On Christmas morning in 2005, at our kitchen table our son asked a young woman to become his wife. It was the first and only time he has ever proposed marriage to anyone. We were thrilled and excited. On Valentine’s Day 2006, they announced they were expecting our third grandchild. It had been seven years since we had a baby around the house so we were happy regardless of the circumstances.
My future daughter-in-law and I become good friends through her pregnancy since her own mother lived a 1,000 miles and five states away from us. I felt honored to be asked to be her labor coach alongside our son for the birth of their child. On Halloween Day 2006, the doctor decided to induce her labor. Everything progressed along beautifully and at 12:26 on November 1st our second granddaughter was born.
We did not have any indications from the ultrasounds that our newest baby, Taylor Victoria, would be born with a cleft. However I feel in my heart that her mother had some suspicions that something would be different about this child because she had asked me to tell her immediately if the baby’s face was ok. When Taylor was born she emerged facing me and I saw immediately she had a cleft lip. When her mom asked me if her face was ok I said, “she’s the most beautiful baby in the world”. And she was – at that moment and still is today. Taylor’s parents were overwhelmed with her birth defect. My son was terrified that he would not know how to raise this child. Her mother was young and very unsure of herself as well.
They airlifted Taylor to a local children’s hospital which was two hours away when she was only 6 hours old. The four of us adults followed her. She spent six days in the NICU where the nurses taught us how to feed her, how to suction her cleft and how to render first aid & CPR if necessary. During that six days Taylor’s mom suffered from an excruciating headache due to being allowed up too quickly after the epidural anesthetic she was given during labor. After taking her to the ER at the hospital she was put on bed rest for 3 days. I spent my time between caring for her and spending time in the NICU with my newest grandbaby.
Taylor’s parents faced the long journey ahead of caring for a cleft child and one day to soothe their fears I told them that I believe that God gives special children to special parents. However, I never dreamed my husband and I would become more involved in Taylor’s life than just by being her grandparents.
Taylor had her first surgery at 4 months old to repair her lip. Both of her parents were at the surgery as well as my husband and myself. It was so hard handing Taylor over first to her parents then to the nurse because she had been staying with us almost continually since her birth. The surgery went amazingly and my little munchkin lost her “crooked smile to the smile fairy”. She stayed overnight at the hospital and came home on Saturday. On Sunday she was back at our house to stay.
Due to unfortunate events two weeks after her surgery my son got emergency custody of Taylor. Prior to her soft palate surgery which was scheduled to be done at six months of age Taylor’s parents signed over voluntary custody to us. Both of the parents were overwhelmed with her care and their own personal battles and they realized that Taylor needed stability in her life. I admire parents who can recognize their own inability and sacrifice to make their children’s needs a priority. So God allowed us to legally became the special parents in Taylor’s life.
Today Taylor is four and a half years old. Her journey has been a long one already. She has had six surgeries to repair her lip, nose and palate. She also has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, Insecure Attachment Disorder and a Sleep Disorder. Due to her wonderful cleft team Taylor is now receiving occupational therapy, speech therapy and medication. All of this is helping Taylor blossom beautifully.
My husband and I never dreamed that we would begin raising another child at this stage of our life but when Taylor was born she and I developed a bond instantly. As I rocked her in the NICU I knew that my life would be forever changed by this special little girl. My husband fell in love with her as he walked her to sleep many nights when sleep wasn’t coming easy to her. But neither of us can imagine now what our lives would be like without her bright blue eyes, her unique little grin and her flouncing blonde hair. But we both can imagine seeing her ride her first bicycle, loose her first tooth, go to her first dance and watch her smile change the lives of others as she has changed ours.
Raising a cleft child isn’t a chore – it’s a privilege and an honor! Parents of cleft children aren’t burdened – we are blessed! And love knows no bounds, when the smile of a cleft baby grabs your heart!