ACPA Family Services

Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

The Campbell Family

By Julie Campbell

On January 23, 2001, my husband and I found out that we were going to have our first baby. This was a BIG surprise! At the time, we were both in college. I was pursuing my master’s degree at the age of 23, and my husband (26 years old) was pursing his degree in Civil Engineering. Even though this pregnancy was not planned, we were very excited about it and wanted this baby very much.

We had our first ultrasound on May 2, 2001. It was such an exciting time! My husband and I had tears of joy when we saw our beautiful baby moving around inside of me. We fell head over heels in love! The ultrasound technician said the baby’s growth was just where it should be. She then sent us out of the room and called us back in for a second look. Her excuse was that she was trying to find out the gender of the baby, since we told her we would like to know. (Being the big planner that I am—I wanted to have everything ready when my baby arrived.) Of course, it was still a little too early to find out the gender. Looking back we realize that the ultrasound technician found the cleft and that is really why she wanted to take a second look.

That evening the doctor called me at home and told me the technician had found a possible cleft lip. I remember my heart racing, but I tried to stay calm on the phone. No one can prepare you for a moment like that. Even though the doctor explained that this was something that could be fixed, I was absolutely devastated! No one wants anything to be wrong with their baby. I hate to admit it now, but I really was not sure what a cleft lip was when I found out that my baby might have one. My husband was at a friend’s house studying when the doctor called, so I called him to come home. After he arrived home, we began our hours of research. Needless to say, it was a very stressful time for us.

When I first found out about the cleft, I thought it was my fault. Of course, I know this could not be true since I was doing everything right. I do not smoke, drink, do drugs, and I was eating healthy foods and taking prenatal vitamins. It is normal to blame yourself when you find out something is wrong, but I now know that there is nothing I could have done to prevent this. It just happened!

We have always had a strong faith in God, and we truly believe he helped us through this difficult time in our lives. Thank goodness for the support of our family. They also helped us through that time, and we will be forever grateful to them for it. We had a few specialized ultrasounds to make sure the baby’s heart and other organs were healthy. Everything looked great, and we were very thankful for that. We also found out our baby was going to be a girl. The ultrasounds did not show us if she would have a cleft palate, so we just had to wait until she was born to find out.

In the meantime, we researched our family history. We found 2 unilateral cleft lips with no cleft palate on my dad’s side. My dad’s first cousin (over 60 years ago) and my first cousin’s son were both born with a unilateral cleft lip and no cleft palate. It was a relief to find out that this was most likely genetic, because we knew the cleft was probably the only issue we were dealing with. I had a cousin who passed away from cystic fibrosis when he was 21, so anything not life threatening made us very grateful. (However, having a cousin with a life threatening disease has also shaped the way I see things. Our family would have missed out on a lot if we had never known him.) In the grand scope of things, I knew that God was giving this child to us for a reason. In some ways I felt special that God believed we could handle all of the challenges that come along with having a child with a cleft.

Through hard work and determination, I did earn my master’s degree on August 11, 2001 while 8 months pregnant. We always joke that our daughter earned her master’s degree also, since we did walk across the stage together. (My husband recently graduated on December 19, 2002. Maybe now we will have normal lives again. HA! Whatever “normal” means.)

On September 28, 2001 at 6:50PM, our long anticipated daughter came into the world. She was the most beautiful precious creature my husband and I had ever seen. We named her Jillian McCall after my grandmother. We had her name picked out long before she was ever thought of. Jillian is truly an angel sent to us from God. We never knew we could love someone so very much. My husband and I feel blessed to have such a healthy baby girl. We also feel very fortunate to have known about the cleft before she was born. It gave us time to prepare ourselves by doing lots of research.

Jillian had her first surgery (cleft lip repair) on December 6, 2001. She was just over 2 months old. I believe the surgery was much harder on us than it was for her. Babies are so resilient. After her surgery, a part of me missed her “first” beautiful smile. Jillian had her cleft palate surgery on October 17, 2002. We thank God everyday for blessing people such as our plastic surgeon with a talent for being able to work miracles with their hands.

Our Jillian is such a happy little girl. She laughs all the time and has the most beautiful smile. It is hard to believe all that smile has been through, and it has remained so beautiful through it all. My husband and I know we have a long road ahead of us. Jillian will have many more surgeries, but we will make it through them all with God’s help. We believe in taking it one day at a time. We want Jillian to be proud of who she is and the fact that she was born with a cleft. I feel certain that all of this will make her wise beyond her years.

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006