Pediatric Cleft Lip: Melissa’s Story
Growing up wasn’t easy for Melissa. She was born with a cleft lip, a birth defect characterized by an opening in the upper lip, which can cause eating, speech and ear problems. She was sometimes bullied by schoolmates and had several surgeries at All Children’s to correct her cleft lip. She grew stronger each day and pushed through into adulthood with hopes of starting a family of her own one day. In 2018, her dreams came true. Doctors confirmed it was a baby girl and Melissa began the search for tiny dresses and pink bows.
In her second trimester, however, excitement turned to worries. At 17 weeks pregnant, Melissa learned that her baby girl would also be born with a cleft lip. A flood of emotions and questions swept over her. Would she have complications during delivery? Would she be able to breastfeed? Would her child be bullied? Thankfully, her doctor referred her to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Fetal Care program, where she met a team of experts from a neonatologist and maternal-fetal specialist to a lactation consultant and plastic surgeon. Her questions were all answered and all that was left now was to patiently await the arrival of her baby girl.
On June 20, 2019, little Harper entered the world, a happy, healthy and smiley baby girl. All the experts remained close by just in case, but the family’s worries now turned to joy. Lactation consultants helped with breastfeeding questions early on and soon after leaving the hospital the family met with the plastic surgery team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. Harper had her first surgery to repair her cleft lip and reconstruct her nose around 4 months old. Her scars continue to fade every day, but she likely will need additional surgeries as she grows. Melissa knows it might not be easy, but it’s part of the journey and she’s grateful to forever be a part of the All Children’s family.