I shared the story of my daughter back in 2018 and felt that it was time for an update. We learned of Vilija’s cleft during an ultrasound done at 19 weeks. My pregnancy had already been difficult, as I suffered from hyperemesis gravadarum among other difficulties. I cried quite a bit throughout most of the pregnancy. But soon my husband and I began to seek out information regarding cleft lip and palate, and when I was 8 months along, we met with her future team at Pittsburgh’s Cleft/Craniofacial Center.

Vilija came into this world on June 13th, 2002, with a wide unilateral cleft lip and palate. We saw her for the sweet, beautiful little baby she was.

Having undergone 10 surgeries, Vilija is ‘officially’ done; however, she is planning to have one more, not for aesthetic reasons but rather to alleviate sinus issues. After 6 years of braces (11 years total of orthodontics), my gal’s new forever smile was unveiled on June 9th. What a monumental moment.

My now 18-year-old daughter has never let being born with a cleft hinder her. If anything, her journey only pushed her forth towards achieving. She’s always carried herself with grace. She has never had any negative self esteem troubles. Vilija is proud of who she is and what she has endured.

On June 6th, my daughter graduated with honors from Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, and will be attending Slippery Rock University, staying on as a dance major to pursue her BFA in dance, concentrating on choreography and instruction. She continues to shine both on stage and off.