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My name is Jessica Puma, but everyone that knows me calls me Jessy. I am 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. I was born with cleft lip and palate, and since I was three months old, I’ve had about ten surgeries. My mom told me that no one, not even the doctors, knew that I was going to be born like this. She said that when she gave birth, all she saw was the doctors taking me out of the room. Later, they brought her a book that contained pictures of babies with more dramatic clefts than my own. My mom didn’t want to hold me or look at me until a week after my birth.
As a child I never noticed that anything was different about me, but when I reached fifth grade, all the teasing, starring and laughing started. I would usually get laughed at by the boys in my class, and most girls didn’t want to be friends with me. Even my own cousins and my sister once made fun of me. No one ever asked me about my cleft, and even if they had, I know I wouldn’t have told them. I never liked talking much about it. I didn’t like going to the park or to the store; I always gave my parents excuses. I felt that wherever I went, everyone would stare at me. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I always wished the two scars would go away. I ask my parents why I was born like this, and they always tell me that there are many possibilities, but that they don’t know the exact cause.
When I entered high school, my parents decided I should see a psychiatrist. They thought that if anyone where to say anything rude or mean to me, working with a psychiatrist would prepare me to know what to say and do. They were right – there was this one guy who was with his friends, and when he saw me I heard him say, “Wow, she looks ugly.” His friends just laughed. I felt really bad and didn’t want to go to school anymore. My parents explained that there are people in the world that don’t realize how something they say can hurt someone and that people often say something without thinking about it twice.
I have had braces now for about two years, and hopefully I only have one more surgery left. I have always been scared of surgeries – every time I have a surgery I cry and don’t sleep for two days before the surgery. My family supports me and is there by my side. They always tell me that God is always with me, to protect me and make sure I don’t get hurt.
I don’t regret being born with a cleft; it has taught me a lot in life. I volunteer in a hospital, and there I have seen kids who hope to get better one day but have very few possibilities. Even though I was born with cleft lip and palate, it hasn’t stopped me from doing the things I like. I play on a soccer team, volunteer in a hospital and hang out with friends. The friends I have now are always there for me and always try to get me out of the house to try new things. When I’m older I want to become an orthodontist and help people like me have a beautiful smile. I know I will accomplish my goal.
Last Updated: Nov 22, 2010