Twins Christian and Dalen Lawler were born healthy boys on Jan. 20. Except in a rare occurrence, Dalen has dwarfism. Christian does not.
"Dalen was born at 8:37 p.m. and Christian was born one minute later," mom Christy Lawler told ABC News today. "Both of them, perfectly healthy, went to the regular nursery. I was looking over them and I did notice Dalen’s hands were different from Christian's. They were short, compact, and chubby and I said 'you know, maybe you do have what they were saying.'"
Lawler, of Fargo, North Dakota, said that at 32 weeks pregnant a genetic doctor told the 26-year-old mom of three that one of her children could have achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism that affects bone growth in humans.
But due to potential health risks, Lawler said she declined doctors' offers to perform amniotic tests that would reveal Dalen's diagnosis prior to birth.
"The tests had risks involved -- to him and my pregnancy," she said. "I felt that whether the diagnosis was that he had it or didn’t, we would still love him anyway."
On April 15, Lawler announced on Dalen's Facebook benefit page that he had been diagnosed with dwarfism.
"We were a little surprised, but we taught ourselves and learned as much as we could," Lawler said. "Both me and my husband have infertility issues, so we felt blessed either way -- whether he was average height or not.
"We weren’t afraid of telling everybody, close family knew about it," she added. "There's a support group I belong to called 'Parents of Little People' and I asked them, 'Do you just come out and say, hey my child has dwarfism? "So, I said it as if it was coming from Dalen. I haven’t had any issues. Everybody's been very loving and has had open arms."
Dr. John Garcia, a pediatric sleep specialist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been treating Dalen for sleep apnea -- a disorder that affects his breathing. Dalen was diagnosed with the condition at one month old.
“In the last 10 years I’ve seen 700 patients with achondroplasia and in the last year, 200, so it’s a large number,” Garcia told ABC News. “He [Dalen] was diagnosed and treated [for sleep apnea] in the same night."
“Now, with supplemental oxygen he does just fine. He has been a trooper," Garcia added.
“Mom is extremely resilient,” Garcia said. “That’s my first impression of her. She problem-solves quicker than most.”
Although she sometimes finds herself growing concerned about Dalen's health and social challenges, Lawler said that she and her husband Derek will remain positive for their son.
"This world isn’t made for people like Dalen," she said. "I am also a little scared about him going to school and maybe being made fun of. Otherwise, we want to push them both equally."
"I don’t want Dalen to feel that he can't do anything because he has dwarfism. I want him to feel confident that he can do whatever he wants without anything holding him back," she said.
The Lawler family has created a crowdsourcing page to raise funds for baby Dalen's surgical procedures that children with achondroplasia commonly face as they grow older.