The past couple of days have been really trying for me as a mother. But even as my heart aches knowing I can’t “fix” my baby, it sings with joy to see her tears of frustration quickly transformed back into her usual babbles and coos of amusement and contentment.
A couple of months ago we learned that our sweet little girl had a very slight case of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), but our first visit with the specialist was actually reassuring since he told us that many of these cases simply go away on their own; we’d just have to come back for evaluation every three months.
So now after Nora’s three-month ‘birthday’ we trekked back down to Indianapolis to hopefully hear some good news. In fact, we did hear a tiny bit: her right hip, which was originally the cause of concern, was much improved. But her left hip had gotten worse, so the doctor decided that it was time for a brace.
I was utterly crushed. On top of all of this Nora has been crying her eyes out since the x-ray when we first arrived, and now they were strapping her into this contraption that looked uncomfortable and awkward. I tried to hold her to nurse and could only manage to get her latched while sitting upright on my lap, and still she was pretty much inconsolable. We did get to take the brace back off to fit her in her car seat, and as we got on the road to go home, she finally passed out. I sat in the back seat and wept most of the way home.
Even though I knew better, I wondered if somehow I could have prevented this, or if I had done something to hurt her. Unfortunately her condition is usually congenital, genetics are a ‘factor’, and the highest risk is in first-born females. It can also be caused by tightly swaddling the hips, but we’ve been practicing ‘safe swaddling’ ever since we learned of the risk. So unfair as it seems, there really was nothing we could have done better or differently.
When we finally got home that evening, we were all completely worn out. After a quick diaper change, we strapped her back in the brace and tried to sort out how we were going to get through the night and the next day. With a lot of trial & error, we finally got into a comfortable nursing position, and many tears later she fell asleep again.
Normally she only wakes once each night, but between the discomfort in her belly (crying creates lots of air bubbles) and her inability to move with the brace, we were up every hour and a half to two hours. By this morning I was so utterly exhausted, I caved. I took off the brace, and we snuggled down for a three-hour stretch. And when we woke up, she was able to wiggle and poop before we dressed & re-braced for the day.
Each passing hour seemed like a struggle at first, just trying to sort out the most basic elements of our routine: nursing, burping, napping, and diapering. She dozed off and on, at first waking up screaming in apparent agony, but slowly realizing that all her needs were being met and this brace is the new normal.
I’m still reserving judgement on saying she’s completely adjusted until we get through tonight, but she really has brought back hope that we’ll all be able to get through this trying time together. Her strength and resilience are a soothing balm for this mother’s heart.