Life is tough for any child up for adoption in China – and for Hattie, who was born
with a cleft lip, that road would likely have proven even tougher than most.
While the condition is common – it affects one in 700 newborns in the US every year – it can drive away prospective parents and the promise of a happier life.
But Hattie had one huge stroke of luck: Her father-to-be, Brian Pierce, had himself suffered a cleft lip as a baby, and was hoping to find a child with the condition so that he could pass on his experiences.
‘I’ll be able to help her deal with that because I went through it,’ he told ABC News. ‘I’ll be able to say, “Look at Daddy, he went through the same thing.”‘
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Brian Pierce adopted Hattie (both pictured, with Brian’s wife Molly and their other daughter Curdie) in part because they share a special condition: A cleft lip. Hattie is undergoing surgery
When the Pierces decided to adopt from China they realized a condition was unavoidable. They said they would like to adopt a child with a cleft lip as they have experience with that
Brian and his wife Molly had been inspired to adopt from China after meeting an American couple whose 12-year-old was adopted from the country.
And given the nature of adoption from there, they knew there would be some kind of physical complication involved.
‘In China, you don’t get to adopt a quote-unquote healthy child,’ Pierce said, though he points out that Hattie’s lip in no way means she’s actually unhealthy.
‘They give you a list of conditions you’d accept, it requires a lot of soul-searching. But a cleft lip and palate made a lot of sense.’
When he and Molly saw Hattie’s photo, they felt an immediate sense of connection, WCNC reported.
‘She smiles with her eyes,’ Molly observed – the same thing she had said to Brian when they were on their second date.
The couple adopted Hattie when she was 12 months old; she is now four, and has gone through two surgeries, with more to come.
Hattie and Curdie are inseparable, and Brian says his adopted daughter is outgoing, gregarious and happy to meet new people – and that ‘all the other kids like to play with her’
‘How unique for this pair to share such a special bond, not only as father and daughter but also as two people who have gone through the same experience,’ said Dr Joseph K. Williams, who performed Hattie’s surgery.
By a curious coincidence his mentor was the same doctor who performed Brian’s surgery.
‘This is truly coming full circle in such a beautiful way,’ Dr Williams added. ‘I feel privileged to have played a small part in it.’
Brian had initially hoped that his own experiences with teasing – due to the lip scar left by his surgery – would help Hattie with any prejudice she experiences.
But for now at least, the outgoing and gregarious Hattie hasn’t been bothered at all.
‘Everyone who meets her falls in love with her,’ Brian said. ‘All the other kids like to play with her.’
And she’s inseparable from her five-year-old sister, Curdie, something that their soccer coach has learned the hard way.
‘They’ll just hold hands and ignore the soccer ball,’ Brian said.