In Stand Beautiful, international speaker and TEDx presenter Chloe Howard shares her story of overcoming injustice, battling self-doubt, and rising up to speak out, fueled by a powerful encounter with Bono from the band U2. Chloe’s story shows that even through brokenness and shame, we can venture toward hope, accept our unique selves, and share in our human experiences. Chloe boldly addresses the unlikely hero in each of us. Readers will be inspired to be brave, to speak up against injustice, and redefine beauty as more than what the eye can see. Chloe shares how faith enabled her to endure physical and emotional pain, spurring readers to delve into authenticity and stand beautiful.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Chloe Howard is on a mission to empower people of all ages to embrace their uniqueness and boldly face their beautiful selves. Born with a foot deformity, Chloe had five major operations by the time she was 15. Through her hardships, Chloe learned that differences are unique, bullying needs to be stopped from the inside out, and worth is most valuable when it comes from within. Today, Chloe is the voice of Stand Beautiful, a movement promoting the acceptance of self and others. She has been featured on NPR, Teen Vogue, and was recently a TEDx Speaker. She has been the subject of two documentaries and toured internationally with CURE.org. Visit standbeautiful.me for more information about Chloe and her message.
Read an Excerpt
Congratulations, YOU'RE HAVING A GIRL
EVERY YEAR ON APRIL 17, my parents tell me the story of when I was born. It's a good one — a story of hope and despair and the power of prayer. It's a good story because it's about not giving up. It's a good story because it's about miracles. It's a good story because it's centered around an unlikely hero. It's a good story because, halfway through my mom's pregnancy, doctors didn't expect me to be born alive.
Until then, everything about my mom's pregnancy seemed normal. She read What to Expect When You're Expecting religiously. She and my dad obsessed over buying the right crib, stroller, pacifier — everything. My mom says she puked a lot — which stinks, but is normal. Sickness aside, she was thrilled to be pregnant, and couldn't wait to be a mom. My mom. My dad was the same way; he would often put his face right by her growing belly (which soon began to bulge on her tiny frame) and sing to me. Everything was how it should be. Normal.
Halfway through a woman's pregnancy, a mom normally gets a twenty-week ultrasound. At California Pacific Medical Center, just a block and a half from my parents' apartment in San Francisco, my dad watched as the ultrasound technician rubbed the clear gel on my mom. My dad gently stroked her long, straight red hair, they held hands, giggled with excitement, all the stuff you see on TV. It was going to be one of those picture-perfect "put it in the photo album AND on the fridge" moments — until the technician hesitated. She paused the video on a still image, and clicked on the screen to measure. Then recorded her finding. Measured and recorded again. The technician left the room and came back a few minutes later with a doctor by her side. Not. Normal.
When the doctor picked up the wand to interpret the ultrasound for himself, he asked my parents, "Would you like to know the sex of the fetus?"
Of course they wanted to know the sex. Duh.
(It was a girl. They named her Chloe.)
My mom and dad looked at each other, hearts melting a little bit. When my mom heard that word, girl, images of dresses, and bows, and ballet recitals, and running in the backyard, and daddy-daughter dances flooded her mind. She looked at my dad, and her face exploded with joy. As my mom tells it, fireworks went off, balloons erupted from the ground and rose to the ceiling, birds chirped and angels sang.
Without pausing, though, the doctor professionally informed my parents that he saw what looked like two clubfeet and a hole in the baby's heart.
My dad is a visual guy. A picture passed through his mind of a deformed foot, of a child who would never walk. Because he'd been a college athlete, he figured in that moment that his child wouldn't play sports. The picture of his perfect little daughter changed in that moment to a broken, disfigured human. He didn't know what to expect. He didn't know how this could have happened — why they, of all soon-to-be parents, were the ones who had to experience this. Awash with a sudden feeling of despair, a single word pulsed in his mind: why? This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
My mom struggled to process the words the doctor had spoken. And like many desperate mothers who discover they're having a child with special needs, her mind quickly raced to imagine what she might have done wrong to cause all those problems. She took prenatal vitamins and got plenty of calcium; she rarely drank anyway, and didn't touch a drop during pregnancy; she didn't smoke or do drugs. She didn't even pump her own gas at the station, fearing the fumes would harm the baby. A little neurotic, but okay. She was doing everything right.
