My son was born with a cleft lip and palate. His lip was surgically repaired while he was in China, but the palate was wide open when we adopted him. I knew, going in, that surgeries were a part of his treatment plan.
To date, his surgeries have been successful and necessary. Because of the open palate, everything my son ate came out his nose. Everything. There was never a need to guess what he ate for breakfast because it was always there, rolling out of his nostrils, and down toward his upper lip. The four surgeries Jax has undergone so far were definitely not optional.
Tomorrow, a gifted surgeon will reshape and contour my son’s lips and add cartilage to his nose. Tomorrow’s surgery is cosmetic. Tomorrow’s surgery is completely optional.
My son wants this surgery. This procedure has been an option for over a year, but because it’s not necessary, I wasn’t signing up unless my son conveyed his interest. More and more frequently, he says, “I don’t want to see my scars.” And “I wish my lips looked more like my friends.” I decided not to stand on a parental soapbox and tell him no, that he will learn to appreciate his differences. Because he’s 8. And he’s different enough. And if I can make his road easier, I will.
But I will miss this face so much. I will miss the flat, wide nose that flares when he smiles. I will miss the way the left side of his lip is fuller and rises above the right. I will miss the shiny, scarred skin, pulled too taut, underneath his nose. Over the past six years, I have looked at my son’s face more than I have looked at my own. I have stared at it when he sleeps, I have kissed it and hugged it and wiped it off after baths. I have watched it smile more and cry less as it lengthened, thinned out, and turned from a toddler into a boy.
I have memorized every inch of this face, and I will miss it.
When I was in my late twenties, I put down a deposit on a nose job. There is a bump on the bridge, and they were going to shave it right off. As an afterthought, I told my parents. My dad stopped what he was doing, turned to me, and said, “No. You are my daughter and this is what you look like.” It wasn’t the words that led me to cancel the procedure, it was the force behind them. You are my daughter and this is what you look like. It was my face, and he would have missed it. Tonight, I get it.
I am not stopping the surgery and I won’t change my mind. My son doesn’t have a bump on his nose that is visible 25% of the time, he has the remnants of a birth defect that tomorrow, he gets to minimize. I am on board, I understand, I am even excited for him.
But I am really gonna miss his face.