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Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Madgeline Paige Statzer

Truly a blessing from God!!

Our story isn’t really different from others other than it is ours. We hope it will somehow help others as so many have helped us.

Thanksgiving had just passed, along with my 36th birthday when my husband, Luke, asked what I wanted for Christmas. Knowing that time was quickly running out, I said, “I would love to have another baby”. This is a little unusual for a Christmas gift but we decided our son, Steven, then 6, could use a sibling.

On December 8, 2003, we found out that we were given a wonderful Christmas blessing. Our due date was August 18, 2004. We later found out this was the first day of second grade for Steven, what timing.

Things progressed right along until Christmas. I caught a nasty virus that had me in bed for nearly two weeks. I will always feel this is the reason I am telling our story now.

Once I recovered things were great. I was tired, easily sick, craved fresh lemonade by the gallon, and strawberries at $5 a quart and Sonic ice for endless heartburn. I felt so blessed and happy to be pregnant no matter what.

In February 2004, we had an elevated triple screen and went to see the perinatologist and geneticist due to my being “advanced maternal age” and high risk. We found out it was a girl!! Everything was ruled out … except a cleft. This was the last thing on the list. There is no family history on either side and we only knew one other person who had a cleft, a gentleman at our church in his 80s. It was felt that there was no real need to check further for a while and we were scheduled to come back in two months for a 3-D ultrasound.

Things continued without a problem. Our appointment for the 3-D ultrasound was two days before our 11th anniversary. We were going out of town after the appointment and decided that since we were going for “fun” that Steven could go with us to see his sister’s face. We did not expect any problems, so why not?

There we were in the room and were told that our baby girl had a cleft lip. They were not sure about the gum and the palate but were pretty sure about the lip. They could not get a good view as she kept her hand in front of her mouth most of the time. I remember hearing the doctor say, “Don’t worry, it can be fixed”. I told him, “If I’m not going to worry I shouldn’t be here in this condition. This is a child, our child. She deserves our love, concern and our prayer”. I remember Steven holding my hand and saying, “Mom, it doesn’t matter, she is my sister and I’ll love her no matter what”.

We left the office with another appointment in five days with another technician and another doctor to confirm the findings. We left the office for our trip not totally sure what a cleft was, what it meant for our daughter’s future or what caused it. We spent three hours in Books-A-Million looking up anything that even mentioned a cleft. We seemed to be in a fog, not sure where to go or what to do. When we came back home we searched the internet. Some sites were good, others were frightening. Due to our lack of knowledge we decided to hold off on telling our family and friends for a little while.

On Monday, brother returned to school and his teacher called me later in the week and told me what he had done. He asked to share something with his first grade class. He continued by saying, “I want you to pray for my baby sister, Paige. She has a cleft lip”. He proceeded to tell the class what a cleft was and that she would have surgery soon after she was born. He proceeded to ask if there were questions and then answered their questions. He made it a point to tell them that having a cleft does not make someone dumb, ugly or different. It is just a part of them, like some people have a birthmark or brown eyes. It is just the way God made her. It is not a mistake and it is not bad, quite a bit of insight for a six year old. I might add that this has never been Mommy’s baby, or Mommy and Daddy’s baby, she has always been OUR baby.

When you are pregnant nine months can seem like an eternity, especially in the long, hot summer months. But, when you know something is wrong it really seems to last forever. One of my biggest fears was that I would not recognize her first smiles. Having never seen an infant with a cleft, I could not imagine not knowing if she was smiling. I came to the cleft line and saw pictures of other babies with clefts and these giant smiles that even a stranger could recognize and I knew that I would know when she was smiling.

Telling our family and friends was easier than I expected. Everyone understood and prayed and cried along with us. Somehow I was afraid that they would think it was my fault, that I had somehow intentionally done something to cause this. There were those who said to be glad it was something so minor and easy to fix. With that being true, we were so relieved that it was not something “worse” but this was still our baby, and we were still afraid and upset. What we came to realize is it does not matter what the problem is, if it is your child it is devastating.

We continued to go for ultrasounds routinely and even paid for a 3-D ourselves to get a better look at Paige. We were never able to see her face clearly. One time she was actually breech and with her little buttocks facing the camera as if to say, “Just wait and see”.

On August 13, 2004, my doctor returned from a three-week medical leave. I begged him to do a Saturday morning C-section, as I did not feel I could wait any longer. I had to see her, I just had to know. Brother was a C-section seven years ago so why not. It was decided that we were to hold our little girl tomorrow. Sleep that night was nearly impossible. Knowing that in a few short hours we would know for sure. We would finally see her and all of our questions would be answered.

At 8:23 a.m. on Saturday, August 14, 2004, our princess was born, weighing 6 pounds 2 ounces, 18-1/2 inches long, with lots of long dark hair, a great set of lungs and a unilateral incomplete cleft of the lip only. God had surely answered our prayers. She was able to nurse fairly easily. She was so beautiful. She looked just like her big brother and he was so proud of her.

We started to prepare for surgery at about three months. This was the first time I had been away from her for more than minutes. Anytime you hand your child over for surgery it is difficult at best. But, knowing that you made the right decision is worth the worry and sleepless nights. I heard other parents say they did not recognize their baby after surgery and could not imagine not knowing my beautiful baby. However, my husband, my parents and I looked right at her, walked by and then asked the nurse where she was! She looked so different, not more beautiful, as that could never be, just a different beautiful.

She is now three months out from surgery and is always the life of the party. She just glows when she sees her brother and he adores her. He still offers to get up with her at night if she needs or wants him.

There are several sources of strength from which we have drawn from, and hope others can benefit also. For those who have shared your stories on the Cleftline, your stories were and always will be a treasure to us. Please know how much you have helped us. There are those who have shared their stories of their family and friends. I guess something that I hold very dear is a mom and a daughter who both told me their stories and have promised to be there for us in the future, and a new friend, Barbara, who is beautiful to all of us and to anyone else who sees her. We have met many new friends and have traveled to new places that we probably would not have gone otherwise. We have counted blessings that we never recognized before. We are truly blessed.

I had someone tell me that the way Paige will deal with her cleft and how she will feel about it is how we deal with it and handle others who may not be as kind. I know there are tough things in the future for us as she grows and especially for her, but I think she is on the right road by having a big brother who loves her so much, a family that loves her, a church family like none other and the most beautiful smile God ever made.

For others, just know that you are always in our prayers.

The Statzer Family,
Luke, Janet, Steven and Paige

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006