Hours after Sara Heller dealt with with a rude online comment about her son’s cleft palate, a generous gift from a stranger restored her faith in humanity
When Sara Heller learned during her 24-week ultrasound that her son Brody would be born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, the 26-year-old mom saw it not as a burden, but an opportunity. She and her partner, Chris Eidam decided to share photos of their beautiful baby boy and document his journey online and on Instagram as a way to raise awareness for the condition.
“It is OK to be proud of your baby no matter the circumstances,” Heller told Today. “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.” Brody’s lucky to have such awesome parents. But unfortunately, not everyone in the world is as understanding.
Babies are adorable in all forms. You’d think no one would be cruel enough to make fun of an infant for a genetic condition they have literally no control over, but the internet is a sad, strange place at times. Sometimes all it takes is one bad comment to make you feel awful and forget all about the hundreds of good things that have been said.
Such was the case a few days before New Year’s Eve, when someone on Heller’s Instagram bluntly asked,“What’s wrong with his face?” Although she had been bracing for a comment like this eventually, Heller was still stunned by the rudeness of the comment. “I wasn’t prepared to defend my 3-month-old and why he looks ‘different’ from other babies,” she said. She chose to take the high road. “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.”
Still upset from the online encounter, she took Brody out to dinner that evening with her girlfriends. It was then that a perfectly timed kind act reminded her of the good and extremely generous people in the world.
A server came up to her and handed her a folded napkin. Heller thought it was a note from a stranger, but instead the napkin contained a check for $1,000. The memo line simply read, “For the beautiful baby.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Heller felt the same way. “Tears fell from my eyes immediately and the happiness my heart felt is indescribable,” she said. She and her partner used the funds to help pay for some of Brody’s medical expenses. He had his second surgery on his lips earlier this month. Heller told Scary Mommy he is healing well. “We are back to training him on the bottle, and hoping to see some improvement,” she said. “He is battling his first year infection right now, which we are kind of twisted for celebrating but ear infections are almost impossible to dodge with cleft palates so we are happy he’s only had one and he almost made it four months.” Brody should have his third l surgery between nine and 12 months old, but it won’t be the last for this tough little guy. “He will have three to eight more depending on how his palate stretches as he grows, how flat is nose is, and how the gums in the mouth come in,” said Heller.
Heller says the experience has been a much needed reminder that there is still good in the world. “When I posted the Facebook status explaining the amazing gift I had no intention of it spreading like it did,” she said. “It has now turned from me being so happy about the gesture to me wanting to advocate for Brody and kids alike. It has just proven to me that everything happens for a reason. We have received nothing but positive comments since the incident. ”
You may not have an extra grand to gift, but don’t hesitate to say something kind to a stranger when the moment presents itself. You never know if that’s exactly when they need to hear it most.