The best day in my life was when our twins were born. It was also the scariest. I knew one of them had a unilateral cleft of the lip and palate. But these were our first children. I didn't even know how to feed his unaffected twin sister - how could I possibly give this little guy everything he needed?! I soon found that he would teach me everything I needed to know. I became strong because he needed me to be.
After his first surgery, I put a little scar on a doll so we could have a way to talk about it. I wanted him to have a little buddy who could go to the hospital with him every time. The doll, Eddie, even got a mini version of our blankie - a nameless (but much blessed!) person crocheted and left one for all the children in the recovery ward that first night we were there. I posted a picture of Eddie on a chat board, not thinking much of it. (Honestly I thought he was so cute, I wanted to brag a little!)I could not believe the amount of responses I got, asking me to make more. And so, with much prodding and support of family and friends, Tiny Wide Smiles was born!
When I modified that first doll, I could never have imagined how many uses it could have. Families have used the dolls with open clefts to prepare children for the birth of their wide-smiling sibling. People have used our dolls to prepare kids for hospital stays, to boost their child's self-image, to remind them of what they looked like before the repair, educate their classmates about facial differences and, of course, to play with!! We've even sent dolls as far away as South Africa and Australia! For me, the greatest reward has been meeting so many wonderful people. There are so many amazingly strong parents and children out there. I feared I'd find the worst in people when my son first arrived. I never dreamed he would show me how truly good people can be. Even better, he makes me smile every single day.