Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Second Time We Found Out...May 31, 2013

So far, most of the posts on this blog have been emotional to write (especially the one about Oliver's first casting...I haven't been able to read it since I wrote/published it).  They have been just far enough in the past that I've had time to feel, process, and put all the complex emotions into words that actually make sense.

Now I'm to the point of writing about what we are currently going through.  At first, it was hard for me not to just jump right into this stage and write about it.  However, as time as gone on, I've been a bit anxious about writing these.  The emotions I'm feeling are still so raw.  They are still so open and fresh, and oftentimes, ugly.  I'm not always proud of how I'm handling things.  Oftentimes I want to hide to myself, no matter how lonely it is, because I fear how others will view how I'm handling our situation.  But I'm going to do my best to just put it out there in hopes that I can help someone else along the way who may also be having these feelings.  And someday, I'll be able to look back and see how far I have come.

Friday, May 31, 2013.  I had my ultrasound appt early that afternoon, and Jay took a half day to go with me.  We took both kids with us, which turned out to be much easier than I expected.  I was a total bundle of nerves on the way there.  The peace that I remember feeling before Lucy's ultrasound was not with me that day.  I still didn't expect that we would find out anything was wrong, but gosh I was so anxious.

They called us back to the room, and the ultrasound tech did all of the necessary measurements.  She asked if we knew boy or girl and we said we didn't know for sure but that we wanted to find out if possible.  After she did the measurements she let me get up and go to the bathroom; I had drank so much water on the way there that I was miserable!  I came back and she finished the scan.  It was really sweet having the kids with us.  Oliver sat in the chair next to me and held my hand.  Jay stood next to me holding Lucy and she kept pointing to the screen and waving and saying, "Baby!"  At first, baby had its legs tight together and wasn't letting us see anything.  I couldn't believe it!  Thankfully, the baby moved, and the tech pointed between the legs and said, "See that there?  It's a little boy!"  I looked at Oliver and said, "Did you hear that? It's a boy! You're having a brother!"  I wish we had gotten a video or picture of his face.  He totally lit up and gasped and said, "A little brother?!?"  It was precious!

Everything was looking good on the baby.  I asked to see his feet, and explained that Oliver had been born with clubfoot so we were very curious to see about this little guy.  She got a good look at one foot and we could tell it was fine.  What a relief!  Then she got a view of the other foot.  My heart completely fell.

It was turned.  I knew it.  I can't even remember exactly what I said or did.  I think I just sighed and said, "Ah. Yeah, its turned in." I looked at Jay and tried to smile, and I had to hold it together because the kids were still with us.  The ultrasound tech asked where we had had our ultrasounds done with Oliver and I told her.  The baby was positioned with his foot pressed up against the side of my uterus, so she had me turn this way and that, all over the place, to try to get him to move and kick his foot out.  He sort of did, but he stayed pretty much set in one place.  I told her that the foot looked exactly like how Oliver's had looked on his ultrasounds.  Instead of the foot bones extending straight out from the leg, they were turned inwards.  I really didn't even need her to tell us what she thought, I knew as soon as I saw it.

Honestly, it didn't even seem real.  It seemed absolutely impossible that I was laying on this table, having an ultrasound, and seeing another clubfoot.  This couldn't be my baby.  I had already seen this...right? Had already been through this? I really couldn't let myself comprehend it just yet.

The ultrasound tech printed off some pictures for us (none of his clubfoot, which I really wish I had) and led me to a room to wait for my midwife.  I was scheduled for an appt with her after my ultrasound.  I think at one point, Jay asked me if I was ok because I had tears in my eyes, but I was just trying to hold it together for the kids.  I have no idea how well I did because its such a blur.  He took the kids out of the office and kept them busy so I could have an easier appointment.  I was thankful because I couldn't hold it together much longer.

Sweet baby boy. His profile reminds me of Oliver.

I sat in the room and looked at his pictures and just cried.  The nurse, whom I just adore, came in and said something like, "Not what you were hoping for? I've been thinking about you all day."  For some reason, at first I thought maybe she thought I was crying because we found out we were having a boy and I was upset about that.  I have no idea why my mind went there! I could barely talk but said something about one foot being turned in.  She gave me a hug and did what she needed to do.  She gave me another hug before she left.

I had to wait awhile for my midwife to come in.  I grabbed my phone and realized I had reception.  I sat there, desperately wanting to reach out to someone, but not really wanting anyone to respond.  At least not directly.  I don't know, it was weird.  I have a small group of mom friends that I chat with online and they knew I had my appointment that day.  I sent out a quick message: "One foot looks like clubfoot.  Will update more after my appointment with Kori (midwife).  Trying not to fall apart over here." That's all I could get out.  As I waited for my midwife, I went back and forth between sobbing and then getting myself together.  I kept hoping she would come in while I was in between sob sessions, and looking back I have no idea if I was crying or not when she came in.

Kori came in and hugged me.  She knew this wasn't what I wanted.  She was so, so sweet.  I kept rambling, saying the same things over and over, as if I could convince myself how okay this was.  I would say things like ,"It'll be fine.  Its only one foot.  It'll be fine."  And, "I mean, the first time we went through this we didn't know what to expect.  Now we know the doctor we're going to, we know the treatments, its not so overwhelming."  Over and over I would repeat myself.  And I just cried.  Oh how my heart was breaking.  It just didn't seem fair that my precious baby was going to go through all of the pain that Oliver did.  I don't know how long I spent talking, but it seemed like forever. Probably close to 45 minutes.  I was thinking I would have a regular appointment, with listening to the heart tones and everything, but at the end Kori told me since we had had the ultrasound they had all of that information and measurements and she really didn't need to do anything more.  Part of me felt badly, then, because I had really taken up so much of her time!  I was, and still am, so very thankful for how she handled that appointment.  Just letting me talk and cry and process.  The whole thing was so completely different and opposite from how my OB appointment went after finding out about Oliver's feet.  She encouraged me to just take the time I needed and not feel the need to tell everyone.  That was really nice to hear, because I have a tendency to need to update people whether I feel like it or not.

I got myself together, and went to find Jay and the kids.  When we got in the van, I actually turned my phone off completely...something I rarely ever do.  But I knew that if people started to text me or even leave me messages on facebook, I would feel the need to respond, and I just couldn't yet.  Jay and I took the kids to the mall and walked around for awhile and got something to eat.  We tried to act normal and happy, and spent time talking about having another little boy.  On the way home we stopped and got a couple of blue balloons to take pictures of the kids with.  I had no desire to do a gender reveal party at that point, but wanted something a little fun for them.

