Your mommies started preparing for your hospital stay about a week before the big day. Our bags were packed and we were ready but we were also a little sad. You see, from the moment you came out of mommy’s tummy we loved you just the way you were. You were beautiful and perfect in every way. Your smile made us happy and was loved by your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone else who met you! We knew that repairing your lip was the best thing for you because it would allow you to eat much easier and we knew that overtime the cleft in your lip would expand and would affect your speech. Because of these things we made the decision to connect the two sides of your beautiful little lip.
The morning of your operation, we arrived at the hospital bright and early and guess what? Your Nani, grandma, grandpa and uncle Nick all beat us there. They were so excited to see you off that they were already in the lobby with coffee and breakfast when we walked in. You were cuddled and kissed while mommy checked us in and you were in the best mood. For the 30 minutes that we all got to visit, you laughed and smiled the entire time. After everyone had a chance to love on you, we headed down to the surgical waiting area. This is when the family had to say their goodbyes. There were tears and a lot of kisses as everyone took turns giving you a squeeze. They all knew that from this point forward mama and mommy would be the only one’s to stay with you.
Mommy held you as we all went to the pre-op room. The nurse that was helping us thought you were the most adorable little girl and loved your smile. She brought you a hospital gown to wear but it was way too BIG. It was the only one they had so mama had to get creative and find a way to keep it on you. The gown had pictures of little tigers on it, which we loved because when you get excited we always say that you sound like a little tiger! We got you dressed and changed your diaper before laying you down in your crib (that happened to looked a lot like a little jail cell). While this was going on, you continued to be as happy as always and really had no idea what was going on. Even though you hadn’t had anything to eat since 4am you were still all smiles and had the family in the next room ohhing and ahhing. It was a good thing that you were doing so great because your mamas had very heavy hearts. We were strong all morning but once we got to this room the heartache set in. We knew we only had a few more minutes with you. We also knew that you would be taken from us very soon and that it would be the last time we kissed your little lips and looked at the face that we loved so very much. Together we all prayed and asked God and grandpa Rudy to watch over you and keep you safe during your surgery. Knowing that your guardian angels would take care of you made mama and mommy feel so much better.
The day before the operation, mama had lunch with a friend and her husband who was an anesthesiologist at the same hospital you were set to have your operation. He looked into who the anesthesiologist was going to be for you and called to let us know that she was one of the best in the practice and that you were in very good hands. After meeting her and seeing how good she was with you, we felt better about handing you over. This was one of the most difficult parts of the day. Dr. C came in with the nurse to let us know that it was time and that he would walk us out while you were taken into surgery. After kissing your sweet face, we made our exit. I looked back one last time as we left and caught a glimpse of the top of your fuzzy little head as you were being carried away. I probably shouldn’t have looked back because when I did my heart just couldn’t take it. I wanted to be with you, I wanted to be holding you. I didn’t want you to wake up scared or alone. Luckily mommy was there and she handles difficult situations much better than mama. She hugged me and assured me that everything was going to be ok and as scared as I was, I had faith that everything was going to be ok too.
Dr. C told us that the surgery would take 2.5 hours and that it was very important that we not leave the waiting area because he needed to be able to reach us at any time. We joined grandma, grandpa; Nani and uncle Nick in the smaller of the 2 waiting rooms and settled in for the morning. The next several hours went by incredible slow. Grandpa George was so worried about you that he updated us on the time just about every 20 minutes and he even spilled an entire cup of coffee on grandma’s lap! He just loves you so much and couldn’t sit still. Eventually 2.5 hours came and went and we hadn’t heard anything. Then we approached the 3-hour mark and still nothing. To be honest baby girl, we all started to worry. Around 3 hours and 15 minutes we heard a page over the speakers requesting that the parents of Grace Roybal report to the surgical unit. Mommy and me immediately sped off to find you. When we arrived we were told that Dr. C went to the first of two waiting rooms and when we weren’t there he assumed we had left… like we would EVER leave our precious girl! No way!
When we walked into your room the nurse holding you was so relieved to see us. She handed you over and we both held you close and let you know that your mamas were there and weren’t going anywhere. You were heavily sedated and even though you couldn’t really focus in on us, you seemed to know that you were with us because you fell right to sleep. After about 15 minutes the nurse commented that she could see a visible difference in your demeanor and comfort level once you were in our arms. Me and mommy took turns holding you while quietly examining your new little face, and then looking at each other and then back at you. You looked different but still the same. You were swollen and congested and sounded raspy from the tubes that they had to put down your throat during surgery. Your stitches were covered in dried blood but already your lip looked AMAZING! We couldn’t take our eyes off of you.
