Surrender Your Fear About Your Looks … You Look Wonderful

surrender fear for love heartfelt smiles blog post image

Digging deep within ourselves, what is truly there but love? Actually, there is a whole lot more for those of us in the facial difference community.

Fears, anger, resentments, doubt and even a lack of faith in ourselves and others pop up and take us out of the present moment. What if you and I made a commitment to return to love on a daily basis and surrendered our fears?

One of the big ones is how we look to others or how others see us. Many children and young adults might have grown up with the other people’s voices asking about their looks, what happened to them, etc. Not many heard, “Ah, what a beautiful child you have, sir or ma’am.” The words, cutting and biting at the same time, leave deep emotional wounds that are carried around like a huge bag of shame.

Your looks. My looks. My nose is a little off center. My lips are a little bit off center. Screw that! I look great. You do, too. The pesky fears over my outer looks hardly compare to what my deepest insides look like … and that is (for the most part) a beautiful place.

In the facial difference community, we do have a bit of a right to be scared – at times – about what others say about our looks. Yet allowing these ill-informed people to dominate our thoughts, feelings and actions becomes totally paralyzing and is unhealthy for our souls.

May I invite you to surrender your fears about your looks? You do look fantastic. Yes, you do “look mah-velous” as comedian Billy Crystal would say in his Fernando Lamas impression.

Today, just for this moment in time, I hope you allow your hearts to not be filled with fear and troubles. You do look beautiful and have a beautiful face. Now go show the world that our facial differences do not define us as people. You are worth it.

Love and peace,



The time to speak up is now …

Too many times, people have a problem expressing themselves … especially in the cleft and craniofacial community around the world.

Let me explain before any shoes or loose items get thrown around.

Because many of us have been taught or told that “our opinions don’t mean anything” or that “I cannot understand you,” then we tend to clam up and not share our feelings and emotions.

Yeah, yeah … feelings aren’t facts. Blah, blah, blah …

They do matter and the time to speak up about our feelings and emotions is now. It is NOT when we grow older and have lived too many years in regret, fear, resentment, anger and frustration. Trust me, we have the ability to connect with our emotions and make a difference in this world.

Do you want to go through life angry all the time? Of course not. I don’t either.

So do you and I stay silent or speak up?

I say speak up now … and take responsibility for your emotions and feelings.

You will feel better for doing so.

“The Christmas Smile” now on Amazon Kindle!

Hi friends!

I have some exciting news to share with you today, Dec. 29, 2014.

“The Christmas Smile” is now available on Amazon Kindle! Yes, you may have been following the series here on the blog over the past couple of weeks. Now, the story of a couple who discover that their child will be born with a unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate, how they deal with that news, and ultimately receive a wonderful child into their lives is all part of the novel’s narrative.

Here is the link to “The Christmas Smile” and I hope you will spread the word!


Every minute counts … and you are loved …


The Christmas Smile … The Finale …

The nurse ran into the emergency room area and told Angela and Thomas that a private room had been reserved on the sixth floor. So two attendants came into the room and wheeled Angela toward the elevator, with Thomas right at his wife’s side. The large doors opened up, all entered and one of the attendants pushed the number “6” and up it went.

Upon reaching the floor, the doors opened and Angela was taken to room No. 612. It had a window looking outside toward the city and, by now, the day’s sunlight was beginning to set. It had been a long, long day for both Angela and Thomas, and getting into the private room was good enough for them.

The attendants helped lift Angela from the emergency room bed and into a hospital bed … very carefully and gently because of her physical condition. Thomas looked on with some agony in his body, hoping that his beloved wife and child were going to be OK.

A nurse came in and introduced herself as Gladys. She was the shift nurse for the 3-11 p.m. team.

“I’m stopping by to say hello and let you all know that the nurse’s station is just down the corridor, about 5-6 rooms from this one,” Gladys said. “There is a red button by the bed so if you need something or are running into trouble, then please push it and someone will be down here quickly.”

“What if she goes into labor?” Thomas asked.

“That’s why the red button is there, sir,” Gladys said with a smile. “We know that your wife’s condition is pretty tough and have been given orders from the doctor to make sure she gets down to an operating room ASAP.”

“Operating room? What is this about an operating room?” Angela asked. “I’m just going to be induced to give birth to my child on Christmas Day. That’s it.”

Gladys looked at Angela, put down the pad she was holding at the foot of the bed, walked around and stood at Angela’s side.

“Honey, I know that is why you are here,” she said quietly. “This floor is especially for mothers that are going to give birth to children with special needs. The doctor told us that your child probably will have some issues after birth, and this floor — which was just created six months ago — is one of a kind. You will be able to be on the same floor as your child, plus keep track of her care.” Gladys winked at Angela. “We look forward to your baby girl coming into the world.”

Angela offered a slight smile in return, saying, “Oh, OK. I mean, we’ve never done this before.”

Gladys and Thomas chuckled at her humor.

“I think Gladys was saying that everything is going to be fine and for us to relax,” Thomas said. “Of course, that’s easy for me to say from my side.”

The shift nurse walked back around to the foot of the bed, grabbed her pad and said, “Look, I’m going to leave you both alone. Another nurse on duty will be back in here in a bit. Right now, though, you should have everything that you need and just push the red button if you need anything, OK? Take care now.”

Gladys walked out and closed the door behind her.

Angela and Thomas were now alone with themselves, their thoughts and their soon-to-be-born daughter.

“Oh Angela, you’ve been such a trooper all day long,” Thomas said.

“Well you’ve been doing pretty good yourself, kind sir,” Angela said. “I could not have been here without your help, baby. Thank you.”

