“A little boy arrived at the hospital yesterday, only a few hours old. Already he was unwanted. Born with a cleft lip and palate he is seen as a 'devil child'. Mom & child are admitted and I am praying mom grows to love her son over the next few days. I brought in the mom of a former cleft patient today in the hopes of bringing some encouragement.” - from my Facebook status 6 days ago
The good news is, at the age of 4 days, this little boy went home - with his parents. While he was in hospital I went to the special care baby unit every day to talk to his mother, check on the baby, and show mom pictures of her baby boy. We talked, she cried, we sat in silence, I put my hand on her shoulder, I showed her pictures. I think that by the end of the 4 days she was over the initial shock. She gained confidence in feeding her child and was assured that an operation would be possible.
The parents’ biggest fear of course was the rejection and verbal abuse they would face when returning to their community. I can’t say I blame them. This is a very realistic fear. There are so many absurd ideas surrounding children born with cleft lips and palates it is unbelievable. It could literally lead to the family being shunned and thrown out of their community. When they left my office on Thursday I could tell that they were ready to face their community. I am sure they were still worried, but the smiles on their faces gave me a glimmer of hope that they have accepted this little baby boy as their son. My hope is that the parents will be surrounded by people who care. People who can encourage and support them. People who can see past the outward appearance and see that this child has a lot of potential. I can only hope that this little 1 week old is snuggled up in his mother’s arms right now. And I pray that when I see them on Thursday they will be positive and full of hope. And, of course, that my little friend is thriving.