Emma got in touch with CLAPA to share the story of when she was told her baby would be born with a cleft, and her life since as Pip’s Mum.
The 16th August 2014 was a very exciting day for Richard and I. We were still undecided; ‘do we’ or ‘don’t we’ find out the sex of our unborn child, a big decision made by every new parent. Before we went for our 20 week scan, I had asked my mum if she wanted to come. As any new Grandparent would she jumped at the chance.
Having never had a 20 week scan before, I was completely unaware of the unusual length of time it was taking. I remember just being mesmerised by the black and white image of my baby wiggling around in my belly. It was only when the sonographer left and returned with another colleague that I noticed the fear in both Richard and my Mum’s eyes. After what then seemed like forever, we were told that our baby had severe facial deformities and that we were to be transferred to Kings College Hospital, as our local hospital were unable to deal with such cases.
Our world just crumbled.
A team of specialists received us at Kings and I was scanned, measured, weighed, scanned, and then scanned again. We were then told that our unborn child had a ULCP (left-sided unilateral cleft lip and palate).
Having no experience or knowledge of what this actually meant, you can only imagine how scared we all were.
Looking back the hardest thing during these early stages of diagnoses was the first question that was thrown at us:
“Do you wish to terminate?”
I remember the panic that ran through me – terminate? I can feel my baby in my tummy. He’s real, he’s here. Afterwards I cried at the train station with Richard and my Mum. I was repeating, over and over again; “We can’t Richard. We can’t. Please don’t let them – he deserves a chance!”
Richard stood with me holding my belly, our baby, and reassuring me (us) that we could do this. We could take charge of this situation and make it work.
Whether you’re expecting your first born (like me) or your second, or your third, all any parent wants is for your baby to be healthy and arrive safely into this world…
I wish I had enjoyed the last few months of my pregnancy but I hated it. I was so scared. Whether you’re expecting your first born (like me) or your second, or your third, all any parent wants is for your baby to be healthy and arrive safely into this world. My fear and anxiety was eased when I received a voicemail from a lady called Emma Southby. I didn’t really understand the message at the time but she said she was part of a Cleft Team. I reluctantly called her back and Emma & the South East Cleft Team at St Thomas opened up a whole new world, a world of understanding, acceptance, positivity, reassurance, answers and, more than anything, support. Emma was heavily involved with CLAPA and suggested we (Richard and I and our family) should get in touch with them and become part of the ‘Cleft Community’ family.
Listening to other people’s stories, hearing about other babies and children and finding out about other families’ experiences was such a comfort. We no longer felt scared. We were part of a community and we weren’t alone. It gave us strength.
For me personally, CLAPA helped me face my fears. The reassurance from other mummies that had been through exactly what I was experiencing helped me to deal with so many different emotions that were spinning around in my head – Was it my fault? Had I harmed my unborn baby? What had I done wrong? How could I have changed this? Would I be able to cope? Would we bond? – The list was endless.
Once I was part of the CLAPA Community I’d spend hours and hours reading people’s stories, looking through the photos they shared and wondering what our baby would look like. I began to feel excited again rather than scared.
Listening to other people’s stories, hearing about other babies and children and other families’ experiences was such a comfort. We no longer felt scared. We were part of a community and we weren’t alone and that gave us strength.
On the 22nd December 2014, at 09:30am, our baby boy arrived into the world weighing 6Ib 6oz.
Fletcher Richard Barry Pip Heather. The most beautiful baby I’d ever seen.
Yes, Fletcher had quite a severe facial cleft and the nurses shortly confirmed that his palate, both soft & hard, was effected too but he was our baby and the best thing we have EVER achieved.
To date, ‘Pip’ (as I actually call him) has had two major operations, needs a little assistance with his hearing, has some unique ‘appearing teeth’, and is a little shy – but he certainly doesn’t lack character! He is a caring, thoughtful, and beautiful little boy. Unfortunately he still has a tough journey ahead but, with the support and love of his Mum and Dad, Nans, Grandma, Grandads, Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, friends and our amazing Cleft Team, along with CLAPA, I have no doubt that our son, our amazing little boy, will continue to grow into a beautiful, strong, and inspirational young man.
I couldn’t be prouder to be Pip’s Mummy!
Thanks so much to Emma for getting in touch to share her wonderful story. If you’d like to share your story you can share it here through our website.