You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on widesmiles.org.
This one is about: But I Miss the Cleft
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**** BUT I MISS THE CLEFT! ****
A Natural Reaction that Seems so Unnatural!
by Joanne Green
After my son's lip repair, I was angry with my doctor. I thought that he had taken my beautiful little boy and made his face ordinary! The family sharing our hospital room was there because their own son had just had palate repair surgery. They gathered around my son's gurney as he was wheeled into the room and said, amidst their oooh's and ahhh's, "Doesn't he look good now!" and through a tear-choked voice I replied, "He looked good BEFORE." I felt terrible that first day. I couldn't believe that I had brought my happy, healthy, gorgeous five-month-old child into the hospital that morning and let them do that to him. He TRUSTED me. And what was I thinking? I suppose I had expected some kind of Hollywood hospital experience - that he would come out of surgery a little woozy, but with a smile and ready to play. But instead, he came out screaming and sick, with blood-tinged mucous staining his mouth. The cleft was gone and a row of black stitches had taken its place. And for reasons I could not explain, I missed the cleft. My reaction was not atypical. Most mothers, in fact, actually miss the cleft when it is first repaired. Why? After all, that cleft is a birth defect. Most of us cried when we first saw it. It represents rejection and ridicule if left untreated. And yet, when it's gone, we miss it. What we miss is the face we first grew to love. It is not a missing cleft, it is our baby's sweet face that no longer looks like it did. And, oh, how we loved that face. Many of us even feel a kind of hesitancy when surgery time comes around. "Why do we have to change HIM, just because others can't accept the birth defect?" But inside, we know. We know that it is not just appearance, but also function that must be restored. And so we do it. But it isn't easy. Others don't understand. When I tried to express to others that, when
the time came, part of me didn't understand why we had to put him through the surgery, their eyebrows knit together and they looked serious as they said, "But you know he HAD to have it, don't you?" Of course, my brain understood that he had to have the surgery. It was my heart that was hesitating. My son would not sleep in his hospital bed. He would sleep in my arms, but if I put him in the bed, he would wake up screaming. So I did what any mother would do. I held him. I held him through the night. I held him until the morning sun shining through the hospital curtains shed a soft light over his sleeping face. And at some point in those early morning hours, as I gazed into that peaceful, sleeping face, I suddenly realized that I was looking at a face that did not have a cleft. And I loved that face. And at that moment, I accepted that new beautiful face, and I was grateful to our doctor for making it
so beautiful. I realized that the doctor did not ruin my son's face. He only improved upon that which was already perfect. Eight years have passed since the night I held my son through the night and into the morning light. He is indeed a handsome boy. On occasion I imagine what his face would look like, had the cleft not been repaired, and of course, I am glad that he had the surgery done. But I also remember my baby's first face. And I still love it. And I love his new face too. I guess it just boils down to one thing: I love Jacob.
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