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Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Stefano’s Story

I got married late in life, at age 38. My husband had two children from his previous marriage, but we talked about having our own. We were so excited when we found out that we were finally pregnant. I was now 42 years old and a little nervous about all the complications I had been reading about. My pregnancy went so well, however! There were very little complications and I had gained just enough weight. The only problem that we encountered during my pregnancy was that I did not have enough amniotic fluid for my amniocentesis. As excited new parents, we had all the latest in technology performed. We paid for 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds, but we were never able to get a clear reading. The 4-D ultrasound is suppose to give you a picture of what your baby looks like, but each time they tried the baby always had his hands up covering his face. Each time they tried to do an ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby, he always had his legs tucked in tight. We had given up hope of finding out what we were having ahead of time. In fact, it was only on my last ultrasound that we finally found out we were having a boy.

On Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 11:16 P.M., our handsome boy was born, weighing 4 lbs. 12 ounces. When the baby was born, the doctors announced to me that the baby had a cleft lip, but that it seemed to be very minimal but they also were not sure what else might be wrong. They quickly showed him to me wrapped up and whisked him off to be examined. My husband went with the team to examine him, and all I kept asking was there any other birth defects, did he have all his fingers, toes, etc. My husband reassured me, that the cleft lip seemed to be the only problem. The next 12 hours were agonizing because I was not able to visit the NICU ward until the next day.

When I saw him all I could see was his little head and his lip, which seemed so out of place for his size. It didn’t matter though, he was beautiful to me and he was my baby!

Stefano was unable to breastfeed, and we had to quickly find the right bottle nipple so that he could feed. Our goal was to have him gain enough weight to come home as well as enough weight so he could have surgery. We finally took Stefano home after 7 days and began to prepare for his surgery, which occurred about 13 weeks later. I did feel a little sorry for myself at the beginning, I asked myself, why me, why my baby, but most of all I worried about what people would say. I didn’t want to take many pictures of him or show off my new baby boy. But, I then realized that Stefano needed to know about his lip and have pictures of his lip before the repair, so we began taking monthly pictures of him to mark his growth and beauty.

Throughout the weeks leading up to his surgery, Stefano grew into the happiest baby ever. He was always smiling, so much so that you almost forgot about his lip. Many people were kind, offering their stories about their experiences with someone they knew with a cleft lip/palate. The day of the surgery was scary; handing our infant over to the hospital staff was not easy. We knew for Stefano’s sake, this was the best thing we could do.

His lip surgery was successful and he is doing fine. We were surprised to see him after the surgery with a swollen face, but even through the pain he tried smiling. All I kept thinking of when I looked down at my child was how beautiful his face and smile would be after the swelling went down. His trademark now is his beautiful smile and his happy personality.

Stefano is a smash hit everywhere he goes. My husband and I are thankful for Stefano coming into our life. We realize how blessed we are with him and know that God sent him to us for a reason. Most people don’t even notice his lip scar and on some days we can’t see the scar ourselves. Stefano is almost 10 months old now, is a real charmer, has a million dollar smile with gorgeous eyes. He is a flirt and people stop to comment wherever we go about his smile and personality.

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006