The day I received the call from the adoption agency announcing the referral of a 20 month old girl with no right hand, I took a breath and said yes, not knowing what that would mean. What I got is the delightful, gloriously happy, bundle of energy that is Mei in my life. I have also entered the world of limb differences (the PC term) and an amazing community of families and individuals negotiating life without a limb.
In blogs I follow and through online groups for parents, I’ve gotten good advice about learning to swim, working with teachers and tying shoes. I read posts from frantic mothers-to-be who have just found out their baby will be lacking a hand or foot and are wondering what they did wrong, if they can love him/her and worrying how hard their child’s life will be. There are always many who chime in with reassurance, but when one new mom wondered about finding a support group for her unborn child, the best response was that it was the mom who probably needed one – the kid would be fine.
That’s my experience. Mei is fine, does everything, and when she can’t she asks for help. I’m the one who has needed the help – learning to respond to pitying stares or bizarre questions, dealing with the emotions when someone calls my child “handicapped”, responding when she asks why God made her like that, worrying about bullying and limitations as she grows.
We start a new chapter on Friday when Mei gets her “helper hand”, the name we have given to her new arm/hand prosthesis. On our first visit to Shriner’s Hospital (great place!) she looked over the options, ranging from passive arm to myoelectric, and grabbed a plastic dummy hand and put it on. “This one! My own new hand!” she said. We are getting the next step up, a hand that opens and closes by means of a shoulder harness. I think learning to use it will be a pain in the butt and it will at first be harder for her to do things with it than without. But we need to give it a try and see what happens. The Shriners Doc said kids will use them when they are motivated to do a particular task. Helper hand may come in handy next time the teacher asks the class to trace their hands to make a Thanksgiving turkey (NOT my favorite craft!!!). If that’s not motivation enough, it will definitely level the playing field when she and her big sister are trying to pinch one another.