Now 2, Reece is a healthy, happy toddler. The only visible reminder of his cleft lip and palate is a white scar that runs from his nose to his lip; meeting him for the first time, you're far more likely to notice his lively blue eyes and engaging smile.
Still, his physical problems aren't completely gone: He undergoes speech therapy twice a week to correct some residual problems common to children with a cleft palate -- he has trouble pronouncing letters like b and l, for instance. Before he starts school, he will probably also undergo minor surgery to correct a slight pull on his lip and a dimple on the side of his nose. And like most kids with a cleft palate, he may also need a bone graft when he's in elementary school to close the bony ridge that supports his upper teeth.
But Jenny and Brad know that no matter how many surgeries Reece undergoes, he'll always be a little different from the other kids. His scar will always be there (although, as Jenny points out, he'll someday have the option of growing a mustache over it), and he may talk in a slightly nasal tone.
To help other families who are going through similar experiences, Jenny recently started a Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill chapter of a national support group called About Face. She provides one-on-one support to parents of newborns with a cleft lip and palate and has arranged for local hospitals to receive the special tri-cut-nipple bottles that helped her son so much.
"The funny thing is, if I could wave a magic wand and take away the cleft and all the things Reece has been through, I'd be afraid to do it," Jenny says. "Because then this person who lights me up every single time I see him wouldn't be the same -- and he's always been perfect to me."