After captivating the internet with heartwarming pictures, a young girl born with a cleft ear and palate has won over the hearts of many. Suton, who is only five weeks old and the daughter of Courtney and Gaun Gardiner from Texas, was born in mid-December. To capture Suton’s first official images, Shannon Morton was hired for the job.
Courtney expressed regret for not taking maternity or newborn photos with their baby. She explained that she didn’t want to have a similar experience with her second pregnancy when they found out they were expecting Sutton. Photographer Shannon Morton captured beautiful images of five-week-old Sutton Gardner, dressed in a flaky bandana and matching flowered hat. Morton shared the heartwarming photos on her business’s Facebook page last month, and they quickly went viral. The Gardiners, who have a three-year-old son named Asher, were informed during Sutton’s 20-week ultrasound that their daughter had a right unilateral cleft palate and cleft lip. Morton wrote in the image caption, “So many smiling babies in the studio recently! This is sweet Sutton, the cutest redhead!”
The following day, he posted another adorable picture of baby Sutton wearing a floral crown while sleeping with her pacifier in her hands. Initially, Courtenay was concerned about how people would react to her daughter’s photos because she knew how cruel strangers online could be, but they received nothing but love and support from the commenters. “Everyone was so kind and considerate, leaving sweet messages that just praised her beauty,” the mother revealed. “Some even shared about their own experiences with relatives or friends who had children with cleft lip and cleft palate.”
After sharing their first post on January 26th, Morten’s account has received over 728,000 likes and nearly 7,000 comments. The Gardiners were surprised when their daughter’s portrait went viral, but they were thrilled with the positive response. Courtney and Gavin didn’t know what to expect when Suton was diagnosed with a right unilateral cleft palate and cleft lip during her 20-week ultrasound. Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur during pregnancy, resulting in tears or splits in the upper lip and roof of the mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The couple also has a three-year-old son named Asher.
Initially, Baby Sotto faced difficulties in feeding due to his cleft palate. As a result, he had to spend 18 days at the NICU in Texas Children’s Hospital while his parents played music for him. According to Cortey, Baby Sotto’s mother, he is a strong-willed and stubborn baby, but he also loves being held and seeks attention from others. Despite his condition, he is expected to be a social and lovable baby.
The enraged photo of Sutton has motivated her parents to share her story on their Facebook page, My Cleft Cutie, with the hope of providing solace to other parents who are facing similar diagnoses. Courtney, her mother, spent the night prior to her appointment praying for her daughter’s heart to be healthy, fearing that she might have other health issues. When they were finally told that her heart seemed normal on the ultrasound, Courtney breathed a sigh of relief. However, the sonographer’s discovery of a cleft labial during the ultrasound of her face caught Courtney off guard and shocked her, as she had not considered it a possibility. She had assumed that a cleft lip and palate were genetic, but in most cases, the causes of these defects in babies are unknown. In the United States, about one in every 1,600 babies is born with a cleft lip and palate each year.
The news was so shocking that she couldn’t help but cry while questions and concerns flooded her mind. The doctor didn’t have many answers, which only made their worries about their daughter’s condition worse. According to Gauvin, their daughter’s initial diagnosis wasn’t managed properly, and they felt like they were given a vague explanation. They were then referred to specialists at Texas Children’s Pavillion for Women in Houston, which was about an hour and a half away from their home. These specialists were able to reassure them that their daughter’s condition was treatable, and that with support, these children can live amazing lives and get through it. Courtney started seeing an obstetrician in the hospital around 36 weeks into her pregnancy and joined a support group for mothers of children with cleft palates and cleft lips on Facebook where she could interact with other parents who understood what she was going through.
Recalling her experience, she found comfort and encouragement in being able to ask other mothers questions and follow their son’s journey. When her daughter, Suton, was born, she had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 18 days due to difficulty feeding with a regular nipple because of her cleft palate. The couple received supportive comments on Facebook after sharing their daughter’s photos, which boosted their spirits during their time in the NICU. Suton will undergo her first surgery to repair her lip in March and a second surgery to close her palate closer to her first birthday.
According to Courtney, her daughter can be quite stubborn at times but it is clear that she has a friendly and sociable personality. The baby enjoys being held and receiving attention from others. Whenever her brother is present, she becomes happy when he brings her gifts and she smiles whenever he approaches her. Gauvin also mentioned that their little girl loves listening to music, which they have been playing for her during her stay in the NICU.
The Gardiners express their gratitude towards the care provided to Sutton at Texas Children’s Hospital and the immense support from the online community since their diagnosis. To spread hope and comfort to those facing similar situations, they have shared their daughter’s story on their Facebook page, My Cleft Cutie, after she went viral on social media. The couple aims to assure parents of children with cleft palates that everything will be okay.
Even though the initial diagnosis period can be frightening and gloomy, it is actually a positive thing because it is completely treatable and manageable, according to Courtney. These children are incredible and resilient, growing and maturing at a young age. Revised: Although the beginning stages of receiving a diagnosis can be daunting and overwhelming, it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately a beautiful thing as it is completely curable and controllable. Courtney emphasizes the strength and resilience of these children who grow and mature beyond their years. As the saying goes, a baby may not be flawless, but to their parents, they will always be an unparalleled source of love.