“I asked my mother if I should pray for her (the grandmother),” Lisa said.
“I don’t remember the exact words my mother used to express her displeasure, but it was at that time I started to feel that her belief is different from mine.”
In her teens at the time, that realisation dawned, along with a sense of “faith as a strength” as opposed to weakness.
So began a new chapter for Lisa, of Mass attendance and “a special friendship with a Catholic family” who remain close – so much so, two of them are godparents to newly baptised Gretchen, six, Elizabeth, four, and Heather, six months.
“We had always planned on getting Gretchen and Elizabeth baptised but never got on to actually doing it,” Lisa said.
“We chose their godparents a long time ago knowing they would both give the role the honour it deserves.”
Part of the “delay” involved some time lived overseas.
“In 2007 a great opportunity to further Shane’s career came up in Dubai,” Lisa said.
“We enjoyed living among people from all over the world … Despite missing our families, Christmas and Easter over in Dubai were very special to us.
“Without the pressure of intense marketing that has come to surround these holidays, they were stripped back to their meaning.
“It was lovely to share the stories and celebration with our Muslim and Hindu friends as well as learning more about their faith.”
While enjoying the experience the couple, who married in St Vincent’s Catholic Church, Surfers Paradise, eight years ago, were “happy to return to Australia”.
Then halfway through Lisa’s last pregnancy, the Strickerins chose Redcliffe City to be “as close to family as possible”.
It was a fortunate decision as they had no idea of the challenge ahead.
“We made the very best decision for our family,” Lisa said.
“Sweet Heather … has a complete unilateral cleft lip and palate (first known on the day before her birth last September).
“This means that her lip and the roof of her mouth did not completely close in the early stages of pregnancy.
“It is a condition that affects around one in 700 babies and the severity varies from minor to quite extreme.”
Heather’s cleft lip and palate was “extreme” but the family’s “unawareness” was seen as a blessing.
“I have always said and firmly believe that this was the right time for me to learn about her condition.
“(If known) earlier in my pregnancy I would have been constantly thinking about her condition rather than about her as a person.
“Because she was born within a day of us finding out, it was about her as a person who happened to have a cleft lip and palate.”
Faced with significant issues such as ensuring weight gain of the infant despite her inability to “drink milk directly”, Heather also suffered several ear infections. The family was adamant their new addition would “never be hidden away”.
“Although Heather’s appearance may have been very confronting we made a point of never treating her any different to the older girls in social situations when they were babies,” Lisa said.
“I always appreciated it when people asked questions rather than whispering about her right in front of us. “I also enjoyed being around children as they did not have any fear in asking questions.” Earlier this year Heather had a lip repair and then another general anaesthetic a week later for removal of sutures.
Lisa described Heather’s recovery as “quite rough”.
Future operations and complications are “impossible” to predict.
“It is impossible to know now exactly how many operations Heather will need between now and adulthood and what other special needs she may have as a result of her cleft condition,” Lisa said.
“Through it all she is a bright, happy little girl with a smile to share with everyone.
“My special hope is that she can continue to face her unique challenges with the same determination and humour that she is already displaying at such a young age.
“I feel so honoured that I was chosen to be this special little girl’s Mum.”
Nowadays faith has “become much more of a talking point” within the family.
“I feel we have so much to learn about God’s Word and it is lovely to be discovering things with our children – things that Shane learned long ago and is able to share with us,” Lisa said.
“I have been considering taking the steps toward becoming baptised myself for quite some time.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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