I finally turned my phone on and called my mom.  I told her the good news that we had been able to find out we were having a boy!  She asked about his feet, and I had to take a big breath before I could answer.  She said, "Oh, are they turned in?" She knew before I could even say anything. I said "One is." and my voice just cracked.  Tears streamed down my face.  We talked for awhile, and she reminded me that God would take care of our little boy.  Then she said, "And He'll take care of you, too."  That still makes me cry to think of that.  Its true, and I knew it, but I needed to hear someone say it.

We got home and we tried to get some pictures of the kids with their balloons.  I was totally impatient with them, which wasn't fair, but I was really struggling.  I really hadn't had the time to even digest the news we had received and desperately needed to.  After finally getting some pictures, we got things ready for Oliver to spend the night at Jay's parents' house (which he often does on Friday nights) and we headed over there.

Getting pictures with these two is always interesting. (Notice Oliver standing on one leg?!) They are pretty excited about getting a baby brother!!

I finally checked my text messages and saw that a couple of people had asked how my appointment with.  I started out my replies by sending the picture of the kids and saying, "Its a boy!"  Then I told a select few very close friends and family members about his feet.  I really couldn't even write it without crying, so I kept things brief. I just couldn't believe this was happening.  One friend replied saying she was sorry, but that I knew the baby would be ok.  I realized at that point that I needed to stay distanced the rest of the night from telling people.  I was not ready to hear from anyone else that things were going to be ok.  I was in a very vulnerable place and in order to not be upset, I really needed to guard myself.  It wasn't anyone else's fault, it was entirely just the place that I found myself in.

Later that night, I was getting ready for bed and checking my phone when I saw I had a message from my midwife.  Any shred of holding myself together was about to be lost.  At my appointment that day, I had told her how Oliver's orthopedic doctor had switched to a different hospital towards the end of Oliver's treatments, and she had asked what his name was.  My midwife's mother happened to work at the hospital Dr. Cummiskey was now at, so she wrote down his name so she could ask her if she knew him.  Apparently, that evening my midwife had talked to her mom.  She found out that Dr. Cummiskey was very ill, and had recently had to shut down his practice.

I felt a whole surge of emotions flood me again.  Just like how I can put myself exactly back to that time when we saw his foot on the ultrasound, I can put myself exactly back in my bathroom when I learned that our doctor wasn't going to be our doctor anymore.  It was devastating.  I had to re-read her message several times to really believe that I was seeing this.  I said some extremely choice words at this point and just started sobbing.  Jay came in, and assuming I was upset about the baby's foot, just held me for awhile.  I was finally able to tell him about Dr. Cummiskey, and tried to make it seem like all would be ok.  But I really felt like everything was crumbling.  It was unfair that our baby had clubfoot.  Really, really unfair.  But ever since Oliver, I had always found comfort in the fact that we had an amazing doctor that we trusted and we knew could treat this condition.  That small bit of knowledge and comfort got me through that afternoon after our appointment.  And then...it was just stripped away.  I was crushed.  I was overwhelmed.  And I was angry.  That was an emotion I was not prepared for.  It was an emotion that would overwhelm me in the coming weeks and one that I really had to work through.  Anger is a powerful and strong emotion.

That night before I fell asleep I sent a message to my dear friend, one who I often lean on when I need prayer.  I could barely write anything, I was so upset, but I told her I was in a rough place and needed her prayers.  That the last bit of comfort I had left was now gone and that Dr. Cummiskey needed our prayers too.  My heart was broken for him and his family.  She replied with sweet, uplifting messages that helped me get through the darkness of that night.  She told me that she was not accepting the diagnosis and was praying complete healing over our son.  To be honest, that completely took me aback.  I had not even thought to pray like that.  I was just so overwhelmed, hurt, confused, and angry that the idea of it not happening, or the possibility of a healing before his birth, had not entered my mind.  While I still struggle to pray this way, I am so very thankful that she was praying for me when I myself was unable to pray.  Having a loyal friend and trusted prayer partner in life is a precious gift from God.  The night I cried myself to sleep, so overwhelmed with emotion that I could barely think straight.

Over the weekend we tried to celebrate another baby boy being added to our family.  We went to dinner Saturday night, and did putt-putt with the kids.  Jay's parents met up with us and we did some shopping for the baby, which was so fun.  But I just felt this heavy burden on my shoulders the entire time.  We were in Babies R Us and I could barely hold it together when I saw an adorable tiny set of boy shoes.  What baby needs shoes anyway, right?!  But knowing that our son wouldn't be able to wear them because he would have a cast covering his entire leg when he was just a week old was enough to make me crumble.  Every tiny sleeper that had feet, or a zipper, or only snapped down one leg was like a slap in the face of what we wouldn't be able to have.  My emotions were still so very raw.  So selfish. So illogical.  We were back to buying clothes based on how they would work with casts and braces.  This was my life, again.  This. Wasn't. Fair.

Sunday morning I was supposed to work in the nursery at church, but a dear friend of mine switched with me so that I could be in service.  I knew I needed it, but it was so hard.  That service was, without a doubt, the hardest one I have ever sat through.  Worship is usually a very uplifting time for me.  I can raise my hands in praise and glory to the God I know I serve.  But that Sunday it felt like I had dead weights on my arms.  I couldn't even sing.  I literally just stood there in a daze and wiped the tears that fell.  The night before I had gathered every bit of strength in me and posted in our church's prayer group about the baby's foot and asked for prayers.  I had zero desire to do it.  I really didn't want anyone knowing.  But I knew we needed prayers.  Our baby needed prayers, and I needed to reach out no matter how much I didn't want to.

I'm so thankful for our church family.  They were there with hugs and uplifting words that didn't make me feel like my emotions were stupid or wrong.  I didn't feel like I needed to act like I was okay when I was dying inside.  I have no idea what was preached on that day.  I was in my own world of hurt.  I just remember being so angry during worship.  I knew that God could do all of these wonderful and miraculous things, and I felt totally forgotten by him.  I thought about how Oliver's healing had been a tool for us to tell others about God, and honestly at that moment I had zero desire to have another one of my children used that way.  I'm so ashamed to admit that.  But its true.  "Pick someone else's child," I thought.  "Pick me.  Use me.  But WHY put this tiny, innocent baby through pain???"  I screamed angry thoughts in my head that morning to God, and asked Him to forgive my ugliness. I knew I was having a tantrum with Him, but oh I was so angry.

During alter call, we went up front to pray for our baby.  A friend of mine who leads worship came down off the stage to pray for us.  To be honest, I was surprised because I hadn't gotten to talk directly to her.  My friend wrapped me in her arms and I just sobbed.  I was somewhat embarrassed to totally lose it on her, and in front of others.  I felt other people come around me, and I was able to somewhat (barely) collect myself.  My friend (whose father is our pastor) asked if she could annoint my stomach and pray.  Of course I was fine with that.  Her prayer was powerful, and she prayed for a miraculous healing over our baby's foot.  Again, someone was able to pray for a healing that I myself wasn't able to pray.  I will forever be grateful for those who stepped in for me and prayed when I couldn't.  I had no idea until later who all was with us praying, when I asked Jay who had come around us.  It meant so much and those people in particular really have a special place in my heart.  I needed those people's strength and prayers just to keep my head up and my feet walking.  I have rarely, if ever, felt such a burden that it felt like physical weight holding me down.  There were others that I wished would have been there surrounding us as well, but I knew they were praying regardless.  Like I said, my emotions were very selfish at this point.

