THE parents of a baby boy who was born with a cleft lip have spoken about their experience to raise awareness of the facial abnormality.

The Comet: Max Harrington before he had operation to repair his cleft lipMax Harrington before he had operation to repair his cleft lip (Image: Paul William Photography)

Stevenage couple Sadie Murphy and Lloyd Harrington learnt that their unborn son Max had a cleft lip – something that affects about one in 700 babies – following a 20-week pregnancy scan at Lister Hospital last year.

The Comet: Max after the operationMax after the operation (Image: Archant)

“We were instantly referred to the cleft lip and palate team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, and Lloyd and myself both felt very scared as we didn’t know much about cleft lips and palates,” said Sadie, who contacted the Comet to share their story following Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week, which was held between May 11-18.

“We were told by a specialist at Lister that there may be an increased risk of Down’s syndrome and we were offered an amniocentesis test which could assess whether our baby would be born with an abnormality or serious health condition, but due to the fairly high risk of miscarriage we opted not to have the test done.

“So we prepared ourselves for whatever may be, as we loved him already and no test would have changed whether we were going to have him or not.”

Max Harrington was born at Lister in August last year, and underwent a five-hour operation to repair his cleft lip at Addenbrooke’s in March.

“It was the hardest experience of mine and Lloyd’s life,” said Sadie, 24, who praised staff at both hospitals for their care and support.

“Max’s face was swollen and red and he was very sleepy and upset. Thinking back to it now still makes me well up as it was so emotional.

“We were at the hospital for three days as we had to try and get Max feeding an adequate amount before going home. We got home Saturday evening and each probably only had about fours hours sleep in as many days.

“It has been a very rapid healing and recovery process. You can only just about see his scar and the work that has been done is amazing, although we can’t help but miss his beautiful cleft smile that we fell in love with.

“I want people to know about clefts and, although it’s hard for parents and children to go through, we still have a beautiful baby who is progressing so well... and likes Brussels sprouts!”

For more information about cleft lips and palates, visit the Cleft Lip and Palate Association’s website