Why Was My Child Born With A Cleft???
The Causes vs. The Risks
--by Bill Diesslin

I wish people would stop beating themselves up in their search for the cause of clefting in their children. I know Brenda and I did this too, and it was a very unproductive activity. What happened to our child is not our fault!

Since I work at a University, I have a research library at my disposal. The sources I have read about the causes of clefting are willing to suggest "risk factors," but nothing I have come across is able to pinpoint a "cause" for clefting. This may sound like symantics, but a risk factor is very different from a cause.

Let me explain. A good example here would be the practice a wearing seat belts.
Driving a car and not wearing seat belt is risky behavior, but a collision is the cause of injury. There are people (like my father) who drive their whole life without using seat belts and live to tell about it. Just as there are people who are killed that wear seat belts.

With that said, yes there are factors that show a positive correlation with clefting. The WideSmiles web page lists many of them. I keep finding new ones in the literature I have read. This is good to know; and if Brenda and I decide to have more children, I can assure you we will do everything in our power to minimize the risks.

Nonetheless, I am convinced that a sip of cough medicine, a hot bath or even low levels of folic acid did not cause any of the clefts in our loved ones. If it were that simple, clefting would have been cured a long time ago.

So what are we to do? Love our kids, find them the best in medical and speech therapy, worry ourselves sick during surgeries, and enjoy watching them grow up into adulthood. Even if we could pinpoint a cause, it would not change our kids' situations. As parents (as well as those who are cleft-affected), I believe we need to focus our energy on today and tomorrow. Let's let the scientific community work on the past. With our support, they will find the "cause" of clefting.

Bill & Brenda Diesslin
Ames, Iowa
Parents of Audrey (UCL repaired, BCP)