One day while at the park, a neighbor of ours who was an 8 year old boy commented on how sad it must be for Tinsley because of her missing fingers. I told him that it didn’t matter because she’s a happy and healthy baby who’s surrounded by so much love. He didn’t appear to agree and repeated how things would be worse for her especially when she starts going to school. I tried to explain to him that we love her and that she’d be fine. He walked away seemingly unconvinced.
Was I mad at the boy? Of course not! He’s just an 8 year old voicing his opinion. He doesn’t know Tinsley’s backstory. How I sense her strong spirit and joy. How happy and grateful we truly are that she is with us. The immense happiness that she gives us– everyday, every second of our lives. So here I am, writing her story and hoping that people, just like that little boy will see others like my daughter beyond their physical differences.
At 19 weeks of pregnancy, we learned at an ultrasound appointment that Tinsley was missing fingers and toes. We were shocked and devastated. My husband and I cried in the waiting room of the hospital while our 5 year old son looked at us with great concern. They brought us to a conference room where a team of geneticists were waiting to explain the situation. They called the genetic condition Ectrodactyly. We were told that there was nothing that we did for this to happen. I sat there thinking otherwise. What did I eat? What did I NOT do to avoid this situation? Of course I began to doubt how I handled my pregnancy! But I knew deep down in my heart that I did nothing because we prepared for it and I took care of myself and my baby. We also didn’t know of any relative near or distant who had this condition.
After explaining Tinsley’s case, they gave us three options: go through with having the baby, go for further testing (amniocentesis) or terminate the pregnancy. They also explained carefully that her genetic condition included other risks: like being born blind, deaf, no sweat glands, no hair and potentially problems with growing teeth. It could be a combination of two, three or all of the above. Or it could be just isolated to her missing fingers and toes. We broke down again after hearing that.
We didn’t know what to do or how to deal with it. To be very honest, our first thought was termination. We reasoned that we didn’t want our daughter to suffer. We wanted her to have the best life possible. We prayed like we never prayed before for guidance and strength. To make a long story short, after 3 long difficult weeks of anger, denial and sadness, it was only through the grace of God that my husband and I accepted the situation. At that time, I could already feel her move in my tummy. I could feel her spirit and I knew deep down in my heart that I didn’t want to let her go. She is in me. She is a gift to us. We loved her since the day we found out that we were pregnant with her. She is my daughter and I will do everything that I can for my child no matter what the circumstances may be.
On June 6, 2013, Anna Tinsley Reyes was born. When they put her in my arms, my husband and I were in tears because we were finally able to hold her and whisper to her how much we love her. All our fears and worries disappeared because the only thing that mattered at that time was that she’s alive and safe with us.
Tinsley is now 18 months old. She is a sweet but feisty, active and assertive girl. She loves to paint, dance and listen to music. She is affectionate especially with people she likes. Just like any other child, she has her good days and her bad days. Just like any other parent, we also lose our patience with her but just one smile and hug, she melts our hearts again. Do I worry about her sometimes? Yes I do. I am a mother after all. But just like what my husband always says, we will deal with the situation. What’s most important is that we try to fill her life with love and support. Enough for her to feel that there is nothing in this world that she cant do.
My hope is that other people, like the that boy in my story need not feel pity or sadness for those with physical differences. That those are only disadvantages if we let our daughter grow up to think that they are. We will never let that happen.