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

This one is about: Happy Birthday to my Joey

(c) 1997 Wide Smiles
This Document is from WideSmiles Website -
Reprint in whole or in part, with out written permission from Wide Smiles
is prohibited. Email:

Happy Birthday to my Joey! by Joanne Green

I watched him yesterday. Running through the field after a ball. The wind in his hair. Perfect muscles propelling a perfect little body. A smile on his face from ear-to-ear. A child in love with life. In fact, the very vision of life. He is my son.

Ten years ago, he was not my son. He was born to a poor farming family in Chung-joo South Korea. He was their greatest joy, and their most bitter pain. He was the child they anticipated - wanted - loved. And yet he was born with a huge bilateral cleft lip and palate; four raised birthmarks on his back; a lump on his spine; a very deformed and "banded" left wrist; and missing toes. The couple that had loved him for nine months could see that they could not provide the special care he needed for a happy life. And so the man bundled him in a blanket and carried him to 
a children's reception center and handed him to the people who could see that he got the chance he would need. And the man went back home. Alone. I can only imagine that that day has played over and over in that man's mind at least a thousand times in the past ten years.

From the reception center, the baby went to an orphanage. But there are some children who do not do well without a person who will cherish him as somebody special. And this baby was one such child. He lost weight. He began to die. He was born weighing 7 pounds. At the age of 6 months, he weighed 7 1/2 pounds. His head and his trunk grew out of proportion with his arms and his legs. His skin bagged and draped over tiny bones. His eyes took on a vacant look. His arms became short and spindely. And nobody would say yes to a child who was slipping away.

From the orphanage he went to a foster home where his frail condition frightened the foster mother. He soon went into the hospital for more than a month. While in the Hospital, an American family in Ohio learned of him and sponsored his placement back to a foster home. A few months there and he went back to the hospital for another month. And then, at the age of just under a year, the powers that controlled his life were ready to declare him unadoptable and place him back into an orphanage, where he would most likely die.

But his social worker would not let that baby die. She had looked into his eyes, and they spoke to her. Those deep, beautiful, pleading eyes. She saw him when she was in Korea and she could not get that baby out of her mind - or her heart. She prayed for an answer. But every time she sent his packet to a family, it was returned rejected. Without a mother's love this boy would die. She looked up at the bulletin board in her office and the inspiration came.

There, smiling from above her head, was a picture of Jacob Green. A beautiful child - same age as this one. Born in Korea - same as this one. Born with a cleft - same as this one. Adopted by a family that cherished him. Why not this one too? She was looking at the family's finalization announcement. Could they be as happy with another?  She called their homestudy agency.

When we finalized Jacob's adoption, I shared our news with everyone. We were so very thrilled. One friend, a minister's wife, wrote her congratulations and asked me if we were going to adopt again. My answer - one I will never forget, was "Emotionally, I am ready, and I really do want to adopt again. But finances are a major obstacle. If you pray, though, and God removes the obstacle, yes - we'll do it again."

Two weeks later, the phone call came from my homestudy director. "Joanne, are you sitting down?"

She told me about a call she got from a little boy's social worker. He was only barely younger than Jacob and he also has a cleft. The Social worker felt strongly that the child should be ours. She told the child's social worker that she was pretty sure that if we adopted again, we would want a girl. "If they take this boy, we will give them a girl as soon as they ask." Then she said that she knew I had stopped working when Jacob came, so that we would not have the money to do another intercountry adoption. The social worker said, "IF THEY WANT THIS CHILD, WE WILL WAIVE THE FEES." When I heard that, my heart was reminded of what I told my friend. "If you pray, and God removes the obstacle, yes, we will do it again."

God could not have been clearer. I knew this child was mine. And when I saw his pictures the next day, I did not see a starving waif with vacant eyes and a boney ribcage. I saw my son. And I knew when I looked at him that his name would be Joey. I said yes that day, and then I got on my knees and I prayed that God would keep that child alive long enough to feel his mother's love. Somebody loved him. Somebody wanted  him. We were just half a continent away.

I sent bottles to Korea and high protein cereals and multivitamins. And an all-out effort went into getting him home before the Olympics in Seoul closed travel for orphans.

He came home in record time - 89 days! And in 89 days, while he was still terribly undersized, he was starting to put on some pudge. Still disproportionate. I took him to the pediatrician, set him on the table and said, "Is he a dwarf?" The doctor couldn't answer me. He certainly looked like he was. He took x-rays and plotted his growth and said - no, 
not a dwarf.

Joey did feel and come to welcome his mother's love. It took a while. Right away, though, I could tell he was no ordinary child. Already he had dealt with more pain, more separation, more alone-ness than most adults. He had learned that the only person he could count on in this world was himself. And he was only 14 months old. That's scary.

He is my "old soul". He is my Joy. And when I look at him - deeply - look at his spirit - he more than any of my other children - seems to reflect back more of  me. I see my spirit in his soul. Maybe it's just more confirmation that he was meant to be mine. Or maybe it's just love.

He has had the most surgeries - and he has always handled them with courage. He deals with the most issues - and he has always dealt with them with the most resilience. Sometimes I wish I could take the burden of such an old soul from him - let him be carefree and dependent for a day. But it would not be him. He must feel in control of his own destiny. I do not provide so much as I guide, where Joey is concerned. And always, always, I love.

Yesterday, I saw the boy peek through. Running through the field, after a ball. No cares. No worries. No cleft. No issues. Just a boy, the wind and a ball. The way life should be.

I thought of how pleased the man would be to see how this baby he left at the reception center, because of his decision, has grown to a healthy, handsome young man. I thought of how the social worker who acted upon her inspiration and moved heaven and earth to find a home for a dying child would be pleased to see how robust and happy he is today. I thought of the sponsor family who put a child's chance of survival over the value of a few dollars a month, and how pleased they would be to see that he not only survived, but thrives. I thought of my friend whose prayers moved a social worker to make just the right comment that made me know that this baby was mine.

They say it takes a village to raise up a child. In Joey's case, it took a world just to save him. And the world is the happy beneficiary of this beautiful child's life.

Happy birthday, Joey.

From the luckiest mom in the whole world!!!


Wide Smiles depends on donations to continue to provide this resource for you.
Please help keep us online!

Cleft Links | Wide Smiles | Photo Gallery