As you already know, I believe our testimonies are powerful. We need our testimonies to remind us of how far we’ve come and how strong we really are. One encouraging story can push another to continue fighting when they want to give up. With that being said, I am happy to have Carissa Godbott share her testimony below. It has blessed me dearly, and I know it will also bless you.
Can you give some background about yourself and your family?
My name is Carissa Godbott and I am a graduate of The Ohio State University. I am currently a Stay-at-Home Mom, and a full-time Blogger at The Green Eyed Lady Blog –a parent and lifestyle blog.
I am a wife to Darrick, and mother to Emma, Darrick II and Douglass. My husband Darrick and I have known each other all of our lives. We grew up in the same church together (our families knew each other before we were even born), but we didn’t start talking to each other until after I moved back home after college. We started talking on Facebook, he read my blog after joining Facebook, and that sparked a conversation and we’ve been together ever since.
We got engaged in 2010 and planned for a 2012 wedding. In the midst of planning a wedding, in June 2011 we found out we were expecting our first child, and she would be born three months before our wedding (Emma). Emma was born with a Cleft Lip and Palate, and spent the first 50 days of her life in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) due to feeding issues.
After getting married, Darrick and I knew we wanted more children. We often talked about twin boys–we even named them. In February 2014, I found out I was pregnant with twins, and a few weeks after that we learned they were identical twin boys (Darrick II (deceased) & Douglass James (DJ))
You are very open about having a daughter with a cleft palate and are an awareness advocate. Has it been tough dealing with her condition?
We found out at 20 weeks that Emma would be born with a Cleft Lip. They were unsure about her palate (you can’t find out about it until birth).
Once she was born, we learned she had a Cleft Palate as well as a Cleft Lip.
Yes, the journey was rough in the beginning. Since Emma was in the NICU with feeding issues the plastic surgeons couldn’t work on her right away like they wanted to. We had to buy these special strips to go across her lip from Canada. The strips came seven to a pack and cost about $35. The nurses weren’t familiar with the strips so they would pop while applying them and we would go through 2 to 3 packs a week. I was on maternity leave in the beginning then went unpaid leave.
Additionally, she wouldn’t take a full bottle on her own so she had to get a g-tube placed in her stomach while in the hospital. But thankfully once we got home, she started taking a full bottle, and we only used the g-tube a couple of times.
Emma’s lip and palate have since been repaired, but initially it was in terrible condition. The surgeons had to build her a palate from cadaver skin. Before the repair, we tried TONS of bottle and nipple combinations to try to get her to eat on her own.
Part of the reason I am such an advocate for her and so public about everything we have gone through is because you never know whom you might help. When we were in the process of trying a bunch of bottles, I searched Cleft Lip and Palate on Facebook and found a lady named Lisa Wyzlic. She had started the group A Cleft Mommy’s Bond of Friendship, and I remember sitting in the hospital crying and sending her a message about Emma. She added me to the group and almost immediately moms of children with cleft kids sent me all kinds of recommendations for bottles. We tried a few, and one was successful! Her group is my #1 go-to when I have a question about Emma or one of her procedures or anything cleft-related! I’ve talked to her on the phone a couple of times and I’m not sure if she knew but I cried during our first conversation because I was so THANKFUL God led me to her and the group!
Emma is now three-years-old and doing really well in preschool. She loves school and being around other children. She is full of personality, and her little brother DJ is her pride and joy! She is our sour patch kid–full of love and stubbornness (gotta love her)! She has had a total of five surgeries, and we know she has more coming in the future until everything is fully repaired. She goes to weekly physical and speech therapy. The journey isn’t over and there are still hard days, but I know there is light at the end of the tunnel!!!
I follow you on social media and remember when your twin boys were born. Sadly, one of the boys had health issues and passed. How were you able to stay strong after the loss of a child?
GOD! And my other Children! I had been through a miscarriage before the twins and it was hard, but carrying what we thought were healthy twins full term and learning at birth that one was terminally ill and eventually losing him, is a pain that I wouldn’t wish on ANYONE!!!
Believe me, there were days that Darrick and I both wanted to check OUT! But our faith in God and knowing we had two other children that needed and depended on us kept us going.
We also have a good support system: family, friends, church family…everyone stepped in to help carry us. We had a memorial service for Darrick II after he passed, and the church was packed with family, friends, church family, co-workers, nurses from Cleveland Clinic and friends from elementary school…everyone showed us love. I still wish there was a way to say THANK YOU!!!
What are your power scriptures and why?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
God will NEVER give you more than you can handle. At times, it may not seem like that but believe me, He will only give you what you can handle and nothing more. So if He can give it to me I know for a fact, He will give me the strength to handle it.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
This verse is a verse that my husband used to minister to us. There were many times when I felt like I couldn’t go any further and he would encourage me and vice versa.
There’s an old saying that says, God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. What have you learned over the past five years?
A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. Proverbs 16:9
I have planned, and planned, and planned…but God always has a way of showing you how to stop planning and rely on Him. That’s a major lesson that took a few years to learn. I also learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever imagined. I’m the baby of the family and have always been known as the “sensitive one” because I cry a lot. But when God blessed me with two children with special needs and another child that is very active, I realized there was a voice and strength inside of me that I never knew I had.
What advice would you give a mother who has faced similar adversities to yours?
There is something good in every situation, and sometimes you have to hold on to that one thing for dear life! For example, in knowing my son wasn’t getting any better I had to hold on and Thank God continuously for letting us have the time with him that we had. I would thank God for letting me be able to hold him, kiss him, smell him…just have him if only for a little while.
I would also tell them to Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand (this has always been a favorite song of mine), but I found a new meaning in it while going through some of the hardest times of my life. God never changes…so just give everything to Him, and just rest in knowing that He has already taken care of it.
And laugh…times are going to be hard, and life is short and every day God promises joy. So no matter how hard times may get, never lose your joy! There were many times Darrick and I would walk through the hospital holding hands and laughing with each other–doesn’t mean we weren’t focused on what was going on, but it was our way of helping each other get through a difficult point in our lives.