Finding Out: Cleft Lip & Palate (Part 1)

In two days I’ll be 33 weeks pregnant with Baby T. Let’s throw it back to when I was 20 weeks pregnant because that’s when we found out that our baby has a cleft lip (later finding out that it extends to the palate). I want to mention this because, 13 weeks have elapsed since I’ve had the courage to write this story – to put my feelings into words.

On March 18th, I was 18 weeks pregnant – we were so excited because that meant it was time for the anatomy scan. We’d count 10 little fingers & 10 little toes, go home & thank God for what He’s given us. We’d get to spend time with Baby T on screen, up close & personal for a lot longer than we had gotten to before. After all, it said online that these scans average an hour!

There I was, lying on the table – already upset that instead of seeing our baby, we were staring at parts of him. They were totally zoomed in & the view was almost like an x-ray. Every once in a while she would zoom out and I’d see him, swoon a little, then she’d move on again. Finally, she came to his sweet face… she wasn’t the most “motherly” woman & was already rubbing me the wrong way, so when she was taking photos of his face I didn’t associate the increased tension to anything other than a “feeling” & this lady having poor bedside manner.

She finished & I asked when we would know how things went because she was tight lipped. She said that our doctor was on vacation. She couldn’t even tell us when she’d be back! As soon as we were out of there I called to make my next appt & find out how long we’d have to wait – 10 days. I called Dustin & told him, “something is wrong.” He told me I was exaggerating the situation & that the lady just had a poor time empathizing with her patients. I was so upset, I called my friend Sarah. She is also pregnant & has given birth before, she’d know, she’d understand! She had to talk me off the ledge, but she did not dismiss my worry. She wanted me to call and demand another doctor look at his scan & let us know what was going on to calm me down. My stress levels were through the roof, we had just found out that my dad was entering a long battle with Esophageal Cancer. I decided to land somewhere in between Sarah and Dustin, that I knew something was wrong, but that I could wait to find out. So we waited.

At 20 weeks we went to meet with our OBGYN. The nurse did all of the normal things, then the doctor came in. She measured my stomach, asked how I was feeling. At this point I knew I was wrong, no way was there a flag on his scan or she’d have brought it up already. I wasn’t wrong. She said, “I’m so sorry to have made you wait, but there was indeed a flag on your scan. I will not be booking scans while I’m on vacation any longer – I cannot imagine wondering how it went for 10 days was any fun.”

“It appears your baby has a small unilateral cleft lip on his left side.”

A what? What’s that? A cleft? Isn’t that what kids come over from Africa to have fixed and they televise it for a TLC show? Is that even a thing? Where did my brain come up with that? A part of his face is going to be missing. A part of his face. It’s not going to be there.

Dustin spoke first, “Like Joaquin Phoenix?” The doctor didn’t catch it & she said, “It’s incredibly common, my dad was actually on the Cleft Lip & Palate surgical team for OU. It’s only cosmetic, it doesn’t effect him in any other way.”

Finally I admitted I had no clue what it even truly was, or what it would look like. They pulled up a photo of Joaquin Phoenix and showed me a tiny scar above his lip & the rest is a blur. I don’t remember anything except getting in my car & staring out of my front windshield in the parking lot. Then I jumped, Dustin was knocking on my window – we had driven separately. I don’t know what he said, but he grabbed my hand when I rolled down the window and he was calm. I just started crying. Somewhere between him driving to work & my pulling it together, I Googled a photo of a cleft lip. It was as I thought, a piece of his face wasn’t there. I know now that nothing is missing & it’s actually just a matter of the lip not closing, but it didn’t look like that to me. My baby was going to be “different”.

Dustin was keen to let me know it could be worse, it could be an issue with his heart or his brain. That this wasn’t a big deal – he’d have a scar and as long as the palate wasn’t involved it would be easy. It would of course be sad to see our baby have to endure surgery, but it was truly the best possible “flag” that we could have on our scan. He’s healthy, he’ll be happy, this isn’t a big deal. Dustin is always the positive one.

