He is our son that draws complete strangers to us in public, always to comment on what a beautiful smile he has. The happiest baby. He has already proved what our doctor said at his birth was true: “Andrew will be a very special boy.” Andrew Bradley is our miracle.
We may describe Andrew’s birth as a whirlwind. It was miraculous. We celebrated and were so thankful for our healthy, thriving, full term baby boy. He was finally here! However, we were also faced with the fears and jitters of our son being born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate that was not diagnosed prior to birth. We could have never expected that the bottles we so meticulously selected for him and the binkies we carefully packed in the hospital prep bag would never ever be used.
We spent the first twenty four hours of his life in our local small town hospital worrying because he would not appropriately use the only cleft baby bottle available in the nursery. He was barely eating, other than from a syringe. We just held him. And loved him. And comforted his cries with our embrace rather than a pacifier or bottle. Andrew’s first day was the happiest scariest day of our lives to this point.
Things turned around on day #3 when the pediatrician notified us that he was able to get us an appointment with the cleft clinic just two hours from our house. Thankfully, the specialists from the cleft clinic provided Andrew with a different type of bottle for babies with cleft palates; the pigeon bottle. He began eating immediately. They also taught us how to begin taping Andrew’s cleft lip to prepare his face for his future lip adhesion and lip revision. This appointment was only the first time our cleft clinic doctors and staff would dazzle us with their ability to provide our son with what he needed. We have since been amazed by their work numerous times.
Though it was a relief that Andrew could now appropriately eat from a bottle, this was not the end of our struggles with feeding. The first few weeks of Andrew’s life, we visited the pediatrician’s office every few days for weight checks. We charted his formula and breast milk intake, and overanalyzed every time he would not finish a bottle. We spent hours praying and hoping that he would eventually eat two, then three, then eventually four ounces at a time. We rejoiced when the pediatrician told us that he was finally pleased with Andrew’s weight gain. As time went by, we eventually stopped obsessing over measuring Andrew’s intake and the weight check appointments were no longer a necessity.
Since our initial struggles with feeding and weight gain subsided, it feels as though we have been smooth sailing. As each new surgery approaches, a little bit of worry seeps back into our minds, but Andrew has continued to thrive. The taping on his face adequately prepared him for his lip adhesion at three months, which he recovered from like a champ! He also received ear tubes at the time of this surgery.
At six months, his lip repair surgery had to be canceled due to a cold he contracted, but it was rescheduled for when he was seven months old. So, at seven months old his lip was repaired and his collapsed nostril was given shape. Although Andrew’s cleft was very wide, his plastic surgeon did a fantastic job on Andrew’s lip. The results are miraculous. And in expected fashion, Andrew has been doing great since the surgery. He is back to his big, beautiful smiles that draw in the crowds no matter where we go. It is true when we claim for Andrew that smiling is his favorite. He is the happiest, funniest, laughing-est, most smiley baby imaginable. He lights up a room and fills everyone he meets with joy.
Currently, Andrew wears nasal stents to help form his nostrils, as well as a small amount of tape on his lip as he continues to heal and form scar tissue. The next step we prepare for with Andrew on the cleft lip/palate journey is the surgery to fix his palate, which will be just after his first birthday.
We continue to be amazed by our baby boy. He has started to crawl, his babbling is increasing every day, he learns everything he can from the loved ones around him and baby food is now on the menu! He loves to play and loves to love. And, thanks to the specialists at our cleft clinic, Andrew’s cleft does not hold him back. Instead, it sometimes just seems to change the path that he has to take to reach the same outcome that a baby without a cleft would reach. In fact, we believe that having his cleft and facing these challenges along the way will help him develop into a hardworking, strong-willed boy. In his eight months here with us, he has already taught us what strength is. We know he will continue to.
It is true, Andrew Bradley is our miracle.