This I Believe

Gina - Peoria, Arizona
Entered on May 26, 2007

So here is the truth.

I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and pallet. Although to be honest, I don’t even know when I figured that out. I know it sounds strange – even to me, but it is the truth. My parents never spoke about it; even though both my brother and I were both born with bilateral clefts and went through multiple surgeries each – we never talked about it. I guess that was the way back then, there wasn‘t access to the knowledge and support we have today. We never spoke about being different. We never discussed upcoming procedures. We did not talk about it at all. I want to be clear that I am not saying that was necessarily a bad approach to take. I think it was the only approach they knew to take.

Sometimes I wonder – is ignorance really bliss? Did the fact that we never spoke of my birth defect make me think of it less often; make less of a big deal out of it? I don’t know, all I know is I never really thought anything was wrong with me. Some might say due to the lack of discussion and therefore understanding or even preparation for what lied ahead for me, I had a harder time processing and dealing with the stares and the teasing etc. The fact is, I don’t know if that is true or not. I am 38 years old, successful, in a healthy loving marriage and still to this day have never really talked about it. I am not an advocate of the “pulling an ostrich” approach to life, but it is how my family dealt with it.

Don’t get me wrong, being born in our society with a facial deformity is an issue. We live in a vain society where looks matter. Sure, I was teased and sure I went home crying on more occasions than I care to remember. I had my share of insecurities (come on admit it, we all do) but I don’t blame them all on being born the way that I was. Being made fun of for having scars on my face or talking funny, impacted me profoundly – but it made me the person I am today and for that I have to be grateful.

It was an issue, which I do not deny. I am sure the feelings of self doubt and pity that break to the surface every now and then are from being born with a cleft as well as the multitude of other things that shape and determine who we are. Having scars on my face has been a big deal to me, but it is not as life altering and devastating as people without facial differences would think.

I believe that we are not asked to deal with anymore than we can handle and I could handle this. Did it stop me from becoming a super model, sure it did – but no more than the fact that I am only 5’3 and no more than the fact that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket stopped me from being the next American Idol.

Thinking about why something happens to you gets you nowhere. Deciding what to do with it now that is powerful. Life hands us all sorts of trials and tests, I believe it is what we do with them that matters.