I ran across an article today that was quite disturbing to me. Apparently a woman in China blogged about having an abortion because her unborn child had a cleft lip. She says she discussed it with her spouse, her parents and her siblings and they all agreed an abortion was the right thing to do.
I can’t believe this. I’m flabbergasted. In fact I’m fighting back tears.
I don’t know if this was a planned pregnancy or not, but it appears she actually wanted this baby; at lest until she found out the baby had a cleft lip. She was six months along when she aborted her baby boy. More than half way to a birth. After an ultrasound she wrote:
It was the first time I had ever seen the lovely creature who has accompanied me for six months as I lay on a hospital bed for a check up. He is so cute. Sometimes he stretches, sometimes he gapes, and sometimes he sucks his little fingers. However it makes me shiver to see a cleft, ranging from 3 to 7 millimeters in his upper lip.
Let me paraphrase that for you. Basically she said “I have this beautiful little boy inside me, but he’s not like everybody else and that makes me shiver.”
More than four years ago, I met my baby, Caleb, for the very first time. My whole pregnancy I was convinced Caleb was a Chloe. But as the doctor pulled Caleb out he said, “It’s a girl. Oops, nope it’s a boy.” [That was a little doctor humor because I had told the doctor I thought I was having a girl even though we never had an ultrasound to find out.]
But Caleb’s gender wasn’t the only surprise we got. Caleb was born with a cleft lip. As far as cleft lips go, Caleb’s was very, very minor. He had a 3/4 inch unilateral cleft. This means it only went 3/4 of the way to his nose and was only on one side of his face.
That’s Caleb when he was eleven days old. Look at how handsome he is. Do you give a shit that his lip isn’t fused together in one spot? ‘Cause I don’t even notice it anymore when I look back at these old photos.
In the scope of all things that can go wrong in a pregnancy, a cleft lip is nothing. Yes, there are hardships. It’s more difficult to feed a baby with a cleft lip. Breast feeding is difficult if not impossible for some kids. Cleft kids are more suseptible to ear infections. Cleft kids may have dental problems and trouble chewing [although this is more in kids with cleft palates, not cleft lips]. But none of these are life threatening. None of these things stop a child from leading a very normal life.
I am pro-choice. I would prefer that a woman not have an abortion. I would preach about keeping your child. But it’s not my body and it’s not my decision. I believe every woman needs to make that decision for herself.
That being said, having an abortion in your sixth month because the baby has a cleft lip is ludacris. That is the most ridiculous reason I have ever heard. I can understand chosing an abortion if your child has a debilitating disease and will lead a painful life, but because of a cleft lip. You’ve got to be kidding me.
Here is Caleb on October 6, 2002. He is almost five months old in this picture. This is just a little over a month after his first surgery. Look at how good he looks. You can barely tell he ever had a cleft lip.
Caleb has had two surgeries. He probably won’t have another unless we need to do another retouch as his head grows. Those surgeries were very difficult; emotionally I mean. Caleb was in a lot of pain after his first surgery. His face was swollen. His throat was scratchy. He was restrained with arm bands for quite some time. And he had to wear a bar across his face so he didn’t bump his incision. It was heartbreaking to watch my baby in pain and uncomfortable. But Caleb bounced back pretty quickly. In fact his second surgery was an outpatient surgery and he was running around the next day.
We did have our share of problems with Caleb’s cleft lip.
We had problems with breastfeeding, even when I used the nipple shield. I had really wanted to breast feed, but it just wasn’t meant to be. But Caleb had no problem learning to eat from the specialized bottles they have for cleft babies.
He has an extra front tooth. Most people have two big front teeth in the top of their mouth. Caleb has three, one of which is turned sideways. If that third big tooth returns after he loses his baby teeth, an orthodondist will remove it.
His teeth are a little off-centered, but you can’t really tell unless you’re looking for it. Caleb has been going to a pediatric dentist since he was very young and the dentist thinks Caleb’s teeth look good otherwise.
You can see a small scar on his lip and he has a little extra flap of skin on the inside part of his lip. But I’ll take all of that over not having him in my life any day.
Was it a shock to have a baby with a cleft lip? You bet it was. I’d even go so far as to say it was devasting. It was devasting because I assumed he would be perfect. And I was thrown off guard by his cleft lip.
But you know what I learned? He is perfect. He just has a cleft lip. And that was just a minor inconvenience. Not something that would make me want to miss out on Caleb’s whole life.
It’s terrifying to think of all I would have missed if I had made the same decision this woman in China made. I would have missed the excitment in the other kids’ faces when they met their baby brother for the first time. I would have missed cradling Caleb in the middle of the night as I rocked him back to sleep. I would have missed his first smile with and without the cleft lip. I would have missed the little wobbley first steps he took on his first birthday. I would have missed his big sloppy kisses. I would have missed the first time he told me he loved me. I would have missed good night hugs and kisses. I would have missed the first day of preschool. I would have missed everything that has been my world for the last five years.
I can’t believe anybody would want to throw all of that away because of a cleft lip.