They both kissed and Angela yawned. “Huh, maybe someone needs a nap?” Thomas said. “See if you can get a little bit of sleep, dear. I’m going to just sit back here and rest myself. I’m here … I’m not going anywhere. Just settle back into the bed now and do the best you can to relax.”

Angela looked at Thomas, then pushed her head back into one of the pillows and closed her eyes. Thomas looked at his wife, smiled, and decided to prop his feet up on the side of her hospital bed and close his eyes, too, for a few minutes.

It was 6:35 p.m. Christmas Eve and all was quiet.


Thomas stirred up in his chair and looked over.

“Awwww!!! Ohhhh!!”

Angela was sitting up in the bed screaming in pain.

“Honey, what is it?”

“The baby. It’s the baby.”

Thomas reached over and mashed that red button. He didn’t need to as a couple of nurses heard Angela from the station down the hall and were coming through the door.

“Awwww!! Awwww!!!”

The nurses reached over and grabbed Angela on both sides. They held onto her, with one of the nurses pushing another button that opened up an intercom.


“Yes, we have a woman here in room 612 that needs to give birth now.”

“OK, we’ll get ready here.”

“Please send two attendants immediately. We need to get her down there right now.”

The intercom was turned off, and Angela continued to cry out in pain and discomfort.

Thomas looked up at the clock.

9:45 p.m.

In a matter of minutes, Angela was taken down to an operating room located next to the emergency room. Thomas walked along with her each step. The nurses gave Angela a mild sedative to help relieve some of her pain, and she had quieted down a little bit yet was still in discomfort.

They all got to the OR’s doors. The attendants looked at Thomas and said, “If you want to say something to your wife, then go ahead and do it now because you’re not going to be able to come in.”

Thomas looked down at his beautiful wife. At least he still thought so despite all of the sweat and tears that covered Angela’s face.

“Honey, I love you so, so much. I’ll be here, waiting for you and our daughter,” he said, bending over and kissing her forehead.

All Angela could do was look at him, nod her head and squeeze his hand.

Then she was taken into the OR.

It was now 10:35 p.m. Christmas Eve. Thomas still had not reached out to any of his family, so he went to the waiting room and sat down. He felt tired, fretful, scared, anxious … and lonely. Another father-to-be sat nearby, but he was called away by a nurse within 5 minutes of Thomas getting in there.

So Thomas sat down and put his head back. He just knew that life was really never going to be the same from this point on. It was going to be radically different.

Thomas looked up at the clock.

11:47 p.m.

“God, what is taking it so long?” he muttered to himself, not realizing what Angela was going through in the OR.

The clock moved past Midnight.

It was now Christmas Day.

Thomas could not really sit down for a long period of time. He’d get up, pace the floor, look out a window and see simply darkness mixed in with lights from the hospital’s parking lot.

One thing that resonated with him was the thought of asking for help. Patsy and Father McGregor had stopped by the house, but he could not bring himself to reach out. It was against his stubborn will to call for help.

It was 12:45 a.m. Angela had been in the OR for more than two hours. Finally, someone came out to see Thomas. It was Dr. Backton.

“Hi doc, I’m glad to see you,” Thomas said.

Dr. Backton had his operating room smocks on and told Thomas, “Congrats son, you have a beautiful baby girl.”

Thomas looked at him and said, “Really? Did Angela do OK?”

“We had a little trouble but not a large amount,” Dr. Backton said. “Actually, I felt like there would have been more trouble than we had. Yet she came through really well. Come over here and sit for a minute, Thomas. I do have a little news for you.”

Thomas got a little queasy in his stomach. He followed the doctor over and sat down next to a lamp.

“Son, I have to tell you something about your daughter,” the doctor said. “We did diagnose the unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate correctly. What we didn’t diagnose was … well … how healthy of a screamer she would be. I mean, she’s got a pair of lungs on her already!”

Dr. Backton looked at Thomas, who just had a look of exhaustion and relief on his face.

“Thomas, I will not kid you. There is a long road ahead for your daughter. What’s her name?”

The name. Thomas and Angela had gone back and forth between Lara and Annie. The names come from both sides of their families, and there never was a real, solid final answer.

“Well Dr. Backton, I’m going to ask Angela as soon as I see her and I’ll let you know.”

“That’s fine. I have to head back in there just to make sure everything is OK. Why don’t you come with me and see your baby daughter. You do want to see her, don’t you?”

“Oh yeah!” Thomas exclaimed.

Both men headed back toward the OR area, and Thomas was given some smocks to put on himself. He did and entered the room, finding his wife holding their baby daughter in her lap.

It was 2:18 a.m.

Thomas walked up to Angela’s side and she looked into his eyes. She was filled with relief and joy.

“Look Thomas, look what we got for Christmas,” Angela said. “Here honey, she’s been waiting for her daddy.”

Angela, with the help of a nurse, lifted the child into Thomas’ arms. He looked down and just was amazed by her beauty. Both Angela and Thomas were aware of how their child would look with her unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. It didn’t matter to them. They adored her immensely.

Thomas held his daughter close to his chest, and her little hand reached out and touched him. It brought tears to his eyes.

He composed himself and said, “Angela, we never settled on the baby’s name. We were looking at both Lara and Annie as possible names for her. What shall we call her, honey?”

Angela thought for a minute, then said, “What about Annie Mary Douglas?”

Thomas looked at her. “The Annie is fine, but what does the Mary stand for?”

Angela stared off into a corner of the OR and looked back. “Well, it is Christmas Day and wasn’t Mary the name of Jesus’ mother?”

“Well yes, from what I understand,” he said.

“Since our baby was born on Christmas Day, then why not have her named after Mary?”

Thomas was too tired and happy to say anything else.

