I entered my baby in a “cuteness” competition
This is something I always swore I’d never do when thinking in the hypothetical. Even through early pregnancy, I’d roll my eyes lightly at everyone’s entries into these competitions and condescendingly state I’d never be “that” parent.
Yet here I am. “That” parent.
Every year our local newspaper holds the ODT Cutest Baby competition with prizes up for grabs (including wind drops, spa days for mum, that sort of thing). Mumma’s go CRAZY for it- it has its’ own edition of the newspaper, and all of the babies are laid out for the whole region to see just how beautiful they are. It’s so popular, it feels like a register of all of the kidlets born in the area in the last year.
I never saw the attraction to parading your kid in the public eye.
Until I had a baby who looked different.
I remember my anatomy scan when I was 19 weeks pregnant very vividly. Two sonographers and three doctors all crowded around the foot of my hospital bed, nodding and grunting in agreement. The probe had been focused on my baby’s face for over a half an hour. I knew what they were going to say - they were just reluctant to say it. They wanted to be certain before delivering the “sad” news. My baby boy had a cleft lip and palate.
Even now, recalling the day, I know I was so calm when they told me. I mumbled something along the lines of “well that’s OK, they can fix that, it could have been something much worse” before smiling mundanely. It’s when I left the hospital and sat in the car with my sister in law, calling my husband to tell him the news, that the reality hit. My baby was different.
My entire pregnancy was spent worrying about how I would react to my baby’s face. Would I think he was ugly? Would I think he was beautiful? Would it BOTHER me even when I knew it shouldn’t? Society places so much stock in someone’s outward appearance, and I was scared for my boy and how he would be received by everyone - including myself. I deleted anyone who wasn’t a close friend or family member from my social media, preparing him and myself for what was to come.
Imagine my relief when he came out and I felt nothing but love for this wee boy. He was perfect just the way he was. Cliche. I know, but cliche’s exist for a reason. He was beyond beautiful to myself and my whole family.
I wanted to share him with the world, and show them how beautiful he was.
Confidence built very quickly when even strangers would stop me on the street to tell me how beautiful my boy is. Every person Nate encounters falls under his spell and comes away a little more knowledgeable, both about clefts and our own perceptions of people who have them.
Nate’s cleft does not define him. It makes him different, but it does not define him. He is a beautiful, cheeky, hilarious wee boy, who just happens to have a cleft.
So why enter my boy in a competition alongside babies that look like they belong in a nappy commercial, with soft lighting and gentle, cheery music?
Partly for the same reason every other parent would - to show off how wonderful their child is and to prove how adorable they are.
Partly, because I wanted to show that even babies that look different can “still be cute”.
Partly, because I wanted to give some representation to babies with clefts.
And dammit, partly because I think he will win. Because his wide smile makes the world a better place.