Since Shawntel Newton competed for a shot at love on season 11 of “The Bachelor,” she has since settled down, gotten married, and started a family.
In an interview where she opened up more about her personal life with Fox News, Newton talked about her youngest son’s neurological disease.
Newton and Paolo Poidmore’s son, Leo, was born in October with a neurological disease called Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS).
View this post on Instagram
We know Anthony doesn’t fully understand when we talk about Leo’s polka dots on his sweet face. But we definitely talk about it openly so one day Anthony will understand. I caught this picture of Anthony touching Leo’s face while he was saying “ouch.” I like to tell Anthony that his brother goes to see the doctor to help his birthmark and that’s why we see the cute spots. We tell him it doesn’t hurt his brother and it’s making him feel better. I don’t think there’s a perfect way to go about this but we think it’s best to be open about it even while Anthony is young. One day Anthony will be able to understand it more and will hopefully be Leo’s biggest fan and his protector. God created us all in His imagine and I think it’s so important to teach our kids that it’s ok when someone looks different. We need to show love to everyone. We, as parents, have such an important job to shepherd our kids. Shepherd theirs hearts! That’s where it starts, at home!
According to the Sturge-Weber Foundation, SWS “is a congenital, non-familial disorder caused by the GNAQ gene mutation. It is characterized by a congenital facial birthmark and neurological abnormalities.”
Other symptoms can include seizures as well as eye, endocrine, and organ irregularities.
Newton noticed it soon after Leo’s birth. Just days later, Leo had his first laser treatment and was put on medication that doctors hope will stop him from having a stroke.
The mom of two said she almost felt “robbed” of the moments she was supposed to have with her newborn son because they were told to find specialists to help their son with his development immediately.
She told Fox News:
“The pediatrician told us to get specialists involved and that our main concerns should be Leo’s skin, eye, and brain. I felt really robbed of the newborn stage when you just want to be at home, breastfeeding, snuggling and connecting with your baby. Instead, my husband was on the phone making call after call, finding a neurologist, ophthalmologist, and dermatologist.”
Newton also admitted that going out in public with Leo after laser treatment can be difficult because of the rude comments she sometimes receives:
“It can be a struggle when I am out with Leo after he has had laser treatment and people will stare and wonder what is on his face. The treatment makes his birthmark darker and there are red blotches on his face.”
The mom added:
“One time I had someone ask me if he had the measles. I cried after that comment. I try and understand that to most people he does look a little different but it’s hard on a mommy’s heart to hear things like that.”
Since Leo’s birth, he has had multiple treatments to ensure he lives the best quality of life.
View this post on Instagram
It’s been a good week so far being on the new meds and Leo’s little body seems to be handling it well. We upped the dose this morning and next week we will up it one more time. Sometimes I get sad thinking Leo has to be on meds at such a young age, and probably most of his life. However, I’m so thankful that he has these meds available to him and if we didn’t have him on the meds his chances of having a seizure or even a stroke are very high. These meds will hopefully allow Leo to have a healthy life and give us some comfort.
The laser treatments will help whiten the birthmarks and will continue up until he is at least a year old. He also underwent preventative surgery to avoid developing glaucoma in his eyes.
When Leo was first born, Newton said it took her some time to come to terms with her son’s disease. However, she now knows her son is strong and brave like a lion and that “he is going to rock that birthmark.”
Since opening up about her son’s journey, Newton admits the online support from other parents has been “crazy.”