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MACROSCOPE

From Research to Reality

To understand her son’s birth defect, a mother makes an emotional and scientific journey

Katherine E. Willmore

Gaining Perspective

Given the coordination of so many complex processes required for proper development, I marvel that most children are born without birth defects. I realize how fortunate our family is that Max was born with just a cleft palate. And I have learned that the odds of having a child with cleft palate are not that low: About every two and a half minutes, somewhere in the world a child is born with a facial cleft.

Revisiting the scientific literature on facial clefting has been a cathartic experience for me. Looking at Max’s cleft from a biological perspective forced me to be objective and confirmed what my family, friends and health practitioners had been telling me. There was no way to predict that Max would have a cleft palate, it wasn’t my fault, and there is no reason to fear having another child. The veil of guilt has lifted a little further—that is, until I find myself laughing at old photographs of Max in his high chair with mashed peas streaming out of his nose.








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