Being Defiant and Conquering Clubfoot

I remember the moment the pediatrician walked into my room the day after he was born. The doctor talked about our son’s vital signs, told us that he was a big and healthy baby boy, mentioned that he had signs of clubfoot, and then handed us a referral slip to a pediatric orthopaedist. He had what? We had to go see who? What is going to happen to my son? Thoughts immediately clouded my mind. I just had a baby the day before. My body was exhausted yet full of energy and adrenaline. My heart was so full of love that I hardly knew who I was. I was holding my son and getting to know his every sound, look, and touch. My head was confused. How serious was this issue? Was it easy to treat? Would he be able to walk?

Over the next few days, we tried to check all of the boxes as a new family of three, as well as tried to answer all of the questions that family and friends asked. We brought him home, introduced him to our dogs, battled against his severe jaundice, made daily visits to the childrens’ hospital to conquer his jaundice, all while I failed miserably at trying to breastfeed him. We also immediately made an appointment with the pediatric orthopaedist. I tried to be strong in front of him and my husband as we all worked together to check the boxes. We had to keep it together for each other.

And then the appointment day came. After a few days of research and talking to our parents, we finally met one of the best doctors in the area. She asked us to put him on the table and we watched as she examined and stretched his legs and feet, explained to us what clubfoot was, walked us through treatments, and then began wrapping his legs in casts. Without warning, she wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped. Both of his feet and legs were covered in white casts.

She handed him to me and I tried to stay strong. My eyes had to fight the tears that wanted so badly to fall down my cheeks. What did she do to him? He was only a few days old and yet he was covered in casts. His perfect little toes were hiding from the world. I could no longer kiss his toes and look at the rolls on his thighs. I can still remember the clicking sound that the casts made when he moved.

When we got home from the hospital, I completely broke down. The failed breastfeeding, the insane hormones, the white casts, the incredible exhaustion, the endless worry … I couldn’t keep it in any longer. My husband pulled me into his arms and I let it all out. I felt like I failed my son and my husband as a mother.

After a week of wearing the casts, we took him back to the doctor so that she could remove the casts and review the progress. After a few moments of examination, a big smile spread across her face. My husband and I caught a glimpse of his feet and couldn’t believe what we saw. His feet were no longer turned in. They were turned out and in the correct position. The relief that filled the room was enormous.

We left the appointment with a baby who no longer had to wear casts. Instead, we were sent home with a boots and bar system that reminded us of a snowboard. She walked us through possible treatments, including surgery, more casting, and years of wearing boots and bar systems to help correct and maintain the position of his feet.

“Will he be able to walk?” I asked.

“Yes,” the doctor replied.

The doctor explained that the reason why he most likely responded so well to the cast treatment was because he had positional clubfoot. Simply put, he was a big baby and I was too small for him during my pregnancy. His little feet had no room and, as a result, grew to be turned in giving him positional clubfoot.

I must say, hindsight is an incredible thing. During my last few weeks of pregnancy, I was instructed to get a last minute sonogram. The doctor thought that I was measuring a bit small so another sonogram would help to ease the mind. At the end of that sonogram appointment, my husband and I were called into the head doctor’s room like we were getting called into the principle’s office. We sat nervously as we answered the questions. How big were you when you were born? How big were your siblings? How big were your mothers during pregnancy? How big are your siblings now?

After a few questions, we couldn’t help but ask, “Why all of the questions?” The doctor said, “Well, your doctor was questioning why you were measuring on the small side. As it turns out, you have a big baby. You are all baby and we’re a bit nervous about the size of the baby compared to the size of you. In fact, the baby is so big that we might need to start talking about a c-section.” My heart started racing.

The next day, my nerves were on edge as I fought the impulse to call my doctor and schedule a c-section. And then my phone rang. “So, you’re probably wanting to schedule a c-setion,” said my doctor. “You’ve got that right. I’m freaking out.” My doctor explained that she just reviewed the results and was shocked but determined to have the baby enter the world naturally. I told her that I didn’t want go into labor for 72 hours only to have a c-section. She promised that all of the doctors on the floor would keep a sharp eye on everything to avoid that from happening. My nerves were slightly calmed but still on edge.

Fast forward through the birth and casting, we were all in this fight together to make sure that one day our son would walk. We went to countless appointments, stretched his feet whenever possible, questioned and hoped that we were putting on his boots and bar system correctly day in and day out, and watched as our son continued to show the doctor that he was determined to get through the process as quickly as possible.

During one doctor’s visit, she nicknamed him her “little puzzle piece.” He was progressing so quickly that he kept her on her toes as she tried to figure out the next best steps. Our son, defiant as he was and still is, was determined.

Months and months came and went as we watched him hit milestone after milestone. From lying on his back to rolling over, from holding up his head to sitting up on his own, he was learning each and every day. The milestone that my husband and I anticipated the most was watching him take his first steps. To us, that meant that his defiance conquered any doubts. And then it happened.

This week, our son stood by himself and then put one foot in front of the other. He walked across the room and into my arms. After we let out a huge scream of joy, he looked up at me with a smile that was full of pride. I gave him the biggest hug and kiss imaginable. He can walk. All of my worries walked out the door as my son walked into my arms.

All week long, we’ve been watching him take steps across the living room. With each try, we expand the amount of space between my husband and me. The room fills with screams and laughter as he takes those prideful steps. My heart fills with thankfulness. My husband and I cannot believe the amount of progress he has made in such a short amount of time.

During his last appointment, his pediatric orthopaedist said that his feet looked and felt perfect. His pediatrician agreed.

Baby boy, mommy and daddy couldn’t be more proud of you. We cannot believe all that you have conquered over the past year. Keep on ceases to amaze us. You’re pretty darn good at it.

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