Abbi & Gracie


“Do you have a million dollars, Daddy?” Billy asked.

“No,” said Dad a little ruefully. “I have a million children, instead. Somewhere along the line, a man has to choose between the two.” from Cheaper by the Dozen

“It’s not the initial cost, it’s the upkeep.”

Brett That’s our family–a dozen. Ten children and two parents. I don’t know if we’re cheaper that way but we have more fun, so it doesn’t really matter

Abbi was originally our sixth child but now she’s the seventh, a phenomenon that is almost exclusive to adoptive families. But at the time of her arrival she was #6. We had first been told of Abbi by a missionary friend of ours in Thailand–he faxed us and asked us if we wanted a baby boy, born without arms. Now if it were just up to me I’d have faxed him my “yes” that day, but in these situations it is customary to discuss it with one’s spouse first. Brett wasn’t at all sure, when we talked that night. “No arms? How will he do anything?”

I had remembered watching a film when I was in high school, about a woman born with no arms. She did everything with her feet, and as I remembered, coped quite well with it all. She cooked dinner, wrote letters, even cut her children’s hair, all with amazing ease. Brett and I talked about it further, and finally decided to not discuss it for two weeks, during which time he would pray about it.

We set a date, and when the time came we went out to dinner and rehashed it. We wondered about what he would need, medically. We both felt that this little boy belonged in our family, but there were so many questions we had, and were not sure where to start.

We faxed the missionary and asked him to give us a full medical report–did the baby have other concerns? He faxed back, a little sheepishly, that when he visited the child he (not being a detail man) found out that it was a girl, not a boy. And yes, she had crossed eyes (amblyopia), but could have surgery for that. Girl, boy, whatever–we would go for it.

First, the home study update, so we could be approved to adopt this little girl that we had decided to name Abigail. Thailand is notoriously slow, and this adoption was no exception. The wheels turned slowly, and there was nothing to do but wait for our little girl. Two years later, we were finally given permission to go pick her up!

It was strange, seeing her for the first time. She was so small–much tinier than I expected, and she was scared. I couldn’t help that the tears came to my eyes the first time I held her, and some of those tears were because I was scared, too. Abbi wouldn’t make eye contact, she couldn’t walk or even stand up, and the orphanage workers told me she did not say any words yet, but just babbled like an infant. She was 2 1/2 years old! Did we take on more than we originally planned? The many months of living in a crib without being held or talked to had taken their toll on her, and she had made virtually no progress in any area.

We couldn’t take her with us that day (we would have to return for 3 more days before being given custody), so that night we talked for a long time. We knew that we hadn’t spent two years’ time and traveled halfway around the world for a child that wasn’t ours, yet we were going to have to rethink our goals and plans for her, it seemed like.

The next day things went a little better. Abbi was frightened of the outdoors, so preferred that we hold her, which was fine with us! After we played with her for a few hours, the orphanage workers informed us that it was time for her nap and off she went. When we came back the next day, Abbi realized that whoever we were, she had fun while we were there, and this time when it was time for her to go back inside, she screamed and kicked her caretaker! This actually made us feel better–there really was a strong little personality in there!

The rest of the trip was filled with paperwork and getting to know our new daughter. It was amazing to watch her hold her bottle with her feet, hold crackers with her toes and bring them to her mouth…she was so flexible.

Within three months of being at home, Abbi was walking and beginning to speak. At first she still babbled, just like a baby, and cried a lot–as if she were just starting out (indeed, in many ways, she was). We started to relax–it was just a matter of time, but she would be fine.

Now, on to other things. Up till this point I had read and gleaned as much information as possible about people born with no arms. The thing that impressed me most about all of the stories I read is that all of the adults had been forced to wear prosthetic arms when they were children, and not one of them used them past the teenage years (I guess when they became strong enough to tell everyone that they weren’t going to!). We also spoke with orthotists and orthopedic doctors–our ortho. doctor (whom we’ve known a long time because of another daughter) was much more concerned about Abbi’s slight scoliosis. I asked him about “arms” and he said, “You can check it out if you want but she won’t use them you know.” I was slightly taken aback and asked him a few more questions. He looked at Abbi (who was licking a sucker that she was holding between her toes) and said, “She will never stop amazing you by the things she can do. Don’t limit her by not allowing her to use her feet.”

Well, I had never thought of limiting her and of course encouraged her to use her feet. I
just thought it was good to get all the information I could. It was funny (strange) but every time we talked to a “professional” or an armless adult, we were finding that prosthetics were never used.

Of course, some of our extended family had a different reaction. One relative said that we should get her those robotic arms that work “just like real arms.” When I asked for more information about these totally lifelike limbs, there wasn’t any. Every time someone told me about those “realistic arms” that are available, there is never any information to follow up on. I guess it’s because it doesn’t exist.

When Brett was searching the internet, trying to find out about prosthetic options, he e-mailed someone who worked at NASA and she gave us Bill Baughn’s e-mail address and told us to contact him, as he’d worked with amputees for about 25 years. We exchanged e-mails and phone calls with Bill and found out why we had always been hesitant about obtaining prosthetic arms for Abbi — it’s because they would handicap her instead of help her. With a few simple tools that Bill made for Abbi, she can dress and toilet herself independently.

Now, at six years old, Abbi is a beginning reader, prints her name, loves to color, paint, ride her horse (a miniature one, of course!), feed the ducks, and collect foot items. One of her favorites is a cake pan in the shape of a foot. She’s a delightful little girl who is eager to get the most out of life, with a family who is eager to help her do so.

Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content


Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content