When you experience having your own child, at any age, your world gets turned upside down. It’s a feeling you never knew you had to give. You become selfless, and all the love you had and more is for this little being. A wave of emotion takes over you, and if you’re a mother reading this I know you’re shaking your head up and down agreeing with me. When you look at your newborn child everything about them is perfect and innocent. Their cute nose, their bald head, their tiny toes are all the things that you admire about them and can’t believe you created. These feelings will carry throughout their lives, which makes them perfect in every way to you. No matter what, you can’t help but love your baby unconditionally, forever.

For me, I’ll never forget seeing that gummy smile my son Sebastian shined at me those first few months of life. Giving birth for the first time, I’ve now realized how uneducated I was, but that’s for another time. My husband Nick and I were living in Sarasota with my parents for most of my pregnancy. Originally I had doctors in Orlando where Nick was playing hockey for the Orlando Solar Bears, and then after the season we found a new one in Sarasota at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I was very impressed with the hospital and loved how clean it was. My doctor though was neither Nick or mines favorite. 

Leading up to delivery you have a couple ultrasounds, and at twenty weeks you get to do the anatomy ultrasound where they measure every inch of the baby’s body and determine it’s weight etc. We did not want to find out the sex of our son because we thought it’d be fun for it to be a surprise. We were told to close our eyes at the genital parts and then told to reopen our eyes when she was past that part. We then got to see our son’s face and she had said it looked like the umbilical cord was right in front of it. If I can recall correctly I’m pretty sure she said that at our twelve week ultrasound also. At this point, she gets up abruptly and just walks out of the room without saying a word. Nick and I looked at each other with worry in our eyes. We were both quiet, and after a few minutes passed I thought maybe he/she had contracted Zika (because the Zika outbreak was peaking and every pregnant woman was extremely worried, especially living in a tropical climate like FL has). Nick was about to head out the door and look for her when she finally returned. We asked her, “Is something wrong?” Her response was, “No everything is fine, I just had to check with your doctor about something.” After that Nick and I didn’t question her, we thought it was weird, but we simply just moved on and didn’t think about it again. 

It wasn’t until two days (week 39) before I delivered that our doctor sat us down and told us very saddening news. First off, I’d have to be induced because the baby was getting to big to deliver vaginally, and second that she was almost one-hundred percent sure our baby had a cleft lip and palate. 

In this moment I was completely numb. I think I stopped listening to her all together and was just trying to hold back my tears that truly were running down my face faster then I could help. Nick ran to my side and I just began to ball into his chest. She went on to tell us that she isn’t sure if he had a cleft palate too, but because of the way he was sucking the amniotic fluid she thought it was highly possible. It was as if a piece of my heart was torn right out of my chest. To say I was just “sad” was a huge understatement. Looking back now, I know that she had known all along. I think she just kept it from us because she didn’t want to give us the option to abort so far along in the pregnancy (not that we would’ve ever done that if that was the case). I look at those ultrasound pictures, and it’s clear as day to Nick and I that it wasn’t the umbilical cord in front of his face but in fact his cleft lip. Those next two days, I was a complete mess. I cried and cried and was mentally exhausted (not a good state of mind to be in before you’re about to give birth, that’s for sure). I almost wish she hadn’t told me. If she was going to tell me she should’ve weeks before so I could prepare myself.

My husband was amazing through this entire process. I wouldn’t have made it through without him and the support of our families. My mom and Nick were both in the room during delivery. Nick says that he thinks I was close to having an emergency c-section until this one nurse came in and literally yelled at me, encouragingly of course, and that’s when it was go time. 

On November 9th, 2016 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (9lbs, 21in). He was just perfect and it was such an overwhelming feeling holding him for the first time. Nick and I were both crying, and that’s when we named him Sebastian Karl Lindberg. 