The doctor recommended my parents speak with their obstetrician before leaving the hospital. Even though the doctor's life-altering announcement would eventually give way to an endless number of conversations between my mom and dad, in those first moments, my parents were simply silent.
The obstetrician only confirmed that Baby Me had serious problems.
"I do see two clubfeet," she confirmed, "and also a hole in the fetus's heart." She continued, "I also suspect we might be looking at trisomy thirteen."
"What's that?" my dad interjected.
The doctor informed them that trisomy thirteen is a genetic disorder where there's extra genetic material in chromosome thirteen, and that children who have this chromosomal defect are most likely stillborn. Or born with severe birth defects.
My parents were heartbroken.
* * *
In the months my mom had been anticipating my arrival, she had begun to imagine who I might become. But like my dad's vision of a daughter who played sports, that image faded quickly after hearing about all the problems I'd have.
My mom loves Jesus. And always has. She's always believed that He is good, and has a plan for her, and that He'll show up. Always. But she had so many questions once she and my dad found out that I wasn't going to be a normal baby. She, for the first time, had doubts.
My parents, in their time of distress and confusion, were sent to all kinds of specialists, all of which referred to me as "the fetus." But it was when they heard the words, "You could interrupt the pregnancy today and no one would slight you for it," that my parents knew they had to just trust that God would pull them through this.
My parents wrestled with why this was happening to them. They asked all sorts of other people to pray for me too. My mom, especially, prayed without end.
God ... are you listening? Are you here?
It wasn't clear.
* * *
My mom's obstetrician had recommended that she have an amniocentesis to help my parents decide what they wanted to do with "the fetus." They could choose to abort, or they could let "the fetus" die on its own and my mom could deliver a stillborn. The options were, in my biased opinion, both complete trash.
A few days before Christmas, my parents returned to the hospital for the "amnio," a procedure where a long needle was stuck deep into my mom to collect amniotic fluid in her uterus, which would help diagnosis any chromosomal abnormalities I could have.
Onscreen, they saw baby me pull away from the needle every time they moved that massive thing around. And seeing me, "the fetus," hiding in the corner of my mom's uterus, moving away from the needle, mattered to my mom and dad. Because of their personal beliefs, my parents hadn't really been considering "interrupting" the pregnancy in the first place, but seeing me wiggle away from that needle confirmed their decision. Watching the monitor, my mom saw a little girl who was a fighter, a girl who was going to defend herself against any threat of harm. And she wanted to know that little girl.
Five days after the amnio, my parents got a call from the obstetrician, who confirmed that I did not, in fact, have trisomy thirteen. She sounded really surprised.
"I thought for sure this was trisomy thirteen," she explained. "But all the chromosomes are normal."
The doctor laughed nervously, commenting, "I guess you just never really know." But God did; after silly science experiments and tests and giant needles, He proved He had a plan that didn't involve an abortion.
On April 17, 2000, my mom became a mom and my dad became a dad.
My mom went into labor right after she got home from her final prenatal appointment and an hour after my dad went in to work. The story goes that my mom called him and said to "Get home quick, we're having a baby," and that my dad's famous words were, "Okay. Should I take a cab or the bus?" A cab would have been the speedy but more expensive option.
My mom calmly told him that it was okay, he could take the bus, and she'd be waiting for him. I mean, she was going to give birth, it was okay, everything would work out great.
He should've taken a cab.
When he finally got home, they drove to the hospital, and all was fine and good until it was almost time for my big entrance and my heart rate dropped. Everyone got super serious, because it meant I needed to be born real fast. They ended up — in a moment my dad refers to as "scarring and traumatic" — pulling me out head-first with forceps. The doctor braced herself with her leg on the table and everything.
