Stories about: Cleft lip and Palate Program

Expert insight on cleft lip and palate

Experts answer parents' questions about cleft lip and palate.

Learning that your baby has a cleft lip or palate can be upsetting, but these birth defects are quite common. They occur early in pregnancy when tissue from each side of the head grows together to form the face. If these tissues don’t completely join, the result is a cleft, or gap, on one or both sides of the upper lip. A cleft palate occurs when the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth doesn’t fully come together, leaving an opening between the mouth and nose.

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Vivian’s story: From baby with a cleft lip to confident adult

Vivian shares her story of cleft lip repair.Silvia Pereira was pregnant for the first time in 1986 when a routine ultrasound revealed that she was carrying a baby girl with a cleft lip. In her early twenties and newly emigrated from Honduras, Silvia decided to keep the condition a secret because she was unsure of how her family would react. “I didn’t even know what a cleft lip was; I didn’t care how she came out; I just wanted my baby.”

When baby Vivian arrived, her husband Dennis was in disbelief: “If you’ve never seen a cleft lip, it’s pretty shocking. I asked myself, what’s going on? Is this my fault, is it my genes?”

Twenty-eight years later, Vivian reflects on her birth story: “Luck was never on my side. My first obstacle in life was being born.”

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Life after cleft lip surgery: Finding Brooks’ smile

Brooks 4When Rick and Aimee Bellew learned that their second child Brooks would be born with a cleft lip and soft palate, they weren’t sure what to expect. So like most people looking for information, they took their questions to the Internet—which turned out to be a mistake.

“Just minutes into our first cleft lip search on Google and we were already devastated,” Aimee remembers. “The pictures staring back at us from the computer screen were so severe. We thought ‘there’s no way a child with a condition this serious looking can be otherwise healthy.’ It was very overwhelming.”

In the coming weeks, they met with doctors and specialists for further testing, and everything indicated that—aside from Brooks’s cleft—he was developing like any other healthy baby. And while the Bellews’ local care team gave them good news, they didn’t have the information on cleft lip repair that the family was looking for.

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