Being born with a birth difference is not easy, but it never defined my reality or made me special. It was the way I dealt with the fact that makes me unique — and this is my story.
I am my parents’ fourth child, and was born with a cleft lip and palate. This was a shock to my mother, but she braved the questions and jibes about my cleft without losing heart. At nine months, I underwent a cleft surgery, but it was just the first of many to come. Growing up, my parents and siblings became my support system. My father even donated his blood to aid my first surgery. When I had my first alveolar bone graft surgery at the age of 12, it was he who looked after me. I truly feel blessed to have such a caring family and supportive friends, for they are the ones who shaped my personality, and helped me evolve into the confident young woman that you see today. Thanks to them, I rarely faced any bullying as a child. Even when my speech faltered, my mother stepped up to help me speak better. She is my biggest inspiration and my rock.
The road to this smile was indeed long and arduous, but it motivated me to start a Youth Cleft Awareness Group to spread information about cleft lip and palate in India. We are a small group right now, but we hope to grow by building a strong cleft community of patients and their parents - to make sure they know that being born with a cleft lip and palate is nothing to be ashamed of. I thank my doctors and Smile Train India with all my heart. Like them, I also want to make a difference and spread smiles!
Written by Chandana Gowda, who was born with a cleft lip and palate and treated at Smile Train’s partner Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, Bangalore.