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

This one is about: Happy Birthday, Jacob

(c) 1997 Wide Smiles
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Ten years ago tomorrow, in a small town outside Seoul, Korea, a little boy child was born. He was tiny, weighing only four pounds. Vulnerable. Facially disfigured. And the woman who gave birth to him walked out to the clinic alone two days later. Tiny, vulnerable, facially disfigured and alone, this teeny handful of human would someday touch the world.

At that same time, on the other side of the planet, I was dealing with challenges of my own. I could not achieve that one thing that so many found so natural.  I wanted to become a mother, and I actively failed to reach that goal for sixteen long, frustrating, heartbreaking years. And then that particular little boy was born. And with one phone call - one answer - my frustration was over, and that baby was no longer alone. That baby became my son, and I named my son Jacob.

Seventy-two days later I waited at the Los Angeles International Airport for my baby to meet me on the American side of customs. And I realized that after so many years, so much frustration, so many tears, so much heartache, I was waiting for the last time. I had sent a blanket into customs with an escort. I wanted to know which of the five babies was mine right away (like I would not have recognized the only one with a cleft!!!) I saw the blanket first, and then I saw the bundle. And in the arms of the escort, all at once, I saw my son. She stopped and posed with him for a few moments, until I realized that I could be HOLDING my child. I shoved my camera at another escort and quickly ran to the end of the ramp coming out of customs.

The escort met me at the top of the ramp. She placed my son into my arms. I cradled him and pulled the blanket from his face. Three months old. Barely nine pounds. He looked right up and me, and he smiled. It was the widest, most beautiful smile I had ever seen. And I was hooked.

I like to believe that that beautiful Wide Smile passed that day from my son's face, to mine, and then, eventually, out to all of you. I did not know what a cleft was about before I said yes to Jacob. But I knew what a baby was about, and I knew I wanted one. Whatever the cleft was, we would deal with that together. And we have.

And as I built my own knowledge base and experience for the sake of my son, I offered what I had learned to other familes adopting cleft-affected babies. Another son, more experiences, and a more intricately woven network, I found myself involved with more families than I could juggle. Until one day one mom suggested that instead of dealing with each family individually, I start a publication. And Wide Smiles was born. And then Jessica joined my family. By then I had long since learned that a cleft was not enough to make me say no to any child.

Wide Smiles quickly grew to a distribution spanning all 50 States and many other countries. And yet we were still not reaching families as quickly as we would have liked. We got the idea to develop an internet presence initially from one of the moms I was writing to. And then from a listserve that I joined. Cleft-talk was born, and we met Andrea and then David, and Kat and all of you who have had a hand in the development of this resource.

Thanks to Andrea, the Autoresponders went up and the website became a reality. Thanks to David the gallery was developed. Thanks to all of you, the network works. We have come so very far.

And yet, it started ten years ago tomorrow, when a tiny, vulernable child with a cleft lay alone and helpless in a clinic, in a small town just outside of Seoul, Korea.

That baby touched the world.

Happy Birthday, Jacob.

Love, Mom

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