We went in for our routine 20 week ultrasound on New year’s eve, 2009. Would it be a boy or a girl? Oh, how excited we all were to find out! We really didn’t care, just as long as the baby was healthy… A GIRL! ‘It looks like she’s healthy in every way… but…. there is one thing…’ Our midwife had the tough job of telling us that our baby would not be perfect in the eyes of the world. She would, in fact, be born with a cleft lip and palate. I just couldn’t believe the words I was hearing—it was like I wasn’t there. The only thing I remember saying out loud was ‘it could be worse.’ We were in total disbelief. How could this have happened to us? We left our old reality behind that day– in the form of a sticky note with the name of a plastic surgeon printed on it in blue ink.
The next couple of weeks were a total blur. I cried so much. How did this happen to our baby? Will I be able to breastfeed? How will we tell everyone—including our 4 year old? Then, day by day, it seemed to get better. I did a ton of research, REALLY talked about it with the people I trusted most in life, then I joined a support group. I started to enjoy my pregnancy again and loved feeling my baby wriggle and grow. I even began laughing again.
I woke up on April 25th, 2010, feeling VERY pregnant. My back hurt, my hips hurt, I couldn’t sleep. My body was done. My water broke that evening and we were off to the hospital to meet our little bean. That was when the emotional roller coaster began. I had held my baby in my womb for 38 weeks and was not sure I was ready to hold her in my arms yet. If I could have just a couple more days, I thought, I’d be ready… I asked my husband if he was ready to meet the baby and he assured me that yes, he was. I told him I wasn’t sure I was, and that I was scared I might not bond with her. How would I feel when I looked at her tiny face? When I knew that I’d actually meet my baby I really started to question if I could handle it. How would I react when I saw her for the first time? Would I secretly feel ashamed that my baby was different? How would others react? And so, so much more. Other moms of kids with clefts told me that everything just washes away the instant you see your baby, and I honestly didn’t believe any of it. What a ridiculous concept, I thought. How could something so devastating turn into one of the best things that has ever happened to me?
After just a few pushes, nearly 19 hours after my water broke, out she came! The relief– on so many levels– was overwhelming. Ruby Jun was born at 1:48 pm on April 26th, 2010. She was gooey and slimy and smelled like the earth and was more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined. She was placed on my chest and we instantly connected. I was finally face to face with this little person that I could never quite let myself picture. And, sure enough, everything washed away. She had dark hair, almond shaped eyes, ten fingers and ten toes, and a cleft lip (palate intact- surprise!). She was simply perfect– exactly as she was meant to be. Because I chose to have a natural, drug-free birth, she wasn’t all drugged out and I CERTAINLY wasn’t and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Everything that nature does to ensure the mother-baby bond happened. How amazing.
Ruby is 11 months old now and had her first surgery 8 months ago. She is doing better than I could have ever anticipated. She is happy, healthy and has brought so much peace to our family. I’ve learned that there is just something so special about these ‘cleft babies.’ Their little spirits are like no other and have a way of inspiring the love in peoples’ hearts that carry everyone through it all– strange, but so true.
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