“That sounds wonderful. Annie Mary Douglas, welcome to the world.”

Both Angela and Thomas looked on with love at their daughter. She formed as much of a smile as was possible, and it brought great joy to them both.

And so, as mother, father and baby daughter stood in that hospital on that Christmas Day morning, the family became quite aware of not only where they were in that moment. They also knew, in a sense, how much further they had to go.

The Christmas Smile, Part 3 …

The neighbor looked at both of them and said, “Thank you for listening to me. I know you have a lot to do with your baby coming very soon. It’s just that I never have really talked about Thomas much over the years.”

“Hey, we understand,” the wife said. “My husband and I are glad you came down to visit with us because we want all the support … in a healthy way … that we can get.”

“Thank you,” the neighbor said. “I must be getting home now. The sun is setting and darkness falls pretty quickly. Thank you again and I’ll be seeing you all soon.”

She got up from the couch, got her purse and the husband helped her to the door. As he opened it, he leaned over and gave her one final hug. He also whispered into her ear, “You are a kind soul. Don’t ever forget it.”

The neighbor smiled briefly, yet walked out of the door briskly.

After closing the front door, both the husband and wife looked at one another and let out a sigh.

“That … was … tough,” the husband said.

“Yeah, what a brave woman, honey,” the wife said.

“Well I know another brave woman, too,” he said, sitting back down on the couch next to her. They looked at one another in the eyes for a minute, simply enjoying the present moment and remembering their love for one another. He reached over and gently kissed her on the lips.

The wife started shedding a tear. She didn’t mind, especially after hearing the neighbor’s story. In fact, for both of them, that neighbor helped put their own situation into perspective.

Not that it improved anything, but it let them see how much their lives will be affected by their baby.

Both of them thought it was a good idea to head off and get some sleep. Their weekend was ending and the husband was going back to the work grind in a matter of hours.

As morning dawned, the wife woke up first and managed to get out of bed and head for the bathroom. She made it about halfway before feeling a bit weak, reaching out for a nearby chair and plopping down in it.

That noise woke up the husband.

“Honey, are you OK?”

“I don’t know. I’m feeling a bit weak right now and don’t know why.”

The husband turned over and looked at his wife. He looked at her and felt like something was not right.

“You look a little ashen in the face, honey,” he said. “Do you think I ought to call the doctor’s office?”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea because I need to go to the bathroom and don’t have the strength to get there.”

The husband quickly got out of bed, got next to his wife, helped her up and guided her into the bathroom. She was OK after that and he left her alone.

The husband closed the bathroom door and stayed in the bedroom, waiting to see if she’d need any help. A few minutes passed … then a couple of more. He wasn’t hearing any noise from the bathroom and, despite their own boundaries around each other’s private times, felt the need to check on her.

He opened the bathroom door to find her slumped over on the commode.

“Oh God no!” he said.

He reached over and grabbed his cell phone and dialed 911. Once the operator came on the phone, he started telling her about the situation. An ambulance was on the way.

The husband put his phone down and had it on speaker.

“What do I do about my wife?” he asked the operator.

“Is she conscious?”


“OK, you want to raise her head up. Being slumped over like that for a long period of time isn’t good. Just help her keep her head up and the ambulance is about two minutes away.”

The husband was panicked. Here his wife was, carrying their child … and the thoughts about the child’s health and well-being ran through his head like a freight train.

“Sir, the ambulance is right outside your front door.”

“How can I get to them and open the door while I’m holding my wife, damn it?”

“OK sir. Your wife, sir, has she moved any since you have been next to her?”

“No she’s not. How do I get to the door and … ”

“Let her head rest backward for a minute, sir, and you go to the front door. How far are you away from it?”

“About 10 seconds.”

“OK sir, they are there. You hear them?”

“Yes I do.”

He rested his wife’s head backward and ran to the front door. He opened it and directed the paramedics to his bathroom. They got in there and started working to bring his wife back into a conscious state.

The husband was beside himself. “What’s going to happen here? She’s pregnant and nearly going to be giving birth!” he said.

“Sir, grab your phone and step outside while we take care of your wife, please,” a paramedic said. “Thank you.”

“She’s pregnant!”

“Sir, we can see that. I know, sir, this is a rough time for you. Grab your phone and go into the bedroom, please.”

The husband did so, and sat on the edge of the bed. Emotions from sadness to anger ran through his entire body like an out-of-control freight train.

He kept looking inside the bathroom here and there, seeing the paramedics put some type of saline pack into his wife’s arm and move her off the commode and onto her back on the bathroom floor.

One of the paramedics walked out of the bathroom and went outside to grab the gurney that they secured just outside the front door. They didn’t bring it in immediately because they weren’t sure that they would need it.

Now they knew that they would.

The husband saw it come into the bedroom and said, “What are you doing?”

“We’re going to put your wife on here and take her to the hospital. She needs a lot more care right now and we want to make sure the baby is safe.”

“Is she alive?” the husband asked.

“Yes sir, we have a pulse and we also checked on the baby, too. It kicked for us.”

The husband heard that and it caused a momentary sense of relief, yet he could not let his guard down.

After a few minutes, the paramedics brought his wife out on the gurney and took her to the ambulance. The husband had grabbed a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a sports cap to put on.

“Look sir, follow us to the hospital, OK,” the paramedic said. “We’re about 4-5 minutes away but we’re going to pick up the pace. Just follow us, turn your lights on and you’ll be OK to be behind us.”

“OK thanks,” he said.

So the ambulance pulled out from the home, swirling red-and-white flashing lights on top, and the husband following in his truck.

