When Meg asked me to write a Guest Flaunt I was flattered that someone so awesome thought I might have something interesting to add to all the heartfelt and beautiful flaunts that I have had the pleasure of reading. When I gave birth to my son Nick 27 years ago, I had no idea how to be a mom to anyone, let alone a child with one hand. I didn’t plan on being a young single mom but then again I didn’t plan on having a child with one hand either and so the journey began.
From the moment I laid eyes on him I knew my life would never be the same. I literally could not take my eyes off him; he was and still is my biggest accomplishment and the love of my life. Okay so back in the dark ages before the social media I knew no one else who had a child with a limb difference. I was sent by the Pediatrician to an Orthopedist who took one look at Nick and said well he has one hand, no explanation, no diagnosis, no cause, nothing but a referral to a local Children’s Hospital. They had no answers either; their suggestion was that we get him fitted for a prosthetic ASAP so that he would not have any body issues. Okay so I was young and naïve–you try to hold a six month old active little boy while they cast him for a prosthetic arm, not easy and if we didn’t want him to have any issues with his body then why where we trying to alter it? The arm reminded me of a Barbie doll arm stiff and not bendable. I put it on, he took it off. It did come in handy when he started teething and that’s about it. I came up with the idea to glue a piece of Velcro to the hand and small toys to try to get him to use it to pick things up, he was not interested. Of course he took it off and threw it where ever we went and I was always looking for his arm. I may not have been a doctor but I was the one who spent all of my time with him and he did not seemed bothered in the least that he had one hand, other people did, but not him.
Plan B let Nick do what he wanted. He did go on to have many prosthetics and was the youngest one at the hospital to have a myoelectric arm but he still did better without them. We have always called it the little arm and still do. So when people stared I just said he was born like that. Some said I’m so sorry, some said nothing and some walked away shocked. I never pitied him or felt sorry for him; I encouraged him not to let others define who he was and what he was capable of. If anything, I taught him to work hard for what he wanted and never allowed him to make excuses for himself, some people saw it as mean. There was always the well-meaning person who thought they should help him tie his shoe, or zip his coat and I would politely but firmly tell them no, he has to learn to do it himself, if he fell I said you’re okay get up, when he wanted to quit I would not allow it.
I taught my son to be kind, but tough. The world can be a cruel place and not just for people with one hand, so most of all I wanted him to like himself. Because if you truly believe in yourself, work hard and persevere, anything is possible. There were plenty of worries and tears along the way, mostly on my part in private. I never wanted him to think I was sad or ashamed because I wasn’t. I was just a mom who wanted the best for her child like everybody else.
And that is the scaled down version of how my son became ”Notorious Nick Newell,” the XFC Lightweight Champion of the World. I still have his very first prosthesis “the Barbie arm” and every once in a while I take it out and think about all the trials and tribulations that have lead us to where we are today. Yes, there are tears, happy tears but tears nonetheless. And win or lose he has and always will be a Champion in my eyes, not because he is a fighter, but because he is my son.