A Broken and Beautiful Smile

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month

This Spring our family was delighted to learn our Princess would have a surgery free Summer. This is a first for us. A little calm before the storm of orthodontics that will hit our household in the next few years. It is a chance to reflect on the amazing progress that has already been completed, but it is  hard…no, it’s excruciatingly hard…to contemplate what will be happening in the future-but it’s part of the journey…hers and ours. We are grateful for that

Sometime, in the early stages of our adoption journey, my husband and I had to make the difficult decision as to what special need child files we would be open to review. With the average wait of 6 years and climbing for  “healthy” girls from China, the special needs program offered a shorter wait and often included very minor or correctable needs.

After much prayer we listed the needs we felt we could manage and waited for God to put his plan into action. Flash forward about 6 months and we received that highly anticipated phone call and email file! As I gazed at that beautiful face I noticed her big brown eyes and smooth skin, her adorable ears and her gentle hands…I did not even notice her unrepaired unilateral complete cleft…it just did not matter, she was our baby.

Our Princess was 20 months old and living in the remote mountains of Northern China.

But what is a cleft palate/lip?  A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy, and this kind of birth defect happens more often than you may realize. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft — about one in 500-750 births. Sometimes a cleft condition can be easy to see because it’s an opening in the lip. Sometimes it’s harder to tell if someone has a cleft because it’s an opening in the roof of their mouth (called the palate.).

There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of birth defects. While some causes are still unknown, genetics and family history, pre-existing medical conditions, poor nutrition and exposure to harmful environmental substances can affect the healthy development of a baby. As a result, these factors could also be the cause of a baby born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. We will never know why it happened, but we will never know where her outstanding fine motor skills and dimples came from either…and that’s OK.

Our Princess after we met her in China, already charming her Mama and Baba

Cleft lip and cleft palate can be repaired through a series of surgeries and orthondontics.  While it can be corrected, it really is not an “easy fix”…despite what you may see in Operation Smile advertising.   Our brave girl has had 3 major surgeries and some pretty extensive speech therapy with quite a few more surgeries in her future…continuing into her young adulthood.

Her first surgery at Johns Hopkins

She is a spunky bright little girl who charms everyone she meets. She is opinionated and sassy with a flair for the dramatic. Her empathy has no limits. She is our joy and we are humbled and honored that God has entrusted her into our care.  It really is a miracle.


42 thoughts on “A Broken and Beautiful Smile

  1. My goodness but I never noticed this in her previous photos! She is such a beautiful child. THANK YOU for sharing this with the world. A young couple I know lost their firstborn at age one month. Amazingly it was to SIDS and NOT his severe cleft pallet and facial opening. But the young parents were afraid to share his beautiful face. So sad…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She truly is a gem! I come to your blog just to see her and her smile and have come to love her through your posts. God bless her and you for opening your home to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She’s such a sweetie, I have a nephew who was born with a cleft lip and palate – so much can be done for them these days but it is a bigger deal than we’re often led to believe – he’s had two surgeries and will have more later plus orthodontics and speech therapy. I’m so glad you found her and she will have such a wonderful life with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a testament to our surgeon’s skill and dedication. He is a self professed perfectionist. I can’t imagine life without her. I’m pretty sure your nephew is cleft strong!


  4. Thank you for writing this post. After all the posts I’ve read here and all the pictures I’ve seen of your sweet girl, this is the first I’ve heard about her background and her surgeries.
    Blessings to you, and thank you for this eye opening and inspiring collection of thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. She is and always will be beautiful and you’re all lucky for finding each other. Sending much love for her next surgery and the other ones she still needs. It can’t be easy, but she looks so strong and she’s surrounded by such a loving family too

    Liked by 1 person

  6. God has a way of answering prayers that is amazing! He has a better outcome for us than we can even imagine. God bless your family and may she get well soon! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a cleft lip and had no idea July was National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month. I’ve only seen a few other people with a cleft lip, so I’m surprised that it happens as often as it does. I’ve been through countless surgeries, so I know it isn’t easy. Best wishes for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are gorgeous and it makes my heart happy to connect with an adult who understands our journey. We met a few now and again but the procedures are amazing…you can barely tell. Our next big step is the orthodontist.


  8. Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #OverTheMoon this week. Each Hostess displays their own features so be sure to visit me on Sunday evening and to see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!


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