I was a zombie on the way to work. I parked and walked to the office & immediately went to go get breakfast. I texted my friend Lindsey on the off chance she could meet me at the restaurant, but knew she doesn’t check her texts much and that I’d likely eat alone & try to process what I was just told. I ordered food and in walked Lindsey. I just started crying. In public. If you know me – this is very abnormal and unlikely to ever occur again. She got me some tissue & reminded me that Jesus was sitting next to me & it was all in His hands. Until then, I’d not even thought about God. About what this meant for my religious beliefs. Would I blame Him? Would I be angry with Him? Talking to Lindsey helped to culminate all those feelings & neither were true. Yes I was angry, but not with Him – just in general. I was upset. She checked her texts because of Him, she was there to start me on the right path because of Him.

Lindsey later sent me the following bible verse:


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

If you’re walking this same path. If you just found out your baby is going to be “different” in any way – I hope this verse gives you the comfort that it gave me. I have a tendency to need to understand, without understanding that it’s not a need, but a want. That I cannot control these things, that they are outside of my Google search engine capabilities. Seek God, He is here. He is waiting. I leave you with this:


God will give you too much to handle. That’s where you’ll find him.

Pastor Craig Groeschel

Note: We did go to the High Risk Perinatal Clinic a couple of weeks later for a more in-depth ultrasound. They confirmed the unilateral cleft lip on his left side. They didn’t think the palate was affected. At this point, we had come to terms with everything. We were happy (we are happy) & we felt prepared. We scheduled another appointment at 32 weeks to take a better look. Here, we found out about our baby’s cleft palate. Part 2 of this post will detail that side of things, the confusion of feeling settled and everything being shaken to pieces – yet again.

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8 Comments

  1. Chelsea
    June 25, 2019 / 1:43 am

    We are all praying for a safe and successful surgery (correction if that’s what it’s called). Your transparency is appreciated!

    Love and good vibes ♥️

    • Tasha
      Author
      June 25, 2019 / 5:25 pm

      Thank you so much! My prayers are something like this, “Please send us the best surgical team & PLEASE no more surprises, please. please. pretty please.”

  2. June 25, 2019 / 3:47 pm

    You are my friend are so strong and this is proof of what a great mama you are going to be. My cousin had a very similar thing happen with baby Kennedy’s hand. A couple of her finger didn’t develop fully and she was just like you were and now she is strong and she is seeing her happy and healthy baby girl’s face every day and she realized that sometimes different is the best thing! So much love is headed your way, you are going to do amazing things with this and through this and I can’t wait to see God use you!

    Xo – Courtney

    • Tasha
      Author
      June 25, 2019 / 5:27 pm

      Someone the other day mentioned the strength of a child that has to deal with being “different” and how that can bring your family closer in ways you’d never imagine. I’m clinging to that as our ideal. Your cousin sounds like one strong mama! Thank you so much for reading! Love you lots!!!

  3. Ashley
    June 25, 2019 / 6:54 pm

    I appreciate and commend your courage and willingness to share. I recently had my 20 week scan and found out that my baby has a unilateral cleft lip. It has been difficult to process and feels very isolating (especially when I don’t know anyone who has a cleft lip or has had a similar experience). This post helps me feel like I’m not alone in this. I’ll be praying for you and your baby. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tasha
      Author
      June 26, 2019 / 2:22 pm

      Ashley, you are absolutely not alone! I don’t personally know anyone either & so I took it upon myself to find my own community – I want you to be a part of that! I’m super responsive on Instagram (@tashatindall). Don’t ever hesitate to send me a message on there. I’d love to know more about your journey. We’ve got this!!!!! Thank you so much for reading and for reaching out!

  4. Nicole
    June 26, 2019 / 2:14 am

    I remember that grief all too well, except we found out about our daughter’s cleft when she was born. Our family was eagerly waiting in the waiting room close by, and we were all so excited to see that perfect little face!

    Everything felt wrong when I saw her. It’s painful to write it, but all I could think was “no, that can’t be my baby”.

    You will own this journey and are already miles ahead by sharing with others. Your baby will bring you so much joy, teach you tons, and will be BEAUTIFUL!

    Hugs momma! You’re not alone!

    • Tasha
      Author
      June 26, 2019 / 2:19 pm

      Nicole – I appreciate that transparency + honesty. It’s easy to gloss over the painful things we feel, but I think it’s important to talk about it! Also, I’m sure you don’t feel wrong when you look at her now 🙂 She’s lucky to have you as a mommy. Thank you so much for reading and thank you DOUBLE for the encouragement! We can all do this together!!!

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