I also had to take into consideration of whether to go back to school and when. I was unsure of the time frames of Austin's surgeries, so we felt it was best to take yet another semester off from school and that I would return in January 2001 provided that all went well with Austin.

On May 12th, 2000, we met with our Cleft Team. We were then informed of the "game plan" of what they wanted to
The following day, Daddy was released from the hospital, but was not allowed to visit us due to his illness. Although we talked on the phone frequently. I spent that day, learning how to feed Austin with the special bottle. It turned out to be easier than I imagined. I had several visitors some were hospital staff, informing me of my options to where to have Austin's cleft needs met, the rest which were many, were all friends and family that wanted to meet our new little bundle. This was very hard for me, because I was unsure what they were thinking when they saw our little boy.

The following day I was released from the hospital, which was so hard, because I could not take my baby boy home with me. I went
We left that office feeling so many feelings that it is hard to put a finger on just one. One that did stand out in my mind, was that ill feeling that I had all throughout my pregnancy of something being wrong was gone. We went home, my husband took the rest of the day off to spend with me, and to be there when our girls got home from school that afternoon, so we could explain what had happened to them as a family. I set out on the task of finding any and all information that I could on the internet, library, hospital and basically anywhere I could find it. The remainder of my pregnancy seemed to drag on.
On April 15th, 2000 my husband was put into the hospital with extremely bad pneumonia. Only two days later on April 17th, 2000, I went into the hospital to have gel inserted to soften my cervix. With nothing happening 5 hours later, they allowed me to go home to rest. At 5:30 p.m. I called my husband at his hospital room and told him that I was just not feeling well at all. He then called his nurse in to ask her what I should do. She then got on the phone and told me that she felt that I was in labor. I kept telling her that , "NO, I am not, I know what labor is, and this is not it." She encouraged me to call my doctor. I did, only to be told the same thing and that I should go to the hospital. I made arrangements for my girls to go to their grandma's and my parent's took me to the hospital.

Upon arriving there they told us that I was probably not in labor and that they would probably send me home after that doctor checked me. At 9:30 p.m. my doctor arrived and checked and told me that I was in fact in labor and that he would rupture my water and "get this show on the road".

One hour and 15 minutes later, Austin made his appearance into this world, beating the on call pediatrician to the delivery room. He was welcomed with open arms by his mommy, his grandma, and mommy's best friend (substitute daddy) at 10:45 p.m. weighing 7lbs 7 oz and 20 inches long and a head full of hair and a complete unilateral cleft lip and palate. At some point someone called down to my husband's room, (who was waiting impatiently by the phone) to tell him that his little boy had been born. I can remember taking the phone, while holding Austin in my arms, crying, I couldn't say a word, I was so overcome with emotions I couldn't say a thing. The nurses were very good about knowing our situation of Daddy not being able to be there and took a large amount of instant photos to send down to his room, so Daddy could see his little boy.

One Of This Month's Featured Families!
June 2002

Austin Ellenbecker
Complete Unilateral Cleft Lip and Palate
Born April 17, 2000
South Dakota
yet another ultrasound the following week for two reasons, 1) To check the status of my amniotic fluid levels and 2) to make sure that their suspicions were right.

I left that office, just stunned. I couldn't imagine why this would happen to us and I was sure that they were wrong, this couldn't happen. I had 3 children prior and they were perfectly healthy and perfect in every way imaginable. I followed through the next week with my ultrasound. This is where they confirmed their suspicions that in fact our son would be born with a cleft lip, but unsure of the severity or the palate. They also told us at that time that my amniotic fluid levels had indeed come up and that I should keep doing what I was doing. We were also informed that we would need a pediatrician present at the birth in case of complications.
I rushed back to class and showed all my friends that we were finally having a boy. We went about buying little boy things and baby items because we had gotten rid of all of our baby stuff after our youngest daughter Kelsee was born. We figured that we were done, then 5 years later...

The pregnancy progressed with little complication, other than I could not gain weight no matter how hard I tried. At 30 weeks gestation, my doctor felt it was necessary that we have another ultrasound, because I was not measuring the size that I should be at 30 weeks.
My name is Anna, I am the mommy to Kalyn 11, Chrissi 10, Kelsee 8 and little Austin 2, and my husband is Dallas.

Our story begins as I was going to college to further my education so I could give my girls the life that they needed. I was just starting my 2nd year of college when I found out that I was due to have a baby. At first this was not a welcomed addition, due to my going to college, I thought for sure that I would not finish. At the hand of my husband, Dallas, he convinced me that we would take the baby and give it the love that any baby deserves and welcome them into our family. I soon became excited to be pregnant, and decided that I would take my second semester off due to the baby being due very close to finals time. All through my pregnancy I had this feeling that
something was wrong, but just couldn't put my finger on it.

