Wednesday, 6 September 2006

'cleft', not 'hare'

received an email from singaporean cousin w today:

Have received your birthday card & present for K last Friday. She loved it. K is now at hospital. She had gone thru an operation on Monday. Plastic surgeon took a small pc of her soft bone from her waist and joined in between her gum. So far her condition is quite well if compared with others patients. Her gum is not as pain as her waist. That day, after the opeartion, she tried to walk slowly by herself. She needs to do that in order to recover fast. But musn't walk too much cos her wound will split. Now, she can just drink or eat in liquid form but not solid food. You can call her @ +65xxxxxxxx or +65xxxxxxxx for J*.
*j is the maid

9 years ago, niece k was born with a cleft lip. cousin w went thru hell with her mom-in-law, coz according to chinese superstitions, a child was born with a cleft lip coz the mom handled sharp objects (like knife, scissors etc.) during the pregnancy. and because of her condition, niece k cried a lot during her baby-hood. it's such a torture feeding her (had to use special bottles)!

after a few months (forgot how many), niece k went thru a correctional operation. plastic surgery these days are a miracle, i tell u. niece k was a changed person! completely! other than a tiny scar above her left lip, u can't tell that she's had cleft lip! no one would know unless we tell them.

anyway, after that first surgery, niece k would need to go thru another surgery at the age of 9, when her gums and whatnot had taken a more definite form. and then that's it for the rest of her life! ain't science great?

when i called her just now, she sounded her cheerful and bubbly self. yeah, she can talk normally despite having had surgery on her gums! she just complained of a little pain when she walk. oh, and she's bored to death! hehe...

well, niece k is considered lucky because from what i read, approximately 35,000 chinese babies (in china) are born with cleft lips and palates each year and because of their defect, they are often abandoned at birth.

here's a pic of niece k, taken during cny this year. she's the one with maid j's arm around her (and dun tell me u dunno which is maid j!).

during cny

neeways, been reading up a bit on cleft lip on the net. and here are some facts (for those interested lar) copied from widesmiles:

- Fathers, as well as mothers, can pass on genes that cause clefting but some clefts are caused by environmental factors, which means it didn't come from Dad or mom.

- One child in 33 is born with some sort of birth defect. One in 700 is born with a cleft-related birth defect.

- Most cleft-affected babies are boys, however, it is not uncommon for a girl to be born with a cleft.

- If a person (male or female) is born with a cleft, the chances of that person having a child with a cleft, given no other obvious factor, rises to seven in one hundred.

- Some clefts are related to identifiable syndromes. Of those, some are autosomal dominant. A person with an autosomal dominant gene has a 50% probability of passing the gene to an offspring.

- Many clefts run in families, even though there does not seem to be any identifiable syndrome present.

- Clefting seems to be at least in part related to ethnicity, occurring most often among Asians, Latinos and Native Americans (1:500), next most often among persons of European ethnicity (1:700) and least often among persons of African ethnicity (1:1,000).

- A cleft condition is determined during the 4th to the 8th week of pregnancy. After that critical period, nothing the mother does can cause a cleft, and nothing a mother does can avoid the cleft. Sometimes it is determined even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.

"Harelip" - The Dark History of an Unfortunate Word

The accepted and appropriate word that defines a birth condition in which facial tissues fail to fuse during gestation is 'cleft'. However, the parent of a cleft-affected child does not go far before hearing the term, 'harelip' instead. And we do not like that term. Why? Isn't it just a word? Most people don't mean anything negative by using it. Well, perhaps knowing the history of the term may help us to understand why it is so inappropriate. And so here, excerpted from an article from WIDE SMILES, is the dark history of the word, 'harelip'.

In the 16th century, it was a French Doctor who, when discussing a patient with a cleft, first coined the phrase that would be translated, "Lip of the Hare". In English it was more comfortably shortened to "HareLip". It was an unfortunate pairing of similes. The good doctor was only reflecting that the lip was split, as is the lip of a Hare (and every other rodent). But unfortunately for those who were born with a cleft, the hare had also long been associated with witchcraft!

It was believed throughout the dark ages and even to relatively recent times that a witch would often take the shape of a hare. And if a hare were to frighten a pregnant woman, she would give birth to a child bearing the mark.

In the 17th century the hysteria surrounding witchcraft rose to a new and frightening level. And it was during that time that the hare had become a symbol of Satan himself. A woman bearing a child with the mark of the hare, or a harelip, at that time, was thought to have had to have had relations with Satan. And thus, the cleft-affected child born of a woman, say, in Salem Massachusetts during the mid 17th century, in the midst of witchcraft hysteria would have condemned his mother to a violent end. That baby would have constituted "irrefutable evidence" of his mother's unnatural liaison with Satan.

Fast forward now to the 20th Century. Many people still use the term, "HareLip" when they mean to say, "Cleft Lip". Do they associate our children with Satanism and witchcraft? No, surely they don't. But it is nonetheless a term that has persevered in our language, long after a more accurate, more appropriate term has been coined.

At the very least, the term, "HareLip" likens our children to a common field rodent. It is not a soft, fluffy bunny. It is just a rodent. At the very most it harkens back to a darker past. A past that would never have happened were it not for massive hysteria on the part of a superstitious and almost militantly religious population. A past that condemned our children as the Devil's Seed, and condemned their mothers to death.

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