One mother is sharing her experience with a stranger’s kindness after posting a photo of their son, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Someone had left a cruel comment on the baby’s appearance but a stranger’s generosity made the mother believe in humanity once more.
“The generosity of a complete stranger restored our faith in humanity,” Sara Heller, 26, told TODAY via email. “Being Brody’s parent has taught me that people care. Strangers all over the country want to hear his story, and they want to pray for him.”
When Heller was 24 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound revealed that Brody had a cleft lip and palate. And after the shock subsided, Heller and partner Chris Eidam, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, came to the conclusion that their son looked beautiful and decided to share as many pictures of him as they could.
“It is OK to be proud of your baby no matter the circumstances,” Heller said. “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.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without the cleft palate. Children with clefts normally undergo a series of surgeries to repair their lips and palates. And, they often need therapy to learn to talk and eat. It is not known what causes cleft lips and palates, which occurs when the tissues don’t fuse during pregnancy.
And while Heller and Eidam hoped that posting photos would normalize cleft lips and palates, there were some people who said some cruel things about the child. A few days before New Year’s Eve, a person on Instagram asked Heller “What’s wrong with his face?” And while the mom expected this to happen at some point, she was floored by the comment.
“I wasn’t prepared to defend my 3-month-old and why he looks ‘different’ from other babies. I decided to educate rather than create a confrontation because that is what I want Brody to do in the future,” she said. “I will want him to educate, to be an advocate for younger cleft kids who don’t have their own voice yet.”
A few hours later, Heller was at dinner with Brody and some of her girlfriends when the server delivered what looked like a folded napkin to Heller. She thought someone sent her a note, but when she opened it she felt stunned. There was a check for $1,000 with the note in the memo line, “For the beautiful baby.”
“Tears fell from my eyes immediately and the happiness my heartfelt is indescribable,” she said.
Fast forward a few years and Brody is all grown up — and all smiles.
The check helped Heller and Eidam pay some of Brody’s medical bills.
On Jan. 3 Brody had lip surgery, his second procedure, and seems to be healing well.
“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.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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