just rock it

We met with our social worker about 2 weeks ago for our first post-placement visit.

“What has been the hardest thing since you’ve come home?” she asked.

My mind raced through all the difficult scenarios I had spent the last year preparing to face. All the hard stuff. The things others said would be horrible.

And yet, none of those things have been our experience.

The hardest for me so far was the one thing I had not considered. The one thing I had not prepared for. Studied up on. Devised a game plan.

“The way some people respond when they see her has been the hardest.” I told her.

There were days in China I thought I’d barely make it when we were out and about. The staring. The pointing. The whispering. The ugly faces. The meanness.

I wanted to run away with her to a land of rainbows and sparkles where there weren’t man-made ideas of beauty. I wanted to scream, “Don’t you see HER?! She is exquisite. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is my daughter and she is deeply, deeply loved.” I may have also wanted to scream a few not so nice things. But I didn’t. I wandered the streets, lost in thought, wondering how I’d ever teach her to be brave when everyone is staring.

I had hoped it would stop when we arrived in the US. But, it has been the same.

After a little time secluded at home, we ventured out. Her first store to visit in the US was Hobby Lobby. I made sure to start her out right in regards to shopping…and took a picture to document it. You know – just in case she replaces Martha Stewart one day.

We’ve been to many stores since. Each time I’ve struggled with how to respond to others. I like to go unnoticed. I don’t want to be center stage. I don’t want eyes on me. I like to just blend in with the crowd. That just doesn’t happen now. Everyone seems to notice my sweet girl.  I understand curiosity. I totally get it, I was there once too. I don’t mind questions. I don’t mind others noticing her and then smiling when they see that I notice them. I really like kids. When kids stare it is with compassion in their eyes, concerned she is hurt. Kids ask questions and usually tell me she is so cute once I ease their fears that she is not in any pain.

I am grateful for all of you that have let such kind comments in the last several weeks. Those of you that have shared how she has transformed the way you see clefts. Those of you that have shared with me your early struggles with seeing a cleft and how you now see a child not just a different lip. So, so, so, so many genuine and sweet words from all of you. Thank you for that. I wish the stores I went in were full of people like you.

It is with the other adults that my struggle lies. The ones so focused on a difference that they miss what beauty truly is.

I can’t change other people. I can’t force people to see what I see – a stunning baby girl. I can’t change how people act or what they say. I can only let this experience change me. I don’t want to respond to ugliness in an ugly way. I don’t want to be a snarky and rude person. I want to my words and actions to be seasoned with grace and compassion – just as I want others to act. I have five little ones watching and picking up on how I am handling tough situations. My oldest really notices. His protective big brother side gets fired up too. There are times when Mama Bear must come out. There are other times that the best response is not to respond at all. I don’t have it all figured out yet – probably never will.

I have incredible friends that have been giving me such great advice. They’ve suggested a few one liner responses that make me laugh. They’ve prayed over me. They cried with me over the hurt of it all. A few weeks ago, my friend Tara gave me the advice that has probably helped the most.

She told me before I walk into a room, I need to just tell myself that I am going to walk in and I am going to  “rock it”.

I am not a “rock it” kind of girl, but let me tell you….Little One and I have been rocking it all over town lately.

At the mall…she is already requesting her own lattes.

We are strolling all over, smiling, nodding and just plain enjoying ourselves.

It is still hard to see how some respond to my daughter. I still feel the stares. I still hear the whispers. I still see the pointing.

People haven’t changed, but I am changing.

I’m learning to walk into a room and rock it. Little One is already a natural at it.

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  • Chris - I work at a local hospital photographing newborns. On Monday I was given the name of a baby in the nicu that was going home. I walked over to his bassinet to take a peek. He had a cleft palate. His mom was not yet at the hospital. I was worried how to approach the mom asking if she wanted photos of her baby. She came in that afternoon and yes she wanted photos. I was nervous. Once I got started I didn’t see his deformity…I saw a beautiful baby!! As I was photographing…he smiled!! It was the biggest, brightest smile I have ever seen by a newborn!! I hope that I gave his mom a beautiful memory of her beautiful baby!!

  • Beth - Your post came to mind this week for me. My little boy (2 yrs) was struck by a case of buccal cellulitis. He was vaccinated for it but the doctor said it was a crazy strand that decided to attack his cheek swelling it enourmously along with one side of his nose and almost closing his eye at one point. He was still relatively happy and although we did not go out much in public, when we did I felt the stares. It breaks your heart and you just want to scream that he(she) is an AMAZING BEAUTIFUL child of God no matter how they look on the outside! My son is doing better and his face will be back to normal but I will never forget this lesson I learned. While my story is not nearly the same as yours and I could sympathize with you before, I can empathize(feel it) with you now and I am grateful for your post. Just thought I would share. Keep up the blogging. You are encouraging so many!

  • on having a child with a cleft lip » ashleyannphotography.com - [...] Those first couple of months home were very hard in regards to watching how others responded to my girl. I would waver between anger and sadness. I just wanted everyone to see my beautiful daughter and it felt like so many could not get past that her lip looked different than theirs. Sometimes I wanted to scream. Sometimes I wanted to cry. Sometimes I wanted to say something I shouldn’t. I wrote about all those emotions in an earlier post. [...]

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