My ‘nother one’ hand

At 37 years old, I can finally say that I feel comfortable in my own skin, but this was not always the case. I was born with no left hand in 1976, but otherwise I was a healthy child. Growing up I often asked my parents why I was born that way but they had no answers for me since they were never given proper answers either. At the time there was a prenatal drug that pregnant women were given that was blamed for such birth defects but my mother never took those so that was not the reason. It was especially puzzling for me because I have an older sister and younger brother who are both “normal”. Suffice it to say that eventually I stopped asking questions. I felt as though it pained my parents not being able to answer, so instead I opted for what I believed, “This was just how God made me.” And I did believe it. As I said, I have always been healthy, I was an exceptional student and despite the teasing, bullying and the number of times I got “beat up” as a kid, I always had (and still do) a positive outlook in life.

It wasn’t until I reached high school that I started feeling a sort of shame at my disability. I often hid behind sweaters in the winters and purses and pockets in the summers just so I would not be stared at. Looking back at it now, it was the silence that my friends and family maintained on the subject that hurt the most. There was no one who could understand, relate to or even empathize with my situation. They encouraged me to “just don’t worry about it”. I knew that they were trying to keep my mind off such matters, but the truth is, what I really needed was for them to acknowledge that I was different, and not ignore it, but I was never upset with them. How could I be, like me, they were all dealing with it as best as they knew how.

I did not find out about amniotic bands until I was 32, at which time I was pregnant with my son. I was at my first obstetric appointment when I told the doctor that I was born with one hand. With one look she was able to tell me what it was, and I was joyous. I was terrified that the condition could be genetic, and I knew that others wondered too. She explained that with ultrasounds they can now identify amniotic bands and that since my ultrasound was normal, my son was going to be fine.

Until my son was born, I had never felt completely accepted for who I was. When he was about 8 months old he started holding on to my “little” hand (as others would refer to it) when he went to sleep, and with that one action, I felt loved. When he was about 2 he started calling it my “nother one” hand. I think it was his attempt to distinguish between my regular hand with 5 fingers and my “other” and I let him, because frankly it was a lot cuter than other things I’ve been called. Now at 4 in his childlike innocence he will also say, “Mommy, I wish everyone had a nother one hand. It’s so soft and squishy.” It may sound silly, but to me it’s beautiful that to him I’m truly perfect as I am.

There are still days that I “hide” simply because I don’t want the stares, but most days I hold my head high, look people in the eyes, smile and say hello as they stare at me, and more often than not, they will smile and say hello back. Regardless of how I felt about my appearance I have always strived to not let my difference hold me back. I have a driver’s license, I took care of my son from birth on my own, I have tried prosthetics but I feel they restrict my mobility, so I find my own ways to do things and I make and sell handmade crafts.

Life is not always easy for anyone, but I look at it this way, if I had the choice of having two “normal” hands and losing any other of my natural gifts or talents, I would stay just as I am. Having one hand does not define me, but it definitely shaped the person I am. Thank you for putting up this website and giving me a chance to share with others who I can truly relate to.



8 thoughts on “My ‘nother one’ hand

  1. Hi I was born in 1965 with my right hand affected by abs. My thumb and baby finger were affected but I can use them . The 3 fingers in the middle were non usable and were removed when I was 2 . I have a crab hand which is funny because I was born in July (cancer sign crab) I always called it my little hand. My mother did not know what caused this and didnt receive any info so I didnt know until I got the internet at 30 yrs old.I saw the doctor once a year growing up and he gave me some exercises to do and advised my parents. I had to learn to write with my right hand (I used my lefthand primarily though. this was so I wouldnt only use my lefthand) Also had to do my chores with righthand only for a while. I remember being mad at this and thinking my Mom was so mean. Now I realize how hard this must have been for her and thank her for it greatly. I was teased and sometimes self conscious thru school but I feel it gave me empathy for others and maybe made me a better person. I have worked many jobs (bankteller, vet assistant, waitress , assembly line work and now nursing attendant) At times I have forgotten about my little hand being little until someone new stares at it (or trys not to !)lol. Then I look at it and think It does look a little messed up LOL. I feel a sense of humour will help you deal with it. If any new parents are dealing with their little one having abs, my advice to you is: even though it will be hard to see them struggle with new things let them learn to do it Their Way however awkward this may look or seem.

  2. Simply Beautiful…I too am a member of this crew. I was born with the right arm ABS. I am shy, don’t like attention, and wear a jacket to prevent the stares from everyone. I did experience as a kid to walking around carefree and not worrying about what others are saying/thinking. Once they take the time to get to know me, it’s all good. My daughter is an angel. I raised her the correct way. DO NOT MISTREAT/IGNORE ANYONE THAT IS DIFFERENT. I would always say, look what you have at home (meaning me). Seems like we have all been thru the same thing

  3. Oh my gosh Mary this sounds exactly like me! I was born without a left hand (the results of the amniotic band syndrome) and have lived most of my life afraid of wearing short sleeves. I am seventeen years old, a ballroom dancer, and I wish I could say I am confident in my skin but I am not. For some reason, up until about 4th grade, I was able to walk around carefree and oblivious to the stares of not only other children, but adults as well. It is crazy how being slightly different can dig a rift in a person’s self-esteem. Just a few weeks ago I tried out for a scholarship program where I had to walk on a huge stage with nothing veiling my stub, and this was the first time I had taken the initiative to go out in public without covering up. I still cannot believe I walked in front of an audience that big, but I am so glad I faced my fear. Hopefully one day I will be able to wear anything, wherever and whenever I feel like it. That would be a huge weight lifted! Thank you so much for your story.


    1. Hello, Christine. I am 70 years old and was born with no fingers and a half-thumb on my right hand. To make matters worse, I am also right-handed. I used to go around with my right hand in my pocket so that others would not stare at it. This deeply affected my adolescence. However, I later became a college graduate with a B.A. in English and taught as a substitute teacher in the Hartford Public Schools for two and one-half years. My main job was as a taxi driver in Hartford, where I drove professionally for 30 years without an accident. I also am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have been sober for 29 years plus. Additionally, I never heard of ABS until about 3 weeks ago and have always wondered what caused my limb deficiency. Was it a genetic defect or the result of the water supply in Bristol, CT where I grew up? Knowledge can certainly be empowering, am I right? That’s all for now, but God bless you and I am sure you will do well in all your endeavors.

    2. Thank you for sharing Christine. You are amazing! I always loved to dance and wish I had the confidence at 17 to do what you do. Like I said, it took me a long time to be comfortable with myself and there are still days that I struggle, but really, who doesn’t struggle with insecurities of some kind or another? Keep doing what you love and don’t ever settle for less. Not in what you strive for or in your relationships with others. Stay blessed!

  4. Love your story, Mary. Thanks for posting.

    My story is very similar and I can certainly relate to all the things you said. The fingers on my left hand are all tiny stubs, although my thumb is normal. My family also didn’t speak of my hand and, like you, I wish they had. I now know that I needed someone to give me a way of thinking and talking about it that made me feel good about myself or at least OK with my hand. Like you, though, I understand that my parents did the best they could with the little knowledge they had.

    I wish you all the best.

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