Christabel Koh got a shock when she delivered her first child, Chrislyn, three years ago.
During the Caesarean section, doctors found her baby girl’s left forearm had been severed by amniotic band syndrome (ABS) in the womb, a rare congenital disorder where thin strands of tissue form inside the amniotic sac entangle around the foetus like rubber bands. In Chrislyn’s case, the bands had gone all the way around her left arm, cutting off half of the forearm, and fusing the fingers on her right hand.
“They found Chrislyn’s tiny left hand inside my womb,” Christabel says, recalling the belly-twisting memory. “Throughout my pregnancy there hadn’t been any symptoms that showed I had ABS.”
What followed after Chrislyn’s birth worsened by the day. At a loss with her newborn’s permanent disability and crippled by financial hardship, Christabel plunged into severe post-natal depression. Around the same time, her estranged relationship with Chrislyn’s father soured and they parted ways.
“When I was pregnant, I dreamed of Chrislyn playing the violin and dancing the ballet. But all I got were dirty or pity stares from strangers.”
“I was convinced that her quality of life was going to be so poor it would not be a life worth living. But she’s defied all expectations. I didn’t know, because I couldn’t have known back then, how strong my little girl is and that I would eventually fall in love with her.”