Cleft lip/palate repairs are hands down my favorite surgery on the ship. I am always amazed that in only a few hours, we can completely transform a life.
Babies with clefts often have difficulties feeding. As a result, many are underweight-too underweight for surgery. Mercy Ships has a feeding program to help these kids get big enough for surgery. Mother's are given formula and routinely come to the ship to have the babies weighed.
Today I took some photos of Deb, who runs the program, and a beautiful little girl, Amitatou. She is scheduled for surgery in September. The baby is doing well and is ridiculously beautiful. I can happily say we got some quality snuggle time in.
Sadly, kids with clefts are often thought to be cursed. People don't touch or talk to them. Many are completely abandoned. Recently, a baby who had received cleft surgery on the ship, died two weeks after discharge. The cause of death was uncertain, but speculation pointed to the baby being abandoned. Even after surgery. Old beliefs have that much of a stronghold.
Whenever I am around a cleft baby, I make an extra point to dote and call it beautiful. I think it must do the mother's heart good to see people love her 'unlovable' baby.
The mama I met today was a good mama. I watched her eyes shine as she stared at Amitatau and made her coo and laugh. It was beautiful.
It took courage for her to love her baby. That might sound strange, but it's true. I'm sure people have isolated and teased her for loving her baby. They might have even called her cursed. Even her closest friends and family.
But she is still making Amitatau smile, loving her rejected baby.
I can't wait until September when she gets her surgery.