Worry, dismay, guilt, love, affection, sympathy…these are just a few of the words that come to the minds of parents of cleft children. “Why” questions come along with all the emotions. The “why” questions come to cleft children as well especially as we get older. We wonder what we did to deserve a birth defect and all that comes along with it. Those of us that believe in God wonder if god loves us.
I am twenty-six years old now and with my age I’ve had plenty of time for pity parties, to scream, cry, think and pray. The outcome of all of this is that my cleft has been a blessing in disguise. I already know that some of you will read that last sentence and think I’m crazy so allow me to explain.
God knows my path and my purpose and he won’t give me more than I can handle, even if I think I’m at my breaking point. Although I’ve had many obstacles because of my cleft, my cleft has given me just as many blessings. The first blessing would be my speech teacher/pathologist Julie. Had I not been born with a cleft I wouldn’t have met Julie. While I know my cleft was the reason I had to have speech therapy for eleven years, it also put Julie in my path. She helped teach me the value of hard work and that persistence pays off, not to mention I did and still do some days want to be a speech pathologist and she’s one of the reason’s why.
The next blessing courtesy of my cleft is the Yahoo! Cleft Chat Group. I joined this group in January 2006. Most of the members of the group are made up of parents who have children with clefts. I gained a lot of insight from them and I tried to share my point of view with them whenever I felt it was relevant to do so. Shortly after I joined the group I began talking to a mom whose daughter had a cleft. The mom’s name is Robbi and her and I became fast friends. Her daughter, Maddie was twelve at the time. We stayed in contact throughout the years and finally in July 2010 I flew to Washington to meet Robbi, Maddie, and the rest of her amazing family. I was able to spend three or four days with them and when I had to say goodbye I cried. It was one experience I won’t forget. I keep trying to go back for another visit but plans change and lack of money sometimes happens, but don’t worry I will return, hopefully sooner rather than later.
The Yahoo! Cleft Chat Group also brought me in contact with Tina. Tina and I began chatting in late 2008. Her daughter was one and a half and had been born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. In the Summer of 2009 Tina and I had planned to meet in Texas but life happened as it sometimes does and we didn’t get to meet. Tina was rarely on the cleft chat group and I thought maybe I wouldn’t get to speak with her again. Then out of the blue in the early summer of 2010 I received a friend request on Facebook from Tina. I thought to myself “I don’t know any other Tina than the one I already have on my friend’s list”. I had a message from this Tina as well. The title of the message was “is this “MY” Rebecca??” The first few lines of the message made me cry, it said ” I remember you from the cleft yahoo boards. I have always thought you were amazing! I have a STACK of things you wrote that I hope to share with my daughter someday!”. I was so excited to see that this was the Tina from the cleft chat group! As fate would have it Tina found me because her and I have a mutual friend. This Facebook message lead to many more messages and then talk of finally meeting. Our first meeting was in June 2010 when Ella was just three years old. Since that time I see Tina, Ella, and the rest of their wonderful family two to four times a year. I’ve grown so close to them in fact that my sister usually makes the 3 hour trip with me and even my mom has gotten to meet the family.
You see, if I hadn’t of been born with a cleft I would have never joined the Yahoo! Cleft Chat group and never would have made the lasting friendships that I have. That’s not all, there’s more. When I went to Washington State in 2010 I also had another reason for going and that was Camp Korey.
Camp Korey (founded by Tim Rose) is one the SeriousFun camps. The SeriousFun camps were established by Paul Newman. During the summer several camp sessions are held for children that might not under normal circumstances get to go to a camp or that might be worried how other children will act towards them. At Camp Korey the disability or birth defect is the norm because with sessions like “Friends of the Craniofacial Center” and “Skeletal Dysplasia” the children make friends with kiddos that are going through what they are going through and don’t have to fear that they won’t fit in. I volunteered with the craniofacial kids camp session for the younger bunch. The memories that I made in that one week will last a lifetime as well as some of the friendships. I liked it so much that a year or so ago I applied for a position there, but I didn’t get it and that’s okay, it wasn’t where I am meant to be.
Through having my cleft I’ve met a lot of wonderful people not only through what I’ve mentioned so far but also through Facebook’s CLP Commuters, Tiny Wide Smiles doll clinic, and ClefTees designs. The last thing that I am blessed with courtesy of my cleft is this blog. I wouldn’t be typing this post or giving out information and (hopefully) a few laughs had it not been for my cleft.
I’ve said all of this to say, the cards you have been dealt might not be a winning hand when you start but don’t worry because if you play them right (by following your heart and loving yourself) you will come out a winner. I encourage you to try and see a silver lining, the blessing in disguise.
James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -NIV