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Beautiful Baby

By Shelah Miner

I walked into Sears last week to return a pair of sneakers, my baby strapped to my chest in an Ergo carrier. As we waited to be helped, Rose started to fuss, and pretty soon the older lady behind me in line was peeking over my shoulder.

“Can I see the baby?”

I tried to ignore the flutter in my chest as I pulled off her hat and showed off my daughter.

“She’s beautiful,” the lady said.

“Look at those eyes,” her friend said.

For the next ten minutes, the ladies and the saleswoman asked me questions about how old she is, if she had brothers and sisters, and complimented everything from her dark brown hair to her cute pink shoes. I left the store with a lump in my throat.

It was an experience that I had many times with my older kids, strangers commenting on my beautiful baby, but it was one I wasn’t sure I’d ever have with Rose.

My daughter is beautiful. But I’m not always sure that people who don’t know us well will take the time to see it. I worry that they might only see the cleft that divides her upper lip in two.

A more common reaction is the one that we got when I took the kids to the zoo on Thursday. Rose was in the stroller this time. Two little boys passed us and one said to the other, “Did you see that ugly baby?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with her?”

I don’t hold it against these boys. They’re little kids, and truthfully, a year ago I might have thought the same thing. I remember when a friend’s baby was born with a cleft lip and I worried that I’d put my foot in my mouth when we got together, so I talked with her about his milestones, his upcoming surgery, anything except the cleft that was as plain as the nose on his face. The half inch gap where his skin didn’t fuse had me entirely tongue-tied– I knew I was behaving badly but I didn’t know what to say.

I’ve been looking at Rose’s face long enough that I hardly see the cleft anymore; unless she has cupcake or rice coming out of her nose, I rarely even think about it. She’s beautiful with it, not in spite of it.

Two weeks from now, I’ll hand over my precious baby to a team surgeons, who will stitch together her upper lip and her soft palate and put in a prosthetic hard palate. With any luck, we will come to the end of seeing Gerber puffs escaping from her nostrils.

This challenge is Rose’s, not mine, but as her mom, I’ve learned from it too. A little bit of drool won’t kill you. Food that comes out the nose isn’t really any grosser than food that comes out of the mouth. And every mom likes to hear that she has a beautiful baby, because no matter what that baby looks like, she is beautiful to her mother and to everyone else who has chosen to love her.

What makes someone beautiful to you? Has your concept of beauty changed over time? Why is it so dang important to me for people to think my baby is pretty? Is there really such thing as an ugly baby?

About Shelah Miner

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) teaches English at BYU and French at a Salt Lake City middle school. She has an addiction to her Audible account, hates making dinner, and embraces the chaos of life with a husband, six kids, a dog, a lizard and four rabbits.

26 thoughts on “Beautiful Baby”

  1. Every baby should feel they are the most wonderful baby in the world to their mama. I'm glad your little Rose is so cherished. πŸ™‚

  2. I'm surprised those little boys made that comment, not because it was tactless, but because Rose is truly beautiful!

    Goodness, I'd love to attach a photo to my comment. She's one gorgeous baby, not in spite of the cleft, but with it.

  3. My 18M old has eczema covering his face and body leaving a pussy, bloody mess for the world to behold. It freaks kids out. It's scary. Adults can generally handle it but the hardest part is when the adults are embarrassed by their kids reaction trying to shush them or keep them from staring.

    Every time I can I try to use this as an opportunity to share with others that the world is diverse and there are some things that are beyond our control, "his face looks like that because he has allergies and this is how his body metabolizes the things it cannot process." That's it, I let the mother & google to the rest.

    It doesn't bother me that I don't get a lot of "what a cute/beautiful looking baby" because for the most part I'd think they are lying. With Spencer we get a lot of, "what a happy baby, look at how his eyes sparkle, how friendly" I think it's good for others to learn how to give specific compliments rather than exchange general niceties just because it's socially acceptable.

  4. I took several pictures of Rose to the gym to show off to my cycling class. I will admit that as her grandmother, I do think she's beautiful in both body and spirit. I feel very blessed that our family will have the opportunity to share the wonders of her life. But I did wonder how the people in my class would react. Would they see what I see. I was pleasantly surprized by their enthusiastic congratulations and even their curiousity regarding her adoption and upcoming surgery. I shared thie following short story about Rose with the class.

    When my daughter's family was first matched with Rose back in late September and they received their first pictures of their new daughter/sister, Shelah posted her children's first reactions on her blog. Honest and unfiltered her 6-year old commented, "Are you sure this is the best baby we can get?" Totally understandable – yet how his view changed after monthes of anticipation and coming to know Rose thru numerous pictures posted on their kitchen wall. A few days after her arrival I was watching now 7-year old Isaac holding his new sister, and while they giggling together he announced, "This is the best baby we could get." Gotta love kids – all of them.