The upcoming weeks and months would bring about a lot of feelings and even more tears.  Some days I wondered when I would ever stop crying.  My joy was completely stripped for a time, and its still not where I would like it to be.  Sleep came in spurts and was restless, and still is.  Its been almost exactly two months since we found out and I have yet to make it through a Sunday morning service without crying.  I know God is working on me.  I am starting to see some transformation in my own life that would not have happened without this process.  I'm desperately trying to cling to an end vision where the pain is not so intense.  I pray that someday in the not-so-distant future I'll be able to tell my testimony and I know this will play a HUGE part in that.  I know that this is the hardest trial I have been through so far, and the most that I have ever wrestled with God.  I truly can't wait until I have climbed out of the valley and can stand on the mountaintop and say, "My God is always faithful, for He has brought me from there to HERE!"

24 weeks pregnant. This was taken the week after our ultrasound.  I was trying to smile on the outside, but on the inside I was completely devastated.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Baby #3..Anxiously Waiting

Our first two children, Oliver and Lucy, are just over three years apart.  We had hoped to have them more a little closer together, but it took six months to get pregnant with Lucy.  I knew that I wanted less space between Lucy and the next one, but had never really thought for sure how much space.

Lucy was pretty much exclusively breastfeeding for 9 1/2 months.  She had some solids here and there after six months, but it didn't become part of her regular diet until after nine months.  I tried, but she just had no interest!  She also did not sleep more than 3 hours at a time until 8-9 months, so I was nursing very consistently.  My cycle did not return until she was exactly 11 months old, and so until that point I hadn't really given a lot of thought as to when we would have another child.

Once it became a possibility that we could get pregnant again, we talked more about when we wanted another child.  The pressure of trying to conceive Lucy was so extremely hard for me that I knew I didn't want that again.  I didn't want to wait until one particular month when I knew that was exactly when I would want to get pregnant and then not have it happen and be disappointed.  So we decided to just let things go and see what happened.  I wasn't tracking my cycles to try to get pregnant, and we weren't actively avoiding it either.  (Except for one month, when I realized if we got pregnant then, I would be due on my birthday, which is the day after Jay's birthday, and about a week before Oliver's. I really preferred not to have another August birthday!)  I knew that having children closer together could be tough, but I was okay with that.

I had four cycles before getting pregnant with baby #3.  They were very irregular, and if I hadn't learned so much about my fertility when we were trying to conceive with Lucy, I would have had no idea when anything was going on during those cycles.  The fifth cycle when we did conceive was also very irregular.  When I'm pregnant, I immediately start showing symptoms.  The same thing happened this time.  I took several early tests that were negative because I took them too soon, but I was just so sure I was pregnant.  Finally, 35 days into my cycle, I got a positive test.  It was mid-January, 2013.  According to my last menstrual cycle, I was 5 weeks pregnant, but I knew I had ovulated late and was only 4 weeks.  (An early ultrasound with my midwife confirmed that I was right with how far along I was.)

The pregnancy was strange.  My early symptoms (middle of the night sickness, breast tenderness, aversion to smells) coincided exactly with Oliver's pregnancy.  I told Jay right away that I was saying this one was a boy.  Then, for about two weeks, all of my symptoms disappeared.  It was during these two weeks that I got my positive test.  I was pretty worried for awhile that things may not be going well because of the lack of symptoms.  Oh, how I spoke too soon.  I ended up being so sick for more than half of the pregnancy, which was more like Lucy's pregnancy.  With our first two pregnancies, we told everyone right away.  This time, we decided to wait awhile.  I really wanted to make sure that things were ok with the baby, and just wanted to keep this to ourselves for awhile before telling all of our friends and family.

My first appointment was in early February.  By that point I was feeling nauseated a lot and didn't have a big appetite.  I was still feeling like this pregnancy was a lot like Oliver's, and in the back of my mind I wondered if in fact this baby was a boy, if we would deal with clubfoot again.  But I never really even considered it a possibility at that point.  I just thought if we do deal with it, then at least we'll know exactly who to go to and what to expect. We decided to tell our families on Valentine's Day, which was a fun surprise.

Announcing baby #3! This picture makes me laugh.  Oliver is happy, as usual, and Lucy's looking unimpressed, as usual. :-)

Just like in Lucy's pregnancy, I struggled with how to pray for this baby.  I had said in the past, "If Oliver's struggles brought one person to know Jesus Christ, then it was worth it, and I'd do it all over again."  But to be honest, when faced with the reality that maybe we would have to do it all over again, I wasn't so firm in my statement.  Not so much because of my own emotion of it all (although that certain played into it), but because I knew how incredibly painful it would be for the baby.  My prayers would be all over the place..."God, I'm trying to just trust in Your plan.  Please don't let this baby have clubfoot.  But if it does, we will use it for Your glory.  If it does, please let it bring someone to know you.  But please don't let it happen.  But I'll trust you if it does.  I'm just putting this in Your hands, Lord.  But You know my heart.  Please don't let it be."  Yeah, completely and totally disorganized.

I could really feel Satan working on me at times during the pregnancy.  There was one particular Wednesday night service when our pastor was talking about faith and miracles, and mentioned Oliver's healing.  It was right after that that I started feeling so guilty about wanting another "normal" non-clubfoot baby.  I started thinking, "Wow, how selfish of me for wanting that.  I mean, if we had another baby who could be an example of God's grace, how could I be praying against that?"  I have to say, it is astounding to me how Satan knows our weaknesses and uses them against us.  I had to quickly take those thoughts captive and shut them out.  God knew my heart.  He knew I wasn't being selfish praying for my child to not have clubfoot.  I just had to believe that as well.

At the very end of April, I had a quick ultrasound just to see if we could tell the sex of the baby.  I had really hoped to find out because I wanted to have a gender reveal party for this baby.  I thought great, have an ultrasound to see the sex before we have our big ultrasound.  That way, if the baby does have clubfoot, we won't know right away and can just be excited about baby being a boy or a girl.

