Birth Defects and their Impact
January has several different things that are observed during the month. One of these particular observations is very close to my heart because I am personally affected by it. I write for our local city moms blog and this was one of the topics we were encouraged to write about for January. I knew I had to be the one to cover it because I can speak from experience. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
I’m about to get very real and honest here. I was born with a cleft lip. I know it’s not as extreme as some cleft cases. For example, the cleft palate affects the roof of the mouth and in some cases can also affect the nose and breathing. My procedure was very quick, easy and done when I was a baby, so I don’t even remember anything about it. But, there is still a scar and I have had to live with a birth defect and disfiguration.
I have lived my whole life thinking I am less than because I wasn’t born with a normal mouth. I have uneven lips and (what I perceive as) a noticeable curved scar from my lip to my nose. When I smile, you can hardly tell that there is anything wrong with my lips, other than the scar. But I know it’s always there. I have spent numerous hours looking in the mirror contemplating what my lips would look like had I not had a cleft lip and how cosmetic surgery could fix my lips to look “normal”.
This is a VERY sore subject for me. I literally never talk about it. Only my husband and a couple very close friends are privy to my thoughts about my cleft and even then they cannot possibly understand how deep my insecurity runs. I feel if I don’t bring attention to it, it won’t be noticeable.
I don’t feel beautiful. I thought I would never get married because I am slightly disfigured. And all of this negative thinking and self-criticism goes against everything I believe in or would tell someone else in this same situation.
I know who created me and that I am perfect and highly valued in His eyes. I know it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside. And I know that there are many others who have it way worse than I do. But I still carry deep insecurities and struggle daily with this defect I had no say in or control over.
I prayed fervently that it wasn’t genetic. I didn’t want my kids to have to live with the insecurities I did. Most cases aren’t genetic and the causes are unknown. What is known is that a cleft lip happens from the tissues of the face not joining properly during development. That leads me to believe that in some cases, this particular birth defect could be prevented if there is a healthy development during pregnancy.
I’m obviously not a doctor and have no training on this subject, but I do very strongly believe in having a healthy pregnancy. And that doesn’t just mean during the initial nine months. It extends to before conception and after (for other potential pregnancies). If you could prevent your child from having a birth defect, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to do so?
That’s why this month’s awareness topic is so important! I never knew about National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and I’m sure it wasn’t on many of your radars either. If any birth defect can be prevented just by spreading the word about birth defects in general (their causes, impact and prevention) then I’d count that as an accomplishment. We can’t control everything, and by no means can every birth defect be prevented. But, what if some of them could, just by sharing some information and experiences about them? I’d say it’s more than worth it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are helping to raise awareness among women and families on actions they can take to have a healthy baby. Here are some ways to be involved in this month’s National Birth Defects Prevention campaign:
The “Thunder Clap”
Thunderclap is a tool that encourages supporters to sign up and share a unified message, at a specific time, through their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr). Doing this will create a unified front and wave of support across these social media channels. The Thunderclap will go live on January 10, 12 PM ET. This collective message will encourage others to join together and raise awareness about birth defects and help make a difference. We all know how powerful social media can be, so don’t forget to set your alarms and sign up below!
Do you or someone you know have a birth defect? Share your story of its effect on your life. You never know who will be inspired or encouraged by what you have gone through. To participate, just create an original picture or video and share it to social media with the tag #1in33
Preventing infections that are harmful to you and/or your developing baby, are one of the ways you can start implementing healthy practices during pregnancy. Share how you plan to prevent infection during pregnancy by creating an original picture or video and post it on your social media channels with the tag #Prevent2Protect
I hope you will join me in an effort to raise awareness this January during National Birth Defects Prevention Month. When it comes down to it, we all just want healthy babies and the best for them. I think that starts through all stages of conception (before, during and after) and none of them can be ignored. Let’s do everything in our power to give our kids a healthy start and the best in life!
Additional resources from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network: