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

This one is about: What's Wrong With my Baby Brother?

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There are a number of questions that cross the minds of the new parents of a cleft-born child. If the new baby is not the first baby, one of those questions involves the children waiting at home. What do you tell them? How do you tell them? How can they understand something you are struggling to understand yourself?

WIDE SMILES reader, Sue Yager, of Seven Hills Ohio shares her experience in the following account:

"Before my sons Matt (just under five years old) and Adam (just under 3 years old) came to visit Josh, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, at the hospital, I asked the nurses in the Neonatal Unit about how to explain the defect to them. Unfortunately, the answers I got were very technical and seemed impossible for young children to understand. I decided instead to tell the boys that Josh was born with a 'boo-boo' on his lip, but that the doctor was going to fix it.

"When the boys came to the hospital they were extremely excited to see their new baby brother. By the looks on their faces, the 'boo-boo' was a lot bigger than they expected. They looked to my husband and I for reassurance, saw us beaming with pride over our new baby, and realized that everything was okay. They were simply thrilled with their new baby, and his cleft didn't matter."

Sue's story illustrates an important point for all of us. That is, others look to us for permission to celebrate the births of our children.

There are many emotions that flood us when something seems to be wrong with the child that was meant to be perfect. And, indeed, it is important to take the time to truly grieve and let go of the anticipated unblemished child. But at the same time, there is a real baby in the bassinet that needs to be as loved and as cherished as any other child would. And there are others nearby who need to know that they can love that child too without fear of minimizing your pain.

It is not necessary to inundate a small child with technical phrases and terms that you find difficult to understand yourself. That is not what a child wants to know anyway. A child only wants to know that the hole can be fixed, and that the baby can be loved.

Kids are far more accepting and compassionate than we often give them credit for. If they see pride and acceptance in your eyes, they know that it is okay for them to feel pride and acceptance as well. Just as you, the parent, may have ambivalent feelings, so might also your older child. There will be fears and questions. That is only natural. But those more troubling feelings may be more easily communicated in an arena in which your child knows that the baby's place in your home and in your heart is secure before the fears are voiced. More often than not, given an opportunity, our children will pleasantly surprise us.

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