“Duck Dynasty” fans will have to wait until Jan. 6 for the premiere of the A&E reality series’ new season. However, if you’re interested in learning more about the famous family right now, Missy Robertson’s new book — “Blessed, Blessed… Blessed” — is the perfect read.
Released in October from Tyndale Momentum, Missy’s tome delves into her and husband Jase’s struggle with raising daughter Mia, who was born with a facial abnormality — or, as the book cover says, “the untold story of our family’s fight to love hard, stay strong, and keep the faith when life can’t be fixed.”
Missy and Jase were high school sweethearts who wed 25 years ago. They already had two sons, Reed and Cole, when Missy became pregnant with Mia in 2003. At her 31-week ultrasound, she found out the devastating news that her daughter had a cleft lip and palate, which the Mayo Clinic describes as “openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don't close completely.” With her family beside her and her strong Christian faith in God, Missy managed to persevere — and, despite having to undergo multiple cranial and facial surgeries in her short life, 12-year-old Mia remains strong and optimistic.
The extended “Ducky Dynasty” clan has multiple books already under their belts, but “Blessed, Blessed… Blessed” is Missy’s first solo effort — she previously coauthored the 2014 book “The Women of Duck Commander” with her mother-in-law Miss Kay and sisters-in-law Korie, Jessica and Lisa.
Headlines & Global News recently chatted with Missy about her hardcover, the family, fashion and “Duck Dynasty.” Read our exclusive interview below!
Why write a book at this point?
Basically, because the platform of our family that God has given us put us in a position where we are able to encourage people. We know that, because of learning about this condition with Mia and having this journey, we’ve had a lot of successes and, even though we’ve had to work through a lot of heartaches and a lot of disappointments and a lot of pain, we feel like God has never left us. We want to just give that encouragement and hope to other people, even though we’re still not finished yet.
What was the writing process for the book like?
Therapeutic, very therapeutic. I cried a lot through the whole process. Jase read each chapter and helped me with it because I wanted to make sure that I was not being overdramatic or too emotional. I wanted to make sure that I got facts right and that my memories were correct. I also had two very close girlfriends read it and asked them: “Do you understand this? Does everything in here make sense? Am I missing anything? Are there any holes that need filling in?” I really had a lot of help making sure because this is not a fairy tale and it’s not just fact, fact, fact, but there is emotion involved, especially when you’re talking about your own child and your own personal experiences. I wanted to make sure that I was appealing to everyone. It was very emotional, but I tried to push through. I just wanted it to be the best it could possibly be to help as many people as possible.
How long did it take to get the whole story written down?
It’s been a nine to 10 month process to get this done. The manuscript was due four days after Mia’s first surgery this year, and I thought, “Oh, boy! This is going to be tough.” And, actually, Tyndale was so wonderful. I turned in the first 10 chapters, and then I waited about three weeks after the surgery [to continue writing] because I didn’t want to leave anything out. I was able to put in a lot of the information about the surgeries she had this year in the book, and they were just wonderful about that cause they wanted that in there. This was the hardest year that we’ve had with Mia and her surgeries. It’s been the hardest surgeries she’s had physically. So it was a tough process this year, but we made it.
Did you always want to share Mia’s story or did you ever consider hiding it?
I was not very good at talking about it through the years. When you think about having a child with such a facial disfigurement, it can be very emotional. There are so many different processes and phases that she had to go through, and each one is very life altering. I’ll say “lifestyle altering” because she has to change her activities and give up something of her life for every phase. As a mom, it can be very difficult to watch your child have to do different things that other kids — and even my other two boys — have never had to deal with. So it’s been very hard to talk about. For a long time, I would never even put things on Facebook to my small group of friends because it was just very emotional for me. I’m a little older in the process, and my faith has grown even more through watching how God has worked in our lives and how he worked through Mia’s little life, and I have the confidence now that I’m not going to make these huge mistakes because God’s not going to let me. I just keep my heart open to what he knows is best for us. I can’t really go wrong no matter how hard it may seem. That just keeps me going, and I just have such a joy in my child now because of things she does to encourage people. I just felt like I couldn’t be silent anymore. I need to tell our story and, hopefully, to encourage and give other people hope.
Mia only knows this way of life, but does she feel like she’s different?
