Guest Post — Bailey’s Polydactyly Story, Part One

After sharing about Max’s double thumb I was blessed to virtually meet a few moms who have also had children born with polydactyly. I connected with even more after Reid was born with thumb polydactyly on the opposite hand as his brother. This is why I love the internet, it brings people together! Kristyn is one of the moms I met, and today and tomorrow she’ll be sharing her and her daughter’s story.

It’s my hope that a small section of my blog can be devoted to giving parents of polydactyly children a variety of real life perspectives. It’s wonderful to not feel alone!

If you have questions directly for Kristyn, you can reach out to her at

I waited two excruciating years to get pregnant with our daughter, Bailey. My husband, Greg, and I struggled with unexplained infertility. Numerous tests revealed nothing was wrong with either one of us. Life just did not seem fair. I know that two years is a short amount of time compared to how long some people wait to become pregnant, but it was still an incredibly difficult time for us. We were over the moon when we finally conceived on our third IUI cycle. I’ll never forget the day a nurse called to confirm the news. 

At first, I tried not to be too excited. What if something happened?  Eventually, I learned to let go and went on to enjoy a very easy pregnancy. I never felt sick one time. I was tired toward the end, but continued to work my job as a TV news reporter from 3 a.m. until noon or later, plus work out every day until a day before I was induced at 41 weeks. I had an even easier labor and delivery. I’m sure the epidural played a big role in that – ha! After nine hours and just ten minutes of pushing, I was holding the precious baby we waited for. I had held her for just a few minutes when I heard my husband say both with confusion and concern “she has two thumbs.” It took me a minute to process what I was hearing. I saw it for myself. I was shocked. 

Thumb before surgery

My doctor and nurses quickly examined Bailey. They didn’t see any other unusual characteristics and assured me she was still just perfect and her thumb could be fixed. I trusted them, but in the days that followed I had a hard time enjoying Bailey, because I was convinced that something else was seriously wrong with her and they just didn’t see it yet. I feared that because her extra thumb wasn’t detected, maybe they were missing something else. I was envious of other mothers I knew who had babies around the same time and were able to take them home without having to worry about a thing. I didn’t understand why this happened to my baby. I had anxiety about explaining to people that Bailey had an extra thumb. I worried that people would stare. To be honest, I really have no idea why. I’ve never been a person who cares what other people think. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to gain perspective. After all, it was an extra thumb. It wasn’t cancer or a congenital heart condition. I felt guilty for even being upset to begin with, but I’m only human. I’m usually calm and in control, but I really depended on my husband who made me believe everything would be OK. I grew to love both of Bailey’s little thumbs and was actually kind of sad when the time came for her surgery. I was getting rid of a part of my daughter. It was never that I didn’t love her little thumbs or all of her from the beginning. I was just a new mom who wanted what we all want — for our children to be healthy, safe, happy and certainly not judged for their appearance. 

Bailey was and is an absolute delight. I began to let go and enjoy her and believe that she was truly healthy. She brought immense joy to our entire family and everyone was so supportive of us and her in dealing with her extra thumb. Over the next ten months of her life, I spent hours researching, reading anything and everything I could about polydactyly, devouring medical journals and studies. I was a mama armed with google and there was no stopping me! That is how I found Gretchen — eventually reaching out to her for advice and to learn more about her experience with her son. I went to each doctor appointment with a notebook full of questions and notes — even questioning surgical techniques. I came to believe I was a real polydactyly expert and Bailey’s surgeon thought I was a riot — and humored me when I threw around big words and medical terms! We, by the way, love her surgeon, Dr. Tina Sauerhammer, a former Miss Wisconsin, second runner-up to Miss America and a pediatric plastic surgeon. She is as kind as she is accomplished. 

There’s seven classifications for radial polydactyly. Bailey has what is called Wassel’s type IV — this accounts for about half of all cases. It’s also the most complex to treat and has more complications than other kinds. Basically, it means her thumb was duplicated starting at the proximal phalanx — or middle part of the bone. Both thumbs were fully formed and had bones and tendons, but were smaller and curved in opposite directions. Bailey couldn’t use them independently or do much with them at all. When she picked things up or gripped objects, they functioned as one thumb. 

We went through several consultations with Dr. Sauerhammer, came up with a plan and decided to have surgery when Bailey was 10 ½  months old. 

Before surgery

I’ll never forget when the nurses took Bailey back for surgery. I cried so hard. I didn’t want to let her go. I don’t care who you are and what credentials you have — I’m giving you my daughter to put under anesthesia and perform surgery on. That’s a big deal.  My mom and sister traveled from the Detroit area to support my husband and I. 

Bailey’s surgery took about three hours. Everything went well. A k-wire was inserted into her thumb to help straighten it. It would be removed when her cast came off.  I’ll never forget seeing her as she came out of anesthesia. She was groggy. We stayed in the hospital for about an hour after we were able to see her to make sure she took some milk and kept it down.  Bailey would have her cast on for four weeks while we waited in anticipation of seeing her new thumb.

after surgery

car ride home

Bailey had some extra “fun” with her cast and recovery, so come back tomorrow for the rest of her story!

Bailey’s Polydactyly Story, Part Two

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  1. janie vezina says

    touching story, kids are so adaptable true warriors

  2. Molly says

    Sweet sweet Bailey! Thank you for sharing this. I never heard of polydactyly. She is a brave little trooper, looking forward to the next post on her recovery.

  3. Peggy Williams says

    i wonder if this is what my honey was born with.. he too had two thumbs when he was born.. they ended up removing one and now on his right hand he has only one small one.. his mom used to wonder if they removed the “wrong” one.. she said the small one used to “curl” or “hug” the other thumb.. really didn tknow there was a name for it or that it was so common.

    • Gretchen says

      Yep, definitely a name for it! I’ve not met/heard of any adults stories so thank you for chiming in with your husband’s experience! My first son’s thumbs “hugged” too. I’m sure it’s always hard to determine which one is best to take versus leave.