A Blessing and A Curse, No. 4: Mothering with Limb Difference

A Blessing and A Curse | Parenting with a Disability | The Real Nani

Welcome Back to A Blessing and A Curse.  In this 4th installment of A Blessing and a Curse, I welcome Lila Diller.  Lila shares with us the challenges of having a limb difference. 

Insight from a Mom with a Limb Difference

I really resonated with Nancy when she talked about being hearing impaired. Though I can get by, I have a hearing loss, too, that adversely affects communication with my family.

I’m experimenting with amplifiers until I can afford “real” hearing aids.

But I have another birth defect that I never talk about—double thumbs.

When I was born, I had received the genes from my mother’s side of the family for polydactyly (“a condition in which a person or animal has more than five fingers or toes on one, or on each, hand or foot”). I don’t know who had it before, but of all my mom’s 5 siblings, she was the only one with two thumbs on each hand.

Then her sister (who didn’t have it) had a son (who didn’t have it) who had a son, who also was born with two thumbs on each hand. Don’t ask me to explain the genetic science behind it. Supposedly it’s a dominant trait, but it’s only partial dominance, whatever that means.

I only have one picture of me as a toddler where both thumbs are obvious. When I was three years old, my mom was adamant about getting the extra thumbs removed. She hadn’t been able to get hers removed until she was a teenager because of expenses, and she said she had been bullied mercilessly for them.

She was determined that I wouldn’t go through the same thing, so they found a surgeon who removed the outer thumbs on each hand.

However, something happened with mine that is completely unique. The scar on my left hand healed nicely, but the scar on my right hand was higher than the left. It went all the way up past my knuckle. As my hand continued to grow, the scar didn’t and began pulling the skin. The bone connecting to my knuckle angled, and my thumb actually began to grow crooked.

Here is a picture.

I tell you this not to gross you out or to ask for pity.

In fact, this defect hasn’t affected me much physically.

The only limitations it gives me are:

  • setting in volleyball
  • bowling, because it’s hard to find a ball with wide enough holes
  • fake nails, which I never use anyway

But the emotional limitations are much deeper.

  • Am I a mistake?
  • Am I weird?
  • How do I react when people judge me based on my looks?
  • Shaking hands is awkward, which comes across as shyness.
  • I fold my hands with my left hand over my right & fold my arms with my right thumb tucked under so it’s not obvious. Hiding leads to shame.
I let my boys see how I’m a normal person. I let them touch it and answer questions about it. I’ve explained how it affected me socially as a kid and how I want them to know that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean they should be shunned or bullied. They now are used to seeing it. And it’s even a joke for all of us when they try to get me to “thumb wrestle” so that they can be assured to win. 😊
Maybe that’s all we need to do with anyone who is different from us. Maybe we just need to spend enough time with them that their differences become normal, and we can laugh with each other over it–not laugh at them but be so sympathetic and caring for them that they feel safe enough to laugh with us.
Thank you for sharing, Lila!
Lila Diller is a Christian Fiction Author and Blogger. Visit Lila at http://liladiller.com


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