Well.   Remember how we couldn't tell for sure with Oliver because the cord was laying right between his legs? Yeah.  The SAME THING happened this time!!!!  I couldn't freaking believe it.  My midwife turned on the ultrasound and we looked at his profile and everything, and then she turned it away to see if she could see anything.  She kind of laughed and said, "Ok, you have to see this." and turned the screen back toward us.  She pointed and said, "You see this?  Leg. Cord. Leg.  The umbilical cord is laying right between the legs."  I just had to laugh.  Are you kidding me?!  At that point, it was almost a joke that surely baby had to be a boy since Oliver had done the same thing.  But seriously, why the heck couldn't we tell?!  Pretty much every other person I know has been able to see on their ultrasound the first time whether they are having a boy or a girl.  I was a day away from 19 weeks, so plenty far along.  It was both frustrating and humorous.  So the gender reveal party was postponed. I had to text everyone later and say that perhaps we would have it next month, because baby was very uncooperative!!  During that ultrasound I tried to peak a little at his feet, but didn't really look too hard.  From what I saw, I thought one of them looked fine, but honestly I didn't really want to know just yet.

So the countdown until my big ultrasound continued.  I would be just past 23 weeks when we had that.  Jay was going to go and we would end up taking both kids with us.  In the meantime, I just prayed.  I prayed that God would give me peace about the whole situation.  I prayed that he knew my heart and to forgive me if I was praying against His plan, but to please not make us go through this again.  Part of me really resented the fact that I couldn't just be excited about an ultrasound, but instead spent the beginning half of every pregnancy worrying.  It didn't seem "fair". I really appreciated everyone else who prayed for us during that time as well.  They all seemed confident that we wouldn't have to go through it again, and I clung to that hope. I was both looking forward to and totally dreading May 31.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Baby #2...A Little Girl with Straight Feet

I remember the first time Jay and I really talked about having another baby (as in seriously, "hey we should think about this soon") was actually on the way to Oliver's last orthopedic appointment.  Oliver was almost 21 months old, and was quite a handful as a toddler.  I love that child dearly but boy has he always kept us so, so busy!

Getting pregnant with Oliver was very easy, and I assumed it would be the second time also.  We decided to wait until just after Oliver's second birthday to start trying, and I was shocked when it didn't happen right away.  In fact, it took us six months to conceive our second child.  Six long, difficult months.  When all you want is a child, each passing month, week, day can seem agonizing at times.  I'm not saying this to be dramatic; it truly can be heartbreaking.  I can now look back and see how much my faith grew during this period of time.  All I could do was pray and lean on God to give us a child in His perfect timing.

Oliver was almost two and a half when we finally found out we were expecting another baby.  I was so excited and relieved.  We were excited to tell everyone as soon as we could.  I was only 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant when I got a positive test.

Positive!! I think I took about 10 of these tests...it just seemed too good to be true!

Oliver's pregnancy was relatively easy.  I was very nauseated for the first 10 weeks but rarely threw up.  With Lucy's pregnancy, the vomiting started before I even got my positive test.  I was very sick until about halfway through my pregnancy and it was exhausting.  The two pregnancies seemed so very different, and I had a strong feeling this one was a little girl. (But remember my strong feeling about Oliver being a girl, too? Yeah. I didn't put too much stock into my "gut feelings".)

One thing I did feel very strongly about was that our baby would not have clubfeet.  I can't explain it, exactly. But I was perfectly at peace about it, and had been since before we even got pregnant again.  I remember telling Jay that I didn't think we would go through it again, that I really believed that wasn't part of God's plan for us.  When we first found out about Oliver's feet during my pregnancy, we were kinda going to church, kinda not.  We hadn't found a church to really call "home" yet.  Shortly after that ultrasound, we actively started going to church again and I really felt like we had been able to use Oliver's healing as a testimony.  I felt like we had walked down that road, used it for God's glory, and our life was moving on to even better things.  It almost makes me sad to think back on how optimistic I was then.  I really had no idea what life held for us. I wouldn't know until May 2013 when baby #3 showed another clubfoot.

I struggled with how to pray for our second baby.  I mean, I could see how God had used Oliver's situation in such glorious ways.  We found a church family and grew in our faith so much.  I had no choice but to rely on God to get me through some of those very difficult times.  We were able to tell people about God's healing powers and use Oliver as an example.  What an amazing opportunity and blessing.  If baby #2 could do the same, how could I pray for us not to go through clubfeet again? If baby #2 had clubfoot and could reach someone for Christ, how could I pray against that?  It truly was hard.  I would lay hands on my stomach and pray for God's will to be done.  I knew that God knew my heart.  He knew I didn't want to go through this again.  But I trusted His plan.

On our way to our ultrasound in May 2011, I felt very peaceful about the whole thing.  I really hoped we would find out the baby's sex and prayed that the baby would have straight feet. Oliver and my mom went with me and Jay to the scan.

At our ultrasound, our baby was laying in a funny position which made it hard to see much.  The baby was laying transverse (sideways), bent at the waist with the feet up by the head.  It was hard to see both the feet and between the legs ;) but we were finally able to get a pretty good look at the sex.  We were having a girl!!  I wasn't surprised at all.  The ultrasound tech didn't really want to say for sure, but showed us what she was looking at and agreed that it did look like a girl.  I felt like she was just confirming something I already knew.  I asked the tech how the baby's feet looked, and explained that our son had been born with clubfoot.  Baby girl moved around some, and it was hard to get a good look but from what we could all see, her feet looked perfect.  What an amazing blessing.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Baby girl looking right at the camera.  You can actually see the lense of her eye! Her hands were up by her face, right under her chin.

We went back two months later for a second ultrasound to double-check everything.  This time, baby girl was breech, sitting on her feet.  It was hard, again, to get a good look, but from what we could see everything looked good.  It was a relief, but I wasn't surprised a bit.  For that second ultrasound, a dear friend of mine went with us.  I was excited to have her along to see our little baby, and knew that if in fact something did show up, I would want her to be there with us.  Having her there to hear the good news was wonderful as well.  I felt like we could finally say, for sure, "We are having a baby girl with perfectly straight feet."

Towards the end of Lucy's pregnancy, I switched from my OB to a midwife in order to have the supported natural birth that I desired.  My midwife knew about Oliver's feet, as did my doula and of course our families.  I went into labor with Lucy on my due date, and she was born early the next morning.  I remember everyone laughing as she let our her first cry because it sounded so...girly.  Oh how I loved her already.  I remember being so thankful for so many things...that I was able to go into labor naturally (not induced), that I was supported and loved during my labor and natural birth (not bullied or pressured into any unwanted interventions or medications), that she was born on exactly the day God had planned for her (not one that I picked), and that she and I were both healthy.  I was so overwhelmed with emotions.  I first asked, "Is she still a girl?" Yes, she was.  "Are her feet ok?"  Yes.  Yes, they were.  It meant a lot to me that the people in the room with me (my midwife and doula, along with my mom and Jay) knew how special it was for us to see Lucy's perfect feet.

