The medical staff didn’t waste any time. This was a lot bloodier than their average delivery. Through all of the horror, he kept praying that his wife and daughter would both survive it.
He was in the middle of praying when he first heard it. The small cry was a ray of sunshine in the darkness of that day. He looked up, his eyes growing wide as he looked at the most beautiful baby he had ever seen. But as he stepped closer to the baby, he noticed something that made him stop in his tracks.
Having kids had always been in Frank and Leila’s plan. After dating through grad school, the two love birds decided to tie the knot, beginning their lifelong journey together.
As with many couples across the globe, Frank and Leila wanted to have a big family. They tried to get pregnant as soon as possible, and it wouldn’t be long until they got the news they wanted to hear.
Frank and Leila had always talked about having kids. Even before they started going out, they’d share their dreams and expectations on the matter, given that both came from massive families.
For Leila, having little ones running all over the house and leaving chaos in their wake was the true essence of parenthood. She had no idea what the future had in store for her and her husband.
Like many first-time parents, Frank and Leila took every precaution during their nine months of pregnancy. They attended every early parenthood seminar and participated in many pregnancy programs their hospital offered.
They never missed an obstetrician’s appointment and always checked in with her whenever they feared something was wrong. But all these precautions couldn’t prepare them for what they saw in that delivery room.
Frank and Leila had counted every minute from the day they conceived their child to her delivery date. They reported to the hospital the second Leila’s contractions began.
They expected the delivery process to be smooth, although they knew it would have its issues. They were sure they were prepared for everything. They were wrong.
Frank stood by his wife as the delivery began, with Leila squeezing his hand whenever the doctor told her to push. The couple spent more than five hours in the room, with their kid still in delivery. Was something wrong?
Frank had read of several pregnancies going wrong. He tried his best to push these dark thoughts out of his head, but deep down, he knew something was terribly wrong.
Frank had always been a level-headed person, but the tension and pressure of that delivery room were enough to change any man.
He didn’t want to consider that the process was going awry when out of nowhere, the doctor asked him to step away. She called for several other nurses, asking them to bring additional equipment. What was happening?
“There has been a complication,” the doctor declared. “We need to perform a C-section right away.” The worry and dread that Frank had been holding back pounded into him all at once, reeling him against the wall.
“A C-section?” he heard Leila ask and saw her try to sit upright. Drenched in tears and sweat, she shot him a knowing look. She was the strongest woman Frank knew. “Let’s do it,” she said.
The doctor and nurses didn’t waste any time. The process was bloodier than standard delivery, and throughout the gore, Frank prayed that both his daughter and wife survived.
He was still lost in prayer when he heard it, a tiny cry that was a ray of hope in all the darkness that had suddenly devoured his life. He looked up, meeting with the prettiest baby he’d ever seen. But when he got closer, he saw something that made him step back.
His baby was well and alive, her vocal cords in full effect as she cried out to the nurses who inspected her. But there was a slit on the sides of her mouth like a permanent smile. The worry and dread that dogged Frank before doubled.
Although everyone in the delivery room was stumped, they all got to work. They took the baby away, with Frank accompanying the doctor so she could explain what was happening.
Frank paced in the waiting room as the doctor went to run tests on his baby. He had never seen anything like what he’d just witnessed and needed all the explanation he could get.
What was happening to his child? Was her life in danger? Did she have some congenital disability stemming from Frank as her dad? Frank wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.
After waiting thirty minutes, the doctor finally walked out of the office. There was a constant worry in her eyes, her fingers fidgeting with the test results.
She invited Frank into her office and asked him to sit. But Frank couldn’t bring himself to sit down. He started pacing as he had in the waiting room. He needed answers fast.
“Bilateral microstomia,” the doctor answered with surety. “It is an ultra-rare condition that affects the function and aesthetics of the oral cavity.”
“What?” Frank asked. All the energy in his body seemed to leach away, leaving him tired. He wiped the sweat on his forehead and sat down. “Please, tell me more, doctor.”
The doctor sat down as well. “Well,” she began. “Microstomia is a condition with a small sized-mouth that results in functional impairment such as difficulty with food intake, pronunciation, and cosmetic problems.”
“What we have here is a special kind of microstomia, where the condition manifests itself in the form of bilateral slits,” she added. Frank couldn’t even speak.
Frank sank to the patient’s seat with his head in his hands. He let out an exasperated sigh, “Leila will be heartbroken when she wakes up.”