They motored through 3-4 intersections and arrived at Mid-Town Hospital’s emergency room entrance. The ambulance pulled in and the husband parked just outside. He got out and hurried to his wife’s side. He saw her and it scared him. He’d never seen his wife so vulnerable and uneasy. For years, she had been the rock of their relationship … and now, he had to be the tough one.

Paramedics got her into an emergency room area and nurses began coming to her aid. The husband tried to get in and stay by his wife’s side, but he was redirected to sign paperwork in the admitting area. At this point, all he could do was leave it in the hands of the physicians.

He got the paperwork from the main window and sat down. He started filling out paper after paper. Insurance. Health conditions. Authorization for care. On and on it went … almost as much as signing a mortgage on a home.

A nurse called out from the door.

“Douglas, Thomas Douglas? Would you please come this way, sir?”

Thomas looked up and started walking briskly with the nurse.

They arrived at the room where his wife was being taken care of now.

She had regained a semblance of consciousness and looked up at him.

“Oh honey …” was all she could get out before she started to cry.

“Ah Angela, please don’t cry dear,” Thomas said. “It’s OK. The baby is OK. Everything is OK.” He grabbed her hand, leaned over and kissed her forehead.

Their primary care physician walked in the room at that time.

“Hi folks, sorry I couldn’t get here sooner,” Dr. Fred Backton said. “I had two other patients with emergencies and was able to take care of them. So it looks like Angela had some complications this morning, right?”

“Yes, she lost consciousness at home,” Thomas said.

“I understand. Angela, can you hear me?”

She nodded.

“Good. We’re going to run a few tests this morning on you and the baby. I am not sure right now, but we are pretty close to your birth date. I’m not sure if you all are prepared for this, but if things look like it would help mother and child together … you might be having a baby today.”

Thomas and Angela looked at the doctor puzzled.

“What do you mean? She’s not due for another month or so,” Thomas said.

“That’s true, and I know that her child has special issues going on, too,” he said. “I’m looking to make sure both mother and child are safe and well. Let me see what the test results come back and look like. Thomas, she’s going to be here at least overnight. I’ll get the nurses to work on getting her a private room. In the meantime, I’d like to have a minute with you outside. Not long, just a minute.”

The doctor went over to Angela and said, “You are OK. The baby appears to be OK, too. These tests, Angela, are important so do your best to simply follow directions over the next few hours and I’ll see you again soon.”

Thomas and Dr. Backton got outside the room and started walking toward the nurse’s station. The doctors stopped Thomas halfway down.

“Thomas, tell me what date it is?”

“What? Well, it’s December 23.”

“Right. Are you against having a Christmas baby?”

“Doc, what are you talking about? Is there something you didn’t say in there that you want to tell me now?”

“Yes. Angela needs to give birth to her child soon. I’ve seen this situation occur in other mothers and it is really imperative that she give birth because not only of her health but that of the child’s, too.”

“Are you talking about inducing labor?”

“Obviously, Thomas. We need to get more alert and a bit stronger before getting this done. I want your child to have as best a shot at a healthy life as you do.”

“Well, we both know that she’s going to have issues, doc. You already have told us about her cleft lip and cleft palate. I mean … what if she has other issues?”

The doctor leaned over and grabbed Thomas’ forearm. “Look, I did not see any other indication of other issues beside that one. We can tell a lot faster now than 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Why don’t you go and get a cup of coffee or a Coke at the hospital restaurant? She’s in good hands right now. You should simply take a breather … for your good. I’ll be around for a little bit, making sure the orders are in for her care. Once the test results come back later this afternoon, then I’ll have a better gauge on how to handle this situation.”

Thomas looked at the doctor. He was tired, frustrated and simply was not able to think too clearly himself.

“OK I’ll go off and spend a few minutes getting some food or something. Will you call me?”

“Yes, either I or someone from my office will call you within 3-4 hours. Just go, take care of yourself and I’ll chat with you later.”

They shook hands and went their separate ways.

Thomas took a break, sat down at a table and started eating a Turkey sandwich with chips and a Coke. His heart rate was to the moon and back, yet he did his best to calm down.

After 20 minutes, he got up, threw away his stuff and started walking back down toward the emergency room area. Thoughts ran through his mind. “What about the baby’s care? Will Angela be hurt for life? How will my boss understand that I’m not at work because my wife almost lost our baby? Why can’t my family support me at this time? Who cares about us?”

Just as he got back into the waiting room area, he looked over and saw two familiar faces sitting next to one another.

The neighbor and their pastor.

“Patsy? Father McGregor? What are you doing here?” Thomas asked.

“I heard the ambulance roll by my house, and I had a hunch that Angela was sick,” Patsy Abernathy said. “She really didn’t look that great last night. But I was too caught up in my own stuff to even say a word.”

Father Jeremy McGregor of St. James Episcopal Church looked over and said, “Yeah and Patsy called the church office to let us know what was going on. She holds some pretty deep clout at the church, for an old-timer, and told us what was going on with you and Angela.”

Thomas just looked at them both and broke down. He put his head in his hands and started weeping. Father McGregor and Patsy both wrapped their arms around Thomas and simply held him. Thomas had been so lacking of support and nurturing for himself in these past few hours. In fact, Thomas had not had much support at all during these months with Angela’s pregnancy.

He just cried for a few minutes, then grabbed some tissue Patsy had given him and blew his nose and cleaned up his eyes.

“Father, you know my wife and I aren’t really churchgoers,” Thomas said. “I mean, we do believe in God and stuff but we just don’t get into that church stuff a lot.”

“Yeah, you’re not alone in that world and I’m not here about all that right now,” Father McGregor said. “I’m simply here to support you at this time, offer a shoulder to lean on or cry on, and help. That’s it.”