Me giving Lucy her first bath when she was several hours old.  It was very special for me to be a part of this since I wasn't even able to see Oliver get his.

Oh sweet little feet.

Lucy's first outfit...a sleeper with feet! And a hair bow of course :)

Lucy's going home outfit, complete with tiny, little shoes.

Lucy's newborn days were not easy.  Most people have no idea how much I struggled adjusting to two children.  It was very, very tough.  We had an extremely rough start to breastfeeding (I didn't breastfeed Oliver so this was new to me) and she was a very high needs baby.  Jay had just started working third shift two weeks before she was born.  Taking care of both kids at night by myself (Oliver was waking up at least once a night at that time) was tough and I became extremely exhausted.  My postpartum recovery was slow and painful.  I tried to rush back into "normal" life and didn't really respect that special time after birth where a mother and baby should just get to know one another.  Lesson learned!  I swore that with our next baby I would take much more time to just rest.  I would not be on the go constantly.  I would do what needed to be done because life obviously has to continue, but I wouldn't be on the go so much.

Despite all of our struggles, I truly appreciated having a baby that did not have clubfeet.  I loved being able to give her baths, or have her get in the bath with me (especially during those rough breastfeeding sessions).  I would sit and just rub her legs and feet and look at her.  I remember when she was 8 days old being so thankful that we weren't on our way to have casts put on those precious little legs.  I loved putting little socks on her, and dressed her in outfits with cute little leggings.  Her feet were so small that most shoes didn't fit her, but I would occasionally put some on her just because I could.  I could hold her on my chest and let her curl up easily.  I would just sit and think, *This* is what its like to have a "normal" baby.  There was something so simple, yet so sweet, about enjoying my baby just as she was.  No casts.  No braces.  No heartache about all she was enduring.  We had so much to be thankful for.  Lucy was, and continues to be, such a blessing to us.  I adore that little girl.

Heading home as a family of 4. Daddy, Lucy (about 13 hours), Oliver (3 years), and Mommy.

Lucy and me, Easter 2013.

Lucy, almost 20 months old.  This little sweetie has taught me so much about myself and being a mother.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Clubfoot Gear the First Time Around

One thing about having a clubfoot baby is that some baby items aren't very convenient- or possible- to use.  Sometimes it was just trial and error to see if something worked for us, and other times it was pretty obvious.  It's been almost 5 years ago now that we went through this with Oliver, so it will be interesting to see what works for us now compared to what I used then.  Some of my favorite items were...

1. Sleepy Wrap (now called Boba Wrap)

I loved being able to wear Oliver in a sling when he was little.  A pouch sling worked for awhile, but once he got his braces on the pouch didn't work.  I ended up getting a Sleepy Wrap, which is similar to a Moby wrap.  It worked so well for us.  The Sleepy Wrap was stretchy, so it was very easy to get his braces in and out of the wrap.

I loved this wrap! It was so easy to get Oliver in and out with his braces on.
Love my sweet, blue-eyed boy.

2. Beco Butterfly Soft-Structured Carrier

This was another carrier that I got when Oliver was about 4 months old.  They don't make this specific style anymore, but I have heard others say that the Beco Gemini is good for clubfoot babies.  Again, since baby Max will most likely be wearing a bar and boots brace instead of KAFO braces like Oliver, this could make a difference.  The Beco Butterfly carrier opened up nicely and I could easily get him in and out with the bulky braces.  But I know some soft structured carriers have the baby's legs spread too wide for a bar and boots brace to work.  I loved my Beco, and still have it, so I'll give it a try with Max and see how it goes.

Oliver was just in braces at night at this point, but he loved this carrier and so did I.

3. Snap PJs

Any PJs that snapped completely down the legs on both sides (no cuffs) were essential for Oliver.  Some PJs would snap down only one leg, or they would snap almost to the bottom but have a cuff, and those didn't work well at all.  In order to change his diaper I would have to take them completely off, since Oliver couldn't bend his legs to get them out of the PJs when he had his braces on.  We also used some sleeping gowns during the early weeks when he was in his casts.

Snap PJs and outfits were great for Oliver!

4. Sling Bath Mat

It took some practice to give Oliver a bath with his casts on.  We mainly did sponge baths, but I liked being able to put him in the bath tub instead of getting everything ready and carrying it to another place.  But giving a baby a bath when you can't get any part of their legs or feet wet can be interesting.  

Bath time!

5. Jumperoo

For Oliver's first Christmas, my parents got him a Fisher Price rainforest jumperoo.  He would go nuts in this thing! I loved how much it worked his leg muscles.
He loved bouncing. :)

All smiles!

6. Stretchy Pants

Any kind of pants Oliver wore had to be really stretchy to fit over his casts or braces.  Sometimes we could find jeans that fit, but that wasn't often.  Pants like these from Carter's were great for him.

Essential 2-pack Pants

7. Socks

Socks became a slight obsession as well.  It seemed as though once I found socks that worked the best for him and his braces, I would buy several pairs every time I went to the store.  Socks had to be long (no cute ankle socks) and thin (no fuzzy or thick socks).  Especially at first, Oliver's feet and legs would sweat a lot and we changed his socks constantly.  The $1 socks from Target became our favorite.

Anyone who has shopped for a baby at Target has seen a display like this. We owned a TON of these socks! Image from

8. Bumbo. This did and didn't work for us.  The leg openings were a bit small, so if he sat in it with his braces, he would sometimes get stuck.  But Oliver loved it, so we made it work.  It was really nice for restaurants, too.  We kept an extra Bumbo in the trunk of our car and would always ask for a booth at a restaurant.  It was easier to get him in and out of the Bumbo than a highchair.

Oliver's first time in a Bumbo...and you can also see how the footy pants looked over his braces.  They fit, technically, but you can tell how bulky they were underneath the pants.

Things that Didn't Work For Us...

*Short, thick socks.  They didn't give Oliver's legs enough coverage in the braces and were too hot and sweaty.

*Tight pants or pants with cuffs.  They needed to be stretchy to fit over his casts or braces.

*Baby bathtubs. I had to keep the water off of his legs, so baths in general were not easy.  The baby bathtub sling like I mentioned above was what worked best, but still wasn't the easiest.

*Pouch slings. They worked ok when he was in casts (still not easy) but his legs didn't fit in them once he had braces.

*Shoes. All those cute little baby shoes?  Yeah, Oliver couldn't wear any of them.  He didn't get his first pair of shoes until he was 8 months old.  I remember seeing all the little girl shoes and thinking I was glad I didn't have a girl because I'd be so sad to not get to use those cute little dress shoes!

*Footy PJs.  Soooo many pajamas have feet, or only snap/zip down one leg.  None of those worked for Oliver, so when I found something that worked, I stocked up.