  5. My 3rd child was born with Congenital Nevus which basically means he was born with moles. However most people born with this has one or two spots, my son's entire back is covered in moles and hair and his legs and arms have what are called cafe oles, meaning dark spots all up and down his body. With congenital Nevus you have an increased risk of skin cancer through out your life. We have to be very careful with sun exposure, and he has to be seen by a specialist yearly. I've had people accuse me of beating my son because the spots on his legs and arms resemble bruises. When that happens is when my crazy comes out. πŸ™‚ I've found adults are the absolutely worst when it comes to stares and comments. Kids ask questions and when they get an answer they move on and continue playing. It's very hard when you can't go to the store without someone staring. There is nothing that can be done for him becuase of the severity of his Nevi. Saying all that, my son is the most handsome 5 year old I've ever seen. πŸ™‚

  6. πŸ™‚ God bless you. My mother and sister were both born with cleft palates, sans the hare lip. The surgeries nowadays are much more advanced and less traumatic for the children.

    I didn't realize my mother spoke differently than other people until a friend asked me one day "why does your mom talk funny?" I said "my mom doesn't talk funny, what are you talking about?"

    She'd often take me with her to deal with business people, etc., even put me on the phone to say what she wanted to say. I never thought about it until that day when I was 13. She had her first surgery when in 1930, with Ether as the anesthetic.

    It's miraculously different now. Again, God bless you.

  7. Shelah, I've often thought about my silly satisfaction in having people tell me my children were, and now my granddaughter is, beautiful. It's quite foolish, but I still find myself doing it, standing behind people in checkout lines, loving how pretty their babies are. I don't think we have another word for how good babies make us feel about life than to say that they are pretty. What a blessing for you and for her that a relatively simple surgery makes her life more normal, less a focus for people casually walking by. But what a gift that, until then, you've had this chance to experience the importance of looking deeper. I've had those kinds of experiences, in very different situations, and they've deepened my appreciation for others. Glory be that we have a cleft palate or some other reparable hiccup in our road to help us truly see one another in all our glorious beauty.

  8. I share your feelings of fierce protectiveness of your beautiful daughter. Even though we don't take E out in public a lot to protect him from respiratory infections, when we do, I'm keenly aware of the stares and whispered comments of children and adults alike. I'm more than happy to share his story and some of the details of his medical condition, if only people would approach him in a friendly way and ask me. I know E can't understand them, but it's hard for me.

  9. There's just too much for me to say in this small comment box.

    I have a daughter who was born with limb differences on all 4 limbs (rare, to say the least). She doesn't have a functional hand, no elbows, extremely short femurs, yada, yada, yada. In a world where women's bodies are scrutinized for the slightest imperfection I feel overwhelmed at the task that lay ahead for us as we try to teach her just how beautiful she really is. And she is a beauty. I don't want to patronize her with simplistic cliches that parents spout off but kids can still see right through. I want to teach her that there is nothing "wrong" with her, while still being able to address the reality of her very unique body. I want to instill in her a deep sense of her worth. The absolute treasure she is to our family and to the world at large. Like you Shelah I don't see her limbs anymore…I just see her. However, I know that everyday for the rest of her life she will meet people who will encounter her for the first time and therefore she will need to be equipped with grace, love and self worth for the varied reactions. Right now she's 21 months old and just a beautiful baby. She melts hearts left and right. People are kind and wonderful to her. What I worry for most is as she starts to grow and becomes less "precious" in the eyes of the world. How will people view/treat her as a 10 year old, 16 year old, 25 year old and in her middle age?

    Definitely no such thing as an ugly baby. What I worry about though is the idea that it's OK to call anyone ugly, at any age, with or without a condition.

  10. I love what Bonnie said about how we don't know how to express what it is that babies make us feel, other than to say they are beautiful. Regardless of their physical features, babies make us feel happy inside, especially if they are smiling and happy.

    I agree with Apron Appeal's comment, too: "I think it’s good for others to learn how to give specific compliments rather than exchange general niceties just because it’s socially acceptable." Too often we do things because they are socially acceptable rather than from our heart. That's why the children's comments are probably more appropriate (in a sense) because it is actually what they are feeling/thinking rather than something they have been programmed to say (although children can also be programmed to say negative things, for example if they hear their parents saying negative things.

  11. Babies embody the beauty of beginning life therefore there are no ugly babies. We grandmother types love it when baby's mother let us inter-act with this beauty.

