It's easy to see why Ayla Summer Mucha has become a social media sensation – the little girl's smile can melt the coldest of hearts.
Ayla was born with bilateral macrostomia, a rare condition in which clefts form on either or both sides of the face. Because the corners of the mouth didn't fuse together when she was in her mom's womb, she looks like she has a permanent smile.
Her parents, Cristina Vercher (21) and Blaize Mucha (20), from South Australia, were stunned when she was diagnosed.
“Blaize and I weren't aware of this condition, nor had I ever met someone born with a macrostomia,” Cristina says.
The first-time mom admits that she blamed herself for the diagnosis.
“But after days of genetic testing and scans her father and I were reassured by multiple doctors that this condition was entirely out of our control and was no fault of our own.”
The facial deformity is so uncommon it only occurs in every 150 000 to 300 000 live births.
It's not just a cosmetic abnormality, though. It can also affect an infant's suckling and latching capabilities, which is why surgery is often recommended.
According to Dr Shuchin Bajaj, founder director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals in India, these type of clefts are most commonly seen on the right cheek and have a higher rate of occurrence in males.
In Ayla’s case, “the clefts result from improper development and fusion of the facial bones and jaw”, Dr Baja says.
Her parents are now considering surgery to help the baby girl.
In the meantime, they've taken to TikTok to share their little bundle of joy and educate people on her condition. But not everyone has been kind.
“Social media is a divided place. You can’t control the personalities of other people, unfortunately,” Cristina says. Some social media trolls have gone as far as leaving nasty comments such as "defected lips" and "it is not called a SMILE it is called a birth face problem".
“Yet Blaize and I have received just as much love and support as negative comments. I'm thankful we posted a video as I've spoken to a number of mothers going through similar experiences," she continues.
“We won't stop sharing our experiences and favourite memories as we're so proud."
Sources: Mirror, Daily mail, New York Post