Claire Rutherford, of Dalkeith, Scotland, said she blamed herself for the defect despite the causes of clefts being complex and often not being attributed to a single defining factor
A woman says she spent months blaming herself after discovering her daughter would be born with a cleft lip.
Nursery worker Claire Rutherford, 23, was surprised to discover she was pregnant after undergoing surgery for endometriosis and going on the pill, Daily Record reports.
However, the excitement of welcoming a child of her own into the world was replaced with anxiety when a 16-week scan revealed that her little girl Isla would be born with the defect.
A cleft lip or palate – the roof of the mouth – affects one in every 700 babies born in the UK and can cause problems with eating, drinking, hearing and speech if untreated.
For Claire, who had been abuzz at the prospect of becoming a mum for the first time, it became a difficult time.
She blamed herself for the defect despite the causes of clefts being complex and often not being attributed to a single defining factor.
Claire, who lives in Dalkeith, Scotland, said: “I was very upset – I thought I’d done something.
“I went for a private scan at 16 weeks to find out the gender and the nurse stopped during the scan and said: ‘I think there’s something wrong.’
“It was an awful moment – Isla’s dad wasn’t there as he didn’t want to find out the gender so I was on my own.
“The way the nurse told me I thought: ‘what on earth have I done?’
“I just had this daunting feeling of anxiety – I had no idea what to expect.”
The scan image showed Isla covering her mouth with her hand in the womb – thought to be a telltale sign of a cleft lip.
Following her NHS scan a few weeks later Claire was appointed a dedicated cleft nurse, who supported her with advice in the build-up to Isla’s arrival.
The youngster was born on November 9, 2019, and spent her early days being fed through a tube because doctors weren’t sure if she could feed normally without choking.
However, Claire’s nurse was able to supply her with special feeding bottles paid for with charitable donations.
At seven months, Isla had her first operation to repair her lip, and has since had another to close the gap in the roof of her mouth.
She will need another operation as she approaches the age of 10 to ensure her gum line can accommodate adult teeth, and will go through speech therapy to help her learn to talk.
It’s not the end of the road for the two-year-old – but Claire says she couldn’t be prouder of her “wee trooper”, despite the obstacles.
“It was like seeing a whole different child after her first surgery – she had this big massive smile,” Claire recalled.
“It had quite hard seeing all the stitches in her mouth, she was all swollen and drowsy, and she was on morphine after her second operation – but she has done so well.
“The whole idea of the cleft was quite daunting when I was pregnant but looking at her now you wouldn’t think she had ever had it.
“It’s amazing the resources they have and how they can fix all these problems.
“Isla is an amazing girl and she’s had it the hard way with everything she’s had to go through – but she’s handled it so well.”
To thank the cleft nurses, Claire will take part in a skydive on April 17, raising funds for the team to buy more specialist equipment for other mums like her.
She has gathered almost £800 of donations since she booked her appointment with the sky – after setting a target of just £250.
She added: “It feels like a bucket list thing and I thought I may as well do it for a really good cause.
“Everyone close to me knows I struggled with finding out about Isla’s cleft but I am so, so grateful for the nurses.
“They’ve helped us in ways I can’t even say thank you for – so I’m doing a skydive to thank them.
“I don’t even like rollercoasters, so I’m terrified.
“But I couldn’t have done my pregnancy or when Isla was born without the cleft nurses.
“This is for wee Isla, and for the cleft team, because they’re both amazing.”
To donate to Claire’s fundraiser, click here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.