“When our sweet boy arrived, his feet sure were crooked but so very beautiful…” – a look at club feet from a mother’s perspective

Finding Out

“When we found out we were pregnant with our second child, Norah was only 11 months old. I was pretty shocked that I was pregnant again so quickly, considering it took us two years to get pregnant with Norah, but I knew God had a plan for us. Even though I was surprised at being pregnant again so quickly, I was very excited! I love being pregnant and it meant getting to work with the group of midwives whom I worked with throughout my first pregnancy. At my first prenatal appointment, I was measuring four weeks ahead of the twelve weeks I had

 calculated so we decided to do an ultrasound to make sure that I was not farther along than I thought or was not carrying more than one baby. For my first pregnancy, we used an independent ultrasound technician but we found out that a hospital near us would be covered by our insurance so we went there for the ultrasound. Sure enough, I was twelve weeks along as I had suspected…I guess my stomach was just a little stretched out. : )

The weeks passed quickly and it was time for our twenty week ultrasound to find out the gender of baby number 2! We went to the same hospital for the ultrasound and found out we were expecting a little boy! We were so very excited! But then the technician said she was going to get the doctor and she would be right back…I remember thinking that they did not do that last time. We only had to wait a few minutes before a doctor came in and showed us a picture of our baby’s feet. She basically said something along the lines of “So your baby has club feet but it will be okay! They will wear casts for awhile and then they should be able to walk eventually!” And that was it. The doctor left and we were left stunned and confused. We were walking out of the hospital in a confused daze of complete overload and I looked at the ultrasound pictures and realized we didn’t have any of his feet. I went back upstairs while Ben got Norah in the car and asked for pictures of his feet. We had planned to get coffee from one of our favorite coffee shops and then take Norah on a fun little adventure to the Myriad Botanical Gardens before we met Ben’s parents for lunch to share our gender news. Ben dropped me off to get the coffee and as I waited for our order to be ready, I frantically googled “club feet”. I saw scary phrases such as “if there is no family history of club feet, it can be a result of a more serious condition such as spina bifida” and other scary things. I was crumbling inside and frantically trying to figure out if I had done something wrong to cause this. When I got out to the car, I discovered that Ben, too, had been searching for information online. We went to the gardens and lunch but were so burdened with this unexpected news that we didn’t enjoy it at all.

When we went home to pack for the weekend at my parents’ house, my midwife Michelle called and said that the hospital had called her and she wanted to check on how I was doing. I told her I was doing “okay, I guess”. She told me that she wanted me to see a high risk doctor and get a more advanced ultrasound to make sure that it is just club feet and not something more serious. If it is just club feet then I can still deliver at home, but if it is something more serious then I would obviously need to be in a hospital setting. She also said that she would get the contact information for a pediatric orthopedic doctor at OU Children’s hospital so I could schedule a consultation appointment and ask questions. Having a plan eased my mind tremendously.”

 

Making a Plan

“When we got to my parents’ house, we shared that the baby was a boy and then sat them down and told them about the baby’s feet, trying to be brave and positive. And then they both said “oh like your cousins Charlie and Cathy!” I can’t tell you the relief that washed over me. We have a family history of it. How could I have forgotten? Of course, I had heard about and seen pictures of my cousins with their casts on as babies. This meant that most likely, there was nothing else wrong with our baby other than some cute little crooked feet.

After seeing the high risk doctor, it was determined that our baby boy was completely healthy with a case of bilateral club feet, meaning both of his feet were turned in like golf clubs (hence the name “club feet”). We made a consultation appointment with Dr. Davey, a pediatric orthopedic doctor at OU Children’s hospital in OKC. They walked us through what to expect once Owen would be born and we got to ask questions. Our doctor knew the medical side of it but not necessarily the practical side of it such as what kind of clothes would be best during the weeks of cast-wearing and months of boots and bar wear. Thankfully other moms in similar situations had shared to Pinterest their favorite items to make life with a club feet baby easier! (One of my favorite things was cute leg warmers to cover the casts. The casts were so hard and the leg warmers made them more comfortable to hold our baby and we got such cute designs! Interestingly, by wearing the leg warmers, most people didn’t realize he even had casts on. That was not my intent at all but just the way it was. Quite a few times a person would come up to Owen at church or a birthday party and reach out to grab his toes and get quite a shocked expression on their face when they felt the cast.) In addition to online help, I found a club foot Mama friend. One of my sister’s former roommates had just had a baby with one club foot. We got in contact with each other and she was such a help to me. She answered questions, gave advice, eased concerns and even shared some boot covers and socks her little one had outgrown. What a blessing!

As we got closer to our due date, I was feeling prepared for this journey we were about to embark on. I had been sharing with close friends about Owen’s club feet but when it came to people I didn’t know very well I struggled a little about what to say. I felt that I was keeping it a secret somehow by not including that information when people asked me questions about the baby and my pregnancy, but sometimes I just didn’t really know how to bring it up into the conversation without it being an awkward shock to them. It was not a big deal but it always left me feeling a bit strange.”

