Proud Cleftie Mom

“Never let the narrow-minded people define what you and your kid can do and become. The world will always have downers but there will be more people who will choose to love us unconditionally.” – Dr. Chris Guzman (NCFPI Parent Volunteer)

It was never easy giving birth to a cleftie. I knew that my son, MJ had a cleft lip and palate during my 5th month of pregnancy. I was tormented with how’s and why’s, those questions were left unanswered. I was happy he’s healthy, but at the same time scared of what his future will be, how people would see him, will he be discriminated?

It was a roller coaster of emotions. I searched for well-known surgeons, and initially settled for an Oral Maxillofacial surgeon who did an obturator for MJ, but it failed. He keeps on gagging with it. I always end up feeding him milk through a syringe. It was ironic that my husband and I are dentists but we cannot fix our baby, we felt helpless.

Then Post Partum Depression kicked in, my family was concerned because I cry every day. My sister from Ohio learned about the Smile Train program and found out that they have trained doctors from the Philippines, she asked me to look for Dr. Glenda de Villa.

On MJ’s 2nd week, we went to OLPH.
I remember covering MJ’s face with his blanket and wouldn’t look at other people in the waiting area as I fear they would show pity on me and my baby, like what I experienced in another hospital.

But when the lady beside me talked to me and assured me everything will be okay, that MJ will have his smile back just like her son, I started to look around. I was almost in tears to see that all the patients there have cleft too, and most of them had their lips repaired. There was a ray of hope. We belong here.

Self-pity vanished after hearing stories from other mommies about their journey. It was so liberating to be able to share my journey with them too and made friends along the way. MJ’s Cheiloplasty Surgery was done through NCFPI when he was 3 months old, Palatoplasty surgery after a year, Furlow Palatoplasty at 7 years old, and Alveolar Bone Graft on his 10th year.

Dr. Glenda shared with me the difficult journey of most patients, and we would help out in our own little way, supplying mommies with dental adhesives for the babies’ obturators, sharing some snacks and eventually engaging our family and friends to hold a mini Christmas party for the patients. I would let MJ perform since MJ is part of the school choir, he sings and plays flute too; to give inspiration and hope to other children like

We also help out patients who need dental services prior to operation. It’s not how big your contribution that matters. Every act of kindness makes a big difference. No amount of charity is too big or too small as long as it comes from the heart. Whenever I feel upset with people staring at MJ and laughing, he would always tell me, “Don’t mind them mommy, I know I am loved and God loves me so I don’t care. Maybe they don’t feel loved and that’s sad.”

To all the wonderful parents, never fail to shower our cleftie cuties with love and affection, surround them with positivity. Let us be reminded that we are as strong as our kids. We love them, they love us back and that’s all that matters. You will eventually see your kids shine from within. Never let the narrow-minded people define what you and your kid can do and become. The world will always have downers but there will be more people who will choose to love us unconditionally.

Our family and I hold NCFPI dear to our hearts. To the special people in MJ’s life– NCFPI staff, Dr. Glenda De Villa, Dr. Xenia Velmonte, Dr. Bernard Tansipek, Sir Paolo Sison, Dr. Janet Pandan, who brought back his smile and gave us hope when he was 2 weeks old, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your gentle care and compassion, love, and dedication made a big impact on our son’s life. You are such a huge blessing to us, saying “thank you” would never ever be enough. My heart is full of gratitude, you served God’s purpose of being an instrument of hope and love. Our MJ wouldn’t be as confident and happy as he is right now if not for NCFPI. I pray that your legacy would continue, to bring the same hope and love to all other clefties.