In leaps and bounds, life finds a way

In leaps and bounds, life finds a way

It’s difficult now to think back to those days of worry and fear we went through during my pregnancy. It’s getting pretty difficult to worry overly about Hero at all. While she’s had some weight gain struggles and has slid down on that dreaded chart, about which we’ve fretted endlessly, in every other way she’s absolutely thriving. Over the past month or so she’s transforming before our eyes into a bright, bubbly and engaged baby who is clearly  a very capable little girl. Almost every day she takes yet another of my worries and knocks it out of the park.

At the beginning of the month she completed her first term of swimming lessons. She’s never more relaxed than when she’s in the pool and as the term progressed she’s developed the use of her lucky fin more and more each lesson. When she first began the Aquatots Duckling course, at four months old, she refused to use her little arm in the pool, clamping it to her side instead. With some gentle coaxing from myself and her wonderful teacher, she has learned to use it just as much as the other. Now when we splash up and down the pool she’s stretching out with her right hand just as much as her left. She doesn’t use it to splash the water yet, choosing to make waves with her left, but it’s only a matter of time.

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A Duckling Graduate

Then there are the toys. Watching her play it’s been painfully obvious all along that, contrary to what many people said, she does know that something is missing. We’ve watched her reach out with it, only to fall short. We’ve watched her try to clasp things in her little hand only to hit thin air. But we’ve also watched her learn what she can do. She’s started hooking toys over her little hand, she’s grasping things in her left and exploring it with her right.

The introduction of the sippy cup into our daily routine was yet another cause for concern. I spent goodness knows how long in the shop picking up and examining the many (many!) sippy cups they have on offer. Which ones would be easiest for her to hold? Which could be grasped one handed? Which was light enough for her to lift?

And you know what? Surprise, surprise, I needn’t have bothered at all. By her third attempt at the sippy cup she was picking it up in her left hand and hooking the other handle over her right, holding it and lifting it as if nothing was amiss.

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The Sippy Cup Master

I realise now that when people said to me “she won’t even know it’s missing”, what they really meant was: she’ll find a way. Each and every day she finds yet another way.

My favourite quote from my favourite film is, “life finds a way”, courtesy of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. I love it so much that the line became part of the artwork on our wedding day: Love finds a way. Now here’s my daughter, showing me every single day that in every single way life really does find a way. Despite all my anxiety and all my fears, she couldn’t be more perfect, more bright and in possession of a prouder mother.

It is not just a hand

It is not just a hand

Over this past week I’ve had three people say to me “oh well, it’s just a hand”, when they’ve met Hero for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some wonderful, inquisitive and kind people too, who have somehow managed to convey just how perfectly OK Hero will be without her right hand, without dismissing it entirely.

I know, from the bottom of my heart, that she will be just fine. That she is just fine. I am acutely aware how much worse off people can be. I don’t worry about any of the things that terrified me during pregnancy. I don’t mourn for her loss anymore. I just see before her a world of possibilities. Given the chance, I wouldn’t even go back and change it.

But it is not just a hand.

It might well be ‘just a hand’ to you, who is enjoying the full use of both of yours. It might well be ‘just a hand’ to me some of the time. But to some people, and to me as well on the rare occasion, it’s a barrier that our little ones must overcome.

It’s looking at little kids struggling to do up their shirt buttons, tie their laces, open a bottle top and wondering how Hero will achieve that. It’s not a case of if, but simply of how. It is knowing that whatever she wears, buys or does in order to fit in, she’ll always be a bit different. She might love being different. I hope she loves being different. I do. But it took me a good many years to get to that happy place and deep down, there will always be a tiny part of me that secretly wants to belong.

It might be a small disability. I might well be grateful every single day that it isn’t the ‘something worse’ the doctors threatened. It might be a minor difference on an utterly perfect baby.

But it is not just a hand.


If you’ve enjoyed following our journey, please take a moment to vote for us in the UK Blog Awards 2017!

Follow the link below and select the “Health and Social Care + Parenting” category.

http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/thoughshebebutlittle2016

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Perpetuating the myth

Perpetuating the myth

I had a bit of a parenting epiphany the other day. There I was, bobbing about in the pool for our second swimming lesson, trying to get Hero to hold onto the side. It was going well; I had lifted her good hand up and she was gripping onto the tiles like a pro. Meanwhile her little arm sat, where it often does, clamped to her side. I was just going with it, I wasn’t encouraging her to use it at all.

As she’s started to develop coordination skills, reaching out for toys (and my glasses, amongst other things!) I’ve been watching as she keeps her little arm by her side, as if it’s tucked away into an invisible pocket.

On the occasions she does use it, usually to capture something between her arms and bring it inevitably to her gaping maw, I’m sure to clap and give her plenty of praise. But do I ever really encourage her to use it?

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The Wookie reaches out…

Thinking back, still bobbing in the pool and hanging on to the side, I realised that I too seemed to favour her “good” hand. Whenever I offer her toys or something to flail about wildly, I always offer it to her left hand. All of a sudden this seems a little remiss, a little like I’m perpetuating her reluctance to use her right arm.

