A Story About Abigail

Abigail's journey with postaxial polydactyly.

Abigail, our middle child, has been unique from day one. Her birth story alone was so different from my other two children, and I meant to write about this shortly after she was born. Here it is almost two years later, and I am just now getting around to it.

When people tell you those little life widsoms you generally think are annoying, they’re sharing because they’ve experienced them, and they’re trying to pass on the knowledge. It’s not in our nature, however, to listen and heed the advice. When you become a mom and people tell you, “The days are long but the years are short,” they really mean it. So seriously new moms, when you’re sitting in a puddle of tears partly caused by postpartum hormones and partly because the baby won’t stop crying and you’ve done everything you know to appease that little chunk, remember – one day you’ll wake up wishing for those days again. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

Anyway, Abigail was born with not one, but TWO extra pinky fingers – one on each pinky. After she exited the birth canal quite unwillingly and broke her collar bone in the process, the first thing I noticed was that she was alright. We had quite the scare with her getting stuck, and I was feeling pretty anxious after they brought in all the extra nurses. The second thing I noticed was these itty-bitty pinkies attached to her regular pinkies. She was born with double postaxial polydactyly.

It totally weirded me out at first. Of course, I immediately fell in love with her and still miss all my Abi baby snuggles. My being weirded out wasn’t helped by the fact that literally, no one in the hospital was helpful in letting us know what we were to do about it. They were far more concerned with her broken collar bone and rightly so. Shoulder dystocia can cause permanent nerve damage and the staff was doing everything they could to prevent it.

The first pediatrician who came in after Abigail was delivered told us that her mini pinkies would be tied off the following morning since she was born late at night. The following morning came and went and the pediatrician who visited us didn’t even know she was supposed to do the procedure.

Another day went by and try as we might, no one would give us an answer about what the next step was. Everyone was trying to avoid talking to us about it and it became really frustrating. One of the times we asked, the nurse said, “Hold on one minute,” and stepped outside our door. We could hear her and two other nurses whispering about it obviously, trying to figure out what they were going to tell us.

Finally, we demanded to know why everyone was being so aloof and wanted an explanation the next time the pediatrician came in. She informed us that after doing X-rays of Abigail’s collar bone, they discovered there was the smallest little bone in each of her extra pinkies which made them hesitant to tie them off.

Abigail's journey with postaxial polydactyly.

So, now what? They decided to refer us to our pediatrician and ask her.

Ugh.

Our pediatrician referred us to a well known hand surgeon in our area. We set up an appointment and left just as frustrated as we were before. The doctor, who was approximately 90-years-old, came in and asked us various questions about Abigail without making eye contact. He moved slowly (because he was ancient) and spoke in monotone. Once it came into conversation that Abi had shoulder dystocia, he immediately perked up, finally made eye contact, and actually hustled out of the room. I had never seen an old man jump up so quickly.

He came back in and said he was going to have his X-ray tech fit Abigail in right now so he could look at it. We tried to explain that we had already had X-rays completed and that many of our doctors said she was going to be fine and was healing well and that likely, she won’t have any nerve damage. He ignored us and continued with the X-rays and an evaluation of her arms and chest afterward.

“It looks like she’s healing really well and there won’t be any nerve damage,” he told us.

When we asked him about her pinkies he told us that he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing surgery until she was at least six-months-old. Basically, what should have been a 10 minute appointment turned into a 2 hour one and we departed his office in the same boat we were in when we arrived.

I immediately called and canceled the follow-up we had with the old guy. We then went back to our pediatrician and explained our frustration with the entire process. It wasn’t that we were in a hurry but that it seemed like it would be better to take care of it while she was little and before she started crawling and getting into everything. The skin attaching her mini pinkies to her fingers was so thin, we were also scared they might just rip off in an accident.

After listening to us, our pediatrician referred us, FINALLY, to a pediatric plastic surgeon who we ended up loving. She actually helped by making a concrete plan of action and explaining the facts of the situation without being weird, aloof, or secretive about it. She explained that we needed to wait until Abigail’s collar bone was fully healed to prevent any accidents in the operation room and that it was best to wait until she was older because of having to put her under anesthesia. She also explained that it was good the hospital didn’t tie them off because there was a vein where the extra pinkies were attached that would then cause little nubs of skin to grow over time. It was better to remove the pinkies and the vein area so nothing would grow there again.

Abigail's journey with postaxial polydactyly.

We scheduled Abigail’s appointment for a few months later and the surgery went really well. The worse part of it was when I had to let go of her and hand her over to someone else to take her away. The procedure itself was only about 30 minutes long and she did great.

A few weeks after surgery, our plastic surgeon scheduled an appointment with her scar management specialist. It was amazing how knowledgable her and her staff were in not only the procedure itself but on post-surgery care and scar care.

You can’t even tell that Abigail ever had two extra pinkies now. There are very tiny scars on each of her pinky fingers, but you have to look really hard. In retrospect, even though the entire process was another stress added on to the start of Abigail’s life, I’m glad we were able to get it taken care of and that it is something that will make her life even more unique.

If your child had polydactyly, I would love to hear your story!