Jase & I learned that Mia had a cleft lip and possible cleft palate at 31 weeks gestation, thanks to a 4-D ultrasound. We were able to prepare ourselves and our boys, as best as we knew how, for a few weeks before she was born at 37 weeks gestation.
Mia Elaine Robertson was born on September 12, 2003, with a bilateral cleft lip and palate & it was through a mutual friend, we met a family in our area who had a son born with this same condition just a few months before Mia. This family lead us to the International Craniofacial Institute in Dallas, Texas, where we traveled when Mia was 17 days old. They checked her from head to toe and fitted her with a palatal appliance in order to give a "fake roof" to her mouth.
This helped tremendously in the feeding process as it aided in allowing her milk to travel down her throat instead of out her nose. We did our best to fatten her up over the next few weeks in order to get her healthy enough for her first surgery, correction of the cleft lip. At 3 months old, Mia underwent her first corrective surgery. Jase and I were prepared to physically take care of our daughter, but we were not prepared emotionally as to how different she would look after this surgery. We had fallen in love with that sweet face for 3 months and were not prepared for the swelling and stitches that we saw in the recovery room. It was a very emotional time.
Our baby looked so different, and we actually wondered if it would have been better if we had chosen not to put her through the surgery. In just a couple of days, the swelling diminished entirely, and we soon realized that this indeed was the best thing to do for our child. I try to help parents in this regard so they do not experience the same trauma that we did. Mia healed quickly, and we continued to prepare her for the next surgery. She had palate correction surgery at 7 months old. After having her palatal appliance cleaned 3-5 times a day for 7 months, Mia now had her own natural palate. She was a happy baby who loved her mama and hardly ever wanted to be away from me. This is extremely common with babies who need so much medical attention. No worries. I took her to work with me at Duck Commander, and she played on the floor and with her Mamaw Kay while we worked.
We soon fell into a normal routine as she became just like any other baby – feeding, sleeping, playing, laughing. When Mia was 5 years old, she underwent a second lip correction surgery in order to straighten the lip from her last 5 years of growth. During the surgery, the doctors noticed that her nasal passages had begun to collapse due to scar tissue from the first surgery, so they had to do some work in the nose area as well. Mia had to heal from more stitches around her mouth and also had to wear a nose stint for a few weeks in order to open and stabilize her nasal passages. This was a difficult adjustment for a 5 year old, but she soon learned to help with the tasks of cleaning her stint each day as well as helping me clean the area around her stitches. In a few weeks, things returned to normal. A year later, she fell at the playground at school and broke her arm. The break was severe enough to have pins surgically placed in her elbow to stabilize the bones. She spent two nights in the hospital for a broken arm.
In 2012 we started the process of preparing her mouth for the upcoming bone graft surgery. This surgery is necessary in order to add bone to the cleft in her upper jaw where bone is absent. This is so her adult teeth can be moved to their intended position. Due to a larger amount of scar tissue from her surgeries as an infant, Mia's upper jaw did not grow at the same rate as her lower jaw. This caused an under-bite of 15 mm. Her orthodontist, Dr. Jeff Genecov, developed a type of headgear that Mia was required to wear 12-14 hours a day for 12-18 months. Mia did great at this, wearing it to bed each night and school each day to get the required hours. After 12 months, it was decided that her jaw had moved enough (10 mm) to do the bone graft surgery. On January 3, 2014, Mia underwent major bone graft surgery. Her surgeon, Dr. David Genecov, took bone from her left hip and placed it in the cleft of her upper jaw. He then placed a splint in her mouth to hold the bone in place for 12 weeks. She has been on a "no chew" diet since that time. She will go for a check-up and x-ray on March 18th. If Dr. Genecov sees that the bone has sufficiently grown together, he will then remove the splint and she will be able to resume her normal eating habits.
Mia was born with a difficult challenge in her life. She has risen far above the expectations we had as parents. She now travels all over the country, speaking and singing to groups of people, encouraging them with her story of physical and emotional struggles. Watching how she deals with all of this in her life is difficult sometimes for us as parents, but she has become an inspiration to so many, including her daddy, her brothers and me. We couldn't be more proud of Mia.