Patsy looked at Father McGregor, then at Thomas. “Hey buddy, I’ve watched Father McGregor grow into quite a priest. He and his wife are good people. Yet I know … remember … what you are going through. Remember?”

She winked at Thomas.

“Yeah, I know you do, Patsy.”

All three sat down in the waiting room area for a minute, then Thomas got up and asked if he could go in and see Angela. He was told yes, just wait a couple of minutes and he could go in. He asked if he could take another person in with him. The nurse said, “Only one other person, sir. She’s OK with two people for a short period of time but not long. I’ll get you back there.”

Thomas walked over and said, “Father, could you come in with me when I see Angela now?”

“I’d be honored, Thomas. Of course I will. Patsy? Are you OK out here?”

“Of course, just tell her I’m here, too, and that I love her,” she said.

They were led to Angela’s room and she was hooked up to a saline solution as well as a heart monitor. She had been cleaned up a little and had some juice next to her on a table.

“Hi honey,” Thomas said as he walked toward her. He leaned over and kissed her on the lips. “Umm, look who came to check on you? Father McGregor from St. James.”

Angela looked at him, squinted her eyes and saw that, yes, it was the priest that she’d seen at St. James when she and Thomas went on occasion.

“Ah hello Father,” she said.

“Hi Angela. Your friend Patsy called me this morning … by the way, she’s outside and sends her love to you … and told me about what’s going with you, Thomas and your baby.”

“Oh no, she told you? I didn’t want many people to know because it would be just too much trouble for others to hear.”

“Well, Patsy is one of those wonderful souls that has been a member at St. James for more than 30 years. She’s helped so many people out that are in need, especially families who have children with craniofacial anomalies and other special needs. She’s a pretty incredible woman.”

“We know, Father, we know,” Thomas said.

“Angela, is there anything that I can do for you while I’m here right now? I cannot stay long in the room myself, and I want you and Thomas to have your time.”

“No Father, there really isn’t anything. The only thing I can think of is if you’d simply say a silent prayer, I guess, for the baby’s safe birth. I’ve been told that I’m going to be giving birth in the next 24 hours so …”

Thomas looked at her. “Wait. Who told you this?”

“Dr. Backton. He came back in here after he sent you off for some food and coffee. Look honey, he told me the straight stuff. I asked him to be really honest with me and don’t hold back. He didn’t and told me that it would be for the child’s best, and mine, if I gave birth to our baby girl in the next 24 hours. I said OK, let’s do this.”

“But you were passed out this morning, barely conscious at home. Were you conscious when you responded to him?”

“Very conscious. I want this baby to have life, Thomas, and by damned it’s going to have a healthy, happy life. You are going to be a father for Christmas … and I’m going to be a mother.” Angela leaned over and gave her husband a long, loving kiss.

Father McGregor said, “Well it sounds like a couple is going to receive a great Christmas present. You still want me to say a silent prayer for you both, Angela?”

“No, put some words to it, pastor. Give it some oomph!” They all three laughed a little and Father McGregor said, “OK, hold hands and give me your free ones.”

“Let us pray,” he said. “Dear God, we give thanks at this time for Angela and Thomas. They have been so brave, so wonderful, so persistent in their preparatory care and getting their home ready for their baby girl. Lord, we do know that this beloved child is going to need help from the angels above for her life. We ask you, God, to bring peace and serenity to this family now. Watch over Angela in these next hours. Guide and guard Thomas in his life. May this child be a blessing to them and to many. We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

“Amen,” Angela and Thomas said quietly.

“I’ve left my phone number with Patsy. She can give it to you, Thomas. Let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help you guys. It has been wonderful spending time with you today and I’m glad that I got to know you both a little better. I’ll keep your baby girl in my prayers as I go about my day today.”

“Thanks Father for coming by,” Angela said, tightly grasping his hand. “I really appreciate it.”

“Me too, Father,” Thomas said.

“You’re welcome. Bye now,” Father McGregor said as he walked out of the room.

To be continued …


The Christmas Smile, Part 2 …

The mother and father returned home after seeing the doctor and were more focused than ever upon having their child.

Of course, the news that their child would have a cleft lip and cleft palate made them feel sad … for a little while.

“Honey, I don’t know what I did wrong,” the mother said.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” the father responded. “Like I told you before, you have been doing everything simply well and I don’t know what caused this. What I do know, though, is that we are going to get through this together. I love you with all of my heart, baby, and we’re going to get through this together.”

The wife looked at her husband, put her right hand around his neck and pulled him in close for a kiss.

On this night, they would sleep in peace. They shared a cup of tea together before bed, then went up to their second-floor bedroom and decided to call it a night.

The next morning, the wife woke up early and felt her baby move. She put her hands on her belly, looked down and quietly said, “I’m here for you, honey. Everything is OK and I love you a whole lot.”

These instances would occur over the next few monthys, too, and they coulple would be busy getting allo f the information they could about craniofacilal issues. They spent hours researching online and talking with people and their local hospital about what they could do pto prepare thir home for the impending arrival.

What they did not know, fully, is how much their child might be damaged healthwise with the craniofacial anomalies and any additional physical issues the child may have.

One Sunday morning, they prepared to go to church. It was not something they did every Sunday, yet this day felt like one where they wanted to get some spiritual healing.

As they took off for church, the husband reached over and felt his wife’s belly. “She’s growing, isn’t she?” he told his wife, speaking (of course) about the baby.

“Yes, she is growing and I’m going to have to have this baby pretty soon or I’m going to get bigger than ever!” the wife said. Both of them laughed and enjoyed the humor. This was a time where they both grew closer.