There were also certain high chairs and things like that that didn't work well with Oliver's braces.  Since he couldn't bend his legs, it made shopping carts and chairs hard to get him in and out of.  I was so very thankful that he liked being worn in carriers because it made my life much easier.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quick Overview of Clubfoot and the Ponseti Method

When I mention that we have a son who was born with clubfoot, or when I say that we are expecting another baby with the same condition, many people ask what exactly it is.  I wanted to do a quick post here to give some basic information about what clubfoot is, the treatment for it, and a bit about our family history with it.  Forgive me for not being too specific or scholarly with this...my history major background is cringing at the lack of citations and proof reading. :)  One thing I have learned is there is a lot of variation with how things can happen with clubfoot.  Each case is unique.

Most of my information has come from Ponseti International website.  You can visit it here:  http://www.ponseti.info

Clubfoot is a treatable birth defect that occurs in approximately 1 in every 1,000 live births.  About half of all of those affected with clubfoot have it in both feet, known as bilateral clubfoot.  It occurs in males twice as frequently as females.  I find this especially interesting since Oliver had bilateral clubfoot, Lucy wasn't affected, and now we have another son on the way who is expected to have a right clubfoot.

Physicians have observed that fetuses that develop clubfoot start with a normal foot and then the foot begins to turn inward around the third month. Most children born with clubfoot are not missing any bones, muscles, or connective tissue. It is a congenital condition, meaning that when it occurs it is always present at birth. (http://www.ponseti.info/clubfoot-and-the-ponseti-method/what-is-clubfoot/learn-about-clubfoot.html)

It is not known exactly what causes clubfoot.  While it is not always genetic, there is a family history in some cases. My husband, Jay, was born with clubfoot.  He had casts and an extensive surgery on one foot. 

Thankfully, the surgery that Jay had as a baby is no longer the norm for treatment of clubfoot.  Jay has a lot of pain in that foot, especially if he is on his feet for a long period of time.  The "gold standard" for treating clubfoot now is called the Ponseti method. 

The Ponseti method is mainly non-surgical.  It is recommended that it begins within the first week or two after birth to take advantage of the baby's flexibility.  The baby's foot is turned into a specific position and casted.  The casts are then changed every 5-7 days.  Most clubfeet can be corrected with 5-7 castings (sometimes less, sometimes more). At the end of the castings, a minor surgery is usually needed to lengthen the baby's tendon(s).  This is called a tenotomy and the baby will be casted again afterwards. This cast is left on for a longer period of time (usually 3 weeks, although this can vary).  Some doctors do this surgery in office with a local anesthetic; others prefer to do it in an operating room under general anesthesia

After the last casts come off, the baby wears a brace.  Called "bar and boots", this is a brace that keeps the baby's feet in place.  A pair of "shoes" (special orthodic shoes called AFOs) is placed at a specific degree keeping the baby's feet turned outwards and set onto a bar.  There are different types of bar and boots braces.  Some are a fixed bar, in which the baby must move their feet simultaneously.  Others are a hinged bar (called a Dobbs bar, developed by Dr. Matthew Dobbs, one of the nation's leading experts in clubfoot) and allows the baby to move their feet separately.  It is recommended that the child wear the brace for 23 hours a day for the first 3 months and then slowly work down to wearing the brace just while they are sleeping.  Children usually wear the brace during the night for up to 4 years (sometimes more) to prevent relapse.  This website shows the Dobbs bar and some adorable children wearing them! http://www.dobbsbrace.com/
Oliver's treatment seemed to follow the Ponseti method except for the bracing.  He was also one of the few who did not need the tendon surgery.  Oliver wore KAFO braces and was done just after his first birthday.  As I read about stories of relapse, I am amazed at how God took care of our little guy.  I'm not sure why our orthopedic doctor at the time varied from the Ponseti method when it came to Oliver's bracing treatment.  I'm just thankful it all worked out.

While it is said that the Ponseti method is not exactly difficult to learn, it is very precise.  We live just outside of a major city in Indiana that has a large orthopedic practice.  However, there are no orthopedic doctors sub-specialized in pediatrics within this group, so none of them know how to treat clubfoot.  Each cast has to be set a specific degree and variation.  The doctor that we saw with Oliver is no longer practicing due to health issues, so we are in the process of looking at our options.  In about a week and a half I have a consultation with a doctor about two hours away.  I have also been in touch with Dr. Dobbs who is located in St. Louis.  After my consultation with the doctor who is located in our state, Jay and I will discuss what option would be best for our family.

It never ceased to amaze me how happy this little guy was. He has brought us so much joy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Oliver's Braces

After we found out the news that Oliver was going to be done with casts on October 30, 2008 we had to go and get him fitted for his KAFO (Knee, Ankle, Foot Orthodic) braces.  Honestly, I can't remember now how soon after his casts came off that we went for the fitting.  I don't think it was the same day, perhaps the next day.  Oliver had a weekend of "free feet" in between getting his casts off and getting his new braces.  It was so nice to have that time with him!  I remember being ecstatic that the casts were off and we were ready for the new phase of his treatment.  I really had no idea what to expect with the braces, but surely they had to be better than casts, right?!

When we went for his braces fitting, they showed us a bunch of different "plates" that had design on them for the braces.  We decided on the blue swirl one, and I remember thinking how cute the girly patterns were. Then the casted him (ugh, I grew to HATE anything to do with casts) with some quick-setting material and cut the casts off.  Boy was it nice to see a cast come off right away!  Oliver was fidgety during the casting, and I just kept telling him it was going to come right off.  He was pretty much a pro at being casted by this point, but you could tell he was still not a big fan of the whole process.

I didn't think the braces would be too big of a deal. I'm not sure why...it just seemed so much better having a baby in leg braces than in casts.  I still have both sets of Oliver's leg braces.  They look so tiny now when I look at them.  Its hard to believe he was just two months old when he got his first pair.

November 2008.  Oliver's first pair of KAFO (Knee, Ankle, Foot Orthodic) braces.
We got to pick out the blue swirl design for them. I remember thinking how much cuter the girl patterns were. ;)
His little leg. He would end up having two sets of these braces before he was done with them. They were slightly adjustable; I think each set was lengthened a bit one time.

We became experts on which socks fit best with the braces.  Tall, thin socks (Target Circo ones were my favorite.) quickly filled his sock drawer. 

I was somewhat surprised by how "bulky" the braces seemed.  The casts were heavy and big, but the braces were really wide especially at the top.  The first night we got them, I tried to put him in a pouch sling and couldn't really get him in.  I had been able to wear him in that particular sling while he was in casts, but the braces were really just too big.  I was taken off guard by that and was sad.  Just another reminder of how things were never going to be "normal" for us.

