Nikki Valdez is super proud of her 11-year-old daughter Olivia.
Even if Olivia has a physical condition called symbrachydactyly—"a rare congenital hand defect in which the fingers are abnormally short and webbed or conjoined."
According to kidshealth.org, it is caused by "bones in the hand not forming correctly before birth" due to "lack of blood flow to the tissue."
RAISING A CHILD WITH symbrachydactyly
But Nikki doesn't let it keep Olivia from doing what she wants to do.
And among the things Olivia seems to love is performing.
"You know, bata pa lang anak ko, I knew that she was going to be a performer," Nikki told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during a one-on-one interview at the opening of Faces and Curves in Bonifacio Global City.
The event happened in July 2019.
"Nandoon lahat ng signs," the celebrity mom continued.
"She sings, she dances. She's a self-taught ballet dancer.
"Iyan iyong unang-una niyang ginawa, e. Ballet.
"She's a natural. She is a fast learner.
"That's why, minsan nga sa sobrang fast, parang ma-ano ka, e, parang sasabihin mo, 'Babe, sumunod ka!'
"Minsan kasi ganoon iyong bata, di ba? 'Alam ko na iyan. Okay na.' May tendency siyang ganoon.
"But you know, wherever she goes to, we'll just take her lead."
Most recently, Olivia was accepted into her school's pep squad.
Proud mom Nikki said, "Alam mo itong anak ko kasi, every year, she discovers herself, what she can do. And this year, siya mismo nagsabi, 'Mama, I want to train for the pep squad.'
"Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Anak, wala pa akong nakukuhang message that auditions are open.'
"That same night that I picked her up from school, sabi ko, 'O, ito na. Do you really want to do it?'
"She did, and I'm so happy for her to pass the auditions kasi wala siya masyadong preparation."
SYMBRACHYDACTYLY not a disadvantage
Nikki loves how Olivia doesn't see her "baby hand" as a disadvantage, and focuses instead on her abilities and talents.
"I think what helped was, for the past two years, iba-iba ginagawa niya.
"So, nagka-background siya ng gymnastics, nagka-background siya ng dancing.
"Kaya, I guess, it's something that she really wants, so I support her.
"The whole family supports her.
"And sabi ko nga, 'Anong sabi mo sa coach mo nung nag-audition ka?'
"Sabi niya, 'I'll do anything to make it. Even if I have a baby hand, I’ll make sure I’ll keep up with what’s required of me.’
"I'm proud. I'm proud of how she is now, and I can only promise to be there for her."
Like any parent, Nikki had her worries when she first found out about Olivia's condition.
"Nung una, ako iyong natakot, not because kinakahiya ko siya.
"Natatakot ako kung what she has to go through.
"Masakit sa isang parent iyon, e."
Today, the ABS-CBN actress isn't as worried about what people may think of her daughter, although the little girl does get some curious looks.
"Of course, she's different, so we've learned to accept that.
"May magtatanong at magtatanong about her situation.
"But you know, all you can do is just be there for her and keep advising her, na ito talaga magiging buhay mo, e, di ba?"
Nikki makes sure Olivia understands that even if she has a "baby hand," this doesn't make her special.
"Hindi namin sinasabi na, 'Iba ka.'
"Iba siya physically, pero wala kang special needs na kailangan mo maging dependent sa ibang tao."
She is raising Olivia to believe that a person is more than just her physical defects.
"Sabi namin, 'You should even be more proud that you're able to do all these things despite the situation.'
"Right now, we taught her to be confident with who she is, with whom she can still be, kasi iyon ang dadalhin niya sa heart niya, noh.
"And sabi nga namin, beauty is skin deep. Ang physical, hanggang sa labas lang iyan, e.
"What's important is that you become a good person and everything will follow."
SYMBRACHYDACTYLY should not "affect her in a negative way"
It also helps that their loved ones choose to encourage Olivia to do more things rather than focus on her limitations.
"Ang mga tao sa paligid namin, hindi ito ginagawa just because ganoon siya, ganoon iyong condition. No.
"In fact, they encourage her more.
"And we can see how dedicated all these people are around her.
"Kaya, ako, wala ako agam-agam, e..."
Nikki has also taught her daughter how to deal with people who ask about her condition.
"Siyempre, may mga nagtatanong pa rin tungkol sa kamay niya, pero sabi namin, pag may nagtanong, sagutin mo lang nang paulit-ulit kasi it's something that will make her stronger.
"It should not affect her in a negative way."
RECOUNTING THE MOMENT NIKKI LEARNED ABOUT OLIVIA'S SYMBRACHYDACTYLY
Nikki was four months into her pregnancy when she learned about Olivia's condition.
Without even meeting her baby yet or holding her in her arms, Nikki realized how much she already loved her daughter.
The celebrity mom narrated, "I gave birth sa Canada kasi, e.
"In Canada, abortion is legal up to a certain period, and nakasakop si Olivia noon when I found out about her condition, and I had the option.
"I did not do it, because of my love for my daughter."
The actress also received much reassurance from her doctor.
"I was told by the hand doctor, 'You know, you don't need to worry about your daughter because marami kayo. There's a lot of you...
"Iyong nangyari kay Olivia is one out of 30,000 to 40,000 pregnancies, so ako iyong one percent...
"It's not something you did or something you did not do during your pregnancy.
"It's just that, katulad ng ibang conditions, may mga unknown causes talaga.
"So, I guess, we have to start with acceptance."
GETTING support from fellow moms WITH KIDS WHO HAVE SYMBRACHYDACTYLY
Aside from acceptance, it also helped Nikki when she met moms who had children with the same condition as Olivia.
On how the group started around 2015 and 2016, the Kapamilya talent said, "There's this mom who messaged me, who emailed me—I have public email kasi—and she told me all about her daughter's condition."
Nikki then realized how nice it was to have a fellow mother understand what she was going through.
"It's funny because girl din siya, 'tapos sabi ko, 'Timing naman, para makakapag- share kami ng stories namin.'
"And then sabi ko [sa mom], 'Send me a picture of your daughter para makita ko.'
"And then doon nag-start."
Nikki would exchange messages with other mothers whose children have the same physical condition.
"Nakakatuwa because, because of that, I formed this small group. It's called Limp Different group. It consists of parents and their children."
NIKKI'S ADVICE TO FELLOW PARENTS
Nikki advises parents with children who have similar conditions to be more supportive.
She also encourages other families to practice empathy for children who are physically challenged in some form.
"Ineencourage ko iyong mga parents to encourage their children.
"Huwag itago, huwag ikahiya, hindi sila nakakahiya...
"Maybe with parents naman who know about these kids with condition, maybe teach their kids to have empathy and compassion because we are actually all different from each other.
"Nagkataon lang na, katulad iyong anak ko may physical condition, nagkataon na doon sa physical lumabas iyong kaibahan niya.
"Pero they are all normal. They are all normal kids."
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