I recently read about Josephine Myrtle Corbin (May 12, 1868 – May 6, 1928), a woman who was born with four legs. Her body was perfectly formed down as far as her waist, but it then split into two pelvises, two uteruses, two sets of genitals and four legs. She had two bowels and two anuses so one side could be constipated, while the other one suffered from diarrhoea. She had one period per month – probably from both sides at the same time (how awful!). Each set of legs comprised one fully formed, and one atrophied leg.
She married young and bore five children. She preferred the right side when making love, but her first conception occurred in her left uterus.
When she died, concrete was poured into her grave to prevent grave robbers, collectors, doctors, exhuming her.
When I was reading her Wikipedia entry, I was rather sad that she entered a sideshow – probably a freak show – at the age of 13. People have sometimes argued that this was a way for people with physical, mental or behavioural disabilities to support themselves in those days, but having audiences laughing, pointing, and peering at you was no worthy way to live.
I read once about a couple who had a son born with three fully functioning arms. The third arm was located to the front of one of the others. Imagine having three perfect arms! You could do so much with them – brush your teeth and braid your hair at the same time. Talk on the phone and type simultaneously. But the parents decided to have the arm removed. Why? They did not want him to be bullied, judged, pointed at, laughed at, or ostracised by society. I found that sad, and a rather true indictment of how we often treat people who are different. Even if he could have had a sometimes better life with three arms, society would have shunned him in many ways. And that is what often matters to us most of all.