Facial Palsy and what it is like to live with facial paralysis
 

Having a child with Facial Palsy

It is only since building this website that I have really thought about how my being born with facial paralysis affected my mother. When you are a baby or a very small child you don't worry about what you look like. You don't look at your face in the mirror nearly as often as your mother and father spend time looking at your face, so for the early years of my life I certainly wasn't concerned about what I looked like. I now have four children and when my older boy was 10 he mentioned that one of his friends had asked about my face, my younger children (at that time ages 3 and 4) immediately piped up and said "There is nothing wrong with mummy's face, what are you talking about?" It struck me that small children do not have set ideas about what is normal, small children accept people for exactly what they are.

A difficult birth results in facial paralysis

I am writing this page to express my own mother's views, how she felt when I was born in 1969. She told me that she had a difficult birth, I was her third child and I ended up being a "facial presentation" so I came out literally face first. Doctors explained that I had some facial paralysis, they weren't sure how this had happened, there were never any definite answers given. All they said was that it would probably improve with time and that I would need more tests to assess whether I had cerebral palsy. They couldn't put her in touch with anyone else who had been through something similar because they knew no one else this had happened to, there was no internet in those days and my mother had to basically just go with her instincts as to the best way to handle the situation.

Facial Paralysis resulting in Self-blame

She blamed herself for my facial palsy and wondered if she had done anything wrong to cause this, I can identify with this because I now have a child who has a medical problem, although it is totally unrelated to facial palsy.  My mother was advised not to have any more children because the doctors were concerned that there could be similar complications with future pregnancies. This seems like a crazy thing for them to have said, what if I had been my mother's first child, would they have advised against my mum having any more children then? I did end up being the last child, but I think that would have been the case anyway because I already had two older brothers. My mother did refuse to be sterilised though, the doctors had again suggested she take this step and she wasn't happy with the idea.

Coping with the facial paralysis by being the best mum she could be

As a baby I slept with one eye wide open. People asked what was wrong with me and my mother simply said I had some facial paralysis and it should improve, she did not allow herself to be drawn into further discussion, it was quite simply no one else's business, unless she chose to tell them of course. 

 

With few answers from the medical profession my mother had to make a decision as to how she should handle the situation. She thought about all the medical problems faced by children in the world and how things could have been so much worse. She came to the conclusion that things really weren't that bad, and although I was still undergoing brain scans to check for brain damage, my parents made the decision that they were going to prove to the doctors and to themselves that there was nothing further wrong with me. I was stretched mentally as a child, always being tested on shapes, colours, etc., and my mum felt that because I was catching on so quickly to whatever I was taught that there were no hidden problems, I had the facial paralysis but that was all.

The doctors were correct when they said my facial paralysis would probably improve. My mother wants people who have babies with facial palsy to know that my face is definitely much better than it was when I was first born. I have added pictures of what my eyes look like now when I try to close them but my husband says sometimes when I am asleep my eye almost completely closes so it seems things are still improving.

As a baby, one eye would always remain open when I was having my afternoon nap, this meant that I would always wake up when my mother entered the room. My mum made me laugh because she told me how she used to have to crawl into my room on her hands and knees to avoid me seeing her, otherwise I would wake up.

My parents set out to make me feel as normal as possible, I was never made to feel different, I do believe this is the best thing they could have done for me. My mother said that if I wasn't picked on for my face I would be picked on for something else, because kids are generally cruel. And she was absolutely right.

Don't let Facial Paralysis become a bigger problem than it needs to be, be proud to smile and be proud to be different.. All smiles are beautiful..