My husband, John, and I have always read stories to our kids before bed. Many of them are traditional or updated versions of fairy tales. Though often cliché’d by today’s standards, the tales were always used to teach a moral or a life lesson. Given my shared condition with our boys and that Savanna’s “difference” is the fact that we adopted her, it occurred to me that I could try my hand at the telling of the tale…
Once Upon a Time, there was a girl born in the middle of winter named Meg. From the moment she arrived into her parent’s arms, she did not cry. Instead, she gazed with big brown eyes at her surroundings, soaking in everything a newborn could possibly absorb. To the surprise of everyone in the hospital, including her parents, Meg only had one finger on each hand, and one toe on each foot. Never having been exposed to the condition called “ectrodactyly” that affected Meg, her parents were naturally alarmed. Yet despite Meg’s physical abnormalities, they loved their daughter unconditionally, as only parents could.
Meg grew into a toddler, fun-loving and adventurous, yet unaware of her own “misfortune.” Although slightly delayed, Meg learned to walk. She could hold a ball or doll like other kids, but had to learn to do so in her own way. She played with other kids unselfconsciously. The young girl was oblivious to her condition and did not hesitate to show off her hands and feet in front of a camera, just like everyone else.
And then one day, when Meg was around the age of four, another young child questioned her about her hands and feet. Not having an easy answer, Meg in turn questioned her parents. She was told that she was “born this way,” and to go out and play. Her parents wisely decided to treat her like any other kid. Yet despite her parent’s support and efforts, Meg began to notice that people were staring at her. She started to absorb every stare. In front of a camera, Meg began to hide her hands, preferring to appear in photographs only with her hands concealed.
As Meg grew into a young woman, her disposition was naturally positive, and as a result, she made friends easily. Inside, however, she still did not fully embrace herself, two fingers, two toes and all. She continued to hide her hands, especially when photographed. She felt grateful that her feet were always covered by shoes.
And then one day, at the age of 27, Meg met John, who loved her unconditionally. Within 9 months he proposed marriage. Thrilled and elated, Meg accepted the marriage proposal, even before she had fully accepted herself. She continued to hide her hands, even when choosing a wedding dress.
A few years later, Meg and John began to have children. First Ethan, then Charlie and finally, Savanna. Like their mother, both boys were also born with ectrodactyly. But now something was different for Meg. She loved her children unconditionally, as her parents did her, and in doing so found she finally able to accept herself. Meg did not hide her children’s hands in pictures, and this helped her to have the courage, after years of hiding her own hands, to place them naturally at her side when being photographed. After all, she realized her children would look to her as an example.
And so Meg learned that what she was thought was a misfortune was in fact a blessing. She had a choice: to hide or to flaunt. With the birth of her children, Meg could no longer be ashamed of what made her different.
The time to hide had past.
She was ready to flaunt.