A mum is raising awareness about her daughter’s rare condition after the baby was born with a "permanent smile”.
Cristina Vercher, 21, and her husband Blaize Mucha, 20, from Adelaide, welcomed their daughter, Ayla Summer Mucha, in December.
The parents were over the moon to meet their little girl but during the C-section birth, but were shocked to learn that her mouth had not formed as 'normal'.
When doctors handed Ayla to her parents, they noticed that she had a large oral opening, which initially baffled doctors and had not been picked up on her ultrasound scans.
The newborn had developed bilateral macrostomia, a rare condition where the corners of the mouth don't fuse together during pregnancy.
According to a study from 2007, only 14 cases of the condition have been reported in medical literature. However, it is possible this has risen slightly since then.
“A caesarean is an uncomfortable experience as it is. Therefore, I was already in an overwhelmed state,” Ms Vercher told Jam Press.
“As you would know during the surgery the doctors will show you the baby once it has been removed from the uterus.
“At the time it was a very obvious formation as Ayla was so tiny.
“We were instantly worried. Blaize and I were not aware of this condition nor had I ever met someone born with a macrostomia.
“So it came as a huge shock.”
Condition stuns doctors at Aussie hospital
Ayla’s birth was the first time doctors at the Flinder’s Medical Centre had seen such a case, the mum said.
It took several hours for a doctor to provide the couple with answers, she added.
"With this came more difficulties as the hospital had little knowledge or support for such a rare condition,” Ms Vercher said.
“All I could think about as a mother was where I went wrong, especially when I had been so pedantic throughout my entire pregnancy.
“Yet, her father and I had been reassured by multiple doctors after days of genetic testing and scans that this condition was entirely out of our control and was of no fault of our own.”
After an anxious wait, doctors diagnosed Ayla with the congenital anomaly which affects the formation of the oral cavity.
As well as the cosmetic appearance of a wide smile, infants with the condition can struggle with more functional tasks like latching and suckling.
For medical reasons, patients with Alya’s condition are advised to have surgery to help ensure they have a functioning mouth as they grow older.
“We are yet to receive the exact specifications of the surgery, yet we know this involves a skin closure that results in minimal scarring,” Ms Vercher said.
“The challenges we will face post surgery are worrying as a couple.”
Mum raises awareness on TikTok
In search of more information about the condition, and to raise awareness, the new parents started a TikTok account under the name @cristinakylivercher to share their own experience.
One clip of the mum dressing her daughter has received over 46 million views, with users flooding the comments section with support.
“Asking respectfully as a mum, would you make more content to educate us on her condition? I would love to learn more. She’s beautiful,” one person commented.
“I just read on doctor Google that there are only 14 documented cases. She is so darn special. Be proud mama,” another user said.
Other TikTokers were quick to call out less positive comments.
“You are a strong woman. You have a beautiful daughter. I'm sorry to see those thoughtless comments,” one person wrote.
Speaking about her experience of sharing her family's life on social media, Ms Vercher said: “I would advise nothing more than to be kind and accepting of all people.
“As you would hope people paid the same respect to your or your children if such events were to occur in your life. Conditions such as this could happen to anyone at any time.
“Social media is a divided place. You can’t control the personalities of other people unfortunately.
“Yet Blaize and I have received just as much love and support as negative comments.
“I am thankful we left the video posted as I have spoken to a number of mothers going through similar experiences.
“We will not stop sharing our experiences and favourite memories as we are so proud.”
Hannah Dodd/Jam Press/Australscope
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