Since his birth he has had only two surgeries to fix his cleft lip and palate. I say only because I know some babies go through so many more than that. He was diagnosed with an incomplete unilateral cleft lip and palate. This means that his cleft lip is on one side but doesn’t extend into his nose fully and then into his palate. My dad was also born with a unilateral cleft lip, but not cleft palate. There was no one else in his family he knew of that had a cleft lip up until this point. We all honestly didn’t think it could effect my sister nor I or our babies. Truthfully, my dad thought because of the lifestyle his mom had during her pregnancy with him that that was how he ended up with one. It was just something we never really talked about, but was obviously a gene I carried. 

Sebby (his nickname) couldn’t breastfeed because he had no way of sucking. I swear to you though he had the motion down. He was trying so hard to latch on and it literally broke my heart that he couldn’t. He was then given Dr. Brown’s specialty bottles (which don’t require sucking) and put on a mixture of formula and whatever amount of milk I could pump for two months. While we were in the hospital adjusting to our new lives, we received visits from many different specialists and doctors. They ended up helping us find Sebastian’s surgeon and laying out a timeline for us in what to expect in the coming months regarding treatment.

My mom had sat me down maybe a month or two after Sebastian was born and noticed that I was still a mess no matter how hard I tried to put a front on. She suggested that I quit pumping. I fought this suggestion for a good week because I felt like I was failing him of providing him with HIS milk. Eventually I gave in and put Sebby fully on formula. The exhaustion, anxiety, and pressure I was unfortunately feeling was not helping me be a good mom. Not having that stimulation and strictly pumping was just horrific and draining for me, and I knew it was something I had to do even with some guilt. A few months later I could tell a significant difference in my mood and energy.

Sebastian’s first lip repair surgery was scheduled for February 3rd, 2017.  I was filled with tons of different emotions in the weeks leading up to it. Feelings of anxiety, sadness, and pure terror for my baby. Having a child go under anesthesia for any reason is scary in itself, but having them go under so young is terrifying. I remember being in a yoga class a few days before he went in and it was like the instructor was talking to me. We were in savasana pose and I just remember listening to her words and then suddenly crying. I tried not to draw attention to myself, but eventually couldn’t help it. I was like “ugly crying.” The instructor noticed and came over to calm me down. Touching my forehead and then chest, I began to breath again. To this day, she has no idea why I was so upset, but yet she was still so comforting. After that, I realized I have to be strong for Sebastian. I couldn’t let him see or feel me get so upset.

The morning of surgery we had to wake up at 2AM to give him his last feeding, then he was able to have pedialyte or water an hour after that, and then nothing up until he went in at around 10AM and was put under anesthesia. My parents, Nick and I, and my sister were all there that morning at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete, FL, anxiously waiting for Sebastian’s surgeon Dr. Ruas to come and get us. He was in surgery nearly four hours. During that time we all had lunch and received calls from family members. I was very nervous, lots of tears flowed, and I couldn’t wait to hold Sebastian in my arms again. Near the end of surgery, Nick and I both started to get worried because we were told the surgery would take up to three hours. When Dr. Ruas came out to get us he said surgery went very well though and there were no complications.

We then went in and saw Sebby and it was definitely a hard sight to see. He had stints in his nose and dried blood around it. He had to wear “no-nos” for as long as the stints were left in especially while he slept so he wouldn’t try and rip them out or itch the stitches. (“No-nos” are like casts on a babies arms so they don’t bend, keeping them from touching their face). He was just coming out of anesthesia and drugged up on pain medicine. It was a tough situation to be in because there’s not much we could do as parents but to hug him and hope he never remembers the pain. I remember those times in the hospital so vividly. His warm body against mine as I tried to take his pain away. We were in the hospital for two nights, three days tirelessly at his bedside. He got to come home the day of the Super Bowl after he successfully drank a 4oz bottle and had a bowl movement.

Sebastian right after lip repair

After about two weeks, my baby was getting back to normal. We went in for a check up at John Hopkins to get his stints removed around this time too. For whatever reason, Nick and I didn’t think he would have to go back under to get his stints out, but that morning it all happened again. He was under maybe thirty minutes and it was obviously nothing to worry about compared to the first surgery. I could tell he was sleepy and a little different for a day or two, but after that he was back to being our happy baby boy again.

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