The only baby I’ve seen born at home with a cleft palate was such a beautiful, memorable experience. It was right at Christmas time. First baby. Woman gave birth in water. As she caught her baby and slowly lifted him to the surface of the water in the darkened room, she said “Oh, I think he has a little cleft lip.” We were 3 midwives there. We all saw the most beautiful aura and peaceful presence around this little baby. The parents held him and greeted him in the usual way. He nursed at the breast. Later we realized the cleft involved the palate, too, and we explained to the parents that we should have him looked at by a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital sometime in the first 12 hours just in case he had some other problems that weren’t as obvious.
The days following his birth involved a lot of interactions with medical personnel. Even though the baby had no other problems, we had to have fittings with a palate cover that would make feeding easier and make sure that the baby was thriving. To give the parents as much information as possible, I photocopied some pages from my nursing textbooks about cleft palate and part of what it said was ” the nurse should realize that the baby in the mother’s arms is not the baby of her dreams.” We all thought that was a weird thing to assume. As the mother went through the system to get the cleft repaired in the ensuing year, she said she never encountered a single nurse who didn’t say “I know the baby in your arms is not the baby of your dreams, Linda”–she was glad I’d given her those photocopies so that she knew what they were repeating. The mother actually said that she thought babies who didn’t have a cleft palate looked boring! and she also said she was having the repair done so that he would have all the best life could offer him but, for her, he was fine just the way he was. She attributed her complete acceptance of her son’s beauty to the fact that everyone in the room at his birth saw his magnificence.