The Beauty Inside Every Cleft Child
When I discovered at my 20 week ultrasound that my unborn daughter would be born with a cleft lip and palate, the feelings my husband and I experienced are indescribable. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the moment when the doctor struggles to find the words to inform you that something is wrong with your baby. But since that eventful day back in 2009, I am proud to say we have all come a long way.
The Start of the Journey
After dealing with the shock of our daughter’s initial diagnosis, my husband and I have to live through the pain of being advised by doctors that terminating our daughter was the best option for everyone. Being told to end your child’s life is a gut-wrenching moment and I have now gained a new respect for women who are forced to terminate their child’s life late in pregnancy. In hindsight, we made the right decision and decided to wait for a second option but I often wonder how many people don’t and just how many healthy babies are lost from the bad advice of doctors.
Our daughter’s birth in January 2010 was a joyous occasion for us but sadly not our extended family. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to share the love we felt for our daughter right from the start. Instead, there has been much negativity and hypocrisy from the start. And had it not been for the amazing work of our daughter’s surgeon, our family would still avoid her.
The First Surgery
Our daughter underwent her first surgery at just four months to repair her cleft lip. Handing your child over to some is so difficult to do and even though I knew she was in good hands, part of me wanted to whisk her away and run from the hospital.
Prior to surgery, I was told by other cleft parents that I would instantly fall in love with my daughter again but I didn’t. Instead, the sight of my daughter’s new face shocked me and wanted her surgeon to un-repair her. Thankfully we have a brilliant surgeon who did a brilliant job at initially I hated what he did to my daughter.
Our daughter is lucky enough to be under the care of Mr David Chong at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He is extremely caring and passionate about cleft children and has an innate ability to see the beauty the rest of society doesn’t.
David regularly volunteers his time for an organisation called Operation Smile who repair the cleft lips and palates of children and adults all over the world for free. I mention this for one reason: the youtube video “Changing faces with a smile.” In it David shows the world the brilliance of his skills to transform the face and smile of a young girl.
Like many people, I had little knowledge of cleft lips and palates prior to our daughter but since her birth I have faced an array of emotion from family and society. I want to educate the world about the beauty inside each and every cleft child. They are beautiful both before and after their surgery but sadly it only their immediate family that sees this beauty at the start.
If just one person reads this, watches the video and gains a greater understanding of cleft lips and palates, then my job is done.