Our Sugar Belle is Also Our Hippy Baby

I hoped that once pregnancy was over that things would be easier, and they totally are in many ways. (Still no diabetes, folks!) In other ways, we face new challenges as we continue to press on. It could always be worse.

The latest in our family’s saga is that sweet baby Violet has hip dysplasia.

The first thing people ask when they see her is, “what’s wrong with her legs?” The answer is, nothing – but her left hip socket is a little shallow, so she’s spending a total of 6 weeks in a Pavlik harness to correct a mild form of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). Some children have it so severely that their hips are dislocated, but luckily, she doesn’t have any of that, so we are hopeful that this will resolve easily.

It started when her pediatrician noticed a click in her hips at her one week well baby appointment and told us she’d be watching them at one month to screen for hip dysplasia. Many babies are born with some hip instability, but over time, it typically goes away. With hip dysplasia, a child may require treatment before this can happen. It’s a screen they do for every newborn baby because it’s one of those things that can be fixed fairly easily if caught early, but if gone undiagnosed,can cause trouble in early adolescence and adulthood.

The term was familiar to me, but I didn’t knew what a diagnosis would mean for us immediately. I remember, when Amelia was born, checking to see that the creases in her leg rolls were even – because if they aren’t, that can be a sign. But Amelia never had DDH, or at least it was never diagnosed if she did.

It didn’t even cross my mind this time. [I read far fewer books to prepare (none) than I did when I was a noob, and stayed off the baby forums.]

At one month, Vi’s clicky hip hadn’t resolved, so they sent us to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for an ultrasound to confirm their suspicions. I found out the next day from Vi’s pedi that we were being referred to a children’s orthopedist, and that she would likely need to wear the soft brace (Pavlik) for 2-3 months.

I cried. It seemed like the end of squishy newborn cuddles way before I was ready to let them go, and however silly (compared to much worse things a family can deal with), I needed to mourn.

At the ortho appointment, they actually gave us the option to not treat it because it was mild, and see if it would resolve on its own. However, he said the harness would give her the best chance at not experiencing future problems, so we dove right in.

We are on Week 3 of the harness, and halfway through as of today. She wears it 23/7, with an hour off after dinner every night for cuddles, stretching time, tummy time and a bath, if needed. Most of the time, she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, and is not in any pain, but we can tell by the smiles and baby chatter during her hour off that it feels nice to be free. She’s a trooper who rarely complains (except when she’s starving and wants to nurse), and I’m so proud of her.

Ideally, the harness is holding her femur firmly in the hip socket while her bones and cartilage mature. We won’t know until we have her follow up ultrