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.