A Broken and Beautiful Smile 2019

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month

This Spring our family was delighted to learn our Princess would have a surgery free Summer. This is a first for us. A little calm before the storm of orthodontics that will hit our household in the next few years. It is a chance to reflect on the amazing progress that has already been completed, but it is  hard…no, it’s excruciatingly hard…to contemplate what will be happening in the future-but it’s part of the journey…hers and ours. We are grateful for that

Sometime, in the early stages of our adoption journey, my husband and I had to make the difficult decision as to what special need child files we would be open to review. With the average wait of 6 years and climbing for  “healthy” girls from China, the special needs program offered a shorter wait and often included very minor or correctable needs.

After much prayer we listed the needs we felt we could manage and waited for God to put his plan into action. Flash forward about 6 months and we received that highly anticipated phone call and email file! As I gazed at that beautiful face I noticed her big brown eyes and smooth skin, her adorable ears and her gentle hands…I did not even notice her unrepaired unilateral complete cleft…it just did not matter, she was our baby.

Our Princess was 20 months old and living in the remote mountains of Northern China.

But what is a cleft palate/lip?  A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy, and this kind of birth defect happens more often than you may realize. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft — about one in 500-750 births. Sometimes a cleft condition can be easy to see because it’s an opening in the lip. Sometimes it’s harder to tell if someone has a cleft because it’s an opening in the roof of their mouth (called the palate.)


There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of birth defects. While some causes are still unknown, genetics and family history, pre-existing medical conditions, poor nutrition and exposure to harmful environmental substances can affect the healthy development of a baby. As a result, these factors could also be the cause of a baby born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. We will never know why it happened, but we will never know where her outstanding fine motor skills and dimples came from either…and that’s OK.

Our Princess after we met her in China, already charming her Mama and Baba

Cleft lip and cleft palate can be repaired through a series of surgeries and orthondontics.  While it can be corrected, it really is not an “easy fix”…despite what you may see in Operation Smile advertising.   Our brave girl has had 3 major surgeries and some pretty extensive speech therapy with quite a few more surgeries in her future…continuing into her young adulthood.


Her first surgery at Johns Hopkins

She is a spunky bright little girl who charms everyone she meets. She is opinionated and sassy with a flair for the dramatic. Her empathy has no limits. She is our joy and we are humbled and honored that God has entrusted her into our care.  It really is a miracle.

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41 thoughts on “A Broken and Beautiful Smile 2019

  1. I love seeing your princess growing up—ours (same age) won’t open mouth smile because she is missing three teeth now in front…the first trauma of being 6 going on 7. Princess is adorable and she always has a beautiful smile..and a twinkle in her eye!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am going to echo what Eunice said about the Princess having bought so much joy to many of us. Wishing you all strength and patience on the road ahead. God bless you all!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My son was born with a cleft lip and palate, too. I completely understand the freedom of a surgery-free summer! It was nice to actually use vacation time to actually take a vacation! lol I showed my son this blog post, he’s nine and just had his bone graft surgery and started braces. Your daughter is beautiful! Thank you for sharing her gorgeous smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely post about your journey! One of my dear friends also adopted a daughter from China with a cleft palate, just last year. I am so grateful for people like you who will extend your love and care to the neediest among us. Bless you all!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful girl and lucky family! I’m also a mom to a cleft-affected kiddo who hails from China ❤️ and we’ve had a similar surgery/therapy journey. My son has had three surgeries & is awaiting ortho at now seven years old. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. She’s a doll, not matter where in the journey! I look forward to you sharing your steps through the process. We have dear friends that adopted from China, with the same special needs issue. 🙂 They are all doing well, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think God has blessed the Cleft kids with extra spunk and courage. She is a marvel to us. Her care is involved but the outstanding team at John Hopkins make such a difference. I am always happy to hear of others who also have cleft. They are mighty.

      Like

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