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

This one is about: Oh, For the Love of Bread


(c) 1996 Wide Smiles
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Having gotten off to a late start in his cleft repairs, my son was fully twenty months old before his palate was repaired. By twenty months our placid little babies have grown to fully-functioning individuals - - not likely to take so kindly to liquid diets, arm restraints, and other aggravations. My son was apparently no exception.

I must begin by saying that, motherly pride aside, my son is a rather clever lad. He seemed to have an early grasp on the concept of cause-and-effect, and he had developed some pretty sophisticated problem-solving skills at a frighteningly early age. I was always impressed with the cognitive leaps and bounds that he seemed to make, never realizing that with the 'good' there often comes the 'trying'!

I must also point out that my son's plastic surgeon requires a rather strict regimen of aftercare: Liquid diet for two full weeks, followed by soft food; nothing in the mouth throughout (that is, no spoon, no nipple, etc). This had not been a problem, aside from the normal exasperation of aftercare. But by twenty months of age, this regimen looked like a monumental problem to my son. It meant he couldn't eat. COULDN'T EAT! ! ! Clearly, a fate worse than death itself! Two full weeks without his beloved bread!

Early the first day home my son re-discovered that, try as he might, he could not get that arm bent to put sustenance in the mouth. I had had to alter the restraint jacket so that he could not manipulate it so as to slide it off his arm. Therefore his every attempt was frustrated. Obviously, to him anyway, this little problem would require a creative solution.

First solution - - find a stooge. My son chose his same-aged brother. Sneaking the slice of bread was never the problem - - mom's back is turned, grab for the bread. Getting it to the mouth, now here was the problem! That's where brother came in. I walked into the kitchen just in time to watch the restrained son hand a slice of bread to the unrestrained son and in crystal clear 'twin speech' instruct him to feed the bread to him. He had even set up the game. He was putting bread into his brother's mouth, apparently demonstrating the technique, while gaping his own mouth open for the anticipated reward. Thwarted! Back to the drawing board!

Second solution - - dupe Mommy. This should be fairly simple. He grabbed up his little blue plastic cup (the one we could use to pour liquids into his open mouth) and he sneakily tore his beloved bread (yes, he somehow got ahold of another piece!) into small chunks and dropped them into the cup. That task accomplished, he brought the cup to me and said, in his baby innocence, "Dink, Peese". Such a clever kid, I don't know why it surprised him so that I didn't fall for it. Oh well, on to plan C.

By the end of week #1, my son was getting desperate. Obviously he couldn't count on the efforts of others to help him sink his teeth into something solid. Third solution - do it yourself. This he tried in two different ways.

First, he got another slice of the forbidden delight into his hot little hands (so near, yet so far). Mommy wasn't looking - - good. He laid the delicacy on the edge of the coffee table and crouched down to taste it. (If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, then the mountain should come to Mohammed, I guess.) Unfortunately, Mom came in in time to see the grand plan in action and another brilliant attempt was spoiled.

Not to be dissuaded by past failures, though, my son knew he was onto something. He just had to be more sneaky. He realized he had to go where Mommy really wouldn't look, and don't use something as obvious as a coffee table. Yes. Victory was at hand. Surely he would succeed!

Clearing the table after dinner late in the second week of restraining my son, I thought I heard a peculiar noise just outside the kitchen. Being the mother of my children, I knew I had to investigate. Sure enough, there was the Bread Bandit, trying again. This time he was laying flat on his back on the floor with a crust of bread in his hand. The hand was extended stiffly, directly over his head, mouth wide open, ready to serve as the receptive target for the tasty little morsel. Alas, the bread missed its mark. It fell into my hand instead. Foiled again!

A few days later the doctor gave us the go-ahead for soft foods. Strapped in his high chair, my son watched with wide and wondering eyes as I carefully trimmed off the offending harder crust and put a slice of bread onto his tray.

No longer restrained, he picked up the piece like it was the Holy Grail itself. He put it to his cheek and felt it. He put it to his nose and sniffed it. He looked at me with questioning eyes. I said, "Go ahead, son. You can eat it."

He took a bite and tasted it. Then he dropped it onto his tray and turned his nose up at it. Oh well, go figure!

Joanne Green


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