When Chloe Howard’s mother was pregnant with her, a routine scan revealed a number of birth defects including a hole in her heart and two clubfeet. Doctors advised the couple to abort their ‘less than perfect’ daughter.
Thankfully, for Chloe and the thousands she would inspire with her story, they chose to turn to God and asked everyone they knew to pray.
Chloe, who is now 19-years-old, joined Neil Johnson on Vision Christian Radio’s 20Twenty program to share her inspiring story.
“Four months before I was born, on an ultrasound I appeared to have two clubfeet and a hole in my heart. When doctors saw that, they assumed I would have Trisomy 13 and would most likely be stillborn.”
“So, doctors suggested that my parents go through with an abortion. Because of my parent’s faith, they decided against it and instead asked people all around the world to pray for me as I continued to grow.”
“I was born four months later, April 17 2000, happy and healthy. The hole in my heart was miraculously healed – a fact that still confuses doctors to this day. But I was born with a severe deformed foot – a clubbed foot. When I was born my foot was upside down and backwards.”
While Chloe’s parents praised God for their healthy daughter, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing since then. She’s had to have six major surgeries to fix the deformities of her foot and the problems it has caused throughout her body – the first at just six months old, up to the most recent one six months ago.
It was Chloe’s parents that instilled in her right away, that while she may not be physically perfect according to what is deemed ‘normal’, she has been created in the image of God and is perfect and beautiful just the way she is.
“Growing up my parents taught me that I was beautiful and that I was special, and my foot was unique – that I was beautiful just the way I was.”
“They did an incredible job teaching me that I was not a mistake, I was not an accident. God did not mess up when he made my foot, everyone is made differently and my difference was just easier to see. I think it’s so important for parents everywhere to teach their children that truth.”
My disability is not my one defining story.
While Chloe credits her parents for giving her the courage she has today to inspire others to ‘stand beautiful’, an experience with severe physical bullying at school when she was 14 left her traumatised. The physical assault she was subjected to at the hands of fellow students was so bad that it ended up going to court.
“I was attending a Christian high school and on November 20th of 2014, I was a victim of assault because of my deformity. I was told to take off my shoe, and I said ‘no’. I was told several more times, and I said ‘no’ several more times. My arms were held to my side, I was lifted up by someone stronger than me and my sock and shoe were ripped off. My deformed foot was exposed to a large group of my peers.”
“Some people hear my story and say, ‘Chloe it’s a bummer that happened to you, I’m sorry but I don’t get why it’s such a big deal, it’s just a foot’. But it’s my foot and my body and no one has the right to touch anyone without their consent, ever. This foot has a lot of weight to it. This foot and I have been on quite a journey with all the surgeries and the weight of what comes with growing up with a disability.”
“This moment took fourteen years of self-acceptance and love towards this foot my parents had instilled in me and completely ripped it all away within 90 seconds. As my foot was being held out in front of me, naked in front of these angry prying eyes, I remember looking at that foot and seeing everything I had always seen in front of me. The silver scars I have tracing my twisted foot, all the spots on the end of my toes where there should be toenails but there aren’t, all the bruises and permanent discolouration, I saw all of that.”
Chloe's foot which she has now tattooed with the words 'beautiful' as a permanent daily reminder.
“And for the first time in my life I recognised what I was seeing as something ugly, as something worthy of shame. I quickly grew this hatred within me for this left deformed foot. This day sparked within me this period of depression, of suicidal thoughts and of feeling invisible because these perpetrators, these assaulters had not listened to my ‘no’. I felt that maybe my words did not matter, so I quickly began to isolate myself from everyone.”
“I stopped going out, stopped seeing my friends, my body was heavy and tired – I was becoming scared of my own thoughts. I felt like God had left me truly alone and couldn’t possibly have a plan for my life. I remember saying ‘God, if you’re a good God, but why do allow these terrible things to happen?’”
“I spent months in this dark place, and it wasn’t until a pastor at my local church recommended to me that I read the book of Jonah that I started to see and realise that maybe God was with me throughout it all. It was such a hard concept to grasp that bad things happen and that such a good and just God could exist in that moment.”
A verse that really stood out to Chloe and provided her with the strength to carry on was Jonah 2:6:
But You pulled my life up from the pit, O LORD my God!
It is during our trials and hardships that we learn to lean on God the most, and as we come out of the darkness He uses our stories to inspire others. Two years later, at just 16, Chloe shared her inspirational story in a TEDx Talk which marked the beginning of her now career as a public speaker and author of two books.
She travels the world and uses social media speak out against bullying and to inspire others that no matter what seen or unseen disability they have, that they are beautiful and there is a God who loves them more than they will ever know.
“This faith that I have now certainly isn’t perfect. I don’t have all the right answers and I believe that I’m growing every day. I have not always had this faith. Yes, I was born into a family who loved the Lord. This terminology of God and His love for me has always been part of my life but that doesn’t always mean it was easy for me to trust God. "
"This journey has been really hard these past 19 years and I know my life won’t stop being hard. But I have come to find that there is beauty to be found in brokenness, and hope to be found in the dark and a future to be found in [saying] ‘yes’.
Listen to Chloe’s full 20Twenty interview which includes the story of how she met U2’s Bono.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.
Photos in this article have been sourced from Chloe's official Facebook page and website.