Three-legged Childhood

As one might expect, everyone in the extended family had to go through the initial shock of seeing Tara’s 3 legs and extra-wide pelvis (so the pair appeared externally) with 3 buns. Effortlessly, the little girl charmed all of them into loving and accepting her, the aunts and uncles secretly grateful that they weren’t dealing with what Joan and Roger were dealing with, and would continue to need to deal with.

Diapers were an obvious problem. Joan went with traditional cloth, which she and her mother worked together to learn to creatively fold to work as well around 3 legs as 2. With that change, one problem solved.

Life as a triple toddler for Tara was no problem whatsoever: her nascent standing mobility was at least as good and easy as her two-legged peers. She tended to toddle, then walk, as two 2-legged people with adjacent legs lashed together do in 3-legged races: center forward, then outsides forward. The giant difference for Tara was that coordinating her 3 limbs from her one brain and upper body was vastly, vastly easier than two separate humans artificially and temporarily joined.

Nearly from the get-go, her mother dressed Tara in full-length little girl skirts, to minimize exposure of her legs and thus shock from strangers when they were out in public. No way to hide her feet, of course, without having her trip at every step and possibly badly hurt herself. With so many fat children in the world, finding wide skirts was no problem whatsoever.

The same could not be said for shoes, nor once she was out of diapers, undies. The shoe issue arose first, and Roger had stepped up to the plate to get with shoe manufacturers and local cobblers to get his daughter into sets of 3 shoes, doing what shoes needed to do for her middle foot. Not cheap, but necessary. When at home in the house and sometimes outside, all 3 of them tended to go around barefoot, to minimize Tara adding wear and tear to her expensive triples.

Undies were the first issue where Joan Pelvig started to truly struggle with the reality of a 3-legged daughter. She and her mother plus Roger’s mother valiantly worked together to modify pairs of little girls’ undies of the proper size into 3-legged units. It was a lot of work, and the end result didn’t work out especially well, thanks to the nature of the stretchy fabric and the limitations of the home sewing equipment they were using. Roger looked into what it would cost to order a batch of custom 3-legged undies directly from the manufacturers: prohibitive, wholly.

Toilet training was its own crisis. Tara was a bright, intelligent, generally obedient child, with good communications skills at each age she passed through. Her insistence that she could not separately control either her urinary or anal sphincter on each side was the first point where her parents didn’t seem to fully believe her.

I can’t!” she screamed at them, after yet another failure to meet their demands and expectations.

It didn’t strike them as reasonable, given that she had fully separate tactile sensations on each of the two sides of her lower body. She tried and tried and tried to please her parents, sometimes seemingly tantalizingly close to some individual control, but it was never to be. She felt horrible, they felt horrible—no one was happy.

Her very wise and kind pediatrician, with a great deal of mental health training, worked with Tara and confirmed that she wasn’t being obstinate: she literally could not control these bodily functions separately on her two sides. She reassured the young girl that she was a very good girl, doing all she could, and got Tara’s parents to understand the veracity of this.

Initially, this was awkward, but not a huge inconvenience: Tara could sit sideways on any toilet bowl as a little child, then as she grew any elongated toilet bowl, let loose, and things would work out OK in the (rear) end(s). Roger knew that eventually this would no longer be the case as his daughter matured, but for now, it worked.

Tara knew she was different—unique, in fact—from a very young age. The world around her reminded her of this every day, especially outside the Pelvig home.

School-age childhood was rough, being picked on for her deformity and being fat, given how wide she was. There was a smidge of truth to the fat claim: Tara was growing up slightly thick. Not fat, not even quite to the point of chubby, just an extra layer of soft thickness. This despite Tara being a highly-capable athletic little girl. She ran around all over the place with aplomb, easily winning or tying in foot races and the like. She absolutely shone at soccer, from soon after she first started. With no prohibition against 3 legs and none of the adults wanting to hurt a young girl who got hurt by bullies and other miscreants just about every day of her life, Tara played on a not-quite-equal footing with her peers. Everyone wanted her on their team, given how well she did! Naturally as one of the very few places her third leg was an advantage, she put a lot of energy into the soccer program, including helping others with 2 legs fine-tune their skills.

Another area where Tara absolutely shone was 3-legged races at summer 4th. of July celebrations and similar events throughout the year. She so thoroughly blew away her next nearest competitors that after the second year of winning by 20+ lengths, the powers that be needed to disqualify her. Knowing how sensitive an issue this would be, they elevated her to the new made-for-her category of All-Time Grand City Champion, made her an official judge, and had her lead the training exercises just before the race. She relished the respect and responsibility, proving herself a good young leader, able to transcend her innate ease of 3-legged mobility and truly help the pairs of tied-together people operate better in 3-legged form.

These athletic triumphs did little to negate the teasing and bullying. She found solace bonding with other misfits in her class: Tuan, a paraplegic of Vietnamese ancestry, who got bullied for both characteristics; Rebecca, a girl with poor eyesight and a severe stutter, who often said her own name as “Rebecacacacacaca”; Artie, a nerd who not only had thick glasses, but a giant long right-triangle nose upon which multiple pairs could be stacked; and Barb, usually called “Blub”, the fat girl with one pelvis’ worth of hips nearly as wide as Tara’s two, and a big, fat belly which was impossible to hide, nor get to stop jiggling. What started as a mutual non-aggression pact evolved into true friendships, some closer than others, but each of them at a minimum respecting each others’ issues, and not being part of any teasing/bullying activities.

Tara kind of liked them all, having the most trouble being patient through Rebecca’s relentless stuttering, keeping her more distant from her. Artie was fine, but could sometimes fall into thinking a bit highly of himself, possibly overcompensating for his beleaguered self-esteem’s benefit. Tuan was sweet, and easy to get along with. Sure it pissed her off when his wheelchair’s battery pack suddenly died without warning and classmates taunted her for being “Tuan’s girlfriend” (in 4th. grade) because she was willing to push his chair around manually the remainder of that day in their shared classes, but such was the course of normal teasing. Probably not surprisingly, her best friend was Barb, given that they shared the commonality of being targets of fat hate (even though Tara was not fat). Tara absolutely did wear fat girl-sized skirts of the same size as Barb, so they had that in common as well.

The friendships helped and Tara did well in these early school years academically, but overall, for her it was not a happy childhood.