She’s an internet star before she can even say the word “viral.”
Ayla Summer Mucha, an infant who was born in December, has become a TikTok star after her parents began using the platform to raise awareness for her condition in which she was born with a “permanent smile.”
Cristina Vercher, 21, and Blaize Mucha, 20, were thrilled to meet their newborn, but were given the surprising news that Ayla’s mouth was not “normal.” The newborn had developed bilateral macrostomia, an ultra-rare condition where the corners of the mouth do not fuse together properly while in the womb.
“Blaize and I were not aware of this condition nor had I ever met someone born with a macrostomia,” Vercher, who lives in South Australia, told Jam Press. “So it came as a huge shock.”
A comparative study published in Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal in 2007 noted just 14 cases. While it’s possible that occurrences could have risen since, the condition is still so rare that it was the first time the doctor at Flinders Medical Center had ever seen it.
On top of that, the ultrasound scans had not picked up the abnormally large mouth opening, which shocked doctors after they performed a C-section.
“A cesarean is an uncomfortable experience as it is,” Vercher said. “I was already in an overwhelmed state.”
The new mom said that when she saw her daughter for the first time, the condition was “obvious” since Ayla “was so tiny.”
“We were instantly worried,” she said, noting it would be hours until doctors informed them about the condition.
“This made the experience all the more worrying as it took several hours for a doctor to give us an answer,” Vercher said. “With this came more difficulties as the hospital had little knowledge or support for such a rare condition.”
“All I could think about as a mother was where I went wrong, especially when I had been so pedantic throughout my entire pregnancy,” she continued.
They were reassured by an array of doctors that it was out of their control as parents and not their fault as they waited for genetic testing to be completed. Eventually, the doctors diagnosed Ayla with the condition.
Macrostomia, though, is more than just a cosmetic abnormality — it can affect how infants function, especially with latching and suckling. Because of the impact it has on facial functionality, patients with macrostomia are often told to get surgery.
“We are yet to receive the exact specifications of the surgery, yet we know this involves a skin closure that results in minimal scarring,” Vercher said. “The challenges we will face after surgery are worrying as a couple.”
But the adversity didn’t stop the family from losing hope. A few months later, they created the TikTok account @christinakylievercher to raise awareness about the condition, in the hopes they might find more answers.
On their account, which has over 118,000 followers, they share heartwarming clips of Ayla dressed in a fluffy pink robe or giggling and smiling like any baby would. One video, which received 47.4 million viewsshows Ayla getting dressed in a flowery dress — and she was showered with all the love.
“She’s so adorable!! these baby videos are so cute,” wrote one person.
“Asking respectfully as a mom. Would you make more content to educate us on her condition than her I would love to learn more she’s beautiful, ”commented another.
“I just read on doctor Google that there are only 14 documented cases. She is so darn special. Be proud mama,” someone else chimed in.
But, like anything on the internet, people also make fun of Ayla’s face in the comments, which other TikTokers quickly shut down.
“Oh my looord. How cute are you!! ignore all those hurtful comments your little cuteness is just too sweet,” wrote one user.
“You are a strong woman, you have a beautiful daughter, I’m sorry to see those thoughtless comments,” said another.
While the family isn’t unaware of the comments, Vercher said she hopes others can “be kind and accepting of all people.”
“As you would hope, people paid the same respect to your or your children if such events were to occur in your life,” she said, adding that conditions “such as this” could really happen to anyone. “Social media is a divided place. You can’t control the personalities of other people unfortunately.”
But the family has received an outpouring of love that outweighs the negativity.
“I am thankful we left the video posted as I have spoken to a number of mothers going through similar experiences,” she said. “We will not stop sharing our experiences and favorite memories as we are so proud.”