 

Owen’s Arrival

“When our sweet boy arrived, his feet sure were crooked but so very beautiful. I knew that they would be confined to casts after his first week of life so I held and touched and looked at his feet the way God had made them, trying to remember the details. I kept thanking God that this was something that could be “fixed” and not something that would cause serious struggles in his life. I still get overwhelmed with emotion when I read about Jesus healing people who were crippled because had we lived in that time-and even during the time of our grandparents’ childhoods- that would be my son. He would not have been able to walk. EVER. So I thanked God and continue to do so that we live in this time of modern medicine. Even since my cousins went through their club feet journey, advancements in correcting club feet had been made.

As we had discussed with the orthopedic doctors, we would be following the Ponsetti method. Our doctor had even studied directly under Dr. Ponsetti personally. Owen got his first casts when he was one week old. I will not sugar-coat it- it was rough. We were there several hours; my sister entertained our 19 month old in the waiting area and then Owen cried the entire casting. It was so hard to hold him down and at one week postpartum, I was an emotional wreck. But we survived and looking back it really wasn’t that bad. His feet already looked better after the first casting and we got into a routine. We went weekly for castings for four weeks. A family member stayed home with our daughter and we knew to expect a wait at the doctor. We would pick up some food and coffee at the café around the corner from the doctor’s office and because we love good food and coffee, doing little things like that made it kind of fun.”

 

The Journey

“As we neared the end of the casting, the doctor said that he would benefit from having his Achilles tendon clipped. This would help his foot to have better flexibility. But we had to decide whether to put him under anesthesia and have it done in an operating room or have them do a local numbing and have it done in one of the regular rooms. Putting him under would ensure that Owen would not kick his leg during the procedure and cause a problem, but we were very uncomfortable about putting our very young son under anesthesia and being away from him. We chose to do the out-patient procedure with a local numbing. I held his hands and kissed his head probably a hundred times between murmurs of comfort and love (my husband actually assisted the doctor just a little!). The procedure was fairly quick and then they casted him one last time. This particular cast would last for three weeks. We nursed and snuggled and then

he was content once more.

Over the three weeks that Owen was in his last set of casts, he had more time to get poop, pee and spit up all over his casts causing him to get quite stinky. He also began to be very fussy and not sleeping well (even worse than just getting up to nurse). The day Owen turned two months, we went in to get the casts off and we found out something so surprising and sad. Owen’s skin had become extremely dry (we came to find out later that he has a skin condition called X-linked ichthyosis- another inherited condition from my side of the family!) and sometime in the last three weeks, his casts – which consisted of two separated parts on the bottom layer and then connected with the plaster- had rubbed his dry skin and cut him. But with his legs being in the casts, we did not know and it became infected. That was the smell we had been smelling on his casts. It was so very upsetting and our doctor was so perplexed. He had never, ever had this happen to a patient and had never even heard about it happening. It was a very rare thing to happen and it was very hard for this momma to handle. But handle I did (and handle I had to) and once again I praised God that his was something that was unfortunate but could be “fixed”. They bandaged up his legs and then he was put on an antibiotic for the infection. Owen was supposed to get fitted for his boots and bar that same day (the next stage of this journey) but the doctor wanted to wait and let his legs heal and rest a bit.

 

Owen got a break of about 4 days without anything on his legs and feet and we all enjoyed it despite the sad state of the cuts on his legs. The day that we went in to get his feet fitted for his little boots and bar (to attach the two boots) my husband was out of town for work. Thankfully my sister went to the appointment with me and I am so glad she did because I was very overwhelmed by it all and later when I struggled getting his boots on as he was crying and flailing his legs, she was there to remind me what the doctor showed us. It was a few days before Owen got used to the boots and bar. We did not get a lot of sleep during that time. But just as we got used to the casts, we quickly got used to Owen wearing these little boots and bar on all the time. He did get two, one-hour breaks each day. During those times, I tried to touch and massage his feet as well as expose them to various textures. My sweet boy would get the biggest grin on his face when I would say “It’s time to take your bootsies off!”  Wearing the boots and bar did not stop Owen from flipping over and, later, attempting to crawl with and without the boots on. My mom made us some bar covers to keep Owen from smacking himself in the face, however, I can’t tell you the number of times Ben and I got hit in the shins with the boots!

At six months, we were given the green light for Owen to switch to nighttime wear only. He has to wear them for 12 hours each night and we have to be consistent. The doctor told us that he would be delayed walking by about a month due to his club feet, but again our little guy would follow his own path and he would be around 18 months when he started walking. The doctor has been happy with Owen’s feet at every visit. At the last visit, we were told we could come back in six months instead of three as we had been doing! Owen just turned two and wearing his boots and bar is just his way of life. He has known nothing different. The current plan is for Owen to wear them until he is three and then he will “graduate”. Owen runs, jumps, climbs, tip toes, hops, wiggles, and kicks- everything that his sister and other kids do. We have had no real limitations and we are not expected to have any in the future because of his start with club feet. We are truly blessed!” -Megan D.