When I read this, I felt a strong emotional reaction well up within me. I found myself in tears, angry toward the mother in the article, and inexplicably hurt by her words. I felt upset and unsettled, filled with my own interpretations of what it meant.
“How could she say that? Was she disappointed in the way her son had been created? Was she disappointed that he wasn’t the ‘perfect’ baby she had anticipated?” Maybe she was saying that he just wasn’t “good enough” because he was different. And deep down, in the depths of my subconscious, I think I wondered if…despite all declarations of “unconditional love”…my own parents had thought the very same thing about me.
My reaction to the article made me realize just how much my own identity has been formed around the way I was physically created. The common term nowadays is “cleft-affected”, perhaps because even though clefts are fixed during infancy, they affect us for the rest of our lives. The many surgeries that dotted my childhood and teenage years left me feeling flawed and in need of fixing. I never quite got the message that I was “good enough” as I was.
And yet I have made the journey toward acceptance of this part of me that shapes my identity so profoundly. It is something I have both loved and hated, appreciated and felt ashamed of. It’s something that has been easy to talk about in some settings, and incredibly painful in others. But the greatest insight has been this:
I have come to realize just how much my physical being provides a window into my acceptance of my inner self. I have learned to love my face for what it is, and I am learning to love my inner self for what it is, too.
At 28 years old, I can now look back at that article and have a deeper understanding of the words the mother spoke. In life experience, I have seen how the sadness of the unexpected often gives way to acceptance of what “is,” and that there is immense value in the journey. I also have come to understand that the mother’s words in the article didn’t mean her son was any less worthy to be loved by his mom, or by anyone else.
I believe that living my life means learning to embrace my whole self, inside and out, beauty and dark sides, gifts and weaknesses. I am going from feeling fully flawed to feeling wholly human. And I am recognizing that none of that means I am any less worthy of being loved.
After all, I believe that what makes me different makes me beautiful.