Her right arm is the furthest thing from useless. So why then, as I stood in the pool with her frilly swim-suited body balanced on my knee, had I not immediately lifted her right arm and held that to the side as well? Of course, she couldn’t grip on with it, but she could definitely rest her arm on the edge for extra support.

When I hand over her favourite circular rattle, why don’t I slip it over her right arm like a bracelet instead of always putting it in her left? Why don’t I dangle toys that side so that she can learn to reach out with her right arm too?

She knows somehow that there is something not quite the same about her little right hand. But if I continue to show the same preference as she does I fear I could end up mirroring and perpetuating her reluctance to use it. If I want to see her be the best that she can be, then I need to start off by showing her all that she can do.

Show her that she can reach.

Show her that she can bash and wallop.

Show her that she can flail it wildly and knock things over.

Next time we’re in the pool I’ll be sure to put the floating ball in front of her right arm and to help her reach with it onto the side. Her little hand might well be the perfect dummy (it’s never out of her mouth when she’s tired!) but it’s the perfect tool for plenty of other things as well and it’s high time we both realised that.

 


If you’ve enjoyed following our journey, please take a moment to vote for us in the UK Blog Awards 2017!

Follow the link below and select the “Health and Social Care + Parenting” category.

http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/thoughshebebutlittle2016

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UK Blog Awards 2017

UK Blog Awards 2017

We are super excited to say that Thoughshebebutlittle2016 has been entered into the UK Blog Awards 2017 and the public vote is now open!

Whether you’ve read, enjoyed, or simply spared a cursory glance at Hero’s journey on Thoughshebebutlittle2016, please consider taking the time to vote for us and share the link. 

To vote follow the link below and scroll down to add your name and email before hitting submit. Simples!

 

Vote here for Thoughshebebutlittle2016!

Thank you so much for all of your support so far on this bloomin’ wonderful journey!

Little kisses for a little hand

Little kisses for a little hand

Before Hero was born I was often told that she wouldn’t even know her right hand was missing. That she wouldn’t know any different. I’m not entirely sure that I ever fully believed that. Yet there was a part of me that felt that she couldn’t miss what she’d never had, right?

But as she storms past the three-month mark (time, slow yourself, please!) it’s abundantly clear that she does know something is missing, on a subconscious level at least.

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Feeling old!

Last week, seemingly over night, she learnt to reach out and grab at toys dangling in front of her. One day she was batting aimlessly, and often missing, the next she was reaching out with calculated aim and grabbing hold. All the while this little miracle was unfolding before my eyes her lucky fin remained resolutely tucked against her side, as if she’d just buried her hand in her pocket. It was as if she knew that her right hand couldn’t grab. As if there was no point to using it at all.

As is the wont of new mums, I panicked. Surely, as so many people had told me, she shouldn’t be using it any differently. She shouldn’t know, right? The wonderful Reach community came to my aid, as they always have, and other parents reassured me that their children too went through a time of not using their lucky fins as infants. They reassured me that a time suddenly came when their little one figured out that, while they couldn’t use their lucky fin in quite the same way, they still could use it and to great effect.

So I guess I need to wait and see, to relax back and let her do things in her own way and in her own sweet time. She’ll find her lucky fin sooner or later and there’ll be no stopping her when she does I’m sure!

In other news, Hero had her first experience of the cinema this week. Thank you so much to Odeon who put on a baby-friendly screening of the latest films each week. As dumb as it might sound, the cinema is one of the only things I miss from my pre-baby life, so learning that I could simply take Hero along too was the icing on the cake!

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Movie time.

Hero was a trooper all the way through! She watched the first fifteen minutes of A Street Cat Named Bob with her wide bush-baby eyes, then had a nap on my shoulder through most of the emotional turmoil. We spent the last ten minutes standing up by the door to watch the ending, as she’d had enough of sitting still by that point, but all in all it was a resounding success and I can’t wait to see the all-important Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a couple of weeks!

As the other cinema goers were leaving, an elderly lady who didn’t speak much English passed us. She stopped to chat to Hero in Japanese for a bit, telling me in broken English that Hero had been really good throughout the film and how sweet she was. The lady reached out to take Hero’s hand and then hesitated a moment when she saw it was missing. The lady’s face then broke into the biggest smile and she bent down to give the lucky fin two tiny kisses. Then she looked Hero in the eye and told her she was beautiful.

I’m not sure if it was the uplifting ending to the film or if it was simply being privy to such a special moment between my daughter and a complete stranger, but I left the cinema with tears in my eyes and a heart like a helium balloon.

The lucky fin, the stitch and the wardrobe

The lucky fin, the stitch and the wardrobe

Our lucky fin baby is 11 weeks today. Where on earth has that time gone? I can’t actually remember what I filled it with. She’s already babbling away incessantly and putting those building blocks in place ready to roll over, if only she could get her lucky fin out of the way. Despite all these amazing changes she’s undergone in such a short (yet infinite) amount of time, I can’t quite remember when the snuggly newborn ceased to be and the bright-eyed and energetic infant took her place.

