Every moment has been a surprise for Rachelle since the birth of her first born son: Deron.
Deron, a beautiful and energetic 2 year old, began an unexpected journey in Rachelle’s life. Looking forward to a normal pregnancy, Rachelle never saw the challenges coming her way. All her prenatal scans had shown up normal, with almost no indication of a cleft or an extra chromosome.
Even though cleft conditions were not unknown to Rachelle, as her cousin’s daughter and neighbours had cleft conditions; it was never discussed nor talked about. “We don’t talk about it much because we might hurt the family, the mother if you talk about why they have this or why they have that”, Rachelle said.
‘Everything was a surprise to us, with the cleft and the extra chromosome’, recalled Rachelle.
Deron alongside his cleft condition was also born with down syndrome. Rachelle expressed that as a first time mother she refused to believe that this had happened. ‘I was in denial’, she said.
Prior to Deron, Rachelle had everything planned and stuck to a certain routine with little flexibility. But now things had changed. The expectations that she had set for herself and her first born had shifted.
When Deron was born, he had to stay in the NICU(neonatal intensive care unit) for a few more days for further observation making it even harder for Rachelle to absorb. Her worries revolved around how he would be accepted by those surrounding him, Rachelle would wonder, ‘How is he going to be embraced by the people around him(when he grows up)?’
It was through this journey that the support of her family and especially her husband had really come through. ‘He’s(her husband) very supportive when it comes to everything’, Rachelle said fondly.
Eventually she was able to welcome Deron as he is. ‘I was able to overcome the fear that I might not be able to give him the life he needs’, revealed Rachelle.
Rachelle and her husband, Donnie had begun their research into the condition and organizations that might help Deron and answer any questions they had, and that’s when they came across Operation Smile. They immediately sent across an email and soon became part of the UAE June 2021 mission.
Although this was not Derons first surgery- his previous being to repair his soft palate- Rachelle was still anxious and nervous. When Deron came out of surgery all Rachelle wanted to do was hold Deron. ‘I wanted to hug him tight, but I knew I had to compose myself.’, said Rachelle.
Deron sparked a new beginning for Rachelle to grow as a person, learning from all from her experiences. ‘When I had Deron I became very patient, I matured in a sense’, recalled Rachelle. She realised that life was too short to be spent constantly worrying, but rather to embrace every moment by taking a step back and understanding what her son needs.
Today, Deron is a very happy boy, always expressing himself and developing into a strong and receptive person. Although his journey in facing the world has only begun, the growing social media presence in the world today makes Rachelle a little more confident that Deron’s extra chromosome won’t stop him from being accepted into society.
When asked to say a few final words, Rachelle said, ‘I’m very thankful and I’ll be forever grateful to each and everyone because without the organization it wouldn’t have been easy for us.’