He’s 3! Andrew Bradley-my beautiful, smart, loving, strong willed, funny, caring, amazing, miracle son-is three years old. Over the course of these three years as his mother, he has completely taken over almost every aspect of my life and I am beyond thankful to be able to give my all to him. God created me to be Andrew’s mother.

Thinking back to the time when he was born with an unexpected cleft lip and palate, I remember the fear of everything unknown. Everything was an immediate rush in the first few days, weeks, and months of Andrew’s life:

Can we get an appointment NOW with the specialists? What will his cleft team suggest for Andrew’s treatment plan? Why aren’t the first two types of specialty bottles working for him? Can we get him to eat and gain weight? Would he have hearing loss? Am I placing the face tape on him correctly? Will the hole in his heart delay his surgeries related to his cleft? Why was he born with this?

It would take many pages for me to list all of the concerns that ran through my mind in those first few months of Andrew’s life. Ultimately, I learned that no matter what, as his mother, I just loved him. And that overcame the worries and fears I had.

Fast forward three years: Andrew is still amazing. He still has a beautiful smile, even though it’s quite different from his smile at birth! Four go-rounds in and out of the operating room with surgeries and procedures related to his cleft lip and palate, and he’s still the happiest kid. His face, while one side appeared collapsed at birth, has developed to be almost exactly symmetrical. And although his right nostril still appears slanted and misshaped, Andrew would probably, more importantly, like for me to tell you that he can count to thirty, his favorite foods are broccoli, humus and beets, he loves Paw Patrol and playing outside, and he can tell a rad chicken butt joke.

The triumphs and joys absolutely outnumber the worries and fears tenfold (I think all loving mothers would say this of their children!). And, of course, with each new stage of Andrew’s life comes new worry, but that’s to be expected as a child grows–cleft or no cleft. As his mother, I will proudly continue to be his #1 advocate in every aspect as he sails through the stages of his life in hopes that one day, he can…

Continue to be strong…Know he deserves the best of everything…Become his own #1 advocate…Develop into a leader…Embrace his differences (because everyone has them!)…Learn to deeply love and care for others so that he’ll want to share his own story. Because he is an inspiration. He is amazing.