Getting to the church was one thing. Finding a place to sit was another as they had come on Declaration Sunday, a day where members of the congregation made declarations about their lives, their families, their finances and their hearts for God.

Both of them loved God in their own way as both had grown up in a home where their parents went to church regularly. Going to church was not new to them; just going regularly wasn’t in their plans for their lives.

When they found a place to sit, they looked over and saw their neighbor down the street sitting in the pew behind them.

“Hi there, how are you?” the husband asked the neighbor.

“Oh, doing well, thanks. How’s the mother and baby doing? That’s the big question,” the neighbor asked.

“Well, the baby and I are fine. We’ve had a couple of hiccups along the way but all is good, thanks,” the mother said. They had not told anyone about the news they had received from the doctor. They had not even told their own family members.

It was just too much for them right now, and they were trying to wrap their heads around what to say, when to say it and how to tell their loved ones.

The neighbor moved down her pew, sitting right behind the couple.

“I heard you said that you have had a couple of hiccups with the baby, is that right?”

“Yes, but it’s nothing serious. We can handle it just fine,” the mother said as her voice began to break a little.

“What’s going on here? We have talked in the past about how much you both were looking forward to having a baby and now you are. Is there something that you are afraid to tell me?” the neighbor asked.

The husband leaned over the pew and looked the neighbor in the eyes. “I know you mean well, but this week we received some tough news about our baby daughter and, quite frankly, it’s been hard to get through the past couple of days.

“Do you really want to know?” the husband asked the neighbor.

“Yes, I want to know because I care about you both and want to help,” she said. “It’s only from a spriit of wanting to help and not from being nosy. I know you both like your privacy. I apologize for getting into your business too much. I’ll just move back down the pew and let you all be.”

“No, wait,” the mother said. “If you want to know what’s going on, then come on down to the house this afternoon for coffee and we can talk there.”

“No, I can’t … I’ve already …”

“We insist that you do,” the husband said. “We really do want to talk with another person that we can, at least, trust some. Be at our house around 3 p.m., OK?”

“Alright, if you insist then I will. See you then,” the neighbor said and moved back down the pew.

The service went smoothly for the couple as they listened to a sermon on the depths of God’s love for all people. The minister said in his sermon, “We are all beloved children of God. Each and every one of us. How we treat ourselves is as much a reflection of God’s love as how we treaet others. It’s the Golden Rule sort-of-thing. Yet I admit that there are times that I don’t always appear golden. Even though on Sundays you may see me in a golden light,” he said as the congregation laughed.

“It does not matter of you are young or old. It does not matter if you are suffering with an addiction or physical ailment. It does not matter if you are going throught the deepest, hardest trials of your life. Know without a doubt that God’s love will sustain and uphold you during all the times of your pain.”

When the minister said the words “physical ailment,” the mother started tearing up. They streamed down her cheeks. She looked over at her husband, who gave her a couple of tissues that were nearby. Both of them felt like the words that they heard this Sunday morning were for them both … and their baby daughter.

The service ended and they got up to leave. Once they were up, both of them knew it was better if they got a head start ahead of the crowded sanctuary.

As they were leaving, they shook hands with the minister. “Hey, it is so good to see you both. How is the expectant mother doing?” he said.

“Doing OK, pastor. Hanging in there,” she said.

“Yep, we’re just taking it a day at a time,” the husband said.

“Well good. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you all during this precious time. It looks like you may be delivering in a couple of months, yes? I will keep you both – all three of you, I should say – in my prayers.”

“Thanks pastor, we appreciate it,” the husband said and they began walking toward their car. It was a bright sunshine-filled day. Blue skies stretching as far as the eye can see. For this minute, they both felt quite blessed and grateful for their lives. They also felt incredibly wonderful about the fact that their child would soon be born.

Of course, they also knew that there were preparations to be made and that would take a lot of time.

Lots of time.

They got back home and changed out of their Sunday best into some comfortable clothes. Lunch alreayd had been prepared before going to church, so they both got plates, put their food on there and sat down at their kitchen table.

There was a silence at the table that felt strange to both.

“Honey, what are you thinking about?” the wife asked.

“I’m thinking about how much I love you and our baby,” he said. “And, to be honest, I’m also thinking about how we are going to make it through these next months.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean about doctor’s visits, surgeries, whatever needs to be done to take care of our child. It is on my mind and it concerns me. I don’t mind telling you this because, I believe, you know that I want you to have that baby just as much as you want to have it. I just don’t know what our future holds with our darling child.”

“Hmm,” the mother said. “So what do you want to do about it?”


“I mean, what do you want to do about the baby? Do you want me to have it or not?”

The husband sat straight up in his chair and looked startled.

“What are you talking about?”

“I mean it sounds like to me that you want me to get an abortion and terminate this pregnancy.”

“Where did you get that idea from?”

“Well, you are so concerned about how we are going to be able to take care of the baby. Maybe it was better that I never had a child in the first place!”

The mother got up from the table, started crying and went into their downstairs den area and closed the door behind her.

For his part, the husband just sat there for a couple of minutes. He could not believe what he had just heard come out of his wife’s mouth.

He stopped eating his lunch, put down his fork, and just put his head in his own hands. The pressure of work and waiting for this child, along with learning all that he could about craniofacial care, began to wear thin on him. He’d kept up a brave front in front of his beautiful wife, and he loved her dearly. There was not an ounce of doubt about that within him.

After taking his and her lunch plates over to the sink and putting them in there, he walked toward the den and knocked on the door. He could hear his wife whimpering and just disconsolate.

“Honey, can I come in and see you?” he asked.

“OK,” she muttered.

He opened the door and found his wife sitting in one of the den area’s rocking chairs. She was gently going back and forth, much like she had done in recent nights when the baby would not let her get much sleep.

