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Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Manaia Benjamin Ala

Hello. My name is Evalani Ala & I am a proud mother of two beautiful boys. My second son, now 6 months old, was born with a cleft lip, partial cleft palate & a very crooked nose. Here is our story.

In July of 2005, I went to have my 20-week sonogram for my second son. We were so excited. We couldn’t wait to find whether we were having a boy or a girl. As the exam took place, everything seemed good. The nurse left and said that the doctor was going to come in and talk to us about the sonogram. The doctor came in and said that all of the organs, brain, heart, etc., looked great and that we were going to have another boy. There was one thing, however, he was going to be born with a cleft lip and possibly a cleft palate.

I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t cry, at first anyway, but I was in a state of shock when the doctor was explaining to me what it was, and how it would be repaired. I don’t think that I even really heard anything she said for the hour she spoke with us because I was so shocked. As my husband and I were walking to the car it hit me. I broke down in the parking lot and just cried as my husband tried to comfort me. I cried the whole way home as my mind was racing. I felt sorry for us at first. Why us? What did I do wrong? What is everyone else going to say or think? How is my family going to react to this? A million plus questions were just racing through my mind.

As the weeks went on, I researched cleft lip and palate to find out as much possible information as I could. We met with a genetic counselor and she assured us that nothing I did made this happen. She talked to us about statistics and about corrective surgeries. I had an amniocentesis to see about any other possible birth defects and everything was clear. After finding all the information I could, I felt a little better, but was still so anxious to see our little one’s precious face.

November 3rd, 2005, labor was induced at midnight and by 5pm we saw our beautiful baby boy. He was a perfect 7lbs 6oz and 19in long. He was born with a cleft lip & partial cleft palate. I was afraid to look at first when the doctor put him up on my chest, but I gently turned him over towards me and instantly fell in love with his beautiful eyes and smile as he gazed up at me with such innocence. I knew that we had picked the perfect name for him, Manaia (Mah-nye-ah) Benjamin Ala, meaning “beautiful” in the Samoan language.

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Every day when I look at him I cannot imagine having him any other way. If I had the chance to do it all over again- and pick to have his lip normal or the way it was- I would 150% have it the way it was. I loved to look at his little smile and I actually didn’t notice the split after about a week. To us he was our second gift from heaven.

As his surgery approached I grew nervous. I started thinking of worst-case scenarios every hour of the day. I didn’t want to change the beautiful face of my baby, but I knew that it was for the better.

Last Updated: Aug 8, 2006