"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:13-16

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Time is Near and We Need Some Advice

To all the mom's and dad's that have kids with a cleft we need some of your advise. Even people without kids with a cleft or without kids at all, feel free to leave some advise.

We have yet to tell our 6 year old son, Colton, about Abigail's cleft. We have chosen to shelter him from this news because we did not want him to worry or get freaked out about it. But, since the time for Abigail to join us is getting really close, we are wondering what other parents have done to tell their other children? Did you wait until the baby was here? Did you tell them before hand? What did you tell them?

Our current thoughts are to tell him in the next few weeks before Abigail is actually here so he doesn't get a big surprise when she doesn't have a complete lip. We thought we would just explain it as an "ouey" on her lip that will need to be fixed in the months to come. We would like to know what you did and how your other children took it?

Thanks to you all, you are Awesome!


John, Shannon, Broderick, Camden, and Adalynn said...

We told both of our boys (3 yrs and 6 yrs) before Adalynn was born-actually shortly after we found out. We were very careful with the word "owie" because we wanted them to be very clear that it didn't hurt her and it really wasn't an "owie" in the way that they think of an "owie"

We also showed them tons of pictures of kids before to show them what she may look like. We showed them before and after pictures. We also said that this was the way God wanted her to be and everyone is different. I was very open with the boys as well as my whole class (20 third graders).

Both boys think nothing of it. My 6 year old even cried when she had her surgery because "she was beautiful the way she was". You will soon find out that is so true.

One thing we were also sure to do is let the boys know that people are mean and not be upset if they see people staring or making fun of her. Once again, my 6 yr old responded "that's okay mommy, I'll just beat them up if they make fun of my sister".

I can't wait to meet Abigail!

Darcy said...

Wow. I never even thought about having to tell an older sibling prior to the arrival. Rachel's cleft was undetected during my pregnancy.

When Rachel was born, Hannah was 4 1/2 years old. And because all of the chaos surrounding Rachel's arrival with my emergency c-section and then in recovery, I really don't know what my husband or parents told Hannah.

What I do know is what Hannah told my mom the day after seeing Rachel. In the car, on the way back to the hospital, Hannah told my mom that Rachel would sure give special kisses. And it was true, Rachel gave special kisses.

I like Shannon's approach. Colton is old enough to understand. Show him pictures of our kids. Explain to him that God made Abigail's lip very special and she will indeed give special kisses for a while. And that as she gets older, the doctors will repair her lip.

I'll be praying for you and Heather on this one.

Allison said...

We told Ella (she was not quite two years when we found out) that her sister had an "owie" on her lip, and the doctors would know how to make Abby's lip look like ours. We explained that her "owie" was called a cleft lip and we showed her pictures of other children with clefts, before and after, and it really helped her to understand. I know it may sound strange to have to explain this to a 23 month old child, but Ella has always been very inquisitive and observant and has understood complex concepts from a very early age. We just wanted her to be prepared, so that she could expect her baby sister's cleft and accept it as just the way Abby is. When Ella came to see Abby after she was born, Ella thought nothing of the cleft, she just loved her sister the way she was! In fact, recently we were looking at a picture of Abby before her surgery and Ella said, "Oh, gorgeous eyes!" I asked her if she remembered how Abby's lip used to look and almost with a puzzled look on her face, she said "oh yeah." I don't think she even noticed the cleft in the photo before I mentioned it! That just goes to show how much she loves her sister for who she is, and can look right past the cleft to see beauty.

I agree with Shannon about explaining to Colton that some people may not be as accepting of your little one as you would all like. You can educate him so that he has the language to explain to others about his sister's cleft. I have found that just being up front and honest with others is the best approach. This sets a great example for your children on how to handle these situations so they know it's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

I'm assuming you have met with Abigail's craniofacial team??? If so, there should be a social worker available that can answer some of these questions for you. Ours was so amazing before Abby was born. I could call her whenever I needed and she always had a number of perfect suggestions on how to approach things I was concerned about.

I hope I have been helpful and I can't wait to see your gorgeous little bundle!

Jeanne said...

My son was the same age as yours when Roger was born. I showed him pictures and explained the best that I could before he was born, but my son reacted differently. When he first saw Roger, he said, "Mom I see something wrong." And then with the NAM, I think that he just could not get past it. But, when his lip was repaired, the first thing he said was, "He has a lip like mine now." They've been buddies ever since. It could have also been a combination of him being the only kid for so long and then having a brother that was still too little to play. So, it took him a while -- and I think at this age -- they are old enough to see that something's wrong, but too young to understand that it will eventually be fixed.

