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Real Life

Mummy's little helper: Who needs hands?

When my daughter was born without her right hand, I feared for her future. But I soon realised how wrong I was.

I looked from the tiny figure on the screen to my husband Simon, and smiled.
At 20 weeks pregnant I couldn't wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl.
The sonographer clicked away.
Then she furrowed her brow. She left the room and returned with a doctor.
After a few moments, he said: 'Your baby is missing her right hand.'
'We're having a girl?' I asked.
The doctor nodded.
Then the weight of his words sank in, and my eyes filled with tears.
I'd envisioned how life was going to be with our first child and imagined all the things they would achieve.
All of my dreams had been ripped away from me in a split second.
How on earth would our daughter cope with just one hand?
Simon and I were in tears when we met with a senior nurse.
All of my dreams had been ripped away from me in a split second.
She explained that my baby's hand had become entangled with strings of amniotic bands. This had damaged the blood supply, stopping the hand from developing as it should.
The nurse tried to reassure us.
'Trust me,' she said, 'your daughter will lead a normal life. She'll cope just fine with one hand — she won't know any different.'
Later, I told Simon: 'Maybe she's right.'
In time, I gave birth to our daughter Sophie.
Simon wrapped her in a blanket and her tiny yellow hat poked through the top.
'She's my princess,' I said.
Even with her missing hand, Sophie looked perfect in our eyes.
Months passed and it became clear that our determined little girl wasn't going to let anything hold her back.
She learnt to push herself into a sitting position just by balancing her body carefully.
Sophie was fitted with a prosthetic hand, and at 10 months old, she could crawl.
She didn't always like to wear her prosthetic and as she grew into a toddler, it became clear that she could improvise without it.
Even with her missing hand, Sophie looked perfect in our eyes.
Our little girl was a natural problem solver.
One day, I watched her eat.
She held her fork in her left hand, and pushed food on to it using her right arm.
'Who taught you that?' I asked.
'Nobody,' she replied.
Sophie was resilient in other ways too.
At soft play, a little boy pointed at her and said: 'She's not got a hand.'
I knew children were just curious and he wasn't being cruel.
'She was born that way,' I said.
He shrugged.
'Oh, OK,' he said.
The children carried on playing and the comment didn't seem to upset Sophie in the slightest.
She was three when she burst into the bathroom while I was doing something private.
I looked down at the pregnancy test in my hand.
It showed a positive result.
I dried it and handed it to Sophie.
'Go and take this to Daddy,' I said.
Simon was thrilled to discover we were going to have another baby.
Doctors told us it was highly unlikely that amniotic band syndrome would affect this baby.
But at 10 weeks, I had an early scan to check.
We were in for another shock.
'It's twins,' the sonographer said.
'Wow!' I said.
At a later scan, we found out we were having twin boys.
'Two brothers!' Sophie said.
She cuddled and kissed my bump and couldn't wait to meet her siblings.
In time, I went into labour and gave birth to Joshua and Noah.
'Hi, baby brothers,' Sophie said, when she saw them.
A nurse sat Sophie in a big chair and put pillows on her knees.
Each of the boys was placed on her lap in turn.
She kissed her brothers on the forehead and I snapped pictures on my phone.
'The look on her face is priceless,' Simon said.
When we brought the twins home, I had my hands full.
But Sophie was really keen to help me look after her baby brothers.
While I changed Noah's nappy, she changed Joshua's.
She leant on her right arm for balance and stuck the tape down with her left hand.
Soon she learnt how to feed the boys their bottles, too. She nestled one of her brothers in against her chest and held the bottle with her one hand.
'She's mother hen,' I told Simon.
He smiled.
'She sure is,' he said.
As the twins grew, Sophie learnt how to help dress them. They loved their big sister and smiled as soon as she entered the room.
As the twins grew, Sophie learnt how to help dress them. They loved their big sister and smiled as soon as she entered the room.
Sophie was only three but sometimes it felt like I couldn't manage without her.
When Sophie started big school, she asked: 'Does this mean I'll get my big girl arm?'
It broke my heart as I explained that she would never be like the other children.
But Sophie accepted the truth, and smiled.
'Right, OK then,' she said. I just thought: That's my girl.
I started to practise how to do everything one-handed, so I could show Sophie how I learnt to do these practical things she needed to learn for herself.
I practised tying my shoelaces, undoing and doing up buttons, and even how to pull my underwear down with one hand.
The hospital offered me great support in developing ways I could help Sophie to fend for herself.
I don't know what the future holds for Sophie. But I'm confident she will continue to take everything in her stride.
She does everything she can to help her baby brothers. When they grow, I hope they'll repay her kindness and do what they can to help her.
I think back to how devastated I felt when I discovered Sophie was missing one hand, and I can't believe I felt that way.
Sophie is confident and capable, and doesn't let anything hold her back.
I couldn't feel more proud of my little girl.

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