When baby Frankie was initially diagnosed with a cleft lip/palate on 25th September, one of the things that went through my mind at the time, which seems absolutely absurd and crazy now, was that I wouldn’t be able to take him to mother/baby groups when he’s born and show him off as any proud mother would for fear that he would frighten other slightly older children with his cleft lip, and that I would be ostracised from these groups as my baby wouldn’t be “normal”.
So it was with some slight trepidation that I went to the latest Mission 2 Mum mother and baby meeting group at Bindles Brassiere in Worcester this morning. Mission 2 Mum is run by a lovely lady called Gemma who is a proud Mum to a little boy called Miller and who writes a parenting blog called www.mission2mum.co.uk. I stumbled across the blog on facebook in the early stages of my pregnancy and I’ve found it to be an incredible resource of valuable information on all aspects of parenting from pregnancy to birth and beyond.
Gemma runs a monthly group meeting for mothers and their babies/toddlers at the end of every month and I went to the September meeting which was just before Frankie was diagnosed with his cleft lip. I met some lovely ladies there and really enjoyed swapping hints and tips, especially on maternity clothes and where to buy them, as I was struggling at the time to find any on the High Street without having to order them online. The advice I was given was Primark is a pregnant woman’s best friend, just go up a few sizes, and the clothes are so cheap there it is cost effective as you are only in them for a bit while you’re pregnant.
I don’t know why I had the thought in my head that Frankie’s cleft lip would be a big deal and stop me taking him to groups like this when he’s here, it seems so silly now. Everyone I talked to this morning all said that it is no big deal, that it can all be sorted out and was nothing but supportive – I was quite overwhelmed and I even felt myself welling up at one point. Frankie’s cleft lip is going to be no barrier to me joining in with groups like this.
But here was the thing that struck me the most – everyone I talked to said that they had heard of someone who’s child had been born with a cleft lip/palate and is absolutely fine now, or knew someone close to them who was born with it, or had a scare themselves where it was thought a cleft lip was seen on a scan but it turned out it wasn’t one. I guess it is like everything else, it is one those “taboo” subjects that unless someone opens their mouth and actually talks about it, and no-one else does so.
This is one of the reasons why Baby and Cleft exists, as I’d like to change that perception and raise as much awareness of it as possible, and show the world that all cleft babies, children and adults are happy, healthy and most importantly, normal human beings. In a world and society where body image, perfection, being a size 0 and how you look is deemed to be one of the biggest priorities in life (and I blame the celebrity culture and magazines for this skewed thinking) I would like to see everyone fit and be accepted regardless of how they look. Wishful thinking – or is it possible – who knows.
Then as I was walking through town after the meeting, I ran into a couple of good friends of mine, Julie and Vince Guest. I’ve known Vince for years ever since I used to go out as a teenager to see live bands play live in the Brewery Tap pub, and his wife Julie is a very accomplished psychic who has been on Living TV and holds psychic nights now and then across Worcestershire and beyond. They have two children of their own now, and I will be completely and utterly honest, I don’t really believe in psychic stuff etc, but a lot of people do, and who am I to judge – each to their own.
But something she said to me earlier has got me thinking, and it links back to this post that I wrote last week, about how I don’t know yet what purpose God had in mind for me, Frankie, my husband and my family with his cleft lip/palate. Julie is one of my facebook friends and read the news of Frankie’s cleft lip on there, together with the blog and awareness raising I’ve been doing, and she said although she was gutted for me and my husband at first when she read about it, of all the people it could happen to Frankie is in wonderful hands, she can see ahead and the blog and awareness raising I’ve done so far in less than a month is just the tip of the iceberg of what is to come in our future.
And the funny thing is, my husband said the exact same thing to me this morning, and I believed him 100% when he said it. I was in a bit of a half asleep state when he talked to me about it just before leaving for work, as I’d had a bit of a lie in Frankie had been kicking away like mad and kept me awake, plus I had what I think was very bad heartburn at one point (I’ve had indigestion but this was different, and from what I read it sounded very much like heartburn), and it was horrible at the time but once it all wore off I was actually a little hungry so my husband made me toast at 12.15am this morning bless him!
Anyway I digress. My husband talked to me about getting a plan together for what we want to do with all the websites/awareness raising campaigns, for getting the right people to help and on board with the project, and how it could become really big if we put our minds to it, and that out of everything I’ve ever done which includes building businesses, festivals, raising money for the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal in 2010 by way of a tour in Worcestershire of local bands, a campaign around a seal named Keith who lives in the River Severn near where I live that was huge (I kid you not), plus all my other PR/Marketing work over the years and working with Chris Tarrant back in the days when Millionaire was huge (again I kid you not), all of that pales into total insignificance compared to the journey I’m now on with baby Frankie. My husband is so right, I knew it as soon as he said it this morning, this is the most important journey of my life (if you’re reading this sweetheart I hope you smile when you see the words you are right, and that I did listen to you and believe you).
And if just one couple finds out more about the condition and is reassured as part of my awareness raising work of cleft lip/palate, if they can find out through research any possible causes of the condition, if I can make cleft lip/palate seem completely normal and not a thing to be scared of or worried about in any way, then my job is done.