This story was sent to by a resilient mom, Teressa, who resides in Knysna, Western Cape.

“The day I found out I was pregnant, I bought a pair of baby socks on my way home from work. I gave it to my husband at dinner time and we were very excited. I had a great pregnancy with no complications. To be honest, I loved being pregnant and couldn’t wait to see my baby. My husband was working in South Africa at the time of birth and since our little muffin decided to see the world five weeks prior to due date, my husband unfortunately wasn’t with me when his first born came into this world. Maybe that was a good thing as our son was born with CLP- a bilateral full cleft palate and cleft lip, BUT he was breathing on his own and we only stayed at ICU for the night. In Sweden, they only do one scan at 18 weeks of pregnancy and they didn’t pick up the cleft lip and palate. Six days later my husband came back from South Africa, the same day Oliver opened his intense blue eyes for the first time. That night Oliver didn’t leave his daddy’s side and nine years later, they still LOVE to cuddle at night.

Oliver when he was born.

Many of my friends asked me about my experience as a mom of a child with special needs. To be honest, I never looked at it that way. Oliver was our first child and we didn’t know what an experience was like with a non-cleft affected child, this was our normal.  I had to express breastmilk as Oliver couldn’t breastfeed due to the fact that his lip was wide open he didn’t have a very strong sucking reflex. We had to use a special bottle to gently squeeze the milk into his mouth while he suckled to the best of his ability.

Oliver enjoying being a kid.

Six month later I found out I was pregnant again. I experienced the same excitement as the first time but with an awareness that things may not go as planned. I believe that a child with cleft lip and palate is NOT a special needs child. Yes, they require more attention to be fed when they are born and will need to have plastic surgery along with speech therapy check-ups. As for the rest of the time they are like ALL other children. They scream when they are not happy, we change their nappies when we have to, they fall and hurt themselves and they make us happy with a silly laughter after keeping us up all night. Our daughter was born with no cleft lip or palate and I had to learn how to cope with my new “normal” as I was a pro at knowing what to do with a cleft affected baby. A non-cleft affected child came with challenges that were new to me. There were many moments during their childhood that I found dealing with a cleft affected child easier than a non-cleft affected child.

Oliver in 2017

To date we have never had an issue with Oliver being different than other children or being teased about his cleft scar or speech. We have always been open about the fact that he was born with a cleft lip and palate and never backed away if anyone has any questions. Oliver is confident and proud to say that he was born with cleft lip and palate. Oliver has a heart of gold.  He is caring and loving and he is definitely the class clown. His smile lights up a room and he has tremendous perseverance even when he struggles with a task he knows how to push through and see it to the end.

I always tell Oliver that, thanks to him, we are able to be part of the Cleft family. We have met families that have become lifelong friends and we have been able be to help and support other families that are in the same situation. To have a child with a cleft lip and palate is a blessing, nothing else! Oliver is like any other child, just a little more special because he is mine.”


If you or your loved one is cleft affected feel free to email your photo and story to us at We want to share encouraging stories and create awareness about cleft lip and palate in South Africa. You are not alone!

#cleftfriends #smilefoundationsa #closingthegap #youarenotalone #cleftlip #cleftpalate #cleftstrong #cleftmomsSA #cleftcourage

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