Families that Inspire: Meet the Bauman’s
● By Hood Magazine
As an expectant mom, all you want is news that your baby is healthy. For one Sioux Falls family, a diagnosis during pregnancy left them feeling devastated. But devastation quickly turned to determination as the Bauman family prepared to meet their little girl.
“I had an ultrasound at 21 weeks and something was showing abnormal with the baby’s brain,” said Christa Bauman. “I know ultrasound can be beneficial, but I also know that things can show up that aren’t necessarily a problem. I just couldn’t help but be scared.”
A second ultrasound confirmed Christa and Steve’s baby had Spina Bifida.
Spina Bifida means “split spine” and is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States. It happens when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column does not close all of the way.
“Our initial reaction, we felt like we got punched in the gut,” said Bauman. “It was a floating in outer space feeling, like the world was spinning and we were punched in the gut.”
Christa and her husband Steve quickly decided to focus on what they could control. They found out their baby was a girl, and while they went home with devastating news, they were also determined.
“We went home and cried and told our kids right away because we didn’t think we could hide it from them because I was not holding it together very well,” said Christa. “At that point we needed to start figuring out how to take care of her.”
Halle was born a couple weeks early and was airlifted to Minneapolis 12 hours after her birth. She was prepped for surgery to close the opening in her back to prevent damage and infection. Surgery was done when she was just 36 hours old. Along with her diagnosis of spina bifida, Halle was also born with club feet. Despite the challenges, from the moment Halle was born, her parents have learned so much from her.
“The diagnosis is not your child and diagnoses are really scary, but your child is not,” said Christa. “I was scared to meet Halle, which is hard to admit, but the instant I saw her, I was like oh she’s my baby. Just like all my other babies. I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time being scared. My love for her is no different than the other kids.”
The older siblings, Carter (15), Maddy (12) and Max (9) have found a special bond with their sister who is now 4 ½.
“Halle has had a wonderful affect on our family,” said Christa. “Her siblings all love her to the moon and back. I think for them, they didn’t know what to expect. She came and they were like, oh, she’s just a baby, and they didn’t see she was different. The difference is more apparent the older she is getting. It has brought out the best in all of them.”
Halle’s diagnosis has also brought about change for the family,
“We recently had to move as Halle was growing older and we realized she would need to use a wheelchair,” said Christa. “It was a process of finding a house that would be accessible enough that we could afford.”
Christa stays home, while Steve works outside the home. Before having children, Christa used to work for people with disabilities and says she’s now found herself in familiar territory.
“It’s been interesting entering some of the same systems,” said Christa. “I’ve always considered myself an advocate for people with disabilities; a friend for people with disabilities and it has come full circle in my life.”
As for others going through a difficult diagnosis, Christa has this advice to offer.
“Build a support network, let people who want to help you help you,” said Christa.
“You’re going to need a lot of help and it’s hard to accept that. It feels weak to need help, but allow yourself to accept help and be vulnerable.”
Christa has found herself doing this often, even recently as Halle underwent another major surgery.
“It’s been hard,” said Christa. “Even this most recent surgery and the complications. She had it in her mind that it would help her be able to walk.”
As she gets older Halle also has visions for herself and her parents are always trying to help her stay positive.
“When she turned 4, she woke up and said I’m a big girl, now I’m going to be able to walk,” said Christa. “She asks such precocious questions. She has expressed a lot of frustration and grief about not being able to do what other people do. I tell her it’s ok if you don’t like it, you aren’t alone. A lot of people have bodies that are different.”
By staying positive and focusing on the good, Halle’s parents hope it impacts her outlook on life.
“I want her to grow up and be able to experience all the feelings and look at the positive,” said Christa. “Halle is a very joyful, sparkly amazing little human being. I think when people meet her, they are attracted to her, which is kind of cool. Everyone that meets her loves her and remembers her. Her life has a lot of meaning and purpose.”
Halle’s family is always reminding her of the meaning and purpose she has, even when they face some tough questions.
“It’s been hard, even just her most recent surgery and the complications,” said Christa. “She (Halle) had it in her mind that it would help her be able to walk. It’s hard the older she gets. When she turned 4, she woke up and said I’m a big girl now! Now I’m going to be able to walk. She asks such precocious questions. She has expressed a lot of frustration and grief about not being able to do what other people do. We reind her it’s ok if you don’t like it, you aren’t alone. A lot of people have bodies that are different.”
Even as a parent the emotions can be a challenge, but the Bauman’s are always able to find joy Halle brings.
“As a parent you ask why did I get one made different,” said Christa. “I remember thinking why is my baby broke? But you see there is something to be gained by people in this world that are different. We might not understand it, but she’s wonderfully made. She has a contagious joy that most people wish they had!”