"We did it! He's here. He's perfect. He only has a left hand."
Cue record scratch.
This was our birth announcement. Sent via text (2nd kid!). It's confusing.
For some reason, I kept blurting it out. I can't imagine what it might have been like to receive this message from me. I think initially I wanted to ward off any of the usual "ten fingers and ten toes" chatter that is typically part of the discussion. And perfect just felt like the word to use. The word we used a lot in those early days. The word everyone used to reassure us not that he was perfect, but that he could still be perfect in his imperfection. Don't worry, he's still perfect.
Yes, in the mythical, wonderfully ethical, amazingly aspirational world we are perfect in our imperfections. Our imperfections are what make us. But it was - is - still hard to swallow after I met my perfectly imperfect son. Especially if one is a perfectionist. Easy for all the people with perfect children to say in reassurance to us. Easy for me to smile, fight back my tears, and snuggle in closer while I wrap the swaddle so I don't have to look at it. Oh the competitive nature of the human spirit, competitive even in grief.
What I think I was really doing was blurting it out so that I wouldn't have to say the words out loud with my mouth and shaking voice when people eventually met #MightyWoody. It was just too much to say it out loud. It would instantly reduce me to a puddle and make me feel sad for my newborn when all I desperately wanted was to celebrate his birth and fall completely, madly in love with him.
I also didn't want any questions at the beginning because the answer to all the questions was "I don't know" and that is not the answer you expect to have as a parent, especially the second time around. Don't know why. Don't know what caused it. Don't know when or if he'll need surgery. Don't know if he'll want/need a prosthetic. Don't know if he'll tie shoes. Don't know if he'll want to tie his shoes. Don't know if he'll blame me. Don't know if it will ruin his entire life. Don't know if it will make his entire life. Don't know. Don't know. Don't know.
So I blurted it out. And I bought myself some time to find some of the answers and to get a little bit more comfortable with the "don't knows" of it all. I found answers with the doctors, with the #LuckyFinProjectcommunity, with the limb different and adaptive sports communities, with amazing children's books, with other women (some moms, some not), with research, with prayers, and especially with Thomas Macker and #BigBrotherAl.
I also found more questions. Every answer really produced another question. So many questions constantly piling up that I decided not to pursue them. Questions like genetic testing. Possible "amplifiers" that could have increased likeliness but need more research by the scientific and medical community. Which is the best location to get prosthetics. How much do prosthetics cost? (apparently you outgrow them at the same rate as shoes) Is this a pre-existing condition? Will he be able to wear pants?
And then other questions about #MightyWoody that I kind of knew the answers to, but was afraid to ask myself. Questions like, how will we hold his hands and swing him like kids love if he doesn't have a hand? Who will cut meat for him when he's a teenager? Will he find a partner in life who accepts him? What if he gets mad at me? Will I be too indulgent of him because deep down I feel sorry for him or blame myself? Will I let him get away with everything? Will it make me expect more from his brother? From him? What if his brother makes fun of him? How will he respond when kids tease him? How will I respond when they do? And the biggest, loudest, constant one, just why?
And then fun questions. Will he get a bionic arm? Will it be super strong and enable him to do things that others can't? Will he write about being one-handed for his college essay? Will that feel weird because he didn't choose it? Will there still be college essay questions when he applies to college? Can a kid with one-hand join the military? What will his children think of it?
I blurted it out to try to help the awkwardness of all of us being human. So you wouldn't have the awkwardness of wondering what to say. So we all could try to move past the paralyzing fear we experience when we encounter a person with a difference or disability. The fear that our own children will say something that could be perceived as rude. So you wouldn't know that inside my head on constant repeat was "FIVE fingers ten toes FIVE fingers ten toes" and please please please don't say ten fingers ten toes. Not that first day. Not probably for a year. Not til I learned that #tenfingersareoverrated. Sometimes still not now.
I was angry and frustrated too. Why did I need to worry about how other people would feel about #MightyWoody only having one hand? Why did I think it was my job to make it ok for everyone else? Who was going to make it ok for me? There are still days when the fact that he has one-hand is so unbelievable to me I am speechless. Is this really my life?
Would I have asked for it, no. Would I change it, no.
It is pretty overwhelming, parenting.
So I blurted it out and decided to enjoy my sweet special time snuggling with my nugget. And it worked. I fell completely, madly in love. And also developed a more intense mama bear shield than I thought possible. The questions remain and grow. The don't knows multiply daily. But we push on and let him show us the way.
(And this was one of our favorite pictures because you could see his right arm but it wasn't all about his right arm. #MightyWoody at 48 hours)