Stefan’s ABS story

My name is Cathy Terblanche and this is my son, Stefan’s story. When my daughter, Danielle was 5 years old, my husband and I decided it was time for a second baby. I fell pregnant immediately. We were both delighted! My pregnancy was very different from the first pregnancy. He was a very quiet baby – obviously enjoying his sleep before coming out into this big world! I went for my regular monthly checks and each time a scan was done. I suffered terribly from morning sickness from day one to the very day he was born. After my 8 month check up I was told to come again 2 weeks later. I then went for the check up and they realized that he had not gained much wait in 2 weeks. My GP then scheduled me to go for a more detailed scan and for a second opinion with a local Gynecologist. The Gynecologist said that there was not much placenta left and that he was not getting any food and therefore was not gaining any weight and it would be better that he be born and eat now than stay in my tummy. They scheduled the caesarian for the following day. On my way to the hospital I still had to fetch registration forms for Danielle to gain entry to primary school the following year.

Everything went according to schedule and I was in theatre just after 12pm and Stefan was born at 12:23pm. After that they took him aside so that the pediatrician could check that all was well. Johan was still busy taking the video camera and as they lifted his hand and he saw the missing fingers was when the camera stopped rolling. Johan came over to me with Stefan and I asked “Is everything okay” and he smiled at me but something in his face told me that all was not well. As I type this I am even getting tears to my eyes, as it was such an emotional time for us. I think I was in a daze as I was scheduled to be sterilized and the doctor told me on the operating table that he was not going to do the sterilization because of my son’s missing fingers. I don’t think that even rang a bell and I did not know how seriously the fingers were probably thinking one tip or something. I just said, “I don’t care as I don’t want anymore children as I now have my son and a daughter”. Anyway, the doctor never sterilized me.

When I got back into the ward the nurses eventually brought Stefan for me to feed. I did not even immediately look at his hand as I was scared to even look. Eventually I took his right hand in mine and I just burst into tears. I did not think it was that bad but I started thinking of all the things I had done wrong in my pregnancy. The doctors said I should not blame myself and that it was called Amniotic Band Syndrome and that it happens to every 1 in 1200 babies. They then scheduled a plastic surgeon to come and see us. What a rude and obnoxious man! He just came in and looked at Stefan’s hand and said, “There is nothing I can do”. I wanted to still ask some questions and with that he left and then sent me an account for R450.00. Thanks for nothing!

Danielle came to visit with Johan and we had to explain that Stefan was a special baby. Remembering back, he was such a tiny baby weighing in at 2.2kg. All the sisters fell in love with him and I think because of his hand they spoiled him as I caught them on several occasions cradling him and giving him a lot of attention!

Our first week at home was really difficult. We had some friends visiting and Danielle was excited and called their 8-year-old son to come and look and he just said, “He is gross, he only has 2 fingers”. I was really devastated and then I came to realize how cruel children were. I just could not understand why because I remember as a child I had an interest in children that were different to the normal person.

The first year was the hardest year of my life. Every time I looked at Stefan’s hand I wished that he had a normal hand. Johan had a tough time dealing with it as well but I think he accepted it much quicker than I did. It was on my mind all the time. Now, I don’t even really think of it. I have accepted that it is part of him and always will.