ACPA Family Services

Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Emma Radenslaben

My husband and I met when we were both still in our teens. We both worked at a local hardware store. It wasn’t long after we started dating that we found out I was pregnant with our first child. We got married when our son was two, and tried to get pregnant for three years before his sister came along. We found out in October of 2002 that I was pregnant with our third and final child. We were very excited and other than the usual morning sickness, our pregnancy was uneventful until Jan of 2003. I took my nine year old son with me for our routine ultra sound; he was very excited about seeing the baby and was anxiously waiting to see if this baby was going to be a boy or girl! The US tech told us we were having a girl, and you can imagine my surprise and fear when she told me that she had a cleft lip. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. My son wanted to know if his baby sister was going to be retarded! We were then sent to see a maternal-fetal medicine doctor, which is standard practice, to see if the cleft is associated with anything else. Nothing else was detected and we had routine ultrasounds for the next five months. I walked around in a fog for the first couple of days, and then I became a detective. I wanted to know everything there was to know about cleft lip babies and the whys and how’s that this could have happened to me. It took some time for me to finally realize that this is just something that happens. We haven’t been able to find this in either of our families.

Emma joined our family on May 14, 2003. She was such a little thing; she was the smallest of all my babies at 6 lbs 14 ozs, and in her true style, she came out with one hand over her mouth.(every ultrasound we did, she had one hand in front of her mouth). Even though I knew beforehand, I still wasn’t prepared for what she looked like. Where was my “perfect” little baby? I put on a brave, happy face for everyone that was there with me, but inside I just wanted to be alone to grieve.

I walked down to the nursery a couple hours later, everyone else went home or was sleeping, and I walked right up to the window where she was laying in the bed warmer, all naked and adorable. I had an array of emotions flow through my heart and soul at that moment in my life. She was so different than the other babies. Why me, why us, why her? I spent the next half hour grieving for what I didn’t have, what I thought I wanted, and mostly for what I was afraid she would go through the rest of her life.

I can honestly say that the time alone to deal with my feelings that I had been holding inside and fearing for the last five months was the best thing for me. I walked right into that nursery, scooped her up and we spent the rest of the night together.

Feeding was a difficult issue at first. We tried to nurse, then we tried a couple different bottles and finally settled on the Habermann feeder. At 4 months of age, we switched her to the Pigeon Nipple and she has been doing great ever since.

She is now 9 months old and is set to have her palate repaired in April.

I don’t question the how’s and why’s (anymore) of how my baby was born like this. When my other kids asked why, I had to think about it for a while. Then I told them that God had to pick a special family for this baby and he chose us. I told them he thought they would be a great brother and sister to her and that he had to find just the right people for her.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for her. I know that we are just beginning our journey with her, but I look forward to all the roads that we will go down together. She has made me a stronger person and she has taught me to be thankful for what I have, and to not wish for what I don’t have.

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006