A few months ago, Tom Turbiville shared his cleft journey from speech therapy to becoming a full-time radio sports announcer. Now, Tom has another story to tell and more lessons he has learned along the way.
When my first child was born in 1977, his mom was put in a hospital room with another first-time mom, Debbie. Debbie and Larry’s daughter was born a couple hours before our son, and yes….she was born with a cleft lip.
They were confused and scared and they needed answers to what this was. I don’t think I showed up in their room by accident. I believe God arranged that to happen, as I was able to provide comfort and a special friendship from that moment on. We stayed close friends and still are today. That baby girl, Ashley, is now nearly 42 and has a beautiful family.
It’s here where I hope I can help parents who fear for social challenges that may lay ahead for their child. Will they be teased? Yes. Will they cry about it? Probably. Will they blame you? Not so much for their cleft as for all the other reasons that your teenager will “hate” you. Will they be rejected by boyfriends or girlfriends? Not by any who matter. Will they be OK? Absolutely.
Don’t get me wrong…a cleft doesn’t render them immune to the hurdles we all must clear in life. But for sure, the cleft will indeed give them more power to overcome them. For sure, I grew up with all the typical challenges of dealing with mean classmates and some who just were not knowledgeable of what cleft was all about. I never felt that my appearance was “different” until others pointed it out. Just like my half-brother, who’d been born deaf and never knew anything but deafness, I’d never known not having a cleft – I still don’t.
I’ll close with this:
Whenever I have seen another young adult who had cleft – or even older – I’ve never been shy about introducing myself and telling them I’m a fellow person with cleft and I can say that never has my “forwardness” been rejected…it’s always been welcomed and appreciated. Recently, I saw a young 20-ish girl with her boyfriend in an airport and I spoke to her. After a 15-minute conversation, I told her how beautiful she was, inside and out, and got a great hug from both of them that I’ll never forget.
I’m here to answer any questions that I can about my wonderful cleft life. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.