There was a pang of panic when I heard her, but she gave me no time to run any possible diagnoses through my head, as she quickly moved her wand across my bare belly to find our little babe's face to tell us he had a cleft lip.
I distinctly remember my knee jerk reaction was excitement. How neat that he would match his daddy! Just as quickly as I felt that excitement, it was replaced with fear and sorrow. Since that appointment in September, I have struggled to resurrect that excitement from within me, which is puzzling since a person's knee jerk reaction is what they truly feel, right?
Naturally I had an image in my head of what our baby would look like, and in a way I've needed to lay that to rest; say goodbye to the baby I thought we would have.
It was rough to be positive and optimistic about our child's birth defect, even though I know that with modern technology and the advancements that have been made in medicine, this diagnosis is pretty much the best one you can get in the Defect Department.
The added unknown of whether or not he would have a cleft palate added to much of the stress of my last few months of pregnancy, although I had a pretty good idea that he would. From the first few weeks of finding out I was pregnant I knew something was wrong. Naturally, I played the Worst Case Scenario Game with myself for quite awhile, to the point that I needed a priesthood blessing from Tadd. The blessing put my fears at ease somewhat, but there was always a small nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I couldn't rid myself of.
Call it a mother's intuition if you will, but it hit me not long after our 20 week ultrasound that my nagging feeling was the cleft lip. Something WAS wrong, I had known all along. Now, make no mistake, I felt beyond blessed that our little boy was not facing any health risks. It really put into perspective for me what many mothers and fathers go through in the last months of pregnancy knowing that their little baby would arrive with a chromosomal disorder, or a life threatening condition. My heart just aches for those families, only having felt a fraction of what they've gone through.
Part of me feels ashamed to have been so upset with the knowledge of the cleft lip; how dare I cry over something cosmetic? So many other families deal with much worse in utero and out. Couldn't I just be thrilled that the ultrasounds we've had revealed no health risks whatsoever? Yes, I can, and I was/am thrilled, but I've decided as well to be kind and fair to myself, and recognize that this is important and it does matter to me and my family, therefore I'm allowed to grieve.
I can also acknowledge that a cleft lip and palate is more than just a cosmetic issue. It means handing over my little boy to a surgeon time and time again in his childhood to be put under anesthesia and operated on. It means a lot of pain and hardship for his little body, and potentially challenges in speech and hearing. We are allowed to grieve for a time, as this IS a challenge, and something a parent never wants to put their child through.
Now that our sweet baby is here, with a wider than usual cleft lip and palate, we've had our time of sadness and grief, and now it's time for action. We have a job ahead of us. We've been chosen as this sweetheart's parents to guide him through these challenges in his life, to love and comfort him in times of pain and discomfort. We are to empower him, and teach him he is more than just a cleft and not to become a victim of it. We are responsible for teaching his older brother to protect him and be understanding of the road ahead. And we're feeling ready for this. Bring it.
2.5 weeks old