I "had a moment" today. It was one of those moments when you're sitting there, thinking about the important things in life like when Game of Thrones season 3 starts, how to help the dog lose a few pounds, or whether you remembered deodorant--and then Whammo!!--you're on the verge of plummeting into a big, ugly, embarrassing, scary-sobbing fit. I held it together and managed to save my dignity, but it was touch-and-go for a good solid 20 minutes there.
Why the moment, you may wonder?
Marley and I had her first visit with the Cleft Net Team this morning. She massively bombed her hearing test in August and it started us on a convoluted quest for ear tubes via the National Health Service. Our appointment today was the culmination of countless office visits and extended waits for more office visits. I was relieved to finally be where we needed to be, and to know that we would be seeing the top cleft experts in our area. Marley and I walked for 17 miles through the habitrail of hospital wings and wards to find the clinic we needed--lucky #7. We signed in, got settled in our seats, Marley went to play with toys. I took a deep breath, relaxed into my chair, and then lifted my eyes to look around the room for the first time.
Cue the tears.
There were three babies. Beautiful, amazing babies with perfect little faces. And cleft lips. They were so tiny and vulnerable.
One mom cooed "my handsome boy" to her son over and over while she rocked him to sleep.
One dad kissed his little girl's crooked smile at least twenty times.
One mom's face crumpled and she fought back tears, literally biting her lip to stop from crying, when she saw a toddler come in with very bad scarring from his bilateral cleft lip repair. She held her own baby boy, with his crooked smile and dripped tears on his head. It was emotional and raw and difficult to watch.
But what really brought me to the edge was this sudden pang of sadness that came from looking around and realizing that Marley was the only child there over the age of 2. Those babies and their families were already on the journey toward healed lips and palates and all of the other wonderful things that go along with having cleft surgeries early.
The "handsome boy" was only 10 weeks old and was there for his pre-op appointment. He will have a new smile by the end of the week, and his palate will be fixed in a few months.
Marley was estimated to be 10 weeks old when she was taken to the orphanage.
That is hard to think about on so many levels. It's hard because it makes me wonder if her birth parents ever sat in a waiting room, hoping that a doctor would be able to fix her palate. It's hard because snags and delays in our adoption journey meant that we had to wait to bring her home a few months longer than we should have, which meant a few more months before her palate could be closed. It's hard because her hearing loss is due in part to having countless untreated ear infections while she was still in China.
But most of all, it's hard because I know there is a pretty high likelihood that the main reason I get to be Marley's mom is because of her cleft palate and what it meant for her birth family versus what it meant for my family.
For her birth family, it most likely meant feeding difficulties from day one, impossible medical expenses, and being ostracised for having a child with a birth defect in a culture that often does not accept such things. Ultimately, it meant putting their 10 week-old baby in a box outside of a gate and walking away.
For my family, her cleft palate meant we went into her adoption knowing we'd be going through surgeries and years of speech therapy, and knowing that we'd come through all of it 'ok'. It meant bringing home a toddler who was significantly delayed and having all of the resources within reach to support her as we've watched her blossom into a 'normal', healthy, ridiculously-happy little girl. It meant raising two boys who have a greater tolerance for physical differences and special needs, and who would gladly kick the arse of any child who ever teases Marley about anything.
How can it be that this thing that tore one family apart brought another together?
It's no secret to most who know me that I've got some unresolved 'stuff' to work out with the Big Kahuna when it comes to things in the universe that just don't make sense to me.
Add this one to the list.
Ironically, when I checked my email after our appointment, I had a message from SmileTrain that gave me pause. It was touching and inspiring and I'm going to be putting my thinking cap on to figure out what I can do to carry all of the emotions I felt in my "moment" toward a greater good.