It is my hope that one day, this blog will be found by someone who has just found out their baby will be born with a cleft. When their heart is heavy and they are feeling overwhelmed, I hope this blog will give them answers and peace. This post is for them.
During my pregnancy, I was often scared and overwhelmed. I put on a brave face, and tried to pretend a cleft lip was no big deal. But really, it was a big deal. At least it felt like a big deal. I remember thinking how I hoped they could just fix it as soon as possible. I remember hoping I would still think my baby was beautiful. I wanted to be able to look at him and see him, not his cleft. I looked at countless pictures of babies with clefts, tried to picture what my baby's would look like. I tried to pretend that some of the pictures didn't scare me. I remember many tearful nights, crying together with Greg. It was a rough 5 months.
Now that I have my sweet Dallin here with me, I could not feel more different. After all the wondering of what it would feel like to have a baby with a cleft, now I can tell you- it feels totally normal! My pregnant self would have never believed it, but it's true.
Here are some answers to the questions I had:
Will I still think my baby is beautiful? Will I be able to see him, and not his cleft?
ABSOLUTELY! As soon as Dallin was born, I fell in love with him. He is so perfect to me. Dallin's cleft is such a part of him, I hardly even think of it. In fact, it doesn't even occur to me that he looks different than any other baby. Dallin's cleft isn't very severe (in fact, sometimes I feel like an imposter being friends with other cleft moms, because I feel like Dallin's cleft isn't that big of a deal) but even when babies are born with severe clefts, I know the moms feel the exact same way.
Will I be sad when it's time for his surgery?
I heard other cleft mom's say that surgery was bittersweet. They said they were so in love with their baby's sweet wide smile, they were sad to see it go. I really couldn't believe that could be true. But now, I know exactly how they feel! To me, Dallin's smile doesn't even need to be "fixed". I think it is perfect how it is! His lip gives him so much character. I know that his surgery is for the best, but it will be hard to see my little baby change. We have fallen in love with this version of Dallin. It's hard to imagine him any differently.
What will other people think or say?
I was so worried about what other people might think of Dallin. I was worried that I'd have to explain his situation all the time, or warn people before they see him: "This is Dallin. He was born with a cleft." I realize now, though, that his cleft does not define him. It's not who he is. So people see him, and I don't have to make excuses. He is adorable how he is, and I think others can see that, too. Some people ask questions. Some people just comment on his other adorable features. But everyone has been so kind. I haven't been offended or felt defensive. The other day, a lady came up to us in a restaurant and asked if she could see our baby. She looked at him and oooed and awed over how cute he was. When I got home, I wondered if she really thought that, or if she was just being nice. But I just have to realize that I love him and think he is super cute, and not worry about what other people might think.
Sometimes I do keep his blanket over his car seat, though, so I can avoid a million questions from strangers.
So basically, having a baby with a cleft lip isn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Thinking of his surgery in the future is still a little scary. I know it won't be easy to see him go through that. But all the other worries I had have been washed away by this amazing love I feel for my baby.
For everyone else who might be wondering. . .
I don't need to be consoled about his condition. It doesn't feel like a trial at all.
People can ask me questions, any questions they want, and I am happy to answer them.
His cleft isn't anything that I am ashamed of or wanting to hide.
I am scared of his surgery and having to see him go through that. I think I will need a lot of support during that time.
If you know anyone who finds out their baby will have a cleft, please send them this way! It really helps to have support from someone who has been there.
I think something my friend told me really sums up how I feel about everything. Her baby was born with a cleft lip and palate about a month before Dallin was born. I met with her for a play date when I was about 38 weeks pregnant. I had a lot of questions for her! One thing she said really stuck with me. She said that if she has another baby born with a cleft, it really won't be a big deal. It wouldn't be anything she couldn't handle. Now that Dallin is here, I feel the exact same way.