Goodbye, Cleft Lip….I’m Going to Miss You

A blog entry from the Skipper family on the eve of their daughter’s cleft lip surgery

by Jennifer Skipper

Meili, before her surgery to correct her cleft lip and palate.

A year ago, Marc and I had to fill out the hardest piece of paperwork for our adoption: the form that listed all of the “special needs” we would be willing to knowingly accept in our child. I prayed and prayed over that sheet. It was SO hard. In the end, after many discussions with the Lord and my husband, there was only one condition that Marc and I didn’t agree on. Cleft lip/palate. Marc said a firm and confident, “Yes.” I said, “I just can’t do it.” I knew in my heart that my reason was simple: vanity. I knew my reason was wrong and yet I couldn’t check that box having the reservations and fears that I had. I knew I had to have the perfect peace that only God gives on each condition I checked; I wanted to have it on this condition, but I didn’t.

Fast forward four months, and I felt like we needed to take another look at that form. I asked God why I had to revisit it. It was hard enough the first time. But I couldn’t get it off my mind that there was something we needed to add to the form. I just couldn’t imagine what it was.

Around that time, a billboard popped up on the freeway at the exit to my home. The billboard had a gigantic face of a baby on it with bilateral, complete cleft lip. It was an ad for Smile Train. I looked at that face. The deformity was so big and, to be honest, unattractive to me. I really hate to say it, but I had to look away. That billboard was in a location that I couldn’t get away from. I was forced to look at it over and over again. It was such an issue for me that I had to pray about it: “God,” I said, “please help me. My heart is now right! I know that is Your child. Help me to see this child through Your eyes.” And so I prayed and prayed…and prayed.

Over time, God changed my heart. He cleaned out my sinful thoughts and replaced them with His thoughts. He said to me:

“Jennifer, that is my child and I don’t make mistakes. She is a beautiful, beautiful girl in every way. Her lip isn’t ugly; It’s just different from a lot of other peoples. The world looks at her lip. I look at her heart. Please love her like I love her. Please be different from the world. These kids need love. And besides Jennifer, you know you ain’t no beauty queen yourself. Should I remind you of your characteristics that the world sees as flaws?”

Oh, how humbling.

It was at this point in the adoption journey that I began looking at blogs of other families who had adopted. I came upon one girl who was about to be adopted. She had repaired cleft lip.

Something about her caught my heart. I thought to myself, “Look at her. She is a precious child of God.” I thought she was beautiful. If my agency had asked me to adopt her, would I say no? No! I would have said, “Yes! She is precious!”

Then, the unthinkable happened. God gave me this intense desire to adopt a baby with a cleft lip/palate. I just had that amazing peace about this condition and that it would be a perfect fit for our family. Because we had so many other conditions checked on that infamous form, I figured we probably wouldn’t get that particular condition.

Three days later our agency called with Meili’s information. She had a cleft lip and palate. We accepted the referral.

My first two thoughts when I first met Meili were: tiny and adorable.

Can’t you see God in this? He had totally changed my heart. When I saw her, I didn’t even see her lip. I saw her beauty.

After one week with Meili, I started struggling with the thought of surgery. Why? Why would we ever let her have surgery? I had to have an answer. I just couldn’t do it because everyone expected us to. And to me, there was no reason to. She was perfect. God made her lip the way it was and he didn’t make mistakes. She was perfect. I couldn’t put her through surgery without a reason. Reluctantly, I shared these feelings with Marc. He said he had been thinking the exact same thing. I imagined the looks people would give me when I told them we weren’t going to fix it. I didn’t care. Finally, after a few long weeks of processing all of this, seemingly out of the blue, the reason to do the surgery came to me: I think that she would want us to have it fixed for her.

And that brings us to tonight, the eve of her surgery. Tomorrow at noon she will be going into the operating room for a four-hour surgery to repair her cleft lip. People have asked if I am excited for her to have this surgery. My answer is, “No.” I know it must sound silly to say, but I am going to miss her cleft lip. It’s her. I think it’s cute. God has used it and this amazing little girl to change me for the better. As you can see, her cleft lip has been a big deal for me. When God works on your heart — and you can see and feel the transformation that only He can do — it’s a big deal.

Thank you God for all that you have taught me through my daughter’s cleft lip. Thank you for humbling me. Thank you for helping me to see people more through your eyes and giving me the privilege of calling Meili my daughter. Thank you for being a God who doesn’t make mistakes and who made her perfectly in your image. What a gift she is to us, every piece of her. Thank you for making our path to her clear. If I could have picked any child to come home with us, I would pick her over and over again. God, I praise you for her! Thank you.


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6 Replies to “Goodbye, Cleft Lip….I’m Going to Miss You”

  1. What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll keep your daughter and your family in my prayers.

  2. Your story touched my heart! WE are currently adopting a little boy from Korea. But God has been giving me dreams about adopting a special needs child from China, specifically a girl with a cleft lip and/or palate. For some reason, God keeps bringing me back to this over and over. He is in control. Thanks again for sharing and God Bless you and Your family!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story . . . it brings back so many memories of nearly 20 years ago when we, too, filled out that “infamous form” and marked that we would consider cleft lip and/or palate. I’ll never forget the phone call we got on New Year’s Eve 1991 telling us of a referral of a little baby boy from Korea with cleft lip and palate. Are we glad we said, “yes”? Absolutely!! After surgeries, a couple sets of braces and finally a tooth implant just 9 months ago, our Alex is now a handsome almost 20-year-old college sophomore. Those surgeries and doctor visits weren’t all fun, but so worth it. I always say this guy has provided us with many adventures . . . and I hope in 20 years you’ll be saying the same about you little lady!

  4. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. May God bless you and you family.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story! You talked about how God worked on you & about the billboard sign. I always had trouble looking at children with cleft lip/palate. If I was looking in a magazine, I tried to avoid the back because usually there are pictures of children with clefts in them. I was a lot like you. And then one Sunday morning, during the sermon, our pastor said, “we are made by God and God doesn’t make junk!” Hit me like a ton of bricks. Then what had been so hard for me to look at suddenly became beautiful. My heart ached for a child with cleft lip/palate. We filled out the form on August 23, 2010 without any hesitation. The same day Holt recieved our completed dossier, we recieved a call with a referral. Within 45 minutes of getting our dossier to be exact! It was a beautiful 11 month old girl with 3rd degree cleft lip/palate. We are now waiting for travel approval so we can go bring her home! We serve an AMAZING GOD! Like you, I am praising HIM for this wonderful babygirl & the life HE has given me! God bless your beautiful family!

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