After six years of trying to start a family, we were overjoyed to learn that I was pregnant with our first child. Just as any normal expecting couple, we prepared as best as we knew how – stocking up on bottles, diapers, and clothes. At a routine ultrasound, we discovered we were having a girl! We couldn’t wait for the day to meet our daughter, and we imagined what she would look like – would she have my nose or would she have my husband’s eyes?

When the time came for the birth of my daughter, our world changed forever. When I heard her first cry, I was waiting to hear the words, “It’s a girl!” Instead, I heard the doctor announce, “It’s a cleft,” as he showed my daughter’s face to me for the first time. Cora had a unilateral cleft lip and palate.

Cora struggled to eat. The nurses tried bottle after bottle, but she choked with each one. She was losing weight, and the hospital referred us to a feeding specialist. In those early days of my daughter’s life, I remembered thinking, “Ok – we’ve managed to keep her alive for another day.” We felt helpless in trying to feed her. In fact, I could hear her stomach growl as she cried for food. We were unsure of next steps to help our daughter or what the future held for her.