  12. Oh, she is obviously a beautiful baby … Beautiful eyes, plump, perfect cheeks, well-shaped, round head, lots of smiles … isn't that the very definition of a beautiful baby?

  13. This post really struck me. I too had a baby with a very visible cranio-facial defect. Oh how people stared! I was stung several times by thoughtless comments from adults and children alike, and the irony was most of those occasions were at church.

    He had two surgeries and came away with a dramatic scar, and people stared at gaped at that too. I wanted to put a sign on him that said "I am a person. I went through two very extensive and painful surgeries to get where I am, and I came out on top. If you want to ask my mom something, then ask. Otherwise, quit staring!"

    I wish you luck with your daughter's upcoming surgery. I think my son's early struggles have turned him into a compassionate, empathetic, special little boy.

  14. 7. Andrea..My second daughter also was born with congenital Nevus,large brown hairy birth mark but it was on her face and head. She started the surgeries at 6 months and has scarring on her face and scalp…but after you get to know her it, you don't notice it. She was also born with a high sense of self. Very confident. I taught her strategies for when kids would ask her about the scars on her face, to not get all emotional about them asking, and to just answer confidently…so when we would go to the store or somewhere out, she would notice others staring at her..but she was sure they were staring at her because she believed she was beautiful. There was only 1 time when she was in first grade where a 5th grad kid picked on her. She came home and told me that the boy said she was two faced, one side is good and the other is bad. We told the principal, he knew what she had been through with surgeries, yanked that kid out of class, lectured him on his cruelty, and walked him down to her classroom and made him apologize in front of her whole class. She very confidently accepted his apology in front of everyone. She was never bothered by anyone after that. I was surprised…kids can be so cruel, especially in middle school.
    She is now a beautiful, confident freshman at BYU Idaho, starting her second semester next week. I couldn't be more proud of her.

  15. " I don’t think we have another word for how good babies make us feel about life than to say that they are pretty." I LOVE this.

    Shelah, I'm so happy for you and your family and for Rose that she has a loving home with you all. I hope her surgery goes well.

  16. My daughter's good friend was born with this challenge. She's endured many surgeries and struggles because of it. Her mother didn't react the way you seem to have. When the "health issues" were resolved with her situation, her mother encouraged–even coerced–her teenage daughter to then undergo cosmetic surgery to make her "nose look more normal." The teenage girl was satisfied with her looks and didn't want another surgery but eventually relented because she said, "I want my mom to be able to stand to look at me." I felt so sad that this daughter would have to feel insecure about her mother's feelings toward her and her looks. Rose is very blessed to have a mother that sees her instead of just her physical features.

    I think we've all had the experience where we see someone who we think is really attractive, but when we get to know them, if their personality and attitude are ugly, no matter how good-looking they are, they begin to be less attractive. Thank goodness the opposite is also true. There are many people who came up short on the genetic lottery but who have developed character and personality traits that they become beautiful.

    Thank you for these lovely thoughts.

  17. well working with thousands of children with clefts over the years, I dont even bat an eye- to me it is another normal and in my other work with the vascular birthmarks foundation pretty much every patient has a visible difference many of which will be there their entire lives. It changes how you see beauty.Art and nature teach us that beauty is in diversity. I am grateful for it- there was a little boy in nepal with the most beautiful smile he was (8 UCL unrepaired), I know he was excited for the repair but his smile ,but truth be told i was a little sad to see the old one go– as it was one of the most powerful i have ever seen or felt.

  18. She is lovely. Every picture I see of her I think she gets prettier. I'm loving her cute chunky cheeks and the twinkle in her eye. And, of course, her smile.

  19. Lisa S- Thank you for writing about your daughter. I have such a fear of my Bobby being picked on when he hits his middle school years. Hearing about your daughter being confident and happy at BYU-Idaho brings me a lot of comfort. I remember praying so hard that Heavenly Father would take the spots away so Bobby could be "normal". Today I am so thankful that prayer wasn't answered, I couldn't imagine my son without his "spots". Thank you again very, very much.

  20. A week and a half ago my son was born with a partial cleft lip. I was basking in the relief of finally having this sweet child with me rather than inside me when either the nurse or the midwife said, "Oh, he has a cleft lip." It didn't give me a second's hesitation. From the first moment he's been beautiful to me. Perfect. I wonder how others will react when he starts to go out more. I hope I can find the strength to react as confidently and assuredly as I've seen from the mothers in these comments.

  21. I have nothing to say but awe for you and this tender journey, love for sweet Rose, and a happy confidence that she will flourish with all you and your family have to offer her. She is yours. And you are giving her everything she needs. Love you Shelah.

  22. Andrea #7, and #23. If you would like to talk further about preparing your son, feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to talk πŸ™‚


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