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Born with no thumbs

Katherine was shocked when she found out her baby's condition meant she had no thumbs.

Katherine Moffett, 23, Liverpool, NSW

Staring at the image on the monitor, I tried to work out what I was seeing. 'Would you like to know your baby's sex?' the radiographer smiled.

'Yes,' I said excitedly. 'You're having a girl,' she announced.

Gasping with delight, I hugged my husband, Jason, 26.

'A little sister for Kobe,' I said, talking about our three-year-old son.

In July 2008 I gave birth by caesarean. My little girl, Sienna, was handed to me wrapped up like a mummy.

'She's beautiful,' I said, trying to unravel her blanket. 'Leave her wrapped,' a nurse said. 'It's too cold in the delivery room.'

Soon, Sienna was whisked down to neonatal care. 'Is everything okay?' I asked. 'Just routine,' another nurse said.

My mum Teresa, 46, and Jason went to see Sienna while I recovered. But when I was taken back to my room, my baby still wasn't there.

As time passed without any news, I was worried Mum and Jason hadn't been back to tell me how she was doing. Finally, after three hours, Mum, Jason and a doctor walked in.

'Sienna has been born with a rare birth defect,' the doctor said. 'She has no thumbs and her right arm is shorter than her left. She also has an abnormal configuration of fingers.'

The doctor didn't know what had caused it. She said she was being kept in the neonatal unit to check for internal problems.

That night, the nurse wheeled me to neonatal to see Sienna.

I was scared to unwrap her blanket, but after 10 minutes I built up my courage. Her arms were poking out at strange angles and her fingers were gnarled and uneven.

Why does my baby have to go through this?
I wondered.

The next day Sienna was brought to me. 'She's a healthy 3.2 kilos and her internal organs seem fine,' a nurse said as she handed me my daughter.

I carefully removed Sienna's singlet and pulled a dress over her head, but she cried as her fingers got caught in the sleeves.

Instead of being comfortable with my newborn daughter, I was sick with worry. How will she cope? Will she be able to play like other kids? Or feed herself?

We were discharged the next day and I was given referrals to a paediatrician and a limb-deficiency clinic that offered counselling, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

Jason and I drove home in shock. But we were determined to be the best parents we could.

It took us several weeks to get used to Sienna's condition. As her arm was bent at an awkward angle, dressing her was difficult and we could only cuddle her when she was lying down. But we couldn't help but bond with her. We love our little girl with all our hearts.

Wanting to reach out to other parents and give Jason and me much-needed support too, I started a group called C.H.I.L.D. (Children Having Infant Limb Deficiency) and I've been busy raising funds and awareness.

When she turns two, Sienna will have an operation called pollicisation.

Her fourth finger will be brought down on both hands, rotated around and turned into a thumb. We're hoping it will mean she can pick up things and be able to feed herself. However, doctors said there is nothing they can do about her shorter right arm.

Now, at 10 months, Sienna is a happy and energetic little girl. While our gorgeous girl wasn't born with 10 perfect fingers, she is perfect to us.


Limb deficiency

Limb deficiency is defined as the loss of a part of a limb. It can be congenital, meaning present at birth, or as a result of an accident or illness. Common causes are: Agents causing physical defects in a foetus, such as thalidomide. Amniotic banding, where fibrous bands from the sac surrounding the foetus form a tight band around a developing limb, causing amputation.

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