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When We Found Out Our Son Would Be Born With a Hand Anomaly

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In 2009, I was in the middle of the easiest, most joyful pregnancy in the world. I floated on clouds until the day of my 20-week ultrasound, when we found out that our son — our son (we had to be dragged down from the incredible high of just finding out his gender) — would be born with some kind of hand anomaly. 

Our doctors were unsure of what his right hand would look like, but they knew it looked under-formed compared to his left hand. We were devastated. Luckily, after allowing ourselves some times to digest the news and go through the various stages of emotions — sadness, guilt, fear, you name it — we discovered feelings that surprised us both. Hope. Protectiveness of warrior proportions. Gratitude. So much gratitude to our son for giving us this experience and for letting us trigger our parenting instincts early in the process, giving us a strength we didn’t even know we had.

One of the things that really helped me gain new insights included this note I received from an old college friend and roommate, Jen, who helped me visualize exactly who we would be welcoming into our lives:

You know what.

Your son will be born with a shock of black hair and amazing almond shaped eyes.

He will have his father’s humor and compassion and his mother’s beauty, creativity, and strength.

As far as I’m concerned, he is still perfect.

I want you to keep sending me pictures of you and your baby bump.

I cannot wait to meet your son.


Jen was right. Four months later, in October 2009, we welcomed our son Cooper, and he was exactly as she had described. Glorious perfect Cooper with his husky cry (which has since grown into his still-husky voice today) and his full, thick head of black hair. He was born with a total of two conjoined fingers on his right hand, which later had to be surgically split apart when he was only 7 months old. 

Cooper when he was born

As the years have passed and he is now 6 and a half (he always reminds me of the half), I know his list of possibilities for his life are as endless as anyone else’s. You try beating him at Super Mario Kart — chances are, you can’t.

Today, Cooper reads to me. He grasps concepts and facts so quickly, my head spins. He creates amazing stories that involve lots of characters, and draws detailed pictures of the different scenes. He has an amazing capacity to look out for and care for his friends and family. He scores soccer goals, performs high kicks with his blue belt in tae kwon do, and goes on adventures followed by his forever loyal stuffed puppy, appropriately named Puppy. He is flying through kindergarten, making it look effortless.

Years ago, while I was in the latter half of my pregnancy, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to reach a time when I would stop worrying about Cooper’s hand and his future as a result of it. I can now safely say I almost never worry, which I didn’t know was possible then. Today, when I look at Cooper, I don’t see his hand at all. I see only that endless list of possibilities and know he’ll be more than OK. 

Cooper doing tai kwan do

Originally published: January 18, 2016
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