She looked at him and said, “Are you coming in here to tell me off?”

“No, I am not,” he said, getting on his right knee next to her. “No. I am here to tell you a couple of things. Now you may not believe me yet what I am saying to you now, and looking right into your eyes, is my truth. I love you so, so much, and there is nothing in this world that I would not rather have you be than getting ready to give birth to our child. We both have wanted a baby for a long time and now we’re going to have one.

“Look, I’m not going to take back what I said at the kitchen table but before you start getting angry with me again let me talk for a couple of minutes. Then I will listen to you like I always do my best to do. Honey, I know that the news about our baby having a cleft lip and cleft palate was shocking. It was shocking to you and it was to me, too. I know that you desperately want to have that child and are willing to take care of whatever needs to be done. I know that. I feel the same way as you do. I don’t want you to terminate the pregnancy. Where in the world did you get that idea? I was simply sharing with you what I’ve been going through … and I know you have been going through much more than I have. Trust me, I am aware of it. What I do want to say is that I am sorry that I have not been more forthcoming with you about my own frustrations. I’ve been keeping them to myself because I don’t want to burden you with them. Does that make any sense, baby?”

The wife looked at him and a small smile began coming across her face.

She looked into his eyes, his dark, piercing brown eyes that she fell in love with the first time that she saw them. She reached out with her left hand and touched her husband’s forehead, then right cheek, and held her hand there.

“I know that you would never do anything to hurt me or the baby, my dear,” she said. “Never have I seen a man so attentive to his wife. I’ve seen a lot of my girlfriends’ husbands be attentive, for sure. Yet you have been so much more attentive ever since we heard that diagnosis from the doctor. I feel sad that I broke down at lunch. I have been feeling a lot of stress myself, and just hearing you talk at that time hit me the wrong way emotionally. I know you want to have this baby just as much as I do. I love you. I really do love you and care about you so much. I watch you from the distance, looking online and studying about how to take care of our baby. Even after you have put in a full day at the office, you are there reading information and making phone calls to some of the resources that you’ve discovered.”

“What phone calls? I haven’t made any phone calls,” the husband said, trying to not let on that he had been doing so.

“I know you have been calling people. I know it is from a place of love and concern. Look, honey, I’ve been around you for a few years, y’know, and I can tell when you are really focused on something important. I know that having this baby is important to you. I know you would not want me to terminate the pregnancy. Like I said, I got caught up in my own emotions and I just lost it. I’m sorry, honey. Please forgive me.”

They both just stayed there for a bit and embraced in a long hug. The Christmas tree in the den had its lights on and twinkled in the background.

Great things were about to happen in their lives. They just didn’t realize how great they would be.

The doorbell rang.

“Hello, it’s me,” the neighbor down the street said. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” the wife said. “My husband and I have been waiting for you.”

The neighbor, a woman in her 60s, came in and was dressed in warm clothes as the weather outside had turned cold.

“Come on in and have a cup of coffee,” the husband said, giving the neighbor a fresh-brewed cup.

“Oh boy, thanks a lot,” she said. “I don’t get out too much and mingle with neighbors these days. I used to do it a lot more, yet these legs just aren’t working as much and as well as they used to do so.”

All three of them sat in the living room and enjoyed their coffee. A bit of chit-chat took place and the neighbor finally got around to having the courage to ask about the baby.

“I’m really glad that I saw you both at church and was able to catch up over the past few minutes with both of you. Now about your baby … tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, OK,” the mother said. “We learned a few weeks ago that our baby girl was going to be born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. The news shook me and my husband up pretty good. In fact, we haven’t even told our parents yet because we don’t want to get them all upset.”

“Quite frankly, we’re scared of what they might say,” the husband said. “We really don’t want to have their opinions dictate what actions we should take around our child.”

The neighbor looked at them, put her coffee cup down on the coffee table, got up and went to look out a window. Now the mother and father were startled by her action.

“Did we say something wrong?” the mother asked. “I mean, you did want to know what was going on with our baby, didn’t you?”

The neighbor kept looking outside the window. She began sobbing uncontrollably. The couple looked at each other, and the husband got up and put his arms around the neighbor’s shoulders. She leaned into him and started crying.

The husband and wife looked at one another with started looks on their faces. After a minute or so, the neighbor was able to compose herself enough to ask the husband if he would just lead her back to the couch. Once down there, the husband moved to her side and his wife managed to get from the rocking chair and sit down on the other side of the neighbor. Now all three were on the couch at one time.

“Please tell us what you are crying about,” the wife said.

The neighbor looked at her and said, “My child was born with Crouzon’s Syndrome and a bilateral cleft lip and palate. It was during a time that no one really knew what to do about children with his problems.”

“Him?” the husband asked.

“Yes. Thomas was his first name. My husband and I were quite young … in our 20s … and we were expecting a healthy baby to be born. There were no ultrasounds in our day, so we did not know what to expect. We just really expected a healthy baby to be born because I know that I did everything my doctor said do. I exercised. I ate along the way that my doctor asked me to do. My husband would go walking with me every night and we grew closer together.

“When Thomas was born, we looked at him and just were so happy to have a baby. I held him and just marveled at his beauty. My husband looked, too, and we smiled at one another. The doctor was able to get Robert to cry and get air out of him, yet there were no regular baby sounds. I mean there was no consistent crying taking place. We thought there was something really wrong with our child, like he was dead or something. Maybe deaf or not quite all there. I’m sorry, the words are coming out of me rather garbled and … well …”

The wife said, “Oh no, please go on. Please tell us about Robert. My husband and I want to know. It will do us good and probably do you good, too. It’s OK.”

