All of my 4 children have been born with an extra digit.
Yes, all of them.
No my husband and I are not related and no I did not do drugs or alcohol while pregnant- or ever actually.
Apparently, either my husband or I, or both carry a very strong gene that causes polysyndactyly (fancy name for webbed and extra digits-toes or fingers).
We had no idea until our oldest daughter was born, unexpectedly, with a couple webbed fingers on both hands.
We were a bit shocked to say the least and had little answers. I turned to google (just a little bit of advice--don't google anything that "could be" wrong with your new baby just days after delivering. You will find oodles of scary, negative possibilities). I was certain after my search that I had either caused this limb surprise by inhaling cleaning supplies or that she was going to have one of many "syndromes" that are often linked with these types of "birth defects".
Internally I was a mess. I was embarrassed that my perfect baby didn't come out perfect. And even more shamefully our first reactions were, "they'll probably fix her hands before we leave the hospital right?"
After the initial shock wore off and the doctors and nurses explained that it wasn't a vital surgery for our baby to get her hands de-webbed at such a vulnerable state (duh, why did we not think of how dangerous it would be to perform surgery on a baby?) We went home with our daughter with a much deeper appreciation that we were so very blessed to have a healthy, beautiful baby girl to take home.
But I was still a little embarrassed. I put tiny baby mittens on her hands often, claiming that it was to protect her face from her long nails that she was always scratching at her face with (which happened to be true but a part of it was just because I didn't know how to handle the reaction of people when they saw them. I couldn't trust myself not to start crying immediately after I saw someones eyes searching her little, strange hands. And I didn't have any answers to give them when they asked, which was a harder truth to swallow.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because today's #WedWowWoman, Brene Brown, has us talking about vulnerability and shame and this experience helped me to see that there is so much more growth and beauty that happens when we don't hide from those feelings and instead embrace them.
Brene Brown, a born and raised Texan, is a remarkable researcher, best-selling author, inspiring speaker and overall impressive human who has spent most of her life researching shame.
Her viral TED talk has been watched, rewatched, shared and saved by millions of viewers and just recently she's been storming the Netflix world with her new The Call to Courage special.
She has taught me that the times in which I am most vulnerable and open with other people are the times in which I grow more, develop deeper connections and experience real, true joy.
She shares that, "vulnerability is about showing up and being seen."
In the case of my daughter's hands, I was so focused on what others might think about my baby that I was shutting myself off to really being seen or really seeing my baby.
Brene explains, "vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path."
I believe that a very large part of our purpose in this life is to build healthy relationships; with ourselves, our family, our friends, the stranger in the store or the viewer on the internet, our God, our furry babies, the earth, our bodies, our possessions or even our souls. We are meant to create boundaries and connections that foster growth in ourselves and others and being vulnerable, unsure or failing openly are some of the best ways to do that.
I want to be the kind of person that is strong enough to accept defeat and still comes out strong. Brene shares a famous quote by Teddy Roosevelt:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Facing the lack of answers is one way of showing up to the arena. Showing up full well knowing you are completely different then everyone else is a triumph. Being willing to say I love you even when you may know you won't hear it back. Rescuing yourself from addiction over and over again. Being brave enough to just listen and not speak when someone is feeling hurt. Having hard, open conversations with people or groups you don't identify with or understand. Trying and failing, on repeat. Knowing who and where to set boundaries. Jumping back into the arena even after you've been tossed out by life.
Those are the ways we can truly embrace courage and live greatly. Those are the marks of a valiant human, boldly living life and showing up for the world.
I want to be an "in the arena kinda gal" like Brene Brown.