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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Harelip is a dirty word.

I have been wanting to write this post for a very long time. A few years ago, I wrote a book called The Snake Pit: Jr. High Can Be Torture. It tells the story of a young girl, Cinda, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Because she looks different, she is bullied, literally to death. I wrote this story, because I, too, was  born with the same defect. This is what I looked like when I was born.
This is not a actual baby picture of me. In fact, there are no baby pictures of me that exist.   

Let's face it, this is not the face of a baby you rush off to the photographer every few weeks. At least not in the 60's when I was born. In fact, I didn't even go home with my parents until I was 6 months old. Imagine what it must have been like for my mother,
People have a great misconception about people with cleft palates. I've had people assume that I am mentally challenged, without ever talking to me. I have had people point and stare. I have had people refer to me as a monster on occasion. None of these people knew me, or wanted to know, these were just assumptions of strangers. 

Of all the names I have been called in my life, by far the most hurtful one is Harelip. People toss that word about as if it is just a common term for a cleft palate. It is not. It is an insult. Let me illustrate. 
This is a hare. I do not look like this.

This is what I look like. See the difference?

Let me put it another way. Think back to the last time you said the word Harelip. Perhaps you were just describing someone you saw on the street. Can you think of a time where you ever heard someone use that word as a compliment? I can tell you right now...NO. For me, two words are taboo in my vocabulary. Harelip and the N-word. I don't use them and I don't allow anyone to use them in my presence. Both are derogatory, hateful words, never spoken in a complimentary manner, and, therefore, should be banned from the english language permenantly. I cringe when I hear those two word casually tossed about when I know from experience just how deeply it hurts. 

I am 48 years old. I am a wife, a mother, and an author. Tomorrow I will go to the hospital for yet another recontructive surgery. How many have I had? People ask me that all the time. The truth is, there have been so many, that I lost track years ago.  I can ballpark it. Figure 1 or 2 a year til I was 18. Let's say 25..conservatively. I had 3 surgeries when I was 21, another in my 30's and tomorrow I will go in for what may be my final one. This scares me. It scares me because I know it will not be "right". What I come out looking like tomorrow will be what I will look like for the rest of my life. 
Will it be good enough. It will for the people who love me. For the people who don't know me, probably not. But, I learned a long time ago, not to live for those people, only to live for myself. 

So, the next time you stare at someone with a facial defect, or laugh, or call them some derogatory name. Stop. Stop and think about what they have possibly been through to try and be what you consider to be "normal". All the pain, the tears, the prayers and the wishful thinking they have been through. Think before you tear all that down with one hateful word.


  1. Bravo! My son was born with cleft lip and palate, and yes, we do have one picture of him, but many videos. To us, he was beautiful!

    My son was also called a monster by some sicko woman in a grocery store. You'll be pleased to hear that she was escorted out of the store, with indignant force. The manager thought my son adorable and her display appalling.

    So, yes. No H word and no N word. Nasty, hateful sounds in the ear of anyone who loves humanity, or any other living thing on this planet.

    I've read your book and love it. Anyone who hates bullying of any kind, or just likes good literature should give it a read.

  2. My son was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate in 2000. I took tons of pics of him, took him everywhere with me. I think it's the difference between the late 60's when I was born and the new milennium, The technology has come so far that with only a few surgeries, he looks amazing and at almost 50, I'm still trying to catch up. Technology has evolved, but unfortunately, people still display the same ignorance. Despite that, my son has grown up to be a handsome, confident young man. I've seen pictures of your son, who displays the same confidence. Maybe it's a boy thing, maybe good parenting, but I'm so glad to see it.