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Cleft Lip: One Year Later

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I made it through, just like everything motherhood throws our way. Eventually we figure it out, right?

Angela Chee: When I went to my son's last appointment at Children's Hospital (at least for a year), it was kind of a relief. We've been going for follow-up appointments every month or so since he was 3 months old, when he had surgery to repair his cleft lip. It's such an emotional experience to sit in the waiting room, surrounded by children and their families that all need the hospital's help in some way. We've come a long way since I first found out my baby had a cleft.

It was in my third trimester, during a 3-D ultrasound. It was quite a shock, since my doctor never noticed it in the earlier ultrasounds. We didn't know much about it then; as it turns out, one in 700 children are born with a cleft lip and/or palate, and doctors don't know exactly what causes it. I felt sad, and I felt ashamed for feeling sad -- how could I be so vain? It's hard to admit, but all parents want their babies to be "perfect," right? But I soon got over the ego thing and realized I needed to focus on loving my child no matter what.

mother and child waiting in hospital

The day he was born, he was beautiful. I didn't even notice the cleft. It was also a big relief after we found out his cleft didn't affect anything else, and that he was a healthy baby boy.

We had forgotten all about it, until it was time to check him into the hospital. The surgery is usually performed when the baby is 3 months old or 10 lbs. I still remember watching the doctors wheel him away as the operating room doors closed. While his surgery was relatively minor compared to the miracles they perform at childrens' hospitals every day, it was still hard to know our little baby was going under general anesthesia and he was in the hands of someone else.

While the surgery only took an hour, the hardest part was spending the night in the hospital with him hooked up to all sorts of machines, and the month of healing that followed. He couldn't touch his lip, so doctors gave us arm braces to restrain him. It was a difficult time. It was hard enough being a sleep-deprived, first-time mom in the first few months, but having to cope with the surgery as well was a lot to handle.

But now, looking back a year later, I made it through, just like everything motherhood throws our way. Eventually we figure it out, right? But I still can't help but get a little tearful when I think back on our journey. He still has a slight scar, for which doctors say he may need another surgery in a year or so, but for now, I'd rather not think about it. I just want to enjoy my son, who is a happy, running toddler.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
John1256 July 19, 2009, 9:22 AM

Very nice site!

Melissa Clark December 10, 2009, 11:21 AM

Thank you for sharing your story. I’d like to share my reference for an excellent craniofacial expert who can help others as he helped my son Stefan, who was born 6 years ago with a cleft lip. Dr. Tae Ho Kim, of the NY Group for Plastic Surgery ( He is the Chief of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and the Westchester Medical Center and he runs his own site: Stefan today is a healthy happy boy and if I can help one other child, it will be worth it!!

Shoulder Pads July 27, 2010, 9:44 AM

A good clear cut answer and a great idea. But how do I post any work on this website is another question. The Foureyed Poet.

FSS Relief July 28, 2010, 11:50 AM

being perfect.

Immobilier Bretagne March 7, 2011, 10:28 AM

After I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any way you’ll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!

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