Sara Heller never set out to be an activist. But when her baby was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate condition, she had no choice but to face the ugly truth that people can be cruel. Since her baby looked different than other children, Heller, 26, found herself constantly educating people about the congenital condition and defending her child against the monsters who accused her son of being a freak.
In an email to TODAY, Heller wrote that after so many people attacked her son, Brody, for looking different, it was the kindness of one stranger that resorted to her hope in humanity. As the mother of a child with a deformity, Heller has learned a lot about her fellow human beings. She has seen the ugly side of those she once considered close friends, and she has also seen the beauty of kindness that she believes lies within each one of us.
Heller learned that her unborn son, Brody, had the deformity when she reached 24 weeks of pregnancy. The discovery was made through ultrasound technology, which allowed the technician and doctor to see the condition. Upon hearing the news, Heller and her partner, 30-year-old Chris Eidam, of Omaha, Nebraska, struggled to cope with this curveball. But it didn’t throw them off the love train for long. Both Heller and Eidam were head-over-heels in love with Brody – even if he had a cleft lip and pallet.
Although experts have yet to uncover the reason for the condition, they do know that it happens when tissue fails to fuse correctly during pregnancy. Thousands of babies are born with the condition every year. They can undergo a series of surgeries to repair the deformity, and may also need occupational therapy treatments to learn to eat and talk normally.
Because Brody was different than many other children, Heller took it upon herself to spread awareness of his condition. She also knew that if more people knew the truth behind cleft lips and palates, then more people would be understanding and empathetic. She started sharing photos of Brody so people could see that he was just a normal kid who looked a little bit different.
But the response was not as she expected. Heller was inundated with hate mail accusing her son of being a freak. So many people slapped her with questions about why he looked so “different” from all the other babies. Others just asked her what was “wrong” with her son. All of these comments piled up to cause the new mom a lot of pain.
The negative comments were very hard for Heller to deal with. Her friends were there to support her in her moment of need. They took her and Brody out for lunch. When the server handed Heller a folded napkin, the mother was stunned by what was inside.
Someone had enclosed a check in the folded napkin. It was made out to cash for $1,000, and, in the memo line, the generous stranger wrote, “For the beautiful baby.”
Heller used the check to cover Brody’s mounting medical bills.
Although many hateful people lashed out at Brody for looking different when Heller posted his photos, this stranger reminded her that good people are out there. You just need to keep your eyes open.
Every time you share an AWM story, you help build a home for a disabled veteran.