TV presenter Sam Squiers has revealed details of her four-month-old daughter's first surgery to repair her cleft palette.
The 38-year-old mum-of-two has been sharing her journey in order to help other parents going through the same cleft diagnosis.
"The operation went well but was a rollercoaster of emotions," Sam tells Essential Baby.
"I was so nervous in the lead up, because of COVID I knew restrictions at the hospital would be tight and I was so focussed on keeping everyone healthy."
Sam explains that only one parent could be in recovery with baby Elle due to the restrictions in place, so her husband Ben had to wait outside the ward and could only visit for one hour.
"I know he found that tough as he wanted to be there for Elle too, especially straight after surgery."
Fortunately, the operation to reconstruct her lip and anterior palette went smoothly, but Sam admits the recovery has been somewhat tough on her little "trooper".
"She never really cried that much before, but she was understandably in a bit of pain and distress post surgery, everything felt different and sore especially with feeding. But now she's getting back to being more like her old self."
Been a big few days for the team as Elle had her first surgery last week. Super proud of my little girl, so proud it brings tears to my eyes typing this. Big op for a 4month old and she’s still very sore and confused but each day getting stronger and more like her old self. This photo was taken prior to surgery just before handing her over to the anaesthetist. I loved her little cleft and love her new smile as well. More than anything I just love this little girl. Xx . #cleft #cleftstrong #cleftlip #cleftpalate
Sam tells Essential Baby that she found herself dreaming of Elle's cleft the first night after surgery and felt really "sad" it was gone.
"That's an emotion I never thought I'd have when I first knew she'd have a cleft," Sam admits. "It was a part of her, it was the face I first fell in love with her when I first laid eyes on her and she is beautiful with or without it."
"We took so many videos and photos knowing we'd never see it again after surgery. Elle's a lucky girl she gets two first smiles."
The journalist and 'On Her Game' podcast presenter has spoken out previously about how "devastated" and "guilty" she felt when she initially discovered her second little girl had a cleft at her 20-week-scan - but how that all completely changed with time and knowledge.
"I loved her little cleft and love her new smile as well," she wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. "More than anything I just love this little girl."
Baby Elle 💞 6 days post op. She has a little stent in her nose to help the nostril form, which will stay in for 2-4 weeks. I’ve spoken before about Immi never pointing, saying, mentioning or asking anything about Elle’s cleft. Not once. Yet when she first saw Elle post op she was quite concerned “what’s happened to Baby Elle?”. She’s now chief protector telling anyone who goes near her (with finger pointed) “don’t touch Baby Elle’s nose!”. They’re so lucky to have each other! . #cleft #cleftstrong #cleftlip #cleftpalate
Elle will have a stent in her nose for two to four weeks to help the nostril form, and a second surgery at around 12 months to reconstruct her main palette.
About one in every 700 babies in Australia are born with a cleft - an abnormal gap in the the palate that occurs when some parts of the mouth fail to join together during early pregnancy.