A Smile for Anna

“Cleft lip.”

Anna's 22 week ultrasound photo

Image: Center for Women’s Health

The words rang in my head since the ultrasound. At twenty-two weeks a shadow on our unborn child’s lip shattered our dreams of the perfect baby. We faced surgeries, possible feeding problems, and the fear of cruel, insensitive, or thoughtless comments. We struggled with our faith in the God who gave our child a cleft, and were betrayed by a trusted spiritual guide. But instead of turning inward, we reached out, raising over $2,000 to buy specially-made cleft bears for over 200 Oregon families like ours.

That alone would have made a good story, but life is full of plot twists that make good stories better. At two years old, Anna’s friends spoke clearly but she didn’t. No one could understand her. And as strange as it sounds, it was her cleft that made the difference. Without it, her speech disorder might have gone undiagnosed for another year or more. But a routine visit with her cleft-lip-and-palate team gave us an answer: Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

Through intensive speech therapy, Anna found her voice, and through our journey together, I answered the question that my wife asked me the day we found out we were expecting. “Are you ready to be a daddy?”

Anna walks through the grass at Hendricks Park in May 2009

Photo: Julia Ozab

A Smile for Anna is a unique book within a broader category of special-needs-parenting memoirs like Expecting Adam by Martha BeckBabyface by Jeanne McDermott, and Schuyler’s Monster by Robert Rummel-Hudson. It is a book that will appeal to anyone who has faced similar struggles.

An excerpt from A Smile for Anna was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times, and another excerpt will be included an upcoming anthology titled Not Afraid: Stories of Finding Significance (Civitas Press: 2013).

The manuscript is complete and I am currently seeking representation.

In the meantime, I am living the sequel, and I’ll write about it once I’ve experienced it myself.

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