His wife had always wanted the perfect child. She’d prayed for one, asking the heavens to give her the most beautiful kid in the world. Frank promised her that their child would be just that. How could he face her now when he couldn’t deliver on that promise?
“Let’s go share the news with her,” the doctor’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts. “It is imperative we do it now, while the information is still fresh.”
“Certainly,” Frank said almost immediately. But that was only an automatic response. He didn’t even have the energy to get up. But then he thought of something that changed everything.
“Let me see her first,” he whispered, and the doctor nodded. She told him that such medical occurrences were common and to take heart. She and her team would do everything possible to help his daughter.
Her words made Frank’s lips curl, though his eyes were wet with tears. But when they walked out of the office, he didn’t follow her to her wife’s room. He was going the opposite way.
The doctor was confused at first. What was Frank doing? Didn’t he want to share the news with his wife? Then she realized what was happening.
Frank was headed to the neonatal intensive care unit. The doctor didn’t comment on this, choosing instead to follow him to the room. She knew that this was as important as breaking the news to Leila.
Frank pushed the door to the neonatal intensive care unit slowly. But he didn’t step in. He stood outside for a few minutes, his tears flowing freely as he searched for the strength to continue.
After a few minutes, he wiped his eyes and turned to the doctor. “Enough tears,” he said, telling himself as much as he was talking to the doctor. He straightened his back, broke a shaky smile, and walked in.
The neonatal intensive care unit was divided into several rows lit with blue light, with tiny babies napping all over. Each of them was beautiful, their scent an incredible, overwhelming smell that made Frank’s eyes water again.
But he didn’t cry. He needed to be strong for his wife and baby. He would be their pillar against whatever storm was coming their way.
The doctor showed Frank where his daughter was, and he walked to her, his heart beating so loudly he feared it would wake the entire room.
He’d seen how his baby looked in the delivery room and didn’t know how he’d react now. But as he neared her crib, he felt something he’d never felt.
Frank’s heart swelled the closer he got to his daughter’s crib. He focused on her, the most beautiful baby girl he’d ever seen. She had his mom’s face while asleep, which made his eyes grow wet again.
Seeming to sense her dad lurking over her, the baby opened her eyes, and Frank choked on a sob. She had his wife’s big blue eyes. She smiled, and his heart melted.
Frank said hi to the baby. He didn’t know how his wife would react to her, but he knew he’d fallen in love. The baby reached up to him, and Frank offered his thumb, which she held on to.
“I will always love you,” he said. “I will never leave you, and I will forever fight and protect you.” When Frank turned around, he saw something that made him step back.
The doctor was quiet at the door. She was crying and smiling at the same time. “You will be the best dad to that little angel,” she said, and Frank believed her.
They walked out of the neonatal intensive care unit, keen on telling Leila what was happening. Frank felt stronger now that he’d seen his daughter. He hoped Leila would love her just as much as he did.
But before they could go to Leila’s room, the doctor requested they take a detour to her office for some files. She hoped some tangible information could help Frank’s wife accept their situation.
After collecting the files, they hurried to see Leila. Frank led the way, eager to see the love of his life and tell her what a beautiful daughter they had. They didn’t know they were too late.
In the split minute that Frank and the doctor had taken to go for the files, a nurse had wheeled Frank’s daughter to Leila’s room.
The two walked in, finding the nurse leaving. She greeted them at the door, asking them to be quiet because the baby was inside. After a quick congratulation to Frank, she left. Frank sped into the room.
Frank and the doctor rushed to Leila, who was just awakening in her room. They found her cradling the baby, a smile on her face as tears lined her cheeks.
“You’re so pretty,” she whispered to the baby before looking up at Frank. “Leila,” Frank’s voice had never been this broken. But his worry began dissipating as he got closer to his wife and child.
His eyes teared again as he reached a finger down, and the baby lurched on as she did back at the neonatal intensive care unit. Her smile was still holding even though her eyes were closed.
The days that followed were difficult for Leila and Frank, given that they were treading a path very few parents ever walked. Could they find a way to help their daughter before it was too late?
The doctor promised Leila and Frank that their baby, whom they’d named Emma, could receive a series of reconstructions to help correct her condition.
The young parents agreed. They loved their child very much and would do anything to see her live a normal life. But the journey would be the most challenging thing they ever embarked on.
Emma is still undergoing her set of surgeries. To create awareness, her parents shared her story on social media, creating a cult following for the baby.
They are thankful for all the love and support they receive daily. They hope that anybody in the same boat as them knows that they are not alone. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.