It's amazing all the misconceptions you can have about a condition until you actually have to deal with it yourself. Frankly, I never really gave a thought to what caused clefts. Until Miss Sunshine was born with one. And then I went through the most typical reaction of any parent who has a child with a birth defect - GUILT. Guilt is such an ugly word. But I blamed myself. What did I do wrong? I must have done something to cause this. Why else would she have it? Did I eat something I shouldn't have? Drink too much caffeine? Not take enough vitamins? Not enough exercise? Was it all the morning, noon and night sickness I had the first six months? It HAD to be my fault.
The reality is - it wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes there is a reason for cleft - genetics can play a part. But many times, most often, really, there is no rhyme or reason. It just happens. The doctors don't know why. They know it's a formational defect. They know roughly when, during the development process it happens. But they don't know WHY. Some studies have shown that increased folic acid before and during pregnancy (above what your typical prenatal vitamin has) can lessen the chances of cleft. But it's no guarantee. There are other medical conditions that are related to cleft, meaning that if someone has this condition, they typically also have a cleft. But they are another one of those no rhyme or reason things.
The way I see it, God gives us these children for a reason. To teach us something. To make us stronger parents, to learn, to educate ourselves and others around us about the realities of having a child with a birth defect. Whether it's severe or not, it still affects you as a person, deeply.
I would give anything to not have to watch my daughter have struggled with eating, to have to go through the pain of surgery and recovery, to face other potential procedures, to have to deal with speech therapy and other therapy down the road... but at the same time, I don't think I'd change anything about this journey. As hard as it has been for us to deal with all of this, as hard as it is to watch her go through all of this, as much as I have blamed myself and struggled with depression over it - so too have we grown. As parents. As partners. As people. As a family. And I don't think I would trade that for anything.