To say that I think about the fact that Jack was born without a fully developed left hand every day would be not be an exaggeration. But what parent doesn’t think about the things that set their child apart? What parent doesn’t wish they could solve all their child’s problems? What parent doesn’t hope for a perfect newborn with ten fingers and ten toes? And therein, as they say, lies the rub.
Jack’s hand is called symbrachydactyly, it occurs in one in 32,000 births. I do not in any way feel any guilt or have thoughts that something I did or didn’t do during my pregnancy caused this to happen. Neither do I believe that having a limb difference will hold Jack back from doing anything he wants to do. (Proof: musician Tony Memmel; Def Leppard’s drummer Rick Allen; Major League pitcher Jim Abbott; and Manhattan College center Kevin Laue. All these men are successful in professions where it would seem key to have two hands.)
So it’s not that I feel bad that he will have a limited life, because he won’t. But the thing of it that kills me, is knowing how his classmates might look at him and treat him and tease him. And at the same time, I fully believe that God gave him the personality he has – full of life, impish humor and irresistible charm – to offset most of the hurts that might come his way and protect him in the years to come (ironically, we thought it was Liam who would be standing up to people on his little brother’s behalf but I think Jack will do just fine on his own). But I still feel unprepared for what is to come and I know it will be hard, harder than it is now because at some stage he’s going to become aware that he is acutely different. And I hope that awareness doesn’t take anything away from him and that we have fully prepared him for that moment. That when someone comments on his hand, he’ll point out how every person is born different be it with blond or curly hair, tall or stout stature, with or without two hands. That he will proudly talk about it and not hide his “lucky fin” away as something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. And that he’ll be confident that his little hand does not make him who he is and he won’t listen to anyone who tells him otherwise. And all of that is really no different from any other parent and no different from what I think of with Liam, it’s just that with Jack, his imperfection is known. But that imperfection is also what makes him perfectly him. Perfectly imperfect. Just like everyone else.