February 08, 2011

The Sixth Finger

I've wanted to write about this for a long time, but haven't been able to muster the courage until now. Many of you know, but many of you don't, that Adrian has 11 fingers. Sort of. He has a sixth finger on his right hand, but it is fused with his pinkie, so it looks like this:

I noticed it before anyone else a moment after he was placed in my arms after his birth. I was stunned. I remember his hand looking strange to me, but it took me a few moments to figure out what looked so wrong with it. It's been surprisingly unnoticeable to others. The day he was born we let him get a physical examination from a pediatrician, since I was in the hospital anyway, and they did a full body exam, and even put a pulse monitor on his right hand, and didn't notice the extra finger. They were walking out the door when I had to say "Um, can we talk about his finger?". Friends have had similar experiences, where they'll hold him for a while and never notice until I mention it. It stands out loud and in- my- face, though, whenever I glance at it.

The doctors assured me that there was nothing to worry about. He has no other physical abnormalities, so it isn't associated with any sort of syndrome. It was a fluke in his development. I don't know if I believe that it was just a fluke, though. Other doctors since then have tried to assure me that it was not caused by anything I did, but given the dramatic toll this pregnancy took on my body, and the amount of chemicals and medications I pumped into it, I wouldn't doubt that it was caused by me. I'll never have proof, and I don't necessarily blame myself, but given all of the medications I was on I view it as another way for the medical society to try and claim that medications aren't harmful (just like vaccines never have heartbreaking and devastating side effects, right?).

The pregnancy started off like my others: Hyperemesis took its toll and I was completely nauseated from the very start. I demanded Zofran right away, as it was the only thing that helped me last time. This time, however, the Zofran didn't work. I was still vomiting upwards of 10 times a day - on a completely empty stomach. I was so miserable. I wanted to miscarry. I felt so guilty for having those feelings, but in the first few weeks I was so miserable that I just wanted it to end. I knew that if the pregnancy carried to term I would have much more puking to endure. At that point we also thought that Dominic was going to be deploying in August, so he would have missed the birth. The timing was just horrible, and adding in my nausea I desperately hoped I would miscarry. That may sound terrible to some of you, and having never experienced a miscarriage myself I can't understand how awful they are. I know it must sound exceeding selfish, but the only defense I have is that if you have not experienced hyperemeesis, you could never understand what I was going through. The Zofran wasn't working, and after losing about 15 pounds they admitted me into the hospital. They concocted a dosage of Zofran, Reglan, Benadryl, and Pepcid which they gave to me at regular intervals intravenously. I was also on potassium through the IV for the first 12 hours because I had been throwing up so much. The potassium burned so bad - I was in constant pain for all those hours. After being in the hospital for 5 days, I had stopped throwing up and began eating again so they released me. I took the same medications at home for months, and didn't throw up too much. I was able to eat a little again ,but only 2 things - bagels with cream cheese and tuna melts. That was it. I literally ate a bagel and cream cheese 5 times a day for weeks. I have no idea how I or a baby could survive on a food completely void of any nutrients. But whatever little nutrients I was getting, my body was quickly diverting to the baby, so I remained weak and lifeless for about 4 months. By the end of it I was glad I hadn't miscarried. There is nothing as magical as a life growing inside of you, and I truly love the feeling. But I had definitely experienced some of the lowest lows I ever had before during that time.

Other medications I took while pregnant were Motrin and intravenous iron. I took the Motrin during my second trimester during a bad cold for headaches. For some reason I was sure that Motrin and Tylenol were the same thing and both safe when pregnant. A good friend let me know that I was wrong, and Motrin was not generally considered safe in pregnancy! I had only been taking it for a couple of days, but I don't know what kind of damage it could have caused. Starting at about 38 weeks I began getting regular IV treatments of ferrous sulfate (iron), because I was so anemic. I don't know anything about these treatments and couldn't find any information online about their safety, but I went through with them in the hopes of getting my hemoglobin to a good level so that I wouldn't have any bleeding problems after the birth (which turned out to all be in vain anyway).

