This little piggy went…to a specialist.

So here’s a fun little piece of trivia about our little Sydneybird…she has what we call “special toes” on her left foot. To be honest, I didn’t even notice it on the day she was born…even after I held her feet in my hands for Mike to take a picture. I don’t think he noticed it either! Trent told me a few hours later. If you look closely, you can see what we initially assumed was just her 4th & 5th toes fused together. They have 2 separate toenails, and you can feel that the 4th toe is a separate bone. But that fifth toe is pretty big. Our pediatrician and a couple other pediatricians that were on call that week told us it was no big deal and that we could probably get the toes separated very easily around her first birthday. Well, at her 6 month check up, I asked the doc if he could recommend the next step for the toe sitch. He sent me to a very experienced pediatric bone and joint specialist up in Portland.
When we got to the specialist, he looked at Syd’s foot, and the first thing he says, totally non-chalant and matter-of-factly: “OK, no problem. Looks like we’ve got a pretty obvious sixth-toe mutation.” Me: “Huh?”
He went on to explain that separating toes 4 & 5 would not be wise. His reasons were about skin grafts, skin cells, toe muscles, aesthetics, etc. He totally convinced me. However, he said he’s quite sure she has a sixth toe, or at least part of a sixth toe bone in with that big 5th toe! He said it will probably start to rub on her shoes when she’s walking, so THAT he would gladly fix. According to him, it will be an easy and safe procedure. We’re supposed to come back next year with an x-ray after she’s steadily walking. I think making that last toe smaller will make her “special toes” almost unnoticeable.
Isn’t that strange? He said it’s genetic, so if neither Trent nor I have a sixth toe (we don’t) then she is the first and her children will have a 50/50% chance of having one.
Now, we’ve had many conversations in our family and amongst our friends about whether or not to even bother doing any procedures. I mean, it’s her littlest toe. On ONE foot. Talk about the least obvious birth defect. And don’t get me wrong–I am BEYOND grateful to have a healthy, happy, gorgeous (I think) baby girl! I thank God every day for her health.
But, she’s my baby girl! I want to give her every advantage in the world. I would GIVE her the world, if I could. Also, my baby girl will grow up to be a self-conscious middle-school girl someday. And I’ve BEEN a self-conscious middle-school girl. There will surely be something else about her body that will cause her to feel inadequate…if this is one thing I can fix early on,
why not?
If, for some reason, the doc changes his mind and says we can’t do anything (or it turns out to be outrageously expensive), then I won’t fret about it one bit. Either way, we’re already planning to pour our energy into consciously building up this little Bird’s self-esteem and self-confidence as she grows. We are learning and reading about how to plant those seeds in her even as an infant. I am going to fight every outside influence that tries to tell my daughter that she is not _______ enough, by constantly telling her that SHE. IS. ENOUGH. Exactly the way she is.
So although it may sound contradictory to tell her that after I went ahead and changed something about her, I think she’ll understand. I guess I just can’t turn off that Mommy instinct that wants to make things as smooth as possible for my babes.


  1. My brother would be so happy to see that picture, not cause he’s weird about feet, but because he has “special toes”, too! No 6th toe (she’s just SUPERspecial), but his third and fourth toes on both feet are fused. Mom’s doctor said the same thing: surgery, grafting, pain in the patootie to separate, so they didn’t, and he’s been just fine (other than a strong like for first person shooter video gaming, but I don’t think that’s related).

    Funny thing: he thought *I* was the weird one for *not* having webbed toes for a long time when we were kids. And sadly, no, he does not swim any faster. 🙂

  2. Sydney girl! Perfect in every way. 🙂 I love her smile. I love her big eyes. I love her coyness. I love her observant nature. I love her petite frame. I LOVE her red hair! She’s one gorgeous girl, that’s for sure, no matter how many toes she has next year. The best part for me, is knowing she will never doubt her worth in Jesus’ eyes, her parents’ eyes or ours. You and Trent are some fantastic parents (and godparents) and we love you!

    Jen – thanks for what I assume must have been a kind of hard post to formulate. It’s one of the things I love so much about you!

  3. A beautiful post Jen. I agree with Stephanie – it must have been difficult to put together. I agree with all that you said – and especially liked what you said about “not fretting one bit” if the doctor can’t change anything. Your precious girl is beautiful – fearfully and wonderfully made. And no matter what happens with her extra toe – I have no doubt that Sydney will grow up know how much she is loved by God – and by her family!