Oliver had to wear his braces for about 23 hours a day.  We were allowed to take them off for an hour a day, and I usually split it up into two half hour times.  At first I was very, very strict about it but I'll admit as the months went on there were times I would let him be out of them for a bit longer.  Not too long, I didn't want his feet to turn back in, but I didn't watch the clock like a hawk every time I took them off.

It was awesome being able to give our little guy a real bath.  I loved those times with him.  In that way, the braces were WAY better than the casts.

Oliver adjusted really well to the braces.  He never really seemed bothered by them at all.  He was such a happy, easy going baby.  Amazing, really, considering all he had gone through in such a short period of time. 

Our happy little guy.  Pants that were wide and/or stretchy were a necessity to fit over his braces. They were quite wide, especially at the top.

As Oliver got bigger and more mobile, especially at night, his braces made co-sleeping harder.  I would often get bruises from him kicking me during the night.  I considered transitioning him to his own bed many times, but I really loved having him close.  Despite the obstacles, co-sleeping still worked best for us.

In some ways, I think having the braces made things a little harder for Oliver.  He didn't sit up on his own until almost 7 months.  He rolled from his belly to his back very early (at one month) but didn't roll from back to belly until about 7 months also.  Who knows....none of those things made him "delayed" exactly.  It was just you could tell the braces would get in his way sometimes.

My sweet boy learning to sit up on his own.  Look at those awesome-looking feet! :)

Once Oliver was in braces, we went back to Dr. Cummiskey after one month and then every 3 months.  Oliver continued to wear the braces for 23 hours for most of that time.  Around 8 months old, I took him for a routine check-up and was told he could just wear them at night.  I was shocked! I really didn't know what the wearing schedule would be; it was all just kind of touch and go for awhile to see how he was doing.  We went back about two and a half months later to make sure he wasn't relapsing, and that check-up went awesome as well.

Having Oliver in braces just at night made our life so different.  We were able to put him in a high chair at a restaurant, something we hadn't been able to do before because it was hard to get the high chair close enough to the table since he couldn't bend his knees.  Just carrying him felt so different.  He never fought us to put them on at night, and it just seemed like we were slowly moving away from all that we went through with him as an infant.  It was nice.

Oliver around 8 months old. Enjoying some braces free time. His feet look perfect!

Oliver's next appointment was when he was just over a year old.  He wasn't quite walking yet, but the doctor was able to see him walk holding on to my hands and see how his foot placement was.  Dr. Cummiskey was very pleased.

September 2009. It was fun watching Oliver "walk" around the examining room.  He had come so far.

At that check-up in September 2009 we were told that Oliver's feet looked so good that we were going to try going braces-free for awhile and see how he did.  That was the most wonderful news.  I had no doubt that his feet would continue to look perfect.  The possibility of relapse never really entered my mind. Two months later we went back and he still looked great.  Oliver started walking around 14 months or so.

Oliver, November 2009. Two months braces free and his feet remained looking great.

We scheduled another appointment for six months later.  We had hopes that it would be his last appointment. We continued to do the stretches that we had been doing since his casts came off and his feet remained flexible.

Oliver, April 2010.  Seeing him run just made my heart soar.
There is something extremely sweet about seeing this little boy running.  He is truly our walking miracle.

I was a bit nervous before his last appointment with Dr. Cummiskey.  It didn't seem possible that we were actually done.  How could that be? It seemed like we were just coming in for his first casting.

"Really?! I'm done?! YAY!"

 It was such a bittersweet appointment.  I really didn't want to tell these two amazing people good-bye, and yet I was *thrilled* that we didn't have to come back and see them.  At that appointment, Nurse Deb told us that a mother had come in with her infant son who also had clubfoot.  She asked if we would mind going to see her and showing her what Oliver's feet looked like.  That made the appointment even more special.  We were able to encourage this new mother and tell her how great Oliver had done with treatment.  I have never forgotten that mother or her sweet boy.  They have stayed in my prayers and I have often wondered how they are doing.  Amazingly enough, after we found out about baby Max's foot, I was able to reconnect with that mother.  I had found a clubfoot support group on facebook and she replied to my post.  I feel like that was really a God thing.

When I think of what lies ahead for us with baby Max, the braces part of his treatment is the most unknown.  Of all the doctors I have spoken with, none of them follow the same protocol with bracing as Dr. Cummiskey did. In fact, none of them even use the same type of brace.  They all use a type of "bar and boots" system, where the baby has "shoes" that are attached to a bar between the feet.  I'll do another post about that. Honestly, as I research more, I am amazed that Oliver did not relapse since we stopped his braces so soon.  Most doctors recommend clubfoot babies/children wear their braces for many years, sometimes up until age 4 or 5.  It is almost unheard of to stop at age 1 because the relapse rate is so high.  I am so, so thankful that Oliver did so well. It makes me very nervous and sad to think of what lies ahead for Max.  This is the part where when people say, "Well, you've been through this before at least you know what to expect", I have to say, "Well, no.  Not exactly."  The unknown is always the scariest.

Nurse Deb, Dr. Cummiskey, and Oliver.  These two people will forever keep a very special place in our hearts.  They became like family to us.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tiny Baby in Leg Casts

It was definitely an adjustment seeing Oliver in casts.  He was so tiny (he was only 6 lbs 14 oz when he was born) and his casts felt so big.  When I was out with him, I would often get questions and stares from strangers.  Thankfully no one ever said anything rude (I've heard from other clubfoot parents who have some horror stories).  But its still felt so strange to have anyone say, "Oh, what a sweet baby. Oh gosh, why does he have casts on his legs?!"  When I had the chance to actually explain to them what was going on, they were always surprised that the casts were not, in fact, a result of foot surgery but instead a series of castings that would hopefully correct his feet without surgery.

One part of Oliver's treatment that was unique and that we will not experience with Max is that each week I had to soak off his plaster casts at home.  I have recently found out that this is not recommended, and the doctors I have spoken with do not have parents do this.  It is because they want as small of a window of time in between casts as possible to prevent the feet from turning back in.  I completely understand this, but I have to admit I'm a little sad.  It was always so nice to  have that one night a week with baby Oliver and his "free" feet and legs.

The first night I had to soak off his casts was a complete disaster.  Jay was working nights, and Oliver was two weeks old.  I really had no idea what I was doing...I had read some suggestions and the nurse had told me a few ideas but it was so awkward!  I was paranoid because his umbilical cord "stump" was still on and I was trying not to get it wet.  I thought doing it in the kitchen sink would be best. Um, no! Our sink was small and I couldn't get him in a comfortable position.  I got out a bucket that fit well into our sink and put water in it, along with some vinegar because that was supposed to help soften the casts.  (This was the only time I used vinegar.  I didn't think it worked that well and it smell was just too strong for me!)  So here I am, trying to hold a 2 week old infant in a bucket of water, up to the top of his thighs without getting his belly button wet.  Ha!  He screamed, I cried, and it took close to two hours!!  We were both soaked by the end.  I started unwrapping his casts at the top and worked my way down.  By the time I got close to his feet I could just slip the bottom "foot" part off. I have never felt such relief as when I was able to get those casts off!  I cried seeing his precious little feet again.

