This is the story of the Brenna. Who, after a difficult start to life, has been blessed with a wonderful mom and dad by her side.
Courtney and Evan Westlake live a happy life with their son Connor. They have decided to make their lives that much better with a second child. Like all soon-to-be parents, they are chomping at the bit to see the first ultrasound pictures. They are ecstatic each and every time they see new pictures, reassured that everything is going well. A few months into the pregnancy, they discover that they will give birth to a little daughter: Connor is getting a little sister!
The young married couple are overjoyed and begin to joke together. “I’m not going to braid her hair!” laughs Evan. The big day arrives and just a few weeks before New Year’s the little girl is born. All plans for the future are shattered instantly. Brenna, their newborn daughter, must be rushed to intensive care immediately. She isn’t moving, has an extreme temperature and is covered in wounds all over her body.
Brenna is suffering from a serious form of a hereditary disease called Ichthyosis. Her skin development is disrupted, leading to distinctive scaling and deep reddening on her whole body. Courtney and Evan are first allowed to hold their daughter 2 weeks after the birth. From then on, their daughter’s skin must be treated daily. Next to the physical challenges, Courtney recognizes immediately that it will be a hard emotional battle for their newborn daughter.
Wherever she goes with her daughter, other children point at her, make loud comments, or ask her parents rude questions. This makes Courtney very sad. And not just for her own daughter! She can understand the children, since her daughter is clearly different than the rest of them. But what she cannot understand are the reactions of other parents. They push their children away as quickly as possible, hold their mouths closed, and tell them to be quiet.
Courtney asks herself: “Why do they make the distance between us so insurmountable? Why don’t they take us as a positive example for learning that others look different, but it’s not always bad?” She wishes to be spoken to by other parents, to participate in their conversations about her daughter. She is unbelievably proud of her little sassy daughter, who doesn’t let anything get her down and is worshiped by her older brother.
The young mother simply doesn’t understand: “Why do other parents avoid conversations about people who look different? What are they afraid of? They could just come up to us and ask how old she is. Then the kids would see that everything else is normal. And when a kid asks why Brenna is so red, why can’t they just be honest and say ‘I don’t know, but it’s not important how someone looks. We all look different anyways, right?'”
Even Brenna’s father Evan is proud of his little daughter. And Courtney is witness to an indescribable beautiful scene between father and daughter. Evan bathes Brenna every evening as part of her treatment. Evan strokes her very gently, yet firmly, with a wash cloth over his daughter’s head, to wash her sparse blonde curls. He repeats the whole procedure patiently and steadily. This is the same man who said he would never braid his daughter’s hair.
Courtney enters the bathroom and together they braid their daughter’s tiny braids on the back of her neck, where she has the most hair. The little girl touches her hairdo proudly as her parents suddenly realize that their daughter can do anything she wants, even if nothing has happened as they imagined.