Motherhood: A Rewarding Experience
Mother of Evie
It was around the 16th week into my pregnancy during a detailed ultrasound scan when my doctor became aware of my daughter’s cleft lip. I was in shock but I knew it wasn’t a serious condition and the doctor was very accommodating in letting me know my options and the pros and cons of having a child with a cleft. My friends were very supportive and I was lucky to have my family’s love and positivity over the next several months. Every time we went for an ultrasound scan, Evie would never let us see her face clearly, always turning the other way or shoving an arm or leg right in front of our view. So all we could do was wait and hope that she didn’t have a cleft palate.
As soon as I heard my daughter’s voice, my tears began to flow immediately. I don’t know if it was because I could finally meet this being that I had been carrying inside me and felt grow for nine months or if it was because this special connection had come to an end. I just couldn’t stop crying. Then the nurse showed her to me, this screaming little baby with a scrunched up face, crying so intensely that her cleft lip was stretched to its limit. 「Look. Can you tell me if it’s a boy or a girl?」 「A girl.」 She brought her face closer. 「She has a cleft lip. Do you understand?」 「Yes, I know!」 And I let out a huge smile.
I knew about the complete unilateral cleft lip and affected gum line but was relieved to find out that she did not have a cleft palate. It would be less for her to suffer through. My main concern was how the cleft lip would affect her ability to nurse. I was able to breastfeed but she did have some difficulties. Using a bottle wasn’t much easier. As for the appearance, I was concerned about the seriousness and visuality, but after she was born, it seemed to not matter anymore. Yes, my daughter is not physically perfect but she is in good health and it is the most important thing. Besides, she’s my baby and in a mother’s eye her child is the most beautiful thing in the world. You can’t imagine that unconditional love until you experience it. Evie’s full of personality. I came to love her smile, and all her exaggerated expressions. When she was happy, her smile stretched out wide across her face. When she was upset, her frown contorted her face to resemble the expressions of Japanese opera performers. I loved staring at her sleep in my arms and then seeing her smile when she woke. I took countless photos of her, documenting every emotion and experience. To me, she was perfect.
I think I was the only person who would miss her smile as she went into surgery four months later. My husband’s parents were anxiously waiting to see her new look, as they were hoping to have her visit the hometown as soon as she recovered. I, on the other hand, had already taken her out all around town and brought her to visit relatives, friends and colleagues. I was so proud of little Evie and wanted to show her off to everyone. Living in China and marrying into a Chinese family, of course I encountered many superstitious people who were negative about her condition and blamed me for it. Before she was born, I admit I was a bit worried about what others might think, but afterwards I no longer cared about other people’s opinions. It’s a condition that affects a fairly large number of children, it is not debilitating and it is not permanent. No, I did not cut anything with scissors while sitting on my bed, my family is not in construction, I did not do any repair work on the house and no, I did not eat rabbit meat during pregnancy. I didn’t care what others thought, I was blissfully in love with my baby girl. Taking care of her after surgery was tiring and it was heartbreaking to hear her cries, knowing she was so uncomfortable and not being able to make the pain and discomfort go away. All I could do was give her my love and show her that I would be there for her through everything. By now she has recovered from her operation but must still endure constant massaging and the discomfort from wearing the nasal splint. It breaks my heart each and every time to hear her scream but I know that I must persist and that in the long run she will benefit. Being a mother is not the easiest thing in the world but it is the most rewarding. I can’t imagine not having Evie in my life and that is what keeps me going.