Knowing about the complicated pregnancy history, the doctor grabbed the phone by my mom's bed and called the baby SWAT team. My mom didn't even get to see me before they whisked me away. My dad watched as the NICU staff hovered over me while they assessed me under the warming light. He always laughs disapprovingly when he remembers that they all looked disappointed that they'd rushed to get there and nothing was seriously wrong with me. Within twenty minutes, they'd all dispersed. I was a healthy baby — I was shown to not have trisomy thirteen, the hole in my heart had miraculously closed, and I only had one perfect little clubfoot. Go me!
I was wrapped in a little white baby blanket, topped with a little pink hat, and brought to my mom. She immediately fell in love with my wrinkled little hands and delicately formed fingernails. Nanny (my grandma) prides herself on the first to discover my seven little missing toenails. And when my mom finally unwrapped me, she discovered my one little twisted foot. The right was perfectly formed, and the left was wrapped around it like an envelope flap. My parents fell in love with my tiny wrinkled feet immediately.
My mother cried happy tears as she whispered in my ear, "It's going to be okay, Chloe Ruth. We'll get through this together." That's the picture that went in the photo album. AND on the fridge.
When I hear this story — every year — it always ends the same way. "God made you perfectly, Chloe. And He has great plans for you." It gave me my annual reminder that God was there for me before I even took my first breath. And that's pretty crazy to me. My whole pregnancy/birth story is quite traumatic, and maybe yours is too ... or maybe giving birth to you was the easiest thing your mom has ever done, but I think there's a bigger point. There's a reason I was born the way I was, with all the trauma, tears, and hope, and I don't fully know what the reason is because I'm not God and I can't know everything even though I'd really like to, but I'm interpreting it as a lesson in trust. My parents didn't give up on "a fetus" and they ended up with me, a wacky, weird, shy, courageous, loving, curious, not-always-right creature of a girl. I think there's a reason God allowed me to be here, and I think there's a reason He allowed you to be here too.
It gives me hope every time I hear my crazy birth story. It gives me hope that God will continue to be with me, throughout anything and everything I'll go through in life. Because if God could protect and save a growing little girl who couldn't even feel yet, it meant He would be able to protect and save a big girl whose feelings could get in the way of her living. It gave me hope that if things in my life got crazy and confusing and people stopped showing up as support, God would stay with me. Because He stayed before I could even defend myself. How unstoppable would we be together, me and Him? Pretty dang unstoppable, if you ask me.
A SECRET Superpower
THERE'S NO WAY AROUND IT: I was born with a left foot that was upside-down and backward. I have a toenail on my big left toe. And no more on that foot; just that one little toenail. My right foot is pretty normal, except that it only has two toenails — one strange, stubby one on the big toe and one more typical one on the baby toe. No one really knows why I only have three toenails, but I like to think of it as God's way of breaking the ice in that whole stressful birth situation. It's as if He gave me something to be like, "Oh, hey, by the way, surprise! I'm not dead and I only have one clubfoot, BUT LOOK AT HOW COOL MY TOES ARE." Not that I'd ever say that to anyone in a million years — it's a bit too flippant for my taste — but I like to think that my toes are there for me to share, if I want to.
I had my first surgery when I was just six months old. And unfortunately, it really didn't do much except freeze my foot, so even today I can barely point and flex it. I wasn't even a year old, and my foot's functionality had already been significantly diminished. Not ideal.
When I was one, we moved to Seattle for my dad's job. Seattle Children's Hospital was using the newest method for treating clubfeet, called the Ponseti method, so of course we had to see what that was all about. Because kid's bones are so malleable, the Ponseti method uses casting and braces to re-form the foot as the child grows.
Because we were #teamponseti, each evening at bedtime, for three years, my parents strapped me into my "night-night" shoes, which were little white leather lace-up boots that screwed onto a thick metal bar. The brace was supposed to turn my feet outward to straighten my clubfoot, and the doctors were hopeful that it would work. It didn't.
