One mum’s experiences of a CLAPA Parent Contact
The strange thing is that I can’t really remember what we talked about. I remember looking up my local Parent Contact’s email address on the CLAPA website. I remember learning that her name was Mel and that she had two little girls born with cleft. I remember how kind her email was and how quickly she responded to my query about when would be a good time to call.
Our actual conversation made me cry. I do remember that. However, after our baby girl – Evie – was diagnosed with unilateral cleft lip and palate at our twenty-week scan, everything was making me cry. Before I spoke to Mel I understood the implications of having a baby born with cleft. I knew there would definitely be two rounds of surgery in her first year – maybe more. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I knew that Evie would look a bit different to other babies when she was born.
What I didn’t know was whether I could cope. How other parents managed. I didn’t know anyone else in my position and was utterly afraid of what was to come. Evie was our first baby. I had no idea how to bathe a baby or how to hold one, let alone how to express milk and squeeze it into her mouth.
I am sure I must have asked Mel about feeding. And about the surgery. How she’d done it and whether her girls were happy now. I know that I needed to feel less alone. Needed to know that other people had coped with this and come out the other side. I know that talking to Mel must have given me hope, because I remember my husband saying that I looked happier than I had in days after our call. I remember feeling reassured. Mel didn’t hold back – she didn’t pretend it would be easy. However, she made me feel that I could cope and that Evie could be the happy little girl I’d always imagined our child to be.
When I talked to Mel I didn’t know Evie. I didn’t know how resilient she would prove to be and how much strength her smile would give me. I needed to feel that I could do this – and that is exactly what Mel made me believe.
I still have her number in my phone and I find it hugely comforting that I can call her at any time as our cleft journey progresses. I will always be so grateful that she was there when I needed her.