ACPA Family Services

Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Avery Anna Walther

Avery’s story really began the day she was born, June 10th, 2004. Expecting our 4th child and our first girl, we had no idea that Avery would have a birth defect. As she was being born, our kind obstetrician gently told us that Avery had a cleft lip and maybe more, but that it could be fixed and that she was beautiful.

We were very surprised, dismayed, and apprehensive, as we didn’t know a thing about cleft lip and palate and immediately needed information. It seemed like all of the nurses and doctors at the hospital kept telling us that someone would come and talk to us about Avery’s birth defects, but no one seemed to know enough to ease our minds and hearts.

Avery was unable to breastfeed, so she immediately learned to eat with a special bottle. When she was 5 days old, we saw a team of specialists that helped us with the information we needed, as well as further defining her specific defect: unilateral cleft lip and soft palate. They also prepared us for Avery’s first surgery, which occurred when she was 6 weeks old, weighing just 11 pounds.

Her lip repair surgery was successful and uneventful. She was much less nervous than her parents were! We were astonished to see her after surgery, looking amazing. Her recovery was a bit rough, as she wasn’t interested in eating for about 5 days. Soon enough though, she had made a wonderful recovery and was looking fantastic.

Her palate surgery took place when she was about 10 months old, in April of 2005. She also received ear tubes during the palate surgery, which is a common procedure for cleft-affected children. Both procedures were successful and uneventful. She was a real trooper and didn’t take much pain medicine at all after surgery. Now she happily rattles off D’s and P’s and makes kissing noises, skills which are impossible without a working palate.

We still have some issues with Avery’s eating, and though not severe, she doesn’t quite eat all of the foods and textures that a baby her age should. We know that there will be more challenges that we will face in the future, but we are no longer nervous, and we are optimistic about her future opportunities.

Many people seem to feel pity or sorrow for those of us with children that have birth defects. I am actually thankful that we have had these experiences with Avery. Avery makes us realize how lucky and blessed we are. So many people don’t even get the opportunity to have children, or may have children with more severe issues. Every day, we realize the gift that we have in our 4 healthy and wonderful children. Avery has helped us to remember what we have, and to put our lives into perspective.

Avery, now almost a year old, is a real charmer with a head full of blonde hair that catches attention everywhere. Most people don’t even notice her lip repair scar unless we mention it to them. She is a happy and fiery little girl with her own ideas and opinions. We are sure that she will keep her three big brothers in line as they age!

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006