And lastly, and most hard for me to admit - I suffered very badly with pica through the second and third trimesters. It was so embarrassing that I kept it to myself and didn't share it with even my closest friends. Only Dominic knew, and he urged me to get help but I was too ashamed. During all three of my pregnancies I had a very strong attraction to toxic smells - gasoline, permanent markers, chlorine, etc. These are smells that some people like in general, but not me. I only love and even crave them during pregnancy. My midwife told me that it was most likely a form of mineral or vitamin deficiency, a form of pica. Completely harmless, but it would probably be good if I could figure out what mineral or vitamin my body was lacking in. What I didn't tell her, or anyone else, was that during this pregnancy the love of toxic smells wasn't the end of my symptoms. I had begun craving paper. Notebook paper. Printer paper. Just regular paper. It was such a strange, strong craving that I didn't know what to think. I began eating paper by the sheet. I would rip it into little pieces and just...eat it all day long when no one was looking. But the time Dominic knew what was going on he was very watchful, trying to get me to stop, so I did it in secret even from him. I could eat paper and not be hungry for regular meals, although I did still eat regular meals and I wasn't depleting my nutritional intakes at all. I was just adding to my body a chemically processed paper. Bleach, ink, and I don't even know what else. I was eating a lot of it. And it's still so incredibly embarrassing to admit, but maybe this will help someone else suffering from the same thing. I was googling information on pica and paper-eaters (quite a widespread affliction, actually), trying to figure out if I was putting myself or the baby at risk. I couldn't find any substantial information on the safety of it. Immediately after birth the craving disappeared, and I felt like a normal human being again.

So back to the finger. During this pregnancy, Adrian was exposed to a number of extreme physical conditions, toxic chemicals and medications, and very negative mental energy during crucial developmental periods. Could any of this have played a role in his extra finger? I don't know, and I probably never will. But I find it hard to believe that none of it did.

The next issue is - what to do with it? Now this is where life gets a little tricky.

I do not like the finger. At all. I'm going to be totally honest and say it weirds me out. Am I allowed to say that about my child? For some reason God allowed my child to have an extra growth. Is it a gift? A curse? A fluke due to medical intervention? I don't know. But I don't like it. It reminds me of a claw. BUT - it's his claw.

The doctors said that we would want to do an x-ray of it probably when he's around 1 to see if has bones or just cartilage, and to see how everything is connected. We also want to know if it will have any dexterity of its own, or if it will basically just hang there (which we won't know that until he's much older), and if it will give him any troubles later in life, like with writing. He also said something about him having difficulty using gloves (as if that's any kind of reason to cut off a body part!). Any surgery to remove it wouldn't be considered until Adrian's toddler years.

Dominic wants to remove it. He feels that it will be in Adrian's best interest to remove it, so that he can have a normal childhood. I'll admit that the thought of my child being picked on for this breaks my heart. But I have so many reasons for wanting to keep it attached - or, more truthfully, for wanting to avoid removing it. It is very similar to my arguments against circumcision. First of all - this is Adrian's body. Shouldn't he have a say in body parts being removed? Surely he may want it removed, but shouldn't he be the one to say "okay"? We could wait until he's older - but then again what is old enough, mentally, for a child to make that decision? When he's 8? 12? 16? 18? I can't even decide on that. Secondly - it's purely cosmetic. Should parents be allowed to do cosmetic surgery on their infants and young children? I don't believe so. At least I didn't think I did. Should I risk surgery - where anesthesia is used, and any number of rare but possible problems could arise, just for the sake of a little finger? I'm sure that the complications arising from a surgery to the hand would be minor and rare, but isn't that also why I don't vaccinate? Because the rare but possible risks are not something that I want to be held accountable for? I've always said I'd much rather my child get ill or die from a disease than get ill or die from a vaccine that I chose to give them to prevent them from getting a disease that they may never be exposed to. There are risks in surgery, however minor, and however unlikely. Does it make sense to risk "whatever" for the sake of him "looking normal"? Of course a hand is more visible than a penis, so the "so he looks like everyone else" argument certainly has more merit here. I truly can't make up my mind, but the thought of surgery makes me very uneasy, and also makes me feel a little hypocritical.

But how could this affect his life? Really? I wish I could know. I like to think that I'll be homeschooling, and I'll be more in control of the other children he's around, and if my kids are having problems with bullies I like to believe that I can end those bad associations. But what if I can't? What if the teasing is severe? What if he hates us for not taking it off when he was younger, as surgery for an older child may seem more scary than to a toddler who would be less aware? A friend and I were talking about dating - would I or she date someone who had an extra finger? I really like to think that I would. I can't image I'd be that superficial. But I know some girls will be. I know that some good people would be put off by that. And it makes me terribly sad.

I think if the finger has any independent dexterity we would choose to keep it. That would make the decision much easier, so right now that is what I'm hoping we'll find out. But in the meantime - I just wait and worry. I question everything, and dread the moment that a stranger, or even a friend, may notice his hand for the first time.


  1. Hugs Lisa! Being a mom is not an easy road - from the first moment of conception. Questions, doubts, caring for everyone else around us, information overload on what a good parent actually is-it's all so overwhelming! Fortunately our God understands and will walk the road with us. You guys are in my prayers, especially with Dominick deployed. Hugs again!

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  3. I'm just reading your blog for the first time. What did you decide to do, if anything?

  4. I'm just reading your blog for the first time. What did you decide to do, if anything?