Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Little Different.

When I was growing up, there were two things about me that were different. The first being that I am an only child. Back in the 1970s and 80s this made me something of an oddity! The most common reaction I received was jealously! This was an emotion which I most definitely did not understand as I was desperate for a sibling.

The second thing was less talked about. I was born with a cleft lip and palate. Growing up I was painfully aware that I looked a little different from other children. I was teased on several occasions, but the worst I can remember was the rather dull offering of "fat lip" by a rather fat boy in sixth class! The main source of my discomfort was the knowledge that I did look different. When I thought about my appearance I wondered what people thought of me, and if they would like me despite my difference. Being of a naturally shy disposition didn't help my lack of self-esteem.

I was aware that I was somewhat lucky when compared with other children born with the same condition. My cleft is unilateral, rather than bilateral, and I had enough skin on my upper lip to form a not too thin top lip. The thing which gave me the most discomfort was the base of my nose which, like most with a cleft lip, is somewhat out of alignment!

The times I felt most different were when I looked at my pre-operation baby photos. It was a little confronting to remember that the unattractive baby in the photos was me! My parents wisely did not hide the photos from me, and answered all my questions. At the time I wasn't aware that there are countless children in poverty stricken countries who did not have access to the surgery that made me just like everyone else. Now I am acutely aware how fortunate I was to be born in a country were I had the opportunity to lead a totally normal life.

As a teen and young adult I did at times wonder if I was pretty enough for someone to really love me, but it wasn't something I ruminated on. The only other time I gave it much thought was during pregnancy when I breathed a slight of relief as the stenographer showed us our baby's fully formed lip!

So today when a lady at church nervously approached me to discuss my lip I was reminded of what it means to be born a little different. This lady has an adult son with a cleft lip and palate and she wanted to affirm and encourage me which was lovely! Her son had a more difficult time of it than me, as he had less bone in his upper jaw and was bullied more than myself. She also related the story of a man who approached her to ensure that she did not shun her son as he had been shunned by his parents, who were embarrassed by his appearance. When I hear stories like these I am reminded of my blessed I have been!


Leanne said...

I just wanted to affirm you that It really makes no difference to anyone who knows you.
It actually took me a while to work out you had something different with your lip. You are exactly as God intended. I know you know that now.
I remember Dermot counting fingers with all our babies, with his difference.
God Bless you, Leanne

Kez said...

My cousin's boy was born with a cleft lip and has had multiple surgeries since he was a baby. He's about 15 now, and its barely noticeable. To be honest, I never realised you'd had one too - its either not noticeable or I'm very unobservant :)

Tricia said...

Let's assume it's the former! I've always thought it wasn't too obvious, but have also wondered if that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Tricia said...

Thanks Leanne. It makes no difference to me now either. Discussing it with the lady at church reminded me of it, and caused me to reflect on it in regards to how it did affect me in childhood. None of us are flawless, which is as it should be.

Sue Elvis said...


Thank you for sharing this. I have never noticed anything different about your lip. I just thought, "Tricia, is so attractive and young looking. It's a pity I'm getting old and going downhill!" Me: always thinking about myself, wondering if anyone is noticing I'm losing my youth! So self centred. I must change!

I was so pleased to see I have two of your posts I haven't already read to enjoy.

Tricia said...

Ah Sue you make me laugh! My thoughts one meeting you ran something like, " Sue is so elegant, self confident and friendly. I just love her voice!"

Thanks for the lovely comment.

Sue Elvis said...

Tricia, I am smiling. Great to have your friendship. God bless.