Cleft Beauty

Cute-Golden-Retriever-Puppy-640x400Some people get a happiness boost from watching YouTube clips with cute puppies and kittens.

As for me, I’ve never quite felt much love for furry creatures, perhaps because I’m extremely allergic to them, cats in particular.

If ever you wanted to kill me off without getting caught, a mixture of cat, dog and hyacinth will do the trick.

My parents and siblings all have furry pets these days, making any visit to their homes a health hazard for me, but perhaps that’s the whole point.

When my daughters ask for a puppy or kitten of their own, I say they’ve got to choose:

“It’s either me or the pet.”

Accepting defeat, they both vow to get not just cats and dogs when they grow up and have flown the nest, but horses and rabbits as well. I get the message.

No, furry creatures don’t make my day, but cleft babies do.

If ever I’m in need of some cheering up, I only need to look at pictures of smiling cleft babies to feel that life is worth living after all. In my world, there’s nothing more beautiful than a cleft baby’s broad smile.

Some might think that’s just weird, or even patronising, but I don’t see it that way. One of the most beautiful and profound moments of my life was when I held a three-month-old baby with a complete cleft lip and palate. Yes, I saw his cleft, but to me, there was nothing tragic or sad about it, and at no point did I pity him. On the contrary, I thought he was one of the most perfect, most beautiful human beings I’d ever met.

Holding him in my arms, I saw and felt his innate wholeness, and although he would have to have a couple of operations to repair his cleft, he was not in any need of ‘fixing’.

Yes, I accept that surgery is necessary for babies born with a cleft, to enable them to eat, breathe and speak properly. But what troubles me is the predominance of the ‘medical model’ with its almost exclusive emphasis on ‘fixing’ something that is considered broken. It’s a model that isn’t satisfied until all surgical avenues, and medical interventions have been exhausted. The focus is wholly on the physical, often at the expense of the emotional and mental wellbeing of a person.

For me, my life’s trauma didn’t come from being born with a cleft, but from the non-empathic and singularly focused medical treatment, to which I was subjected.

No, if anything needs fixing, it is people’s perceptions of what constitutes normal, beautiful and perfect.

I don’t consider myself a particularly spiritual person, and I wouldn’t say I believe in a higher authority, but there is one belief I can’t shake: the belief that we are all born whole and that no life is less worthy than another. I believe that what makes us fully human is that intangible essence within us and it has nothing do with physical or intellectual ability, the number of chromosomes we carry, how we look, what we produce or achieve in the course of our lives.

IMG_3237I also believe that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugliness and the perception of what is ‘normal’. It’s all a matter of perception and perceptions can, and do, change. What is ugly to you is beautiful to someone else. Ultimately, we all have a choice in how we look at things.

If you look for ugly, that is what you will find. But if you look for beauty, you will find it in places, beings and things you never imagined.


4 thoughts on “Cleft Beauty

  1. Ms Baron's World February 8, 2018 / 5:24 pm

    A beautifully, moving and at the same time, witty piece of writing.


  2. foreversmilingmama March 11, 2018 / 9:59 pm

    I agree, cleft babies are adorable! I don’t have one myself, but my son does, and I plan to write more about it soon. Today I posted my story if giving birth to him!


  3. Jenny Engström Baron May 7, 2020 / 10:17 am

    Reblogged this on Born Whole and commented:

    It’s Cleft Awareness Week and in honour of all beautiful clefties out there I am re-posting a blog I wrote a while ago.


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