Submitted by: Qaqambile Phika

Sibaluhle TshepIso Phika was born on the 9th of January 2017, around 7 am.  He is the first-born child of QaqambIle Phika and Tshepo Mahlake. Siba’s birth shocked us because we were expecting a healthy baby boy, but it all changed when I gave birth to him.  I thought maybe the doctors had accidentally cut my son’s lip. It was the first time I had seen a cleft palate.  

That changed when I held him in my arms.

I blamed myself every day and night.  That changed when I held him in my arms.  After birth, the doctors took him to an incubator.  He couldn’t breathe normally like other babies. We had to stay at the hospital longer than normal.  I had to learn how to feed him since we used different bottles and I couldn’t breastfeed him because of his lips and gums.  

After ten days we were discharged.  I had to take him home, but I was so down because I was scared of what people would say.  But as a praying woman, I remembered that God gave me the most precious gift. We attended checkups every two weeks and I learned a lot from my son.  

He had his first operation when he was five months old.  That was to close his lip. Then, when he was a year old, he had a second operation to close his palate.  The third operation happened when he was one-and-a-half years old. His ENT specialist suggested speech therapy sessions to help with his speech because of his cleft palate.  

I said ‘yes’ because I knew that there are parents who need me to counsel them.

I got a call in 2018 from a lady who has an NPO, asking me If I would like to volunteer as a cleft support mom.  I didn’t even think twice. I said ‘yes’ because I knew that there are parents who need me to counsel them, and I started doing it.  My son is now three years old. I would get a call from someone way older than me and counsel the person. I don’t know how I do it, but I can and I’m enjoying it.  

We want to teach the world about cleft lip and palate.

Baby Siba and I were featured on SowetoTV and Bona magazine.  It is not about fame, but that we want to teach the world about cleft lip and palate.  We want to make people aware and educate them. Most Mondays I go to Cleft Clinics at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to counsel moms for free.  Meeting those cleft cuties melts my heart and talking to those parents and giving them courage is why #ImStaying.