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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Achievements and Aspirations

With eight weeks left to go until the due date our house is filling up with baby paraphernalia, incredibly generously provided by friends and family. We’ve been totally and utterly overwhelmed by the amount we’ve been given, and even though baby isn’t here yet we’re super excited for when it becomes our turn to pass stuff on to the new generation!

I feel really proud knowing that our little girl will be lying on, wearing and playing with things that belonged to her amazing family and friends before her. What could be better?

Amongst all the excitement the jamboree and other issues, Baby’s ‘lucky fin’ has somewhat taken a back seat. We’ve of course got all the normal stuff to be excited and worried about; there was a huge amount of relief, therefore,  when Ben’s best friend fitted our car seat for us. At least if she comes early we’ll actually be allowed to leave the hospital now!

Despite the fact that the hand has taken something of a back seat for us, jumbled in amongst health issues, a house/disaster zone and numerous car woes, we’ve still been unable to avoid comments, messages and links to inspiring videos and testimonials of one-handed people who conquered the world. When something becomes personal to you, you cannot help but notice it everywhere. Last week I was listening to the incredibly talented Nicolas McCarthy on Radio 2, with absolutely no idea that he too was born without his right hand. How utterly strange for me to hear about him now of all times, and to not even have been looking for it! The realisation that having one hand doesn’t exclude you from pursuing a musical instrument at any level was a breath of fresh air. Baby may, of course, be totally hampered by her mother’s intense musical apathy, but at least she has the option we feared she wouldn’t have.

One some days these success stories are wonderful to hear, so why then from time to time do we find all of this focus on one-handed achievements patronising and upsetting?

I think there’s an element there of the fact our little girl is going to be just that, our little girl. Just because she’s missing her right hand doesn’t mean that we’ve suddenly changed our expectations of her attainment. Nor indeed does it mean that we suddenly feel that she will be capable of less. Just because she’s got a small disability does not mean that she now needs to prove herself to us, to her family or to the world by becoming a concert pianist, a paralympian or an international one-handed climber.

Sure, she could do all of those things. Missing a hand never really meant that she could or would achieve any less, despite our initial fears borne of shock. Before we discovered her ‘lucky fin’, as we nurtured dreams of our completely flawless infant, there was no compulsion for people to reassure us that our child could be an international sports star or a world-renowned musician. What would be the need? So why now would we aspire for her to reach to such insanely high heights?

Our dreams for our daughter remain irrevocably and resolutely unchanged. We just want her to be happy. If our little girl can go through life with a sense of value, self-worth and confidence then I couldn’t care less what path she chooses to take in life. She might follow her dad, emulating his drive to achieve and his tireless motivation (so long as there’s no DIY or housework involved!). Then again she might be like me, cruising through life ever distracted by the little things around her. Either way, it’s ok.

If she grows up to be an average human being, not weighed down by medals or accolades, if she’s smiling with genuine happiness, pride and a zest for life, then we’ll be the happiest parents in the world. Please don’t get me wrong. We’ll encourage our daughter to try anything and everything she can or wants to do. Achievement and a desire for success is no bad thing; we’d be over the moon and appallingly proud if she chose to follow that route!

But that doesn’t mean I want to surround her with images of high achievers like some kind of hall of fame she should aspire to in order to justify her existence. There should be no more pressure on her tiny shoulders than any other child would have had as they came into this world. She’s already missing one hand, that’s enough in itself, without feeling like she needs to follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing one-handed greats in a bid to justify or prove her worth.