Dislocation of the Mama

Week 7 of Baby: 12/03/2007


I'd decided that I wouldn't write about this on the blog--too hard to explain, too personal--but I'm finding it impossible not to. There really isn't anything else to say this week, but this: Lena has been diagnosed with "immature hips," a form of hip dysplasia, and fitted with a brace. She has to wear the brace all the time, aside from diaper changes and baths, and could have to be in it for a few months. If it doesn't work, then she might have to be put in a cast, or undergo surgery.

The facts

This has actually been going on for a while. The pediatrician at the hospital first noticed a click in her hips the day she was born, and thought we'd have to put her in a harness right away. But when we took her to a specialist in our area, he thought we could hold off. He examined Lena's hips with ultrasound, and found that they were "immature," meaning that the joint is shallow, and needs to grow around the bone. He said, "In the vast majority of cases, these things fix themselves without our intervention. If Lena is in the tiny, tiny minority, we'll consider a brace for her." We brought her in every couple of weeks for monitoring. Her right hip started doing what it was supposed to do, but her left hip stayed put.

Now that I've done too much web research, I know that hip dysplasia is more common in females, first-borns, those with a genetic history, and breech babies; it's also more commonly found in the left hip. She's female, and while she wasn't breech, she was in one squinched-up position on my right side for months. But as far as we know, there's no genetic history. So. Just luck of the draw.

The brace doesn't bother Lena at all--hard to believe, when you look at it, but I guess when you're six weeks old, you don't have too many positioning preferences. The inside is softened with cushy pleather. She can wear it over her clothes, so her skin isn't bothered by it. It's also not as cumbersome to hold her as I'd feared. I've had to figure out how to hold her when I'm nursing, but it's really not much different from a normal hold; I just have to make sure my bare belly isn't in contact with it when she's leaning on me.

The doctor says that the brace has an 85% success rate, and if she starts showing improvement, we may be able to wean her off of it.

The feelings

When the pediatrician in the hospital first said that Lena's hips had a problem, I nodded along, thinking he was talking about the hypothetical problem he was screening her for--a problem that only happens to other people. Because my children are perfect.

It's ironic, really, since I consider myself something of a hypochondriac. My internal reaction was, "Oh no--that's not right. That's the sort of thing I worry about. Not something that actually happens." (Note to self: Rationale for my hypochondria and apocalyptic fears--that "worrying in advance" is preparing me for the worst--is a load of bull. It's more like a superstitious warding-off of the worst, a crutch which only leads to being less prepared when it occurs.)

At first, I tried to hold onto what the specialist had said when Lena was four days old: that in the vast majority of cases, this problem goes away on its own. "Vast majority. Vast majority. Tiny, tiny minority," I'd think whenever I got nervous about it. But hello--here we are, in that tiny, tiny minority. So while 85% sounds really good, there's part of me that is also trying to be realistic. 15% isn't that tiny a minority.

The worst thing about the brace, so far, is how it looks. It's much scarier sounding and looking than it actually is. I feel self-conscious about other people's reactions to it, so I start babbling whenever someone notices it (not often, since she's all covered up in her car seat). The idea of people glancing away when they notice it... well, I hate that. It's easy for me to see past the brace, and I've only been around it for a few days. I want everyone else to, too.

Because in fact, my baby is perfect. That's what I didn't understand six weeks ago, and do now: the other kids I see at the Shriner's Hospital outpatient clinic, and their families, are mostly fine. They wish their kids didn't have to struggle with whatever brought them to the hospital. They wish they could be at work, or they're thinking about all the stuff at home that they still need to get to. But they don't want me to look at their kids and think only of tragedy and limitations; they want me to see all of their actual abilities and charms, or their rascalness, or whatever makes them who they are.

So I'll probably write more about Lena's hips, and certainly won't leave you hanging if there's new information.

But the more salient feature of my time with her is how in love we all are with her sometimes crossed-eyes, her new open-mouth gaze of wonder, and the way she flaps her arms when she's excited. (She and I were staring at each other and cooing yesterday while Aron was holding her. "Get a room, you guys," he said.) You know, our Lena.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy--and now, life with a new baby.