The neighbor managed to sit up on the edge of the couch and finished the story.

“My husband and I were looking at the doctor and asking ‘What is happening here?’ The doctor looked at Robert and asked if he could have the baby so that he could be put in an ICU area for babies. They had built one at the hospital for newborns who had certain difficulties. I looked at Robert, holding him in my arms, kissed his little forehead and let the doctor have him. Little did I realize that I’d never hold my baby again.”

The husband and wife looked at the neighbor, then looked at one another.

“After my baby was in the ICU area for a couple of days, the doctor came into my room … it was a Sunday afternoon … and my husband was there with me. He opened the door and closed it behind him. I remember he pulled up a stool and sat in front of us. He was a kind soul, not really wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. He knew that being a doctor was a tough life, too. I looked at him and said, ‘Doctor, you don’t look very happy.’ He said, ‘Well that’s because I’m really sad right now. I just went to check on your baby and his health situation. I hate to tell you both this, but your baby died this afternoon.’”

“My husband looked at him and said, ‘Doc, what do you mean about our baby boy? You said he had a couple of problems, yes, but we knew he was in good hands with you.’

“’And he was in great hands with our nurses and myself, sir,’ the doctor said. ‘We were really pulling for Thomas to come out of a coma and show us signs of life.’

“’Doctor, you mean my baby was in a coma and you didn’t tell me! What kind of doctor are you?’” the neighbor said she told the doctor this.

She broke down again. She wasn’t able to tell the rest of her story. It was too painful for her.

The husband and wife both wrapped their arms around this woman … a woman both of them had seen and felt like she was so brave. Little did they know what the neighbor did for them that day would be a great gift.

To be continued …

The Christmas Smile

A Christmas story for all of us in the cleft and craniofacial community:

Once upon a time, a couple received some blessed news from their doctor. They were going to have a baby girl! This couple was filled with joy and knew it was a real blessing because this baby was going to be due around Christmas time.

They both thought what joy and comfort this little child will bring to their lives. Both of them reached out to their families and told them of the great news. Fathers and mothers giggled excitedly, hugged and kissed them both, and let them know that anything they needed then they could count on them.

For the next few months, the mother’s belly continued to expand as the baby was growing. The father, who made sure to be home for his wife as much as possible from his busy work schedule, made sure that he was always there for her.

One day, the doctor’s office called the mother. She answered the phone and heard the nurse say, “The doctor would like to see both you and your husband sometime this week. He feels that it’s important for you both to be there.”

The mother was a bit taken aback, yet really didn’t give it much thought. “OK, I’ll make sure we are there. Thanks,” she said and hung up.

She called her husband and told him about the phone call. “Don’t worry, honey, I will be there with you and we will listen to the doctor,” he said.

“But what if it is bad news?” she said.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, OK. We will go to the appointment together and see what he says,” he said.

So both of them get to the doctor’s office and, upon their appointed time, are directed to the doctor’s office. Not a patient room, but his own office.

They both sat down in front of his desk. The doctor arrived just a minute later, and encouraged both of them to come over and sit on a sofa together away from the desk.

Once they did, the doctor sat down next to them and started talking.

“After reviewing some of the recent sonograms that we made, we’ve discovered that your child has something going on with it that you might want to know about,” the doctor said.

The couple looked at one another and grasped their hands tightly. “We just want our baby to be OK,” the mother said.

“I know you do,” the doctor said. “I’ll put this very gently. Your child has a congenital anomaly that is commonly known as a cleft lip and cleft palate. I noticed it just on her left side, so it’s not what is commonly called a unilateral cleft and palate.”

“What does this mean, doctor? Will our baby be OK?” the father asked.

“Are you asking if that can be repaired? Oh sure, it’s done by hospitals across the world,” the doctor said. “I should say pretty much all of the hospitals in the United States can handle it. Yet sometimes, there have been cases where children born with cleft lip and cleft palate anomalies have other issues going on in their bodies. Now I have not determined if there are other conditions yet with your baby girl, but for now I can say that the cleft lip and cleft palate are things that will need to be addressed.”

The wife looked at her husband and asked, “What are we going to do?”

The husband said, “We are going to love and care for this child, no matter what. We have both wanted a baby for a long time, so we are now going to have this child. It is a Christmas child and it will have a Christmas smile for us and our families.”

The doctor interrupted. “So I want to let you both know one other thing, and I’m simply doing this from a medical standpoint. Sometimes, when I tell couples this news, some of them don’t want … ”

“Stop right there, doctor!” the mother said. “We are not going to even discuss that matter at all. I appreciate you wanting to bring it up, but that’s not even a consideration. I’m giving birth to this child and will love her no matter what.”

“Very well,” the doctor said. “I just wanted to be upfront with you both. Please know that I will do my best to make sure everything goes well with your child. There is a wonderful craniofacial team here at the hospital, and I would encourage you over the next few weeks to meet with them. The more pre-birth preparation you can do, then the better opportunity you will have to enjoy being with your child and making sure she gets the best care possible.”

The couple left the doctor’s office and got back into the husband’s car.

While being brave inside with the doctor, both of them looked at each other and started to cry. They both knew what was ahead of them … and simply wanted to have a healthy, wonderful baby girl.

The husband reached over to his wife, took her face in his hands, looked her in the eyes and said, “Honey, I will be with you all the way. I’ll make sure our baby gets the best care possible. Whatever happens, you and I will walk through this together. We’ll have our Christmas baby and make sure you and I fall in love with her Christmas smile. I love you, baby.”

“I love you, too,” the mother said between sniffles. “I don’t know what I did wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” the husband said. “Not one thing. Now let’s go home.”

To be continued …