After you had some time to rest and get a little more comfortable, we fed you your first bottle using the zip-n-squeeze. You had a bit of a difficult time drinking from the bottle at first because it required you to swallow instead of suck. Both mommy and me felt physical pain just placing the mouth of the bottle on your fragile and swollen lips. Despite the discomfort and pain that we knew you were feeling; you drank your entire bottle like a CHAMP! We were so proud of you. After you fed, we were wheeled off to our family room to begin your recovery.
Although you were such a strong little fighter those first couple of hours after the operation were the most painful for you and the most difficult for me and mommy to witness. We could see that you were trying so hard to find comfort in our arms but your little face was just so sore and swollen that you had to cry out. At one point, your crying opened a stitch and your nose began to bleed pretty badly. This was by far the scariest moment for your mamas. We didn’t know what to do, there were no nurses around and in my panic I couldn’t manage to work the phone! After what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was about 2 minutes) our nurse came in to check on you. She checked your nose and lip and assured us that you were ok and that all of your stitches were still in tact. She said that getting a bloody nose following cleft repair is completely normal. When she left I was very upset and both mommy and I agreed that if a spontaneous and very bloody nose were “normal”, a heads-up would have been nice…
Following a long and much needed nap you woke up a new baby. You were rested, much happier and appeared to be in a little less pain. The timing couldn’t have been better because your family was dying to see you! Nani, grandma, grandpa, uncle Nick, uncle Dom and auntie Ashlynne all came to your recovery room to shower you with LOVE. Uncle Dom was amazed with how great your lip looked and your grandma’s couldn’t wait to hold you in their arms. Auntie Ashlynne brought you the cutest owl and card and actually got a couple of smiles out of you. Your little bed was covered in stuffed animals and sweet messages given to you by Andrea, Becca, Kelley, Erin and Felicia. We were even treated to dinner courtesy of SmileFest New Mexico, which was so touching to your mamas! Grandpa, like the rest of us still had a very heavy heart and it was difficult for him to see you bruised and swollen. He explained to us that he can handle a lot of things but seeing his hita in pain was not one of them. His heart hurt so much he cried.
That evening as mommy and I prepared you for bed, a new nurse came on the floor that was such an amazing help to us. She showed us how to care for and clean your wound, she checked in on you often and she came running to the rescue when you pulled out your IV and thank goodness because that too was a shocking and scary experience. You slept with mommy who snuggled you until you fell asleep while I slept on the couch. Every couple of hours throughout the night we woke you for feedings and medicine but other than that you did amazingly well. Your mommy was an incredible comfort to you on this night and even tried to let me sleep during some of the middle of the night check-ups. She was such a good mommy bear.
Bright and early the morning following your operation, we received a visit from Dr.C. He checked your stitches and talked to us about your progress. He gave us the WONDERFUL news that we would be able to take you home later that day. While we were nervous to take you off all the machines that told us how you were doing, we also knew that Dr. C wouldn’t give us the ok to go home unless he was 100% sure that you would be ok. Before we even had the chance to call your grandparents with the good news they were knocking on our door. You are such a blessed little girl to have Nani, grandma and grandpa. They have been there since the very first appointment when we received the news that you were going to be born with a cleft lip. They were there crying happy tears when you came into the world and they have been there everyday since. Your mommy and mama couldn’t have gotten through this week without them so it was only fitting that they joined us for breakfast in Rachel’s Courtyard on our last morning at the hospital. The courtyard in the Children’s Center was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and you really loved exploring the grounds and smelling the flowers in the beautiful sunshine. It was a lovely morning and a very peaceful way to say farewell to this leg of our journey.
We came home to a wonderful surprise from auntie Angela and your cousins; Rudy, Devin, Ociel and Mia. They made you a glittery pink welcome home poster with special messages just for you. They also gave you a bag of new books to read with mama during your recovery. It was the biggest surprise and such a wonderful welcome home for our little family.
Baby girl, you have been so amazingly strong through all of this and your mamas could not be more proud of you. You made it 4 1/2 months without getting even so much as a runny nose, which is just what we prayed you would do. You have remained happy and patient at the dozens of appointments that we have dragged you to. You so quickly forgave us for putting you through such a painful surgery and even found the strength to smile for us so soon after your operation. You have somehow managed to tolerate those annoying pedi-wraps that you have to wear and even though it is painful you are eating as much as you can for us. How did we get so lucky? How did we get so blessed? From the moment we first saw your sonogram picture and you were just the size of a poppy seed, we have loved you. When we found out that you were going to be born with a cleft lip our hearts grew even bigger and for all the days of your life, we will continue to love and protect you.
You were beautiful when you came into the world and you are beautiful today. Thank you for being such a blessing in our lives.