You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on

This one is about: Finding Strength During Surgery

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     by Joanne Green
Surgery. How well I remember those days - - and yet how soon they are forgotten. It goes against everything in us as moms to hand our babies over to someone whose intent is to hurt our babies in order to change them. We don't WANT them hurt. We don't WANT them changed. And yet we know it must be - - for them.

It's hard to do, but we have to be strong. Our babies feed from our own emotions. We dictate to our babies what we anticipate from the surgery by the nonverbal messages we give them. And what do we feel? Fear. Depression. Helplessness. Regret. Not the gifts we want to give to our babies as they go behind the big doors.

I do my best to hold it together as long as my baby is with me. I allow my auto-pilot to kick in. I KNOW I cannot change the fact that there is surgery - I can only affect the way we handle it. I am loving and at the same time, very matter-of-fact. I acknowledge my child's feelings as valid, and the surgery as necessary - - and that I will be there - available to them every step of the way. Strong. Decisive. In control, not only of myself, but of the things that happen around my child.

And when the big doors close - even before I make it to our little room to wait, I give in to the tears. My baby is back there, and I don't like it. I would strike out at the world - the fates - anything, for making this necessary. But not at God. Because while He had a hand at putting the cleft there in the first place, I must acknowledge that He also had His reasons - - and I will not lash out at the One I am counting on to be there with my child while my child and I are separated. And so I tether myself to my child through an invisible umbilical of prayer and I wait - and yes, I cry 
- and somehow the time passes.

It IS so very hard. It is so emotional. But crying expends energy - energy best reserved to care for my child. And so, while I cannot hold back the tears, and while I do cry to cleanse myself of the frustration, the anger and the helplessness, I dry those tears and I concentrate on the task at hand - and that is to present myself to my child as capable, powerful and in control. Wow - - at a time when I don't feel any of those things.

It is my opinion though that my child will rest more comfortably and heal more quickly if he or she senses that mom is in control. After all, mom won't let any more happen to him/her than has to happen. Mom will be there and those doctors and those nurses will listen to mom, or they'll have hell to pay.

Maybe this philosophy works - maybe we've just been lucky, but my kids have all eaten well, healed quickly and bounced back with no problems. Three very different children - three different clefts - more than a dozen different surgeries. Same results every time.

Do I understand? You bet. I have been there. They are my children. I hurt -- I ACHE -- at what we are making them do. But it has to be done, and the bottom line is not whether or not we will do it, but HOW we will do it.

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