You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on widesmiles.org.

This one is about: Pre-Surgical Photos - A Mother's Eye View

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PRE-SURGICAL PHOTOS: A MOTHER'S EYE VIEW

by Christine Schnatterer

When I finally got around to noticing them, I realized with pride that my son had incredibly gorgeous blue eyes. When it was time for Jesse to have his hospital picture taken, the little guy refused to open his eyes. The  photographer and I tried every trick he could think of to get him to wake up, but he continued to snooze contentedly. I was disappointed that he wouldn't open his eyes for the camera, because I had hoped that their beauty would somehow detract from the cleft that seemed to overwhelm his tiny face.

We took many photos of our son, sometimes intentionally focusing on his cleft. But most of the time we were just taking photos of our son doing what comes naturally for babies - being adorable. Although a cleft is sometimes difficult to accept, it is a fact of life for us and our children. Photos of a child who was born with a cleft should not be less precious because of a physical flaw.

Hanging photos proves to the child that his parents accepted him unconditionally, and that being born with a birth defect is nothing to be ashamed of. These photos can also be a good resource for the child and can be used for explanations and comparisons. An adolescent having trouble dealing with his cleft might benefit from having photos available to him. Pre-surgical photos may help him realize that his scars are not that difficult to live with, considering he could not function properly without the corrective surgery. I feel that if he has been made to feel comfortable about having been born with a cleft, he will not protest having these photos in a family album. He may not want them displayed on the wall, but they should be a part of his personal history.

I would say to any parent who is uncertain about photos, "TAKE THEM ANYWAY!" If you chose to not take them, you may find yourself with some painful explaining to do. If photos are hidden away, we may be sending our children negative messages. When a child realizes that he didn't have a perfect face at birth, he will no doubt wonder, "How did I look as an infant?...What did my cleft look like?....Was it so awful that my parents didn't want to have pictures of me?"

While viewing photos of my son, one mother of a child with a repaired cleft said, "I would give anything to have pre-surgical pictures of my daughter." This mother had been advised against taking photos.

Every child's first smiles should be captured for posterity. Our children are no less beautiful for their clefts.

-----------Christine Schnatterer is the mother of a cleft-affected son.


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