CLEFT HELPLINE – 1800 103 8301

Manthan: Sometimes, our Patients’ Mothers Need a “Mother”

Ashwini opens up about how our local partners healed her, too

Manthan before and after surgery for his cleft

Ashwini and Ganesh had never seen a cleft before their first child, Manthan, was born with one. It shocked them to their core. They had no idea how to help him. Yet nothing could shake their love for their baby or their commitment to helping him thrive no matter what.

Manthan is now seven years old. We recently caught up with Ashwini to learn her perspective on her family’s cleft journey.

We have always lived together with the extended family in a joint household. Our agricultural land is nearby, and the men in the family tend to it while we women take care of the household. When Ganesh isn’t working or playing with the boys, he loves to go rock climbing — he is a certified climber and hopes to train young people to do it someday!

I was happy when I learnt I was pregnant with Manthan; everyone in the family was excited. We became happier still after Ganesh and I went for an ultrasound and it showed a completely healthy baby kicking away inside me.

Manthan as a baby before cleft surgery
Manthan before cleft surgery

Well, we were shocked, to say the least, when he was born. My mother-in-law was so upset that she could not eat her meals in the days that followed. She had a very hard time coming to terms with his cleft. I understand that. He was, after all, her first grandchild from Ganesh. But please don’t get the wrong impression: Yes, she was disappointed, but she also loved Manthan from the first and was always there to help us when we needed it. The same with our whole family.

And we needed their support quite badly in those first few weeks. They were hard. We felt very vulnerable and perplexed and the hospital where he was born did not have any advice to give us on how to care for a baby with a cleft. So when my milk ran out of his nose instead of down his throat each time I tried to feed him, we did not know what to do. Manthan cried with hunger night and day.

To make matters needlessly worse, many of our neighbours said unkind things about my child and about me when they came to visit. Here we were, my whole family constantly in tears and worried sick, with a screaming baby who cannot eat, and they had very little to say to give us comfort. For me, that was the most difficult part of the whole experience.

We did not take him out much, mostly because we sensed that his cleft might make him more vulnerable to infection.

As I said, however, our family came together to support us. An aunt of mine knew of another child with a cleft who received help for free from Dr Khandekar Bharati at Meera Nx Hospital right in our part of Mumbai. When we met her, we felt reassured. She and her team gave us clarity on what was ahead, and they were very cooperative and supportive. They meticulously explained the entire process of treatment to us.

We were especially relieved to know that Manthan’s surgery would be free thanks to Smile Train. It would have been impossible for us to afford this treatment on our own.

Of course, we were nervous and apprehensive the day of our child’s surgery, but Dr Bharati gave us the confidence we needed. She guided us like a mother would, and we trusted her completely. The staff, too, supported and guided us well.

Manthan smiling today
Today, the only thing more infectious than Manthan’s energy is his smile!

The result was incredible! We were overjoyed to see Manthan and to know that the surgery went off well. And when we took him home, our neighbours were amazed at his change. They felt happy for us, and those who were critical had to eat their words!

Manthan and another child playing with balloons
Today, Manthan is living a happy, healthy, active life

Since the surgery, Manthan has lived a happy, healthy, active life. Now seven years old, he particularly loves playing with his little brother, Manas. He is only a baby and always seeking attention — and Manthan is only too happy to give it to him!

Manthan laying in a hammock, smiling widely
Manthan taking a break from studying and playing all day

We hope he will use this second chance he has been given to study hard and achieve his dreams.

Manthan getting kissed by his parents, one on each cheek
Ashwini, (left) and Ganesh (right) loved Manthan at first sight

Our whole family is tremendously grateful to Smile Train’s donors for making our son’s transformation possible. We are committed to passing on the kindness we have been shown. In fact, we have already personally escorted another family who had a child with a cleft to Meera Nx Hospital and introduced them to Dr Bharati.

Ashwini holding Manthan and smiling
Ashwini and Manthan are all smiles today thanks to Smile Train’s donors

Thank you.

Give hope, health, and a smile to children and families in need around the world today.