When I first found out I was pregnant AGAIN I was immediately stressed out. At the time my daughter was only seven, and I had just had a baby boy who, at the time, was only four months old. I wondered how I was going to juggle an extra infant into our family equation when I was already extending myself so much with just the two children I had. It was a lot to take in, but I knew in my heart I could make it all work. Due to pre-existing blood pressure issues I had I was urged to stay on a medication called Metroprolol and with the back to back pregnancies I was told I would be monitored closely and more than likely would have several ultrasounds done through my pregnancy.
My first ultrasound was done about 14 weeks into my pregnancy. They gave me an accurate due date (January 24, 2011) and confirmed that my baby was healthy. I was disappointed I did not learn the sex, but was extremely excited my baby was doing so well! They set up a repeat ultrasound that would be done at the 24 week mark to ensure the growth was consistent and some of the organs that hadn’t fully developed yet were doing their jobs correctly.
I will never forget the day I went for my “routine” 24 week ultrasound. We had several people cramped into the ultrasound exam room including my fiancé, his mother, his sister, and my two children. We were more excited to finally find out the sex of the baby than anything. The exam lasted about 40 minutes. It was a baby boy, he was healthy, growing properly, but for some odd reason he refused to show his face. Our wonderful tech asked if we would like better profile shots to take home and of course I said yes! She started turning me side to side and even shook my big old belly a little bit. Suddenly, to the delight of the tech, he moved his hand down and his little face showed on the screen. All of a sudden our “bubbly” tech got extremely quiet and immediately started hitting keys on the ultrasound station. Her whole body language changed and a wave of panic set in over me. I knew something was very wrong, but was frozen in fear, too afraid to speak or ask any questions.
About a minute passed in the room with nothing but the sound of her tapping keys. She then pulled up one of the ultrasound pictures she had taken of my son’s face the large screen TV. “I’m just the tech, but I’m seeing a cleft in your son’s lip and I need to call in our doctor to verify what I’m seeing. He’s going to want to see for himself and more than likely exam you again as well.” I remember biting the inside of my cheek so hard in a vain attempt to not cry in front of my family and tech. I was ashamed I even wanted to cry after all it was “just” a cleft and how dare I be upset my son would just look different?
Through my whole pregnancy I was overwhelmed with guilt, depression, and anxiety. I was scared I would reject my own child upon seeing him, not want to bond with him, and of course his overall health including feeding issues he might have. I was also fearful of my family’s reaction to my son. Would his face freak them out, especially his brother and sister? I dreaded the day I would give birth, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to just get it all over and done with and see him for the first time. Thankfully, the pregnancy flew by.
On January 11th, 2011, Xander Eli was born early (37 weeks) via C-section with a Unilateral Cleft Lip, and a Bilateral Cleft Palate, complete on the left side, but incomplete on the right. My first question to his Dad was “How bad is it”. His response, “you will see,” frightened me. I was so scared. Finally the nurse presented him to me… the most beautiful perfect little baby whose screaming was like music to my ears. I couldn’t wait to get back to our room to just hold him. The first few weeks of his life were full of chaos. It was nothing but doctor’s appointments, trying to figure out the best method to feed him, all on top of the normal stresses of bringing a newborn home from the hospital, but we made it work!
Currently Xander is 7 months old. He had his first surgery to repair his lip on April 13th, 2011, and despite the cleft has thrived. He’s fat, healthy, and always has a smile on his face. We are mentally preparing ourselves for an upcoming palate repair. The hardest part of this whole situation is the knowledge my baby will undergo several surgeries to correct his cleft and require years of speech therapy and surgical revisions. Also, in the back of my mind I always fear the possibility of his peers rejecting him due to his differences when he’s older. With that said, I truly feel blessed to have as part of our family. He has taught us (especially my daughter) how important it is for one to look past people’s differences and see instead the similarities one shares with others. To some, Xander may never be perfect. However, to us (his family) he has always been perfect and will always be. I couldn’t imagine our lives without him.