Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In her shoes

Anyone close to me (or who follows me on Facebook)  knows that my sweet baby Maddy was born with club feet. Within a day of her birth, we were quickly told that she would have to undergo a long sequence of treatments that involve full-legged casts, surgery, and then special shoes that are connected by a bar that pushes her feet outward. It was a lot to take in, especially when you consider the fact that my husband was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan for a year 2 weeks later, these treatments had to be done over an hour away at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and I had 2 other rugrats counting on me at home. I was amazed, however, at the outpour of support that came to me upon my husband's departure. Friends, neighbors who quickly became friends, and family all reached out to help. But I digress. When Maddy was 3 weeks old, she had her first appointment at Vanderbilt. By that time, I had already been a "single" mother for 1 solid week (8 days to be exact, but who's counting?). This appointment was called a consultation, but to my surprise, the orthopedist began casting her immediately. We came home that day with Maddy's first pair of purple casts. They took some getting used to. They added quite a bit of weight to her little body, she could not move her legs, and I was scared of hurting her. On top of all that, I got a ton of questions everywhere I went from neighborhood kids, mere acquaintances, and perfect strangers. I quickly learned not to let the questions and stares bother me and act like casts on a brand new baby were completely normal, although I did often find myself covering her legs with a blanket in order to avoid such inquisitions. Sometimes I just didn't feel like explaining. My other 2 kids always were (and are) very proud of their baby sister. One night my 4 year old was looking through her own baby pictures and innocently asked, "Mommy, where are my casts in these pictures?" My heart melted. She thought all babies had casts. But again, I digress. Maddy handled her casts very well. They became normal for her. She learned how to lift her legs and slam them down, earning her the nickname Thumper. She would wake me up at night with her thumping, letting me know it was time to eat. Her casts became just a part of her. Every Wednesday we made our hour-long trip to Nashville too see her orthopedist and have her casts changed. I figured out the best way to carry her to accommodate the casts, the best way to bathe her, the best way to keep the casts clean during diaper changes, and the best way to dress her. It was just a normal part of our lives. Then today, 12 weeks after the casting began, it stopped. The orthopedist threw a curve ball and surprised me once again. Instead of scheduling surgery, he skipped that step altogether and put her right into a set of braces, which I call special shoes. They are white, leather, high-top shoes that are connected by a bar that pushes her feet out. They are heavy, awkward, and completely in the way. Everything I figured out before with the casts has now changed. I can't hold her the same, I can't change her diaper the same, I can take them off and bathe her now (yay!), but everything else is different. It's only been a few hours since the switch, but so far I am not a fan. I would take the casts any day over these shoes, and judging by her reaction, I think she would too. But unfortunately, we are in these shoes for the long haul. She is required to wear them 23 hours a day. No matter how frustrated I become with them or how frustrated she becomes with them, I cannot take them off. I have to force myself to keep them on her until she learns to walk. The doctor assures me she will learn to walk with these shoes on, but it will be much later than most babies. As for now, she's not quite 3 months old yet, but she does have to learn how to tolerate these new shoes.  We may not get much sleep tonight! 

Maddy at 2 weeks old

Maddy with her first set of casts at 3 weeks old

Her new special shoes at almost 3 months

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't Look at the Eyebrows

Two months ago (and well before then) I wondered how I was going to survive a year-long deployment on my own with 3 kids. The baby alone has such a demanding schedule with not sleeping through the night, eating every 2 hours, and going to Vanderbilt (an hour away) for her doctor's appointments every week. Then the 4 year old has school every day and ballet every Thursday. The 2 year old has school every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, which means he gets no nap on those days. That makes for quite an unpleasant evening! Then, of course, there's the house cleaning, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, loads of laundry to wash and fold (the folding is the hardest part), taking care of the dog, maintaining the van, attempting to maintain John's truck (I failed - -it has 2 flat tires now), mowing the grass, potty training the 2 year old, changing diapers on the baby, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone . . . oh, and somewhere in there I have to find time to take care of myself. Don't look at my eyebrows. They are in desperate need of attention. After 2 months of flying solo, however, I reflect on everything we've been through so far and realize that we are doing it. I say "we" because I am not doing it alone. I rely heavily on the help of my 4 year old when it comes to the other 2 kids; I rely heavily on neighbors for sanity purposes, adult conversation, and sometimes childcare; I count on family for moral support; and despite the frequent frustration, I rely heavily on all 3 of my kids to bring me smiles and laughter every day. You cannot survive a deployment without smiles and laughter. They are just as important as going to the bathroom or drinking water. So whenever someone says, "I don't know how you do it," a favorite Indigo Girls quote comes to mind . . . "You have to laugh at yourself, cause you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't."