This is a part of a series I am doing on my son’s cleft lip. I hope these posts reach someone who is embarking on their own cleft lip journey, looking for hope, and more of what to expect.
When Eric was one week old, we drove two hours to Boise to meet the surgeon. The appointment felt a little like a sales pitch. The surgeon walked in, took a quick look at Eric, and by quick look, I mean MAYBE two seconds. He handed Jacob a folder of before and after pictures and told us to look through them and he’d be back. Of course this was a portfolio of only his best work, and we were impressed. This surgeon does have a reputation here and he knows it. People travel from far and wide to have him perform their plastic surgery. I felt lucky that he was close to us and came highly recommended by our pediatrician and others we knew who had worked with him. After a few minutes he walked back into the room, took the folder back, and said, “So obviously this isn’t a problem for me.” Then he just stared at us, waiting for a response. Awkward. We had no idea what to say. I think I finally said, “Nope!” He took a picture of Eric and we went on our way.
The receptionist scheduled a pre-op appointment and the actual surgery for us. Our surgeon wanted Eric to be at least 8 weeks old before the surgery and gave us instructions to get him good and chubby. Eric was about 10 weeks old at the time of surgery and a solid 12 pounds.
One week before the surgery we had our pre-op appointment. It was a VERY short appointment. The surgeon took another before picture and gave us a paper with a list of instructions to prepare Eric for surgery. Mostly eating instructions.
In the weeks leading up to the surgery, I really tried to take in his face and enjoy everything about it. It is the face he was born with, perfectly imperfect and soon it was going to be changed forever. Before Eric was born I wondered if I would feel shy or embarrassed about posting pictures on social media. I wasn’t.
I addressed the situation head on. When I was ready to announce that I was having a baby on social media, I mentioned that the baby would have a cleft lip. Everyone knew and wouldn’t be surprised when they saw pictures. I loved his little cleft lip smile, and I wanted to remember it. I took plenty of pictures and shared them all the time. No shame.
Everyone was really polite and complementary. There were only 2 or 3 people that seemed really thrown off when they saw Eric. The first was the CNA who gave Eric his bath at the hospital. She just kept starring at him. The second was a new friend I had made and she really didn’t know what to say. You don’t have to say anything different than what you’d say for a normal baby. “He’s so cute!” etc… I loved when people asked questions! Mostly people asked how he eats. I’d honestly rather have people ask than just sit there wondering.
Next up – the exciting part! The surgery!