After our first night of soaking off his casts. AMAZING progress! I have recently found out that most doctors do not recommend parents soak the casts off the night before a new cast is put on because of the risk of losing progress, so I am especially grateful that Oliver did so well.  I really looked forward to our one "free" night a week of loving on his little legs and feet.

That first night of no casts I spent so much time just looking at his feet and legs and touching them.  The doctor had warned us that his feet might be especially sensitive, since they weren't used to any stimulation, but Oliver never really seemed to experience this.  As soon as I got his casts off, I wrapped him in a towel and he curled right up on my chest.  I sat with him in the recliner in his room for over an hour just loving my little boy.

On our way to get his second casts put on.  Funny, once they were on it was hard to remember them ever being off.  They quickly became part of our new "normal."

The second casting was emotional as well.  I really, really dreaded that appointment again.  His feet looked so different, and so good, that I hated that they were going to be covered up again.  I just wanted to have a "normal" experience of a baby without casts.  He felt so much smaller without his casts on and I started to feel like I was really missing out on so much of having a newborn. Just the little things really bothered me, like not being able to give him a normal bath and having to really watch what kind of clothes we bought for him to make sure they would fit over his casts.

He seemed to be in a lot of pain with the second castings also.  The doctor did some stretches with him and he cried during those.  That night went better than our first night, though, and each week seemed to get easier and easier.  Well, as easy as it can get when your infant is in casts.  Sometimes I hate saying its "easier".  I don't want people to think it isn't as big of a deal as it really is.  Its all relative.

PJs that did not have feet, and snapped all the way down both legs, became a staple of Oliver's wardrobe. This was his second set of casts.

Grandpa holding a tiny Oliver.

Adding a little bit of love to those plaster casts.

For whatever reason, this set of casts did not go up as high on his legs as some of his earlier ones.  Its kind of hard to tell at the angle of this photo but with each casting, his feet were set at a different degree according to the Ponseti method of treatment.

One thing that did get easier each week was being able to soak off the casts.  I just now remembered that Jay was home for one of the weeks of soaking them off, and he videotaped it.  I haven't watched it since we filmed that, so I will have to try to get that out sometime and watch it.  After that first time of attempting the kitchen sink, I said forget it and just got in the bathtub with him and did it that way.  By this time I was pretty much healed from childbirth and didn't mind getting in the tub in a bathing suit to unwrap the plaster.  I remember one week I was unwrapping his casts and I noticed blood on them.  I immediately started checking everywhere to see where he could possibly be bleeding. I was freaking out that he was hurt somewhere. It took me a couple of minutes to notice the cut on my finger and realize it was MY blood! The plaster could occasionally be sharp as I unwrapped it and I cut my fingers a few times over the weeks.  Of course being in the water made it look much worse than it really was.  I actually grew to really enjoy those nights of getting his casts off.  I always tried to stop unwrapping them once I got to his foot so I could slip that part off and keep it.  I have a whole bag full of little Oliver foot casts and cast wrappings.

This was the second night I soaked his casts off.  He had been in casts for two weeks at this point. It never ceased to amaze me the difference in his feet and how quickly it happened.

On our way for more casts again.  The better his feet looked the more I hated having to cover them in casts.  They began to look so normal!

Its hard to remember each casting appointment because they were just a way of life for awhile.  I do remember one particularly great appointment for him.  The nurse was so happy when she saw his feet before the doctor came in.  No one usually said too much about his feet, just that they were looking good.  This time you could tell Nurse Deb was really surprised and excited with how great they looked.  When she came back in with Dr. Cummiskey it was like she couldn't wait for him to see them.  He kept saying how great they looked, and it made my heart soar to know that all we were going through was worth it.  During that casting, Oliver was crying, and I just kept whispering, "Its ok, baby, its ok" and Dr. Cummiskey said, "Oh Oliver, its beyond ok! Your feet are looking amazing! Seriously, we rarely see this much progress this fast.  I am just in shock."  At that appointment, we thought we might only need one more set of casts.  I was SO excited.  It turned out he needed two more sets, and even though it was disappointing at the time, I am now able to look back and really see how awesome his progress was.

After three weeks of casts. I remember worrying that his feet were "over"corrected this time, but it was all just part of the process.  The next morning Dr. Cummiskey was thrilled with how they looked.

I've always loved this picture of little Oliver.  This was a very good appointment for him!
October 30, 2008. Oliver was just over two months old, and we were thrilled at that day's appointment to learn that he didn't need any more casts. His last two sets of casts had stayed on for two weeks each. The doctor hadn't told us for sure when he would be done, and we had gone in prepared for another set.  Dr. Cummiskey was so pleased that he decided Oliver was done with casts and would not need a tenotomy.  That was the biggest relief.  Most children (I have read as many as 80%, sometimes more) need this surgery once they are done with castings.  We had prepared ourselves for the possibility of it.  Basically they cut the baby's achilles tendon to release the foot, then cast it again while it heals.  I was so, so relieved that Oliver didn't need it.  Dr. Cummiskey commented again with how great Oliver's feet had responded to treatment.  All I could say was, "God is good."

October 29, 2008.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I had just soaked off his last set of casts! We were expecting one more set and got exciting news the next morning.

Such an exciting day! Oliver was *DONE* with casts earlier than expected!! It was the day before Halloween, so I celebrated by putting some adorable pumpkin socks on him.

Oliver had several days in between casts and braces.  Again, this is not something we will experience with Max as the doctors I have spoken to want as little time between casts and the brace.  Also, the brace that Oliver went into (KAFO...knee, ankle, foot, orthodics) is a brace that I have not seen used again.  Of all the clubfoot parents I have talked to and the doctors I have spoken with lately, they all use a bar and boots system.  I'll talk more about Oliver's braces in another post.

It was hard to believe we were done with casts.  It seemed like we had just started, and we were so used to going to these appointments.  I was so proud of our little boy, and so so relieved to be done with this part of his treatment.

One incredible thing was how quickly Oliver met milestones even with his casts on.  We were at his one month well check-up, and the doctor put him on his belly to see how he did.  The doctor told us that he might experience some delays because of the casts, and to not be concerned if it took him a bit longer to do things like roll over.  Right after he said this, Oliver rolled from his belly to his back! We had to laugh, and at first thought it might have just been an "accident."  But no.  Oliver proved us all wrong, and at just one month old was rolling over like crazy.  Especially for first time moms, it can become an obsession if your baby isn't meeting milestones right on time.  I was so glad to have one less thing to be worried about at that time.