It gets worse before it gets better: Danny’s journey with Cleft Lip {Sudbury Portrait Photographer}

Danny is very special and he is very special to me too. His mom and I connected on social media in early 2016. When he came to my studio for his photo-shoot, Danny was over a month old, and no other photographer was able to take him because he was “too old” for newborn pictures. Sure, he was older then what we normally suggest but that’s not a reason not to try and do a newborn session. He proved everyone wrong! He was a perfect newborn model; it took us a bit longer than it normally would, but Danny did fall asleep, and we were able to pose him the way we wanted.  First, though, he gave me the biggest smiles I have ever seen and oh boy, did he ever melt my heart.

He was my first client with cleft lip, and I was eager to take his photos again after his repair surgery. So, here is a very long post about his newborn and cake-smash sessions and Mom’s beautiful write-up about their journey together.

Newborn Photography Sudbury, ONThose eyes and his smiles. Melts my heart every time I see it. popular potato sock pose. He was so chill and happy to be wrapped up.


sudbury-photographer-helgahimer-newborn-miajoy-tushy-up-bummup-boy-cleftlip-babysudbury-photographer-helgahimer-newborn-boy-cleftlip-miajoy-blanketshots-tushyupEven a 5 week old newborn can do a bum-up pose. He is wearing a super cute outfit from Miajoy.


Sleeping on Daddy’s helmet. He is a volunteer firefighter and having 4 boys under 5 years old, his hands sure are full!

Now, let’s read about Danny’s story, as told by his mom Danika.

   “It gets worse before it gets better.
   On December 25th, 2015, Danny was the first Christmas boy born at Health Sciences North. But that wasn’t the only thing special about his birth. Danny was born with a cleft lip and palate.
     My husband, Madison, and I were fortunate enough to have known about the clefts during our pregnancy. Although you can never completely prepare yourself for a child with a birth defect or a disability, it was reassuring to be able to find a support group before the baby was born. I focused all of my stress into researching clefts and speaking to another cleft mother just outside of Sudbury.
     The most difficult part of my pregnancy was not knowing the severity of the cleft and whether or not Danny had any associated syndromes. An isolated cleft lip meant that we could have a successful breastfeeding relationship. Because Danny’s palate was involved, this meant that he couldn’t create enough suction to nurse. Consequently, we pumped and bottle fed with a Special Needs feeder.
     Having three other children at home made frequent appointments exhausting. Fortunately, we had amazing support from our parents and our midwives. Aside from Danny’s visits to NEO Kids for his weight loss, we also had a referral to Sick Kids.  There, we would see a team of several health care professionals through the Cleft Lip and Palate Program.
     To date, Danny has had two surgeries before a year old. He’s been put under general anesthesia three times for lip repair, suture and nose stent removal, and palate repair. I tried to prepare myself mentally for surgery, but I never wanted to say goodbye to Danny’s wide smile. I was in love with his beautiful face. No matter what the procedure is, your stomach always knots when you get the phone call with a surgery date. Even moreso when you hand your baby over to the O.R. nurse.
     The best advice I could give to a parent waiting for their child in surgery is to go for a walk. We waited 2.5 hours during Danny’s lip repair. Once he woke in recovery, we were brought back to see him. It was hard to see my baby swollen and on morphine. His stay in the PACU was prolonged to 3 hours because his oxygen levels were low. I couldn’t help but to just look at his face the entire time, admiring it. Not everyone gets to fall in love with two smiles. 
     After palate repair, Danny had a hard time bouncing back. He had ear tubes inserted and his severe tongue tie released during surgery. Understandably, he was very uncomfortable. After a lot of persistence and a new appreciation for chocolate milk and Jell-O, Danny was eating and drinking well again.
     Thankfully, Danny doesn’t have any more surgeries until he is approximately 7 years old. He will need a bone graft and orthodontic work. For the time being, we will be dealing with his hearing appointments and speech therapy to help with any difficulties he may have.
     I aim to raise strong, insightful young men. However, there are many people out there who struggle with acceptance and support. I would like other families to know that they are not alone in this journey. As the second most common birth defect, expecting parents should know that there are a lot of resources and support available to them.”
    A common saying among the cleft community, which has become my favourite, is “It gets worse before it gets better”.
Danika Schroeder
And now lets see his one year photos. Such a happy boy!
sudbury-photographer-ontario-helgahimer-cakesmash-boy-blue-oneyear-cleftlip-bab sudbury-photographer-helgahimer-cakesmash-boy-blue-baby

Cake-smash session is one of my favorite, and I love making the cakes for it, so it matches the set.


Those eyes! He loved digging into his cake.


sudbury-family-photography-cleft-lip-helgahimer-firefighterdad-boysWhat a beautiful family.

You can read more about their story at the Sudbury Living Parents Magazine, spring/summer 2017 edition. 



To book your family, cake-smash or newborn portrait session, please email [email protected] or call Helga at 705-920-8089. Serving Greater Sudbury, Chelmsford, Lively, Eliot Lake, Azilda, Valley East, Capreol, Val Therese, Nickel Centre, Wanap and surrounding areas.

  • Cece - Mama your baby is gorgeous, both before and after! I have a special place in my heart for babies with cleft lip/palate as I was close to a family whose third baby was born with both when I was ten years old. I sat in the waiting room for every one of his surgeries. I think he had three before he was 9 months old, if I recall correctly. I remember thinking how hard it was to get used to his “new face!” I remember my dad “paying him” after a surgery when he was three because he refused to drink the fluids the nurses wanted in him before he could be discharged! For every sip my dad would give him a coin! He is now in his twenties and grew up into a big, healthy, smart young man.ReplyCancel

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