Lacey Buchanan was devastated when doctors said her unborn son, Christian, would have congenital birth defects and might not survive.
But despite these dire warnings, she felt deep inside that her baby would be OK.
At the time, Buchanan was a 22-year-old studying to be a lawyer amid navigating her first pregnancy. And as she balanced her chaotic life circumstances, the prognosis worsened.
“As the pregnancy progressed and Christian got bigger … doctors began saying, ‘This is much more serious than we thought. We don’t really know what’s wrong,’” Buchanan said on a recent episode of “Politely Rude With Abby Johnson.”
She continued, “They said, ‘He’s probably not compatible with life. He probably won’t survive birth.’”
Listen to Buchanan tell Christian’s harrowing story to Abby Johnson:
But Buchanan welcomed Christian into the world in February 2011.
“He came out screaming. It was just a beautiful moment,” she said. “He had surgery at 4 days old to put a feeding tube in.”
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While doctors were wrong that Christian wouldn’t survive birth and might not be compatible with life, the circumstances were anything but easy. He was born with Tessier Cleft Lip and Palate, a severe condition with pervasive clefts that can profoundly impact a person’s facial structures.
In Christian’s case, his eyes didn’t fully develop and he was born blind, with some noticeable differences in his facial appearance — differences that often spark questions from strangers.
“He has a facial difference,” Buchanan told Johnson. “People would come up and they would ask questions that were just really invasive, really intrusive.”
Some have even been quite callous. One person Buchanan knew personally delivered a truly tragic comment when Christian was still a newborn.
“She had messaged me when Christian was about 3 months … just saying, ‘I can’t believe that you didn’t abort him. Look at this miserable life he’s going to have,’” Buchanan recalled.
Over time, Buchanan got tired of these questions, comments and looks, so she decided to put together a video, post it online and print business cards she could hand out with the link for anyone with invasive curiosities about Christian and his condition.
The video features Buchanan cradling Christian as she holds up cards with text telling her child’s story — and of the difficulties they have faced along the way.
It seemed like a simple way to divert and answer people’s questions. But Buchanan was absolutely shocked when she posted the video online in 2012 and it immediately went viral.
“I woke up the next morning and I had hundreds of notifications on my phone,” she said. “All of these news outlets started picking the video up … it had millions and millions of views. And it was just really incredible.”
Buchanan said the video offered a powerful reminder of Christian’s “inherent value as a human and his worth,” adding that “his disability didn’t mean he was going to have this miserable, pathetic life.”
The clip landed Buchanan and Christian in the headlines across the globe. Watch it:
Today, Buchanan said Christian is living life to the fullest and enjoying the typical activities of other kids his age.
“He’s 9, he reads Braille, he’s taking swimming lessons right now, he plays violin,” she said. “He has a great sense of humor. … He loves when I share his pictures and videos and stuff that he says.”
And she also offered a powerful message for anyone who might be struggling with the complexities or difficulties they face in life.
“It doesn’t mean God makes mistakes,” she said of Christian’s struggles. “He formed Christian fearfully and wonderfully just like every other human who doesn’t have his facial difference … Christian is made in the image of God just as every other person.”
And she also offered a plea to parents out there — one that will make her life, Christian’s life and others’ lives easier to navigate: “Teach your kids to be nice.”