“You’re going to have a boy!” Then in the next breath, “Please wait a moment, the doctor will be right in to speak with you.” Those were the words my mom and dad heard the first time they saw me on ultrasound. I was born with a 15mm-wide bilateral cleft lip and palate. I am now almost 13 years old. I feel like I am living a normal life, and my cleft lip and palate are just part of it.
My cleft lip and palate do not define who I am, but I do believe it helped make me who I am today. My differences are noticed and occasionally asked about. This doesn’t bother me. I feel that it is just mostly curiosity from kids my age or younger. Once I tell them, “I have had surgery on my mouth,” they move on and it usually never comes up again.
My parents have always treated me like my brothers and sisters and allowed me to do the same things as other kids. My mom does cringe when I am playing basketball and the ball goes near my face though! I absolutely love reading and math. My mom was told when I was a baby to read to me all the time, and it would help with my speech. I have never had to have speech therapy, and I am very grateful! I love to talk, and I have a large vocabulary! I love school and learning new things. I made all A’s for my entire 6th grade year!
My mom and I helped with the “Feeding Your Baby” video by CPF when I was 18 months old. My mom had a hard time figuring out how to feed me. There were few resources available on the unit I was born on, so the Cleft Palate Foundation was a huge help for us! My parents attended a “Connections Conference” when I was 6 weeks old and learned a ton about how to navigate the world of craniofacial issues. I am grateful for organizations such as the Cleft Palate Foundation that help us with free information that is available 24/7.
I have found that my craniofacial birth defect has given me a bigger heart for others with differences. I feel like I am more aware of and sensitive to other kids’ feelings and issues that they may be facing because of my personal experiences. If I had to give one piece of advice to a parent with a child that has cleft lip and palate, I would say, “Treat them just like any other child.” And if I had to give advice to a child with a cleft lip and palate I would say, “It doesn’t matter what you look like, just be kind, and be yourself.”
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story!
~William “Will” Thompson