I made a scrapbook of Roger's first 6 months of life up to right after the first surgery. My son showed this to his class for show-n-tell, and he couldn't have been more proud. It was also great for me to show to anyone who had questions.

As far as stares and comments, you have to put yourself in their shoes and realize it's probably something they've never seen or heard of before. Most people were really nice, but every once in a while, someone would make an ignorant comment. You just have to be strong and realize that no one is trying to be hurtful, they just don't know.

Anonymous said...

Colton is such a loving little person already. He is very aware of people's feelings and emotional state. I feel he should be made aware of Abby's cleft prior to the birth and shown some examples of what to expect. He is so anxiously awaiting his sister. Take him through a few of the sites attached to your blog. I have learned so much from everyone's story and pictures of their children. I feel Colton is very ready for this and will be fine.
Love each other,
Florida Nana

Mommy said...

We told Jacob (2 yrs old) about Jaron's cleft when we found out. He ws not suprised or shocked or even upset. I have always tried to remember in all aspects of parenting..."If you don't make it a big deal then it won't be a big deal". We just showed him pictures of other cleft affected babies and told him the doctors were going to make him all better. When he saw Jaron for the first time after birth he kissed him right on the premaxilla (center peice sticking out). We made sure to tell Jacob that God makes us all special and he accepted that as an answer. Remember kids are so innocent and they only know what we tell them. As far as the stares and comments from strangers. It was hard but when in public with both of them and Jacob noticed someone staring he would say "That's Jaron, that's his cleft lip". It was so cute. Almost like "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT!" So now when we look back at pictures of Jaron before surgery, Jacob barely remembers it. I have to explain it to him again.

The Ski's said...

Ellie was just over 3 when Reid was born. We had no idea of Reid's cleft....so we were in just as much shock as she was. Of course, I will never forget that day.

I worried about how to prepare her for what she would see when she would arrive at the hospital. She is such a loving little girl, and she was so snxious for the arrival of the new baby. I worried about how she would react, and if Reid's lip would scare her. I will NEVER forget what happened that day.

My mom and dad brought her to the hospital. Reid was less than an hour old. Brian and I were still trying to make sense of everything. Two big, blue eyes peered into the hospital room where I was holding Reid. Ellie was curious and walked slowly into the room. She stopped when she saw Reid and me. I was trying so hard to keep it all together. She just looked and looked and didn't get too close, either. I remember my eyes welling up with tears and just praying in my head what to say that would ease her mind. Before I could say anything, she looked at me concerned, and asked..."Mommy, why are you in pajamas? Are you sick?" And then...."can I hold my baby brother?" She could have cared less about the lip. Honestly. When she held Reid for the first time, I just sat with them both and explained to Ellie that God made Reid's lip different from hers...but it didn't hurt him, and it would be all better someday. I went over and over the fact that we love him and he is beautiful and we are SOOO glad that he is a part of our family. She never doubted that....ever.

Still to this day, I am amazed at how she views Reid....she never saw anything to worry about with him. I am so blessed that I, too, was reminded that that's how it should be. Why I worried, I'll never know. Children look at things differntly than adults. Thank God. Blessings to you all....and remember that we are all here for you praying for you and knowing that you are covered by God's loving grace.

Erika said...

I came across your blog and thought I'd comment. My first son was born with a cleft lip and palate. Since he was the first (and since we didn't find out he'd have a cleft until he was born) I didn't really have to explain it to anyone. But here's a great link to what I think is an excellent explanation for a child or an adult as well.


Hope it helps. Be sure to take many pictures because you will miss that little face once it's "changed." :)

Fowler family said...

I agree with everyone else- show your son pictures of little babies with clefts so that he is familar with it. I would just explain it in real simple terms like when Abigail was really small, her little lip didn't zipper shut like it was supposed to so she will have a really big smile for a little bit. But then we will bring her to the doctor and she will have surgery to repair it.

I often wondered what Jimmy's reaction would be to Johnny's lip when he was born, we had prepared him/told him and he had seen a lot of his OWN baby pictures, but it seemed to not even phase him when he saw his baby brother for the first time. He may have asked about it, but there was never any traumatic scene.

I am sure you guys will do just fine.

Keep us posted on little Abigail's arrival! She is almost here! Yeah!