Motherhood has a way of making your heart grow and expand in ways you never thought possible, but also makes it ache in ways you never fully understand. While you are still yourself, you are someone completely different. It's no longer about you - it's about that little girl who you want to never take your eyes off of or ever let go of (well, as long as she's not screaming :) ). It's about the cries you wish you could stop with your own tears. You do silly things like forget to eat or stare at her breathing or catch spit up with your hands. If you're crazy like me, you have a moment while still in the hospital where you imagine your little girl grown up and having her own babies and you tear up wanting to stop time already. It's already flying by too fast.
Friday was a hard day for me. We had our first visit with Children's Orthopedics in Atlanta for Harper's clubfoot. After her birth, we saw that indeed her foot was turned in, and although the pediatricians (ie - NOT ortho specialists) said they thought it was positional (meaning, it was caused by how she was situated in the womb, not a genetic issue) since it could be manipulated, I tried to not get my hopes up that we would get some sort of abbreviated treatment diagnosis.
I knew it was a possibility that she might get her first cast on at that first appointment, but I guess I was just trying to pretend nothing was going to happen at all. The night before the appointment, I was upset. While Harper has been a great baby, we are still trying to figure out what works for her and how in the world to care for a newborn. I didn't want the compounded issue of a cast that we would have to figure out how to deal with. I didn't want to deal with the stress of driving to Atlanta and figuring out when and where I was going to feed her and what stuff I needed to bring.
But mostly, my heart ached for the little leg and foot that I wouldn't be able to touch or rub or even see. I hadn't gotten enough pictures. I hadn't kissed her little toes enough. I hadn't snuggled my baby in my arms without the interference of a hard cast for long enough. My heart wasn't ready.
We got to the appointment and met her newest doctor. He was very nice and took the time to explain everything to us. He even trained with the doctor who invented the modern treatment for clubfoot. While we knew most of what he told us, it was so nice that he spent the time explaining it all and answering my questions. I felt like a somewhat capable mother, since I did have some educated questions to ask and wasn't going in there completely blind. After a quick look at Harper's foot, he confirmed the clubfoot and told us that regardless if it is positional or not, it doesn't affect the treatment process - it's all corrected the same way (which I described in detail in this post if you are interested) and there is no real way to determine what caused it.
He confirmed we would have to get weekly casts put on for the next six weeks or so, followed by a tenotomy (they have to cut the Achilles tendon to allow the foot to move more naturally - apparently it grows back on its own and is a relatively easy surgery). She will then be put in boots connected by a bar that she will wear for three months, 23/7 (she gets an hour break a day). From that point on, she will wear the brace only during sleeping times until she's about 4 years old, depending on how her foot responds. The casts sound bad - but really, that's the easy part. The hard part is the brace, which will require Tony and I to be extremely diligent to ensure she doesn't relapse. After explaining it all, he said we could start the first cast that day.
He left the room to get the needed supplies, and I immediately began to cry. I quickly took this one last picture of her little legs.
There was just no holding in the tears. I know I'm raging with hormones right now, but I was just so sad to know the process was beginning - that her little foot would be hidden for the next few months and we were all in for a bumpy road. I cried and cried, feeling silly as the nurse gave me a little hug. Harper cried, but mostly because she was getting messed with. She wasn't in pain and was definitely happy to get a few minutes to suck on her pacifier treated with some sugar water (an awesome nurse gave us a stash of those things at the hospital since we had to get so many heel pricks for her jaundice testing). We haven't used it at home - it will just be for emergencies like getting a tiny cast put on :) The doctor did a traditional plaster cast on just the foot itself, then covered that and the rest of her leg in the soft cast material (that's actually still hard, but I guess not as hard as the plaster kind... more so nylony). The soft cast can be peeled away for removal, but the little plaster cast will be cut off (with a saw...). At least it's just a small one - and bonus points - we get to keep it. That will be fun to show her one day.
She seemed a bit fussy that day and the next... but really I don't know if that's just the unrelated product of her getting older or what. The cast is pretty loose at the top - I can stick my finger down in it, which I like - and she doesn't seem to be bothered by it rubbing when I hold her up against my chest. Nursing is a little trickier, just because she's a little more unwieldy. I was worried her other leg would get scratched up from it, so I had a little legwarmer on it the first day. However, it doesn't seem to rub at all so I stopped that. Her toes stick out of the bottom and we can check to make sure they're getting proper circulation by pressing them.
All in all, the first cast wasn't too terrible, although the doctor did warn us that subsequent casts are sometimes more uncomfortable for the baby, since the skin under it becomes super-sensitive over time from being covered up. Can't wait.
|Oh hey! I'm ok!|
|The aftermath... days later...|
It was certainly worse for us than it was for her. While my head is telling me I'm glad the process is begun so she will be healed sooner, my heart just aches for my little girl. And perhaps just a little for myself.
Check out all of my other Clubfoot Files posts here!