REAL LIFE

Brave Charlie gets a new smile

Born with a cleft lip and palate, Charlie's got a new grin

When Charlie was born, first-time mum Charlotte Halliday, 23, immediately felt the atmosphere in the hospital room change.

Her partner Darren, 36, mum Michelle and big sister Leanne were by her side.

‘Aside from his cries, the room was silent,’ she tell that’s life! magazine. ‘As Charlie was placed on my chest, I couldn’t see his little face but I could see my family’s shocked expressions.’

That’s when Charlotte, from Landbsorough in Queensland, was told that Charlie had a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate. Despite having ultrasounds and 3D scans, the condition had never been picked up, so came as a surprise to everyone when Charlie was born.

As he was whisked off to NICU, Charlotte was left behind wondering what would happen to her little boy.

‘I hadn’t even had a chance to look into my son’s eyes,’ Charlotte explains. ‘Four hours later I was allowed to see Charlie. His nose and mouth hadn’t properly formed. Unprepared, I’d never seen anything like it before.’

Blaming herself, Charlotte felt helpless.

‘When I was alone I bawled my eyes out. What would this mean for my son?’ Charlotte says.

Specialists assured Charlotte that Charlie’s lips and palate could be fixed in time and she took him home.

‘Charlie was gorgeous but he was in and out of hospital with feeding issues,’ says Charlotte. ‘I struggled and suffered post natal depression.’

At three months old he lit up Charlotte’s world with a smile!

‘Never before had I seen such a big gummy, grin. Before long he was flashing it at everyone,’ says Charlotte.

On the whole she got a positive reaction while taking Charlie out, but sometimes people could be thoughtless and ask when he was going to be fixed.

‘Instead of getting upset, I made it my mission to educate people,’ explains Charlotte.

Last month Charlie had surgery to repair his lip. Afterwards, Charlotte instantly regretted the three-hour operation.

‘It looked like Charlie was in so much pain,’ she recalls.

Charlie after surgery
Charlie after his lip surgery (Credit: Charlie after his surgery)

But a few days later, when he smiled, she felt relieved. As Charlie grows he’ll need more surgery to continue to repair his palate.

‘Each scar will tell a story and I’ll teach my boy to be proud of himself,’ says his proud mum.

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For more amazing real-life stories see this week’s issue of that’s life! magazine – out now!

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