t have their own voice yet,” explained Heller.
A few hours after responding to the comment, Heller went to dinner with a few friends, bringing Brody along with her. During their meal, the waiter delivered what seemed to be a folded piece of paper. Heller thought that someone must have written a note to her, but what she found was more than anything she could have expected. The folded paper was a check for 1,000 dollars with “For the beautiful baby” written on the memo line. Heller’s day had turned around and her faith in the kindness of strangers had been resurrected. She said, “Tears fell from my eyes immediately and the happiness my heart felt is indescribable.”
Weeks later, Brody had his second procedure, a lip repair surgery, and the stranger’s generous gift was able to offset some of the Brody’s medical costs. When he’s between nine and twelve months old, he’ll have another surgery to repair his palate. Until then, he’ll still use the g-tube to aid feeding.
Heller is quick to thank the cleft community and her family for all of the support that they received for Brody. She said, “The experience has shown us how strong the cleft community is.” With the strength of the community behind her, Heller intends to continue sharing her family’s journey and pressing for the normalization and acceptance of cleft kids everywhere.
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