She has never shown that she feels any differently about it. She understands her condition. There’s nothing wrong with her, her brain or her mentality about any of this. She’s a completely normal child when it comes to that. It’s not like she doesn’t understand what is going on, she knows. It’s never really affected her until just the last few weeks, mainly because the last two surgeries we had this year really changed the way she looked — her bone structure, her profile, everything on her face. She just started middle school this year, [which is] already hard on her. The past few weeks, she’s shown a little bit of doubt like, “Am I going to be pretty?” Of course! She is beautiful! I said, “Look Mia, I had the same doubts when I was in sixth grade. I hated my freckles, I hated my big ears, all of that.” I said, “This is completely normal and this has nothing to do with your cleft.”
Besides the disfiguration, what are some of the other problems that come with cleft lip and palate?
Well, there are a lot of different syndromes that can be associated with cleft lip and palate. When we first took her to the International Craniofacial Institute in Dallas, which we’re still a patient of 12 years later, they checked her from head to toe for as many different abnormalities or syndromes they could possibly identify at that time and they found none. Even today, her only diagnosis is cleft lip and palate.
Will Mia require more surgeries?
We don’t know at this point. We thought this was just a problem that you can fix and move on from, but we’ve learned that it is not something you can fix, but something you have to manage because when the palate is involved, that involves the structure of the face, and everyone knows that a baby doesn’t stop growing just because it comes out of the womb. You have to manage a child as they grow, and every child is different. She’s had eight surgeries so far. We’re hoping that this is the last one, but we can’t know that for sure and there is no way to predict it until she completely stops growing. Once all of the structural issues are taken care of, she can have the decision to say, “You know what? I want to work on my nose a little bit. I want to correct my lip and make it better looking or more symmetrical.” Those will be her decisions once the doctors release her from medical care.
You began the Mia Moo Fund to “raise awareness and funds towards research, treatments and causes of cleft lip and palate.” How is that going?
It’s going wonderful! The reason Jase and I started it was because we’re able to bring attention to this diagnosis. Before, it had so much of a stigma because it is about the face and it is a facial deformity. People kind of don’t want to talk about it or they just don’t know much about it, and we wanted to bring Mia’s face to this because we think she’s beautiful. We feel like we can help a lot of parents by providing a lot of information, which is on the website, because that’s something we just were not privy to when we were diagnosed with this. We looked and looked and looked for as much information as we could possibly get and it was very difficult. We tried to compile as much information as possible for parents to get on our website to read up on it to make the best decision for their child. And we raise money because we want to help these parents monetarily — if they need financial assistance because insurance is not paying, which happened in our case. After Mia had her second surgery at 7 months old, we were $12,000 in debt — and we had insurance and jobs. We were responsible, hard-working families, doing the right things, and we were still that much money in debt. We just want to bring domestic eyes to this situation for families and be able to help them monetarily, help them with information and we even help with traveling expenses too because specialists aren’t in every town. We have to drive four and a half hours one way to see ours. For a lot of people, that’s a burden when they have to find hotel rooms and gas and all that stuff. We just want to help financially for that, too.
“Duck Dynasty” returns for Season 9 next month. What is your filming schedule usually like?
Well, this year we filmed January through August. We had, like, a week here off, a week there off. I think there was a total of three different weeks they gave us off. So, again, it’s been one of the hardest years we’ve had for sure — a lot of people pulling and tugging. It’s been tough, but I feel a little bit at ease right now. We’re good.
Do you like to hunt like Jase?
I’ve been a couple of times. I don’t mind duck hunting when it’s really cold. I don’t like critters, so when it’s cold out, they all stay in their little homes, which is great. But [the men] really don’t want us out there with them. It is all business.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
No. I was not a shopper. I didn’t know how to put an outfit together to save my life. A friend of mine, who owns a boutique in town, helped and introduced me to some people in the fashion business and it just took off from there. Things that frustrated me when I was shopping — like not being able to find modest clothing that was actually cute and stylish at the same time — I just went ahead and created that myself. That’s what we’ve been doing.
Looking through your book, I saw some cute photos of Jase from when he didn’t have that beard.
I don’t like the beard. I can’t wait until he wants to shave it off, and we can just ride off together into the sunset, and nobody knows who he is.
Did he consult you when he decided to start growing it?
Well, I knew early on that he would always grow it out for duck season. He would grow it from August until the last day of duck season and, the next morning, he would shave it. So I had my clean-cut, preppy-looking guy from Feb. 1 through July 31. I had about seven months out of the year and then he would start growing it back. But now they don’t shave it off. I just have to deal with it.
“Duck Dynasty” returns to A&E Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m. ET.