  4. You’re an amazing mother! There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that you have her best interest at heart. You won’t have to “fret one bit” because you will make the best decision for her regardless.

  5. She is so blessed to have such a thoughtful loving mother.
    I don’t think following medical advice is contradictory to loving her for exactly how she is. While it seems cosmetic it is also very much not – especially when her walking is concerned. In time, the doctors will advise you again and you will know just what to do and I just know she will love you for whatever choice you make. 🙂

  6. i know you are such a loving a nurturing mom that sydney will always have such great confidence in who she is as your daughter and a daughter of the King.
    the right decisions will come at the right time and little baby bird will be beautiful inside & out no matter what!! 🙂

  7. Jen – Frank’s third and fourth toe are stuck together also and it is hereditary in his family. That was one of the first things I checked when Gianna was born. I think it is easier for a boy to handle than a girl. Kids can be mean and Jr. High is hard. God will show you what to do.

  8. Jen, this is such a great post. I think at some point every parent has to wrestle with this issue–when/where/how do I smooth the way and conversely, how do I strengthen them so that they can handle it when the way isn’t smooth. We tackled that (the first time…but not nearly the last time for sure!) when we learned that Alexa’s teeth didn’t have full enamel. They’ve developed chips, cracks and browning, and I had a hard time knowing that she would be going to school like that. But we crossed the very bridge you are on the cusp of, and it was so good for us as parents. As a result, she is fine and has handled the questions like a champ. She does talk about when she will have white teeth like everyone else and sometimes even prays for her big girl teeth to be white, but I love her take-it-in-stride attitude. And she’s not a take-it-in-stride kind of girl usually! Anyway, all that to say, it’s so good to hear others wrestle with this concept and it reminds me that perspective is so much bigger than circumstance! Thanks.

  9. I want to echo the other comments – beautiful post, very thoughtfully written, and very, very thoughtful & wise mommy. 🙂 Can I ask what books you are reading about self-esteem? With a little girl on the way in a few months, I would love some advice! Thanks!

  10. Great post Jen. I never fault a parent for giving their child every possible advantage in life, and when you temper that with the wisdom of God and knowledge of doctors, well, you’ve got it made. Bonus? People already love that kid for who she is. Nothing can change that. In fact, I think the “special” things about each of us make us truly unique. I had the hairest arms in the world growing up. Seriously, don’t even know how that happened. But at that time there was nothing to really do about it (and it wasn’t hindering my development or anything) so my parents never made a big deal about it. I remember in kindergarten going out to play on recess at a Christian school I was new to since moving up from California. All the grades were there. As I walked across the little footbridge an older boy rudely pointed out my “specialness” in a disgusted way. I stopped, looked him right in the eye, and said, “Why does it bother YOU so much? It doesn’t bother ME.” I continued to verbally back him into a corner until he gave up. The was the last I heard of that! I can thank my parents and God for that kind of confidence, even though I’m sure at times they were sad/worried for me being “different”. I’m so glad Syd’s got parents like you and a community of friends/family around her. She’s gonna be just great! (Except I do have something funny to add: The pic at the top of your blog. That’s Syd’s foot AND Carson’s foot right?)

  11. Okay, I have to tell on Bapaw. He thought both feet in the photo belonged to Syd. He said, “I thought the connected toes were on the outside of her foot!” He also wondered why the other foot was bigger!

  12. inspirational! your post captures well the delicate balance between minimizing conflict in our children’s lives, and promoting strength and resilience. it’s a fine line and you’ve defined the boundaries well.

    it also reminds me of psalms 139:14:
    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

    but for me the struggle is in not projecting my on insecurities about my children’s “uniqueness” onto them or others.

  13. Oh, I can relate so much. Jafta has had a couple random anomolies that I have fretted about – and yes, junior high always seems to be a big part in the decision making! Like Dione said, it’s so hard to know when to protect.

  14. Hi fellow blogger Jenn!

    My second son has this same sort of connected toes too. I never even thought about it being a birth defect – I just thought he had funky toes. But I appreciate your thoughts on how you handled the situation.

    Oh and I slightly exaggerated about how often I post. I used to be much better, but I’ve slacked a lot in the past few years. You are much more dilligent than I am.

    I’m so glad to meet a new blogging friend!

  15. Jen-

    I stumbled across your blog…via the Greers. So I just thought that I would say hi. It has been way to long since we have communicated. I hope things are going well. Shoot me an e-mail sometime…I’m sure Kristi (endersby) would love to hear from you.

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