My doctor kept assuring us that everything was ok. But still I worried. We went in November 1999 for my first ultrasound. This was a day that I will never forget, nor will my husband. At the ultrasound, we found out the glorious news that they baby I was carrying was going to be a BOY, after having 3 girls already, this was almost breathtaking. My husband was so stunned he made the technician check three different times to make sure. Each time telling us that YES it was a boy and there was absolutely no doubt.
We went for this ultrasound, not knowing what to expect. We were told that I had low/normal
amniotic fluid, and that I should drink more water to see if they could get the levels up. I followed through, then I went to my next prenatal visit without any apprehensions. That is until my doctor came in and looked at us with this look on his face that I will never forget. He then proceeds into telling my husband & I that the ultrasound technician thought that she saw that our baby boy had a cleft lip and whether we knew what it was. I told him, yes, I did, and that my uncle had a cleft lip. He then told me that he would be sending me back for
It was around 3:00 a.m. when I went into the nursery to see Austin. Only to find a nurse feeding him with a tube down his throat. I was mortified, asking her what she was doing. She then told me that she was feeding him with the tube because he was having problems sucking. By the next time that I came into the room at 4:30 a.m. Austin was eating out of a special bottle. I was then told that he was doing good and that he would not have to be transferred to a larger hospital with a NICU, that he could stay there with us.
home that afternoon only to make 3 more trips back up to the hospital to be with my son and to feed him. The following day Austin was able to come home, his pediatrician felt that he was doing well enough and that I was more than capable to take care of him to come home. Daddy made this trip with me to bring our son home to meet his sisters. My husband stayed in the vehicle for me to go get Austin and bring him down. I can remember the nurse making sure that his car seat was completely secure. She left, giving me a hug, telling me
that I was strong enough to do the task that lay ahead of us, and not to let anything bother me.

We left for home, making one stop at my husband's work to give a doctor's note for his illness. Upon arriving at his work, his boss insisted on seeing Austin. Up until this point, my husband had not even seen Austin other than in pictures. I think he was afraid to see him. When the awaited moment arrived, he said, "You know he looked a lot worse in the pictures, but he is our little boy and we will take him and love him just like his sisters" I then knew everything would be all right.

I went through a phase for the first month of not wanting to take Austin out at all and when I did, I kept him completely covered, so no one could have the chance to make fun of him. I slowly overcame this by taking a slow process of uncovering him little by little until he was out there for the world to see. I found that no one was ever rude about Austin's birth defect; they were more interested in what they could do for him.
do over the next year.  On June 22nd, 2000, Austin underwent his first surgery to place tubes in his ears and to repair the lip. It was the hardest time ever for me, to pass my son off to the nurses knowing what was about to happen. I can remember standing there crying on my husband's shoulder, watching the nurses and my baby disappear through the doors. We stood there for some time before joining our family in the waiting room.  During surgery, we were informed that Austin's PS decided to do just a lip adhesion instead of the whole lip repair, because the cleft was too wide. We were joined with our son about 2 hours later in the recovery
room. We went home the following day.

Upon arriving home Austin bumped his lip on his arm restraints and broke his incisions completely open. I was on the phone immediately calling the PS telling him of what had happened. He then told us that he wanted to see us back at his office on the following Monday. We made the 4 hour drive to his office, so he could inspect the damage and to show us how to make a device that would push the gumline bone back to where it should be or close to it. We then were told that he wanted to see us in August to attempt the lip repair again. We returned on August 14th, 2000 for his full lip repair. This surgery went off without a hitch, we were told right away that we would be
there 4 days not including the day of surgery. We were there for a total of 5 days.  We made the trip home once again. Austin's lip repair was a success.

I returned to school to finish my degree in January 2001. Our next step was for the palate repair. After many rescheduling surgery dates due to Austin being sick, we finally arrived at the hospital on April 19th, 2001 for Austin's palate repair. Once again this surgery went off without a hitch. We made the venture home, but this trip took much longer than usual, due to South Dakota weather, we were blasted with a snow/ice storm. We finally arrived home after 7 1/2 hours on the road.

We were doing well up until Austin decided he didn't want to eat. We were admitted into our local hospital the next day, we stayed there until Austin could have soft foods, which was a week. In the midst of his hospital stay, I was preparing for finals for that semester. We were finally able to take him home, where recovery seemed to fly by.

On December 15th, 2001, I graduated from college with a degree in Commercial Art.
It meant so many different meanings to me. That I was presented with a challenge and was able to overcome it. But not without having many curves sent our way during the process, despite these obstacles, we were able to overcome them and to be stronger, more compassionate people in the end. Although our story is far from over...it is just beginning.


Anna Ellenbecker

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