Having a baby is a wonderful gift, but it can also be a difficult and scary time for both parents. There's so many things that can go wrong, and so many emotions involved, that if your baby doesn't turn out to be a total picture of health the impact can be devastating. For newborn Eli Thompson Finch, though, the love of his parents overcame everything. Despite having one of the rarest birth defects in the world, he turned out to be the sweetest thing imaginable...
The birth of Eli Thompson will never be forgotten by his parents, father Jeremy and stepmom Annamarie. During the pregnancy, there was never any indication was anything wrong with him. But when Eli was born, they discovered something almost no-one had seen before - he was born without a nose.
He was actually born over two years ago, back on March 4th, 2015, in Alabama. His birth mom, Brandi McGlathery, had been pregnant for just over eight months when she went into labor, meaning that not only was Eli born without a nose, but he was also premature. Not the greatest start in life...
Eli's condition is known as arhinia, which literally means "without a nose". Looking at photos, you'd think that his face has been photoshopped. But it's real, and super rare, affecting only about one in 200 million births. So far, there have only ever been 44 recorded cases.
Unlike like other deformities, where the whole cranial structure is affected, with arhinia only the nose and the sinuses are affected. The rest of his skull and facial features are fine, he's just missing the ability to breath, equalize pressure, and generate mucus through the nose and nasal cavities.
Think of people without a nose and inevitably the image of Voldemort is going to pop into your head. But Eli Thompson Finch is nothing like that Harry Potter villain. In fact, he's just about the cutest baby you've ever seen.
Still, being born prematurely and without the ability to breathe through your nose is incredibly tough. Most of the babies born with this condition didn't make it through their first few days, but Eli was a fighter. Using a special feeding tube, he started breathing straight away.
After he had stabilized, surgeons were able to operate on Eli to give him a fighting chance. The biggest problem for him was choking (if you've ever eaten or exercised with a completely blocked nose, you'd know what it feels like), so they gave him a tracheotomy to help out.
Even with the tracheotomy, life was tough for this adorable little boy. Breastfeeding was simply out of the question, so the doctors devised a simple tube feeding method which would serve in its place before he grew old enough to handle the process himself.
Eventually, the danger for little Eli passed, and he got to go home with his proud mom and dad. With any child with birth defects, this can be a stressful and scary time for new parents. For Jeremy and Annamarie, this was the happiest time of their lives. His face was enough to light up every day for them.
One of the biggest coincidences for Eli was that a girl in Ireland, Tessa Evans, had been born with the exact same condition just two years earlier. In fact, not long after he got home, Tessa's parents and Eli's parents arrange for the two to meet. The meeting of the two was apparently indescribably heartwarming, and "watching Eli gaze up at her was too precious for words."
The condition never brought Eli down. From day one, he was the happiest kid around, always taking everything in his stride and never complaining or fussing about his condition. His hilarious love for fist-bumping is just one of the many things that made Eli a daily joy for his parents.
All the way up to two years old, Eli struggled every day with his facial deformity. But that didn't stop him from growing up, though, and become a beautiful boy with an endless love for life. Some children - even totally healthy ones - can be a headache for their parents, but Eli wasn't.
With speech problems to add to his list of woes, Eli learned to use sign language instead. With that, he became the most popular kid in childcare, especially once he discovered the sign for "cookie". This became his favorite thing to sign every morning, and even earned him the "Cookie Monster Award".
In June of this year, though, everything changed for the Finch family. At two years and three months old, Eli passed suddenly away. It looked like the struggle had finally become too much for the brave soul that faced every day with confidence and beautiful courage.
The way he'll be remembered, though, is with a huge cheeky grin on his face and an adorable outlook that brightened the lives of everyone he met. His bravery could be a lesson to us all when we struggle through things in our lives - things that are tiny compared to Eli's monumental difficulties.