Assuming that you are like me, there are things you don’t like about yourself. These things might even make you self-conscious. If everyone could be completely honest, you would discover that, while many people don’t like things about themselves, they have come to accept who they are. I believe that this self-acceptance is the best combatant for self-consciousness.
My mom told me the story of the day I was born many, many times. There is one version of this story, however, that I heard only once. This is that version of events:
My parents chose not to find out my gender – for reasons that I will reveal in a different post – and were naturally very eager to find out whether their first-born would be a son or daughter. After a tumultuous pregnancy, the time came for them to meet me! They expected the full package with me (ten pink fingers, ten pink toes, two eyes, two ears, etc.), and at 6:14 pm on April 6th, they should have had the chance.
There are a few things that new parents might expect to hear at the time of birth. “It’s a girl!”, “We’ve got a full head of hair, Mom!”, or even “Happy birthday, little one!” would not have been out-of-place.
Instead, I was whisked away by a flock of silent nurses. My parents didn’t hold me. They didn’t even know I was a girl. The doctor asked, “Did you know your baby had a cleft palate?”
Brand new parents having their first baby never want to think that something is wrong, especially after a day and a half of labor. You think you’re out of the woods when the baby is out and crying, but apparently it’s just the time that you can learn that everything you have planned for in your child’s new life is about to change.
Having a cleft palate is not usually a life-threatening condition. My case was pretty mild, being unilateral and only affecting the roof of my mouth and not my outward appearance, but nonetheless terrifying to my parents. They had chosen to breastfeed, which was no longer an option because I lacked the ability to “suck”. They were told that, instead, my mom would need to use a breast pump and a syringe to feed me. I would need reconstructive surgery before my second birthday. I would need speech therapy indefinitely.
Sadly, the doctor’s can’t tell you how this will affect a child on a personal level. They can’t tell you that your child will be made fun of by peers because they can’t speak properly or that things like carbonated sodas feel like they “burn” any exposed sinus tissue. They also can’t tell you that it’s the early 1990’s and there won’t be any real surgical options designed to improve your child’s speech for another decade. They can’t give you a sense of normalcy.
I’ve had quite a time with this affliction. There are days when I don’t think about it, but there are also days when I can’t think about anything else. I’m different. Being different isn’t always a bad thing, but it is very rarely a good thing. The difference between others who are different – in the most normal sense of the word – and me is that other people can hide their anomalies. I don’t have that option.
In the last few years, I have decided that I will never be okay with who I am until I have fully accepted my situation. I am different. I am weird. There are things that I can do that you can’t and vice versa, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalms 139:13-14 (NIV) sums is together completely for me, as I’m sure it does for many other people. I was made with a purpose, whether I know what that purpose is or not, and I can accept that.
I may be nearly twenty years old, but I am no closer to figuring out my purpose in life than any other person my age. What I have figured out is that it’s okay to not know. I have lived a life full of uncertainties and I am strong enough to deal with it. It’s true when people say that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I am slowly realizing just how strong I am and just how strong I will become in the future.
I was given an obstacle. It is mine to overcome. I have so far, and I will continue to do so. Although I may not like everything about myself, I have come to the point of acceptance. I wouldn’t say that I’ve confronted all my demons yet, but I will continue to pray for the day that I love myself in spite of my differences – or even because of them!
Stay beautiful, my lovelies!
(Photo courtesy of cleftawareness.org)