When They’re Not Perfect

Perfect probably isn’t the right word. But, when your baby is born a parent’s hope is ultimate health. That complete health often equals “perfection”. So, when something is “wrong” a piece of your heart breaks. Your child isn’t whole, something is amiss, you have decisions to make, and a future to consider. You are filled with questions.

During my 20 week ultrasound with Reid, shortly after we found out he was a boy, I mentioned to our tech that our oldest son was born with 11 fingers, 2 thumbs on his left hand. This prompted her to hover over Reid’s tiny hands so we could all count. He appeared to have 10 fingers, 5 on each hand … perfect. 

Being polydactyly is most commonly a spontaneous anomaly so I never considered that Reid could be born with the same double thumb Max had. But he was! My boys apparently have quite similar genes! The only difference is that Reid’s double thumb is on his right hand. Gotta be a little unique, I suppose! 

We didn’t notice right away. Reid was born at home and we were so focused on snuggling him, nursing for the first time, and settling into bed. It was probably an hour or two after he was born when we finally saw his special thumb. Once again, our birth team was celebratory over his uniqueness; I love that about midwifery, they aren’t alarmist and they embrace the beauty of humanness with all its imperfections. Truly, we all couldn’t believe that Reid had taken after his big brother in such a crazy way! Double thumb boys! 


But, as much as we celebrated and laughed at the coincidence I was still left with a pit in my stomach. Surgery … again. My baby isn’t perfect. Something needs to be fixed. I have to go down that road of worry again. My baby has to hurt again and not understand what’s going on. It broke me. It still does. Although Reid is healthy in every other way – and I am beyond thankful for that – we still have a journey ahead of us to resolve his polydactyly.

Over the last 2 months I’ve had so many emotions about it all. I haven’t cried, which is odd, because I super ugly cried with fright and indecision over Max’s thumb. I think the tears have stayed at bay because this is all familiar to me — I know the steps we’ll take, I have a framework of what to expect with surgery and recovery. Pretty much, I’m an official polydactyly mom and just get it. This isn’t new. But still, I worry, after all, it’s surgery! And I wonder … I look back and second guess our decision to move forward with Max’s surgery. What if the boys would have grown up thinking it was cool that they had matching double thumbs? What if they’re mad that we had them removed? 

Then I revisit our research and thought process and know we did right by Max. And I know we’ll do right by Reid too. As much as I adore their little hands and special fingers, I can almost guarantee that they’ll prefer “perfect” hands down the road. And surgery is easier now for them. Harder for me, but easier for them. So, on we go. For now, we’re tentatively planning to have x-rays and meet with an orthopedic surgeon in the Fall. Then, we’ll schedule surgery for right around Reid’s first birthday. 

This whole perfection thing has been heavy on my heart though. With two “imperfect” sons it has drawn me to contemplate my own imperfection. The ones you can’t see. We’ve all got things wrong with us and often, the outward things, the things everyone can see are the least of our issues. Me? I’m selfish. I lack compassion. I struggle with keeping my priorities straight. These imperfections, and countless other, have followed me around my whole life. There is no removing them; they haunt and fester. I have highs when I tame them a bit, but lows almost certainly follow. I’m far from perfect. And no surgery will ever fix that.

Perfection is such an abstract concept. No one is perfect, it’s unattainable and almost poisonous. Yet, our world projects perfection like it’s something we can all achieve. It is my hope and prayer that my children will learn to see beyond imperfections and know the only one who is perfect. I want them to love like Jesus, to judge less, and meet people where they are; regardless of their inner or outer shortcomings.

In the years to come I plan to tell Max and Reid about their special thumbs. I hope they’ll be happy with our decision and embrace their remedied imperfection. Most of all, I hope their small scars will serve as a visual reminder of their own inner imperfections. And I hope it will lead them to love others better. 

Knowing I’m not perfect draws me closer to the one who is. It grants me grace and heals me. If my boys can see their imperfection and feel that same draw to Jesus, I’ll be forever grateful for all the heartache that has come with their double thumbs. 

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Read all my posts about polydactyly and Max’s double thumb surgery here.

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  1. Scott and Jamie Durham says

    Beautiful post. When I get caught up in my own imperfections, thinking on God’s character and His perfections helps lighten my spirit and lift my head from the muck and mire. Also, gratitude is such a soothing balm. You are right when you say you have so much to be grateful for – Reid IS perfect.

  2. Steph Frank says

    I know the feeling all too well. The hardest thing for me was hearing a lot of (well meaning and oblivious) people say, “as long as they have 10 fingers and toes…” This was beautifully written and such a great reminder to love others better :)

  3. Sarah says

    Sweet little extra thumb! He could not be more precious. My oldest has Perthe’s disease (he’s great! growing out of it! no pain and no brace, thank you Jesus!) and when he was diagnosed, I struggled some. I had fed him SO healthily, done all the good mom things…and there was still an “imperfection.” I think it really helped me come face to face with how little I truly control as a mom, and how dependent I am on Jesus for EVERYTHING.