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What You Don't See Here: Karen shares her son's first cheeky smile after cleft palate surgery

‘This photo is my visual memory of us getting out the other side of the surgery recovery.’

EACH WEEK, A different Irish parent chats us through a family photo from Instagram and explains what was really going on outside the frame – from tantrums to toilet disasters.

Fancy taking part? Email amy@thejournal.ie with a few lines about yourself and your kids for a chance to feature.

xavi Source: Karen Daly

This week, Karen Daly (@xavilovesemmi) shares a behind-the-scenes account the moment she captured her son Xavi’s cheeky smile – from sleep deprivation to a growing baby bump. 

Tell us a bit about this photo. What inspired you to take it?

Xavi was born with a cleft lip and palate. This photo was taken when Xavi was eleven months old, three days after he had surgery to repair his palate. I took the photo as it was in a moment of fun and one of the first times he smiled after surgery. It was a sign to us that he was getting back to his normal self. 

What’s one thing that’s going on in this photo that you wouldn’t know from looking at it? 

We were all knackered! The surgery recovery was tough. Xavi didn’t know what was wrong, why his mouth was sore and why he could only have a soft diet. We were managing his pain, but he wasn’t sleeping great. The previous night he had been up four or five times, at one point just crying inconsolably for over an hour. We took it in turns to walk around the room with him, try to get him to watch some TV as a distraction, and occasionally get him to play with toys or read books.

I was also 20 weeks pregnant with Emilia and my growing bump was making things a little bit tricky. We had an increased risk of Emilia having a cleft as well, even though there was no family history of clefts before Xavi. But we learned a few days before Xavi’s palate surgery that Emilia did not have a cleft lip (palate is more difficult to see on ultrasound), so that was a relief at the time. 

Did it take many attempts to get the right shot?

I take tons of pictures and this was just a quick snap on my iPhone. I tend to take more candid shots, rather than trying to set up a perfect one. These days, Xavi is not mad for the camera, but at that time it was usually pretty easy to get a good picture of him. 

What do you love about this photo?

I always love seeing his smiling face, but it was a particular milestone given how recently he had been in surgery. Seeing him smiling made me feel that we had turned a corner. We endured a few more tough nights after that, but none as bad as that previous night. This photo is my visual memory of us getting out the other side of the surgery recovery. 

Was there any editing done to the photo before it was posted? 

It’s a close up, so not much editing really. You can actually see I didn’t bother to edit my husband’s fingers out of the picture. If it was a wider shot, I’m sure it would have included an unmade bed, toys on the floor and dirty laundry in a pile somewhere. 

How well does this photo reflect your family life in general? 

We always try to have fun, even in the tough times. I think this picture of Xavi smiling reflects that philosophy. 

Do you have a family photo from Instagram with a great behind-the-scenes story? The day at the beach when the little one ingested a mouthful of sand – or the smiley photo taken just minutes after a tantrum? If so, we want to hear from you! Email amy@thejournal.ie with a few lines about yourself and your kids for a chance to feature in What You Don’t See Here.

More What You Don’t See Here: Julie shares ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ behind this sunny snap

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