Guest Blogger: Jen Cross, Founder of Don't Get Lippy
My name is Jen. I am 31 and early in 2018, I found out I was pregnant with my son, Will. At week 13 of my pregnancy, I had a bleed. Not serious enough for the NHS to scan me, we paid for a private scan for reassurance. Thankfully the scan showed no concerns and Will was healthy.
Whilst we were there, the sonographer asked if I wanted him to check and see if Will had a cleft lip and palate - the condition I was born with. I was surprised that he offered to do this but said yes anyway. Within a few seconds, it was confirmed that a cleft lip was visible (he couldn't see if the palate was affected and this would only be confirmed when Will was born). I left the appointment saying 'Oh OK, no worries, thanks for that' Cool as a cucumber.
Beyond that, I lost my shit. I cried uncontrollably for about 4 days and didn't want to see or talk to anyone. Guilt and shame came over me that I just couldn't shake off.
What type of Mother was I for giving my baby this condition? Why hadn't I considered that this was a possibility? What will people think of me? Will my baby still love me?
Eventually I started talking to people about the diagnosis. It was the elephant in the room that I just had to talk about - although at the same time I didn't want anyone's sympathy. Mostly, in a selfish way, I was worried of what people would think of me. Of course, everyone - absolutely everyone - was more supportive than I could ever wish for.
The more I spoke to people, the easier the idea of the diagnosis became.
Talking to the Cleft Nurses, seeing pre and post operation photos and just coming to terms with the fact that the idea of the 'perfect baby' had now changed, I started to get on with it. Something then changed in my thought process and I started to think 'this is my baby, he is my perfect baby and things could be much, much worse'.
With that in mind, I then decided to document my journey through pregnancy, how I was dealing with the diagnosis and the prep work I was putting in. I talked about everything from our Spina Bifida scare to colostrum harvesting.
I have since documented Will's arrival into the world, the struggle with him bottle feeding, having a feeding tube for 6 months and poor weight gain.
My aim with the account was to show our story to help others. Each cleft journey has the same start and end goal but each baby has their own journey to go through.
So, I was born with a cleft and I am now a Mother of a baby who is cleft affected.
Throughout this whole process, I have felt like there are things missing to support people who are in a similar situation but also friends and family that want to show their love and support.
I now have the brand, Don't Get Lippy (a phrase that used to be said to me all the time as a teenager). The brand is cleft focused. I have created gifts and tokens of support to raise awareness of the cleft condition, to help those who are cleft affected, mothers who have had the diagnosis in pregnancy, babies, dads, friends and family. I would love it if you stopped by and had a look!
Love Jen X