As a result, I had my second major surgery when I turned three, where those poor doctors tried a tendon transfer to fix what had been done in the first surgery. The procedure was actually on my birthday, so the nurses gave me presents: a Barbie doll, a stuffed lamb, and a doctor's kit. There was a therapy dog, a border collie, who laid on a special table set up next to my hospital bed so I could pet him. While that was awesome, I was also in an incredible amount of pain. Because all the nerve endings in the body end in your feet, and because cutting into bone makes for deep, deep pain, foot surgery can be one of the most painful kinds of surgeries to have. Lucky me.
* * *
Despite being obviously different, and the pain it sometimes caused me, I didn't grow up ashamed of my foot. For as long as I can remember, my parents told me that my foot made me special. And I believed them (because your parents are always right. Duh.). Honestly, growing up, I felt like I had a superpower — that there was something secret and unique about me that no one else had, that only I had the power to share with others. It was, in so many ways, my superpower. Only mine. I was different — and boy, was I proud.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time doing things differently. I had my own way of living, and I loved it. I watched cartoons with the cast technician. I had Daddy-Daughter Dates to go see my surgeon. And I wore so many casts: blue ones, purple ones, all sorts of casts. To me, it was great. I did everything in those things. I drew chalk on the sidewalks, I did art, I had Barbie Princess Pony Teaparties, and I hunted for Easter eggs. Heck, I dragged that purple cast around to look for eggs like no one's business. I rocked the cast life.
In a way, casts even became part of my super-powered armor for a while. When I started kindergarten, my doctor tried another round of casting to see if my foot (which was determined to continue to curve) would flatten out more. It had grown very rigid, and it was getting hard to use as a foot. (I'm sure it would've made for a good golf club or baseball bat or something else hard and unmoving and very un-footlike.) This meant that a few months after my first day in school, I had to show up with a cast. And I chose pink because I was deep into my princess/pony/Barbie phase, and pink was THE magical princess/pony/Barbie color. And, of course, I was an instant celebrity because of my pink cast. My fellow kindergarteners were amazed and jealous, and I loved the attention. Tucker, who was two at the time, thought he would like a cast too, thank you very much, so Mom and Dad wrapped his little leg up with an Ace bandage and told him he had to sit still, because that's part of the job. But after 170 seconds, he didn't like that very much, and decided the cast life was not for him. As I like to say, I did not choose the cast life; the cast life chose me. I decided casts were not for the weak of heart, and therefore my pink cast made me a warrior and a hero.
And because I was used to hospitals, doctors, needles, and pain, I was an expert caregiver to baby Tucker. He hated getting shots, and when he fell down he would always need a bandage As Soon As Humanly Possible. I became a little nurse to him when he was ill or sad, and would make sure he had Turtle and Bear (his special stuffed animals with very creative names), his blankie, as well as a sippy cup full of juice and a snack of fishies. I would sit next to him on the floor and watch his favorite movie, Finding Nemo, patting his little blond head every now and then. I liked taking care of people, and realized I wanted to be a doctor someday — a pediatric orthopedic surgeon like all the ones that'd helped me. It just made sense. When people started asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, I stopped saying "a Barbie princess pony vet" and started saying "a pediatric orthopedic surgeon." And that was my answer for a very long time.
Excerpted from "Stand Beautiful"
Copyright © 2018 Chloe Howard.
Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Congratulations, You're Having a Girl 25
Chapter 2 A Secret Superpower 35
Chapter 3 School of My Dreams 47
Chapter 4 "Victim" 55
Chapter 5 Invisible 65
Chapter 6 All the Bad Things 83
Chapter 7 VIP to VIP 93
Chapter 8 Heard 105
Chapter 9 Barefoot at the New Vic 115
Chapter 10 The Beginning of Now 137
Chapter 11 Standing Beautiful All Over the Place 153
Chapter 12 Looking Forward 173
Afterword: Lessons Learned 185
If You're Being Bullied 195
Three Action Points of Standing Beautiful 201
Interview with Chloe Howard 205
About The Author 208