I Want Edden to Look to Me and See What’s Possible

Andrea feared her son would suffer like she did. He didn’t, thanks to you.

Andrea holding Edden and a picture of him before cleft surgery

Twenty-seven-year-old Andrea lives in Mendoza, Argentina, with her husband, Franco, and their two sons. She was born with a cleft, as was her youngest, four-year-old Edden. This is her family’s story in her own words.

I was born in 1995 with a cleft lip and palate. My mother was only 17 years old when I was born and it must have been very shocking for her.

I received my surgeries at Notti Hospital here in Mendoza. The treatment was a long process, but through everything, my mother was by my side. She had three more children after me, and she still always took me to my treatments, leaving my siblings with my grandmother or my aunt to take care of them. She was always looking out for me.

I didn’t go out as a child; I stayed by my mother’s side. I never wanted to leave her. I would just go out to do the shopping then come home.

Andrea today
Andrea today

Things changed when I met Franco in school about nine years ago and we got married in 2015. We were so excited when I found out that I was pregnant. I've always wanted to start a family and have a life like everyone else. I was nervous that my child would have a cleft, but he did not.

When I got pregnant for a second time a few years later, the ultrasounds were clear once again, so it was a shock when I saw his cleft after he was born. At that moment, I felt like the world was falling. I could see what was coming, and it made me very upset. Everything my mom went through with me.

Thank God, Franco was also there. From the moment I saw Edden had a cleft, he took care of everything.

Generational Change

I had such a depression that they left me in the hospital for one more day. I started to feel better the next day when I went to see Edden in neonatology and saw Dr. Silvia Torres, who had been my pediatric dentist. She did not know at first that he was my son, but seeing her again made me feel more calm, confident, and contained. She told us what all the next steps would be and explained that, because Notti now partnered with Smile Train, all of Edden’s treatments would be free.

I remember how expensive my treatments were. My parents had to sell some belongings so I could have the surgeries I needed. Franco and I are no better off than my parents were so it was a giant relief when we learned that Notti was now a Smile Train partner and Edden would get care for free. When we were leaving for home and Dr. Torres saw how stressed I was, she told me, “You already know what this is like, and that can give you strength.”

I decided then that I would try to see myself better and feel better, for myself and also for Edden, so that he could look to me and see what is possible.

My mother told me that I would choke at night as a baby, and she and my father had to always be awake and on alert for me. I came home from the hospital also expecting many months of no sleep, but thankfully, that didn’t happen to us with Edden.

Of course, not everything was easy. Edden was born in the winter, and I always worried he would get sick and not be able to have his surgery. Feeding was complicated, too. Edden lost a lot of weight because he couldn’t eat anything, and then my post-partum depression made my milk dry up.

When I was a baby, my mother had to cover me up every time she stepped outside because if she let anyone see me, they said horrible things. I thought a lot about which blankets I would cover Edden with, what I would say, what I would do if anyone harassed my baby, how I would sneak him out of the house to get him to the hospital when he needed help.

But I never had to do any of that because, thank God, we always had family support and community support. And Dr. Torres and the cleft team at Notti gave us a lot of training and equipment to make sure we were always able to feed Edden.

It all made Franco and me realize how things are getting better and better and filled us with gratitude.

From Shock to Aww

We were so nervous for several days before Edden’s first cleft surgery that we couldn’t sleep. Then, when he came out of the operating room, his face was swollen and he had stitches in his mouth. It was shocking.

When we got home, our whole family was there to welcome us. As the days went by, his swelling went down, and we saw that the surgery had been excellent. All of us were very pleased and happy.

Edden, smiling, holding a picture of himself before cleft surgery
If you’re happy and you know it, smile like Edden

After the surgery, the cleft team was always present, giving us support and telling us what day we had to go for check-ups. Feeding him was much easier after that. Edden now eats calmly and breathes through his nose with his mouth closed, which are things I can’t do.

You are the Difference

I would tell parents who just had a baby with a cleft to stay calm because, little by little, your child can get ahead and have a healthy, happy life. Children need a lot of help from their parents. You will still have to fight and accompany your baby, but thank God, there are organizations like Smile Train that help children, so there is no need to despair.

I want to say thank you to Smile Train’s donors because, without them, none of our happiness about this situation would be possible.

I thank them also because thanks to their contributions, not only did my Edden receive the surgeries he needed to have a better life, but we also have better technologies here in our hospitals.

Edden, Andrea, Franco, and Edden’s older brother
One happy family

Without the support of Smile Train and their donors, our story would be different. We would be going through what my parents and I went through. When I was 17 years old, my cleft team told me it was time to start my orthodontic treatment, but I didn’t want to. I regretted it immediately. But Edden is only four years old and can already say words that I can’t because he is enrolled in speech therapy at Notti.

Andrea holding Edden
Knowing her son can smile makes Andrea smile like nothing before

Edden’s speech therapist tells us that he has many possibilities to progress more in all his treatment. We are very happy with his progress and see a good future for him. I think he will grow up to be very happy.

This Mother’s Day, make a special gift to Smile Train in honor of fearless cleft moms like Andrea.