It was October 12, 2009 when we went to the hospital to be induced. Our biggest questions of what Monte would like where about to come into our life. I had two ultrasounds when I was pregnant with him, and nothing serious ever showed, we thought everything was just going to be fine with him. My labor was short of the perfect story. After 18 in intense labor, and never progressing, I was rushed in for a C-Section. When my husband came into the room, and they told him to stand up an watch his son be born, he was already crying. I’m crying as I relieve this experience. It seems like yesterday, and all the pain is still so fresh. So, when Monte was born, my biggest concern, was for him to cry, so I could hear him. Then he did! That cry was angelic to me. In the same moment, the doctors begin saying “It can be fixed”, “Don’t worry it’s common, it can be fixed”. I’m laying on a operating table, cut open, not sure what they are talking about. My husband rushed out of the room to be with Monte. The nurses showed me his side that didn’t have the cleft. The doctor actually stayed with me in recovery the whole time explaining that Monte had been born with a cleft lip and palate. I had a vague idea of what that was,and he brought in some pictures the hospital had of other children that were born with this to show me. It was finally time for me to see my son. The first time I saw him, I just cried. I was already thinking of the hard journey he was going to have, the teasing, the blame I had put on myself. I thought it was my job to protect him, and that I failed. I had to be strong, so that my family would. They were waiting to see how I would take it, to know how they should react. It wouldn’t be until months later that I would openly share with the pain and hurt that I was actually going through. My husband would cry, I’ve only seen him cry two times prior, so he’s not very emotional. My mother thought it was her fault, that she jinxed us because she had seen an ad for Smile Train, and thought to herself that she was so glad this didn’t happen in our country often.
Three months after Monte was born, we were already approaching his first surgery. From birth we saw numerous doctors, cleft clinics, so we never really had a chance to calm down, and say “ok, this is it, this is our steps”. It was BAM, he’s born, BAM, first surgery. On Janurary 21, 2010, we handed our infant baby to people we didn’t know, and trusted they would treat him like their own. It was the longest 4 hours of my life while we waited to see him in recovery. When the buzzer at the hospital rang for us, I jumped up and ran into the surgery center. The walk to him was painful. Every light, every turn, every door, seemed like a lifetime. When I finally got Monte, he was a new baby. I didn’t recognize him. His wide smile was gone. It was beautiful, and all I could do was cry sitting in the chair holding him. The next 8 hours were rough. He was in pain, he didn’t understand what happened.
The next surgery wasn’t until after his first birthday, but that didn’t mean we had a stand-still. We had follow up appointments, hearing appointments, ENT appointments, nutrition appointments, speech therapy, plus the normal well child visits.
The week leading up to his palate surgery we were preparing. We thought we knew what to expect having gone through it before. And it did make it easier on us when we through the process, but it never helps take away the pain you feel when your not able to be there with your child. He was older this time, and saying “mama” as they took him away. He was in the pre-op room playing and smiling, and all we could do was cry, and try to hold onto any of the strength we had for him. The recovery, and everything after is much easier for me, the hardest part of surgery day is giving your baby over, and waiting.
Monte proved to be a trooper during both surgeries. I’d been told several times that these cleft babies are made strong, and I see it all the time. We’ve had a hard struggle, and it’s far from over. Our team has figured on at least 8 more surgeries before he’s 18. The hardest, and most painful still to come. I always thought that when I had children, I can’t wait to teach them, but it’s actually Monte who’s been teaching me. He’s taught me to love more than I ever have, to be stronger than I ever thought possible, and to accept more than “face-value”(pun intended). The occasional comments, and stares, do happen. The anger is still there sometimes, but I know it’s only going to get worse as Monte gets older. I think Monte is beautiful, of course I do, he’s my child. I would also like to make it a point to say that I’m proud of who he is, and what he has. It has brought me closer with other moms in our situation all over the world, it’s made me a better person, and I know it’s going to make him an outstanding man.