He paused for awhile... waiting for me to process his words. He then asked me if I was going to cry or if I needed a moment. I shook my head, that I was alright. He explained how common clefts were, that it was the 2nd highest form of birth defect (heart murmurs being the first). He explained that she had a cleft lip on her left side, but that he wasn't sure if it included her palate or not. He also wasn't sure if it was a complete or incomplete cleft (if it extended up into the nose or not). It was really too early to see those things, but was completely amazed that the tech was able to spot the cleft lip so well. He paused, asked again if I needed some time to process/cry. I looked at him, and the only thing I could think about was asking him if my baby would be able to eat/breastfeed like her sister would be able to. He shook his head and smiled, "Well of course she'll be able to, I just can't believe you're not crying right now. So many people come in here, hoping/expecting for a perfect little child..." I stopped him... "No child is perfect, I know this... we all have something. This is number 4 and number 5... not my first child... and you have no idea the amount of obstacles we had to overcome with my first child that we adopted." There was this look of relief on his face...
To be honest, over the next few days, I was processing this news... researching, praying, trying not to feel guilt as though it was something I did to cause this. There was so much unknown about the extent of her cleft, and that was the hardest part about it. There's only so much that an ultrasound can show you. We had one more scan before we left Oklahoma and moved to Washington, and during that scan, Baby A was turned around so there was no way of getting a good peek of her lip. It was here in Washington, at Madigan Army Medical Center that I sat down with a specialist after an ultrasound. During my scan, Baby A had her mouth open sucking and blowing bubbles, so it was easy for her to see that the palate looked to be "in tact"... from the picture she printed, it looked like her lip had a ripple in it. She shared with me about the support that the hospital would set me up with after delivery... that they would refer us to Children's in Seattle because they have the most AMAZING cranio-facial surgical team in all the lands. Researching continued, and I was completely blown away by the before and after photos. I was connected with other moms, that had experienced this whole "cleft" thing... and they continue to be such a treasure to me.
Out came Baby A on October 4, 2016... my sweet Josephine Lane. I had about 1 hour with her before I pushed her sister out... She was SO awake, looking at me as I snuggled her in my arms, she was the BEST distraction for the contractions that were picking up. Her eyes were what drew me in when I first looked at her, not her perfectly imperfect lip. Once they cleaned her all up and sucked all of her gunk out, they confirmed that indeed, her palate was fine, and that her lip was an incomplete lip (meaning, the cleft didn't extend into her nose). Days later, we had numerous visits with doctors and specialists... she learned how to breastfeed and we were told that she'd have surgery around the age of 4-6 months... we even met with the entire team that was going to create this "new look" for her.
February 24, 2017 was the day... We were given the date in January, and prepared our minds and hearts for this surgery. The doctor called it a "simple fix"... but in my mind, how could it be so simple when my little baby was going under anesthesia? The procedure was to take 2.5-3 hours long... and we'd be in the hospital at least 24 hours + for recovery. We were extremely thankful for my mother in law who so graciously gave up some of her time from work to come out to Washington to be with the other kids at home.
I spent a few days before surgery, just soaking in all of that little lip... I took videos, photographs, and just smooched the crap out of it. It's the face that I fell in love with, how she was created in my womb...
The morning of surgery, Josephine had her last nursing session at 5:30 am, and then had some formula at 7 to help stuff her tummy, so that she could hang tight until her surgery around noon. Keeping her content and happy before surgery was filled with lots of holding and walking around and bouncing… and right at noon, the nurse stole her from our arms to take her back for surgery. Her faithful brown bunny was allowed to head back with her. We received a pager… that would beep when the surgery started/ended or if there was any complication(s) in between. We roamed the hallways of the hospital, ate lunch in the courtyard, and made our way back inside to patiently wait for news.
Just about 2.5 hours later, we received word that the surgery ended and all went well… and we were to sit tight for the surgeon to come out to share details with us. We waited nearly an hour for him… but when he walked in, he greeted us with a huge smile. “All went perfectly, it was a simple fix… it was all there, we just needed to put it back into place.” … This guy was just about as cocky as plastic surgeons come, but… I think if I wanted anyone to be confident in their abilities, it would be a surgeon. He said that it looked beautiful, and that he had to straighten her septum in the nose as well, and built up cartilage. Hopeful that we will only need a little cosmetic surgery down the road, but otherwise, there wasn’t a need for anymore surgeries. I made my way back to see Jo, while my husband stayed with Mable… she wasn’t awake yet, but they were hopeful that my voice might help get her out of the groggy drug sedated sleep she was in. Seeing her for the first time, was something I was told to “brace myself” over… it’s like seeing someone for the first time. When they handed her to me, tears flowed… my sweet little baby’s lip was gone, and there was a whole new face to fall in love with.
We had a rough night… we learned how to manage her pain, how to clean out her incision, tons of comfort feedings, and sleeplessness. But the next morning, they were ready to let us go… she had fed enough, to pee enough, and everything was looking good. They were confident that healing would be best at home from that point on. SO thankful for that decision.
They removed her stitches a week later, and she’s been learning how to make all of her sounds, blurps, etc. all over again. Thankful that she was able to get off of pain meds within a few days… she still is a little frightened by anything that comes near her face. Hopefully, over time, she’ll let me kiss that new little lip of hers, because I’m completely smitten with her new look.