Parenthood is a joy unparalleled and ours was doubled as we were expecting twins. Both my husband and I were excited as this would be the first-time twins would be born in our families.
We were thrilled to have been blessed with two girls! They looked almost identical but Jenesia was born with a cleft lip. This marred our happiness to some extent but we brought home both our children with nothing but love and affection in our hearts and minds. Jenesia’s cleft lip began to stand out whenever she lay next to her sister. Jenesia’s innocent self was unaware of the challenges coming her way. As a mother though, I could sense the attitudinal shift in the family because of how she looked. Everyone began to distance themselves from her because she looked “different”.
As heart-breaking as it was, my bigger concern remained Jenesia. Her future seemed challenging, and I was worried about her confidence being affected because of trivial comments and judgement just because of how she looked. It was important for me to consider her mental health. Her going to school worried me - the name-calling and unusual treatment dawned upon me as nothing less than a nightmare. She looked different, and the day was not far when she would start feeling differently too.
When Jenesia turned six months old, my husband and I started looking for a solution to treat our daughter. We went to a couple of hospitals that demanded hefty amounts for surgery that we couldn't afford. Our doctor at St. Joseph Cluny Hospital in Puducherry then told us about Smile Train and the kind of support they provide for children with clefts. We took our daughter to Smile Train partner hospital, Saveetha Medical College in Chennai. The doctors at Saveetha Medical’s cleft care unit examined her thoroughly and guided us, and all of it was done totally free.
The doctors and caretakers while preparing us for the surgery, even spoke to us about post-surgery concerns and how to address them timely. We had multiple counselling sessions with the Smile Train team to mentally prepare us for the surgery. Mr. Christi Doss, Cleft co-coordinator at Saveetha Hospital used to pacify me and make me feel better at every visit.
After the surgery, I was overjoyed to see the change in Jenesia. Today, when I see my two angels lying side by side, I am overjoyed to see both sisters with their heart-warming, twinning smiles!
Thank you Smile Train for providing the best care to my daughter and gifting Jenesia her winning smile!
As narrated by Jenesia's mother, Lisa Perera during the National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, 2021. Lisa is a private school teacher in Puducherry.