My Perfect Baby Was Born With Eleven Fingers
The midwife laid my perfect baby in my arms. “He’s perfect, Honey!” I gushed to my husband, snuggling my babe. I looked down at his perfect squishy face, and cuddled my perfect little blanket burrito. We sat, blissed out after a perfect birth, and watched as our new baby nursed perfectly for the first time. Everything was – perfect. And then…
“Did you notice his extra finger?” the midwife asked.
What had the midwife just said? Extra what now? Apparently, I was not one of those quintessential parents from TV who count fingers and toes.
Sure enough, my baby had 11 fingers. “Oh yeah, that runs in my family,” my husband casually threw out.
“Think maybe you might have mentioned that before now?” I asked him. The fact that both his sister and his nephew had each been born with 12 fingers didn’t seem like something I needed to know, apparently.
So what did this mean? Did it mean complicated surgery? Could it be taken care of? Should it? Will he be super good at piano? As if reading my mind, my midwife told me not to worry, the type he had was not a big deal, and easily managed.
Upon closer inspection, this extra “finger” was more like a skin tag with a tiny fingernail. It had no bones, it was simply a ball of tissue held to the side of his pinky by a thin piece of skin. Whew. But this brought about a new worry – what if it ripped off by accident?
I had anticipated a lot of worries about my new baby, I am an anxious mother after all, but accidentally ripping his finger off was not one of them. “What if he catches a cold?” or “What if has a hard time nursing?” are totally new mom norms. Who knew that, “What if I rip his finger off?” was also a totally normal new mom concern.
I’m embarrassed to say I was a bit self-conscious about my baby’s extra finger at first. I tried not to have it visible in my mandatory newborn photos, which I now regret as I try to find photos that show it clearly. I’ve never been someone who thought differences were bad, and it surprised me that this extra finger had thrown me off. But like his Mr. T Mohawk, I got used to this slightly strange thing about my new baby.
I’ve since discovered that polydactyly (having extra fingers or toes) is actually pretty common, and generally is not that big a deal. It is usually genetic, so for Pete’s sake tell your partner!
At the advice of his doctor, we brought him and all of his appendages to a plastic surgeon, who booked us in for day surgery – in four months. Fantastic! All I’d have to do is manage to keep all 11 of his fingers intact before then, and we’d be golden.
The surgery was easy, and done pretty much assembly line style, with a full waiting room of people waiting to be called in to sit in the chair for their five-minute procedure.
“Please hold your baby still while we give him a numbing needle then cut off his finger,” I was told.
Sure, that sounds easy. How much can a four month old wiggle when being stuck with a pointy metal object and having a body part removed? He screamed at the needle, thoroughly panicking his older brother who was waiting with his father on the other side of the door, and while he didn’t say anything, I’m sure he was suspicious of the scalpel near his hand.
The actual removal of the finger proved to be the easiest part of his rebirth as a 10-fingered boy. They bandaged his hand, and told me to make sure it stays clean and dry.
“Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” I laughed. “Oh, you’re serious?” Sure, I could keep a bandage on the hand of teething four month old clean and dry, no problem. He totally won’t chew on that bandaid, I inwardly sighed.
After briefly considering a baby Cone of Shame, I settled on multiple layers of socks. His hands were dry, and he was well-equipped for several rounds in the boxing ring. It was a win-win.
Nearly five years later, all that is left of his extra finger is a tiny scar on his left pinky, and the badge of honour he wears for having been born with 11 fingers, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever when you’re five.
And the truth is, he was perfect with 11 fingers, and he’s perfect with 10. He’d have been perfect no matter what.