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She’s already displaying her mother’s tendency towards chronic indecisiveness, however. She cannot work out which is better, to suck on her lucky fin, or to suck on her left thumb. I have to confess, as a recovering thumb-sucker myself, I was hoping that she’d never notice that tempting little digit. Not only because I often had blisters on the top of my thumb where I would rest it permanently on my lower teeth, but also because I fear she’d not be able to do much else while sucking it with her right hand missing. It looks as though I’ll simultaneously win and lose in that department as, throughout the day, she switches from one to the other and back again depending on which is the most accessible.

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At such a young age, accessibility isn’t something I’d given much thought to, particularly in regards to her clothing. I know in the future that things such as shoelaces, buttons and zips may prove to be tricky customers for her, but surely baby grows don’t need any adaptations, she isn’t going to be dressing herself in them after all. Plus, wouldn’t I want to use them again for baby Number 2? Yet as the weather starts to get a bit cooler and her sleeves are getting a bit thicker, just rolling them back has become more of an issue. With a big wad of material around her wrist she couldn’t manoeuvre her little hand in order to get it into her mouth, resulting in tears and frustration.

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The dreaded roll-back

And so I dug out my sewing kit and resigned myself to adapting just the essentials of her wardrobe. It took a fair few failed attempts, a few 1970s-style flared sleeves, before I worked out how to taper them in at the wrist and not make it look as though a child had done it. Without a hand to stop the material falling over her digits, she needed the sleeve to fit snuggly around her little arm to stop it swamping her or providing a nice little trap to get her arm caught in.

Yet it was only after I’d dressed her in her first adapted baby grow that I realised how right it felt. How I should have done this weeks ago. Each stitch felt like another tiny piece of the acceptance puzzle falling into place. Each stitch meant that she finally had clothes that were entirely her own. Her clothes no longer belonged to some imaginary sibling that didn’t even exist yet. I have been telling her since birth that she is perfect the way she is. Therefore, if she is so perfect, why should she wear clothes that don’t even fit, clothes that swamp her little arm and hide it from view, or prevent her from using it in every way she can?

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Following on from this epiphany there’s no stopping me now. After initially planning to just adapt a select few of her generic babygrows, every single item has now fallen prey to my sewing kit. From the designer dresses bought for her by family, to the dinosaur jumpers and baby grows I force her into each day. Everything she owns is going to be hers entirely and fully. Unexpectedly, a result of finally making these changes is that her little hand feels all the less obvious for it. Every time I dressed her, the ritual of rolling back the sleeve drew attention to her difference. So now, with no daily wardrobe adaptations to make, I don’t see that my baby girl is different in any way. When I look at her now, rocking her very own wardrobe, I see no difference. I see a whole and a beautiful young lady wearing clothes that are entirely her own.

This is my Lucky Fin baby. She is a perfect fit for this world. Now her clothes are as perfect a fit for her as she is for the world. Maybe, some day down the line, instead of handing her clothes down to a sibling, she’ll be handing them on to the next newest member of the Lucky Fin community who shares a diffability similar to her own.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Kids can be so cruel.

As a primary teacher at an all-girls school it’s a phrase I hear often. Sure, kids can be cruel sometimes. But in my experience more often they are honest and open and full of wide-eyed care.

Despite this I was still a bit nervous when I took Hero into school to meet my students last week. I’d started my maternity leave early, half way through the summer term, so my girls knew that things hadn’t been entirely straightforward with the pregnancy. I was really keen for them to see that everything was all ok.

I’d decided not to prepare the girls before I took Hero in to meet them. Their gasps of delight and joy at seeing her were spectacular. Their excitement was punctuated after a few moments by the startled question: “What’s happened to her hand?”

And there it was, the elephant in the room evaporated instantly in a poof of smoke. The elephant that lingers so often when adults are taken by surprise. After the first girls asked, the others started to notice her lucky fin too and repeated the question.

I explained that we’d found out about her paw while she was still in my tummy and that sometimes things just don’t develop the way we’d expect them to. That’s life, that’s just nature.

“Will it grow?”

“Are those fingers?”

“Does it move?”

It was so wonderfully refreshing to be asked questions and to answer without any awkwardness. As soon as they realised that it was all ok; that I was OK and that Hero was OK, their attitude to her lucky fin changed from curiosity and concern to wonder and joy.

“Can I touch it?”

“It’s so cute!”

“I love it; it looks like a teddy bear’s paw!”

“She has teeny tiny nails! She’ll be able to paint them when she’s older!”

One of my girls, who is just nine years old, looked up at me as she held onto Hero’s lucky fin and said with such honesty and integrity: “She is such a special little girl! A real one of a kind.”

Often the difference between children and adults is that children aren’t afraid to ask. And if you’re not afraid to ask then I’m not afraid to answer. Of course I can’t speak for any other parents with a limb-different child, or for the children themselves, but for me I welcome the questions. There’s no such thing as a silly question. Once they’re asked, once we’ve said farewell to that elephant, we can get on to talking about other things.

Being different is nothing to be ashamed of and in approaching differences with curiosity we can open our mind to a whole new world. My girls showed me that last week as they sent Hero and I on our way, our hearts bursting with happiness.