When you hear a mean comment said about yourself, you probably usually brush it off and let it go. But when someone says something hurtful about your child—well, all bets are off. One mom recently learned, however, that one stranger's mean comment can inspire kindness in another stranger.
Sara Heller and Chris Eidam welcomed their son, Brody, into the world Oct. 7, 2016. Although very much a happy occasion, it wasn't without complications.
When she was 24 weeks pregnant, 26-year-old Sara and 30-year-old Chris had an ultrasound that revealed their baby would be born with a cleft lip and palate. Although the couple from Omaha, Neb., were initially shocked, they soon realized that their son was beautiful and decided to share as many pictures of him as possible.
In fact, part of their mission became to raise awareness of this condition, according to "Today."
"It is OK to be proud of your bab,y 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."
Although experts are unsure about what causes cleft lips and palates, there is one thing we know: It's a condition caused by tissues that don't fuse correctly during pregnancy, affecting an estimated 2,650 babies a year, according to the CDC. Typically, these children normally have to undergo a series of surgeries in order to repair their lips and palates, and often also need therapy to learn to talk and eat.
But none of that deterred Sara and Chris, who were hopeful that sharing photos of their baby boy would help to normalize cleft lips and palates. Although Sara was prepared to occasionally hear people say unkind things about Brody, she was still shocked when, a few days before New Year's Eve, a person commented on her Instagram account asking: "What's wrong with his face?"
"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."
After the initial shock about the hurtful comment wore off, Sara was sitting at dinner with Brody and some friends when she recieved what she thought was a note. The server delivered what looked like a folded napkin but when she opened it, Sara found a check for $1,000 with a note in the memo like that read: "For the beautiful baby." Sara said she instantly had tears well up and she began to cry from the "happiness my heart felt."
Although their baby was bullied online at just a few months of age, the parents found new hope in the kindness displayed by a complete stranger.
The generosity "restored our faith in humanity," said Sara, who began Cleft Connection to share Brody's story and help normalize cleft lip and palate by sharing information and photos of her son. "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."
Since the incident, Brody received his second lip surgery on Jan. 3 and is healing well. The check from the stranger helped to pay some of his medical bills, although the baby still remains with eating challenges and has to rely on a gastrointestinal tube to receive nutrition. Sometime in between when Brody is nine and 12 months old, he will require another surgery to repair his palate.
And although they still have a way to go with Brody, Sara has enjoyed the emotional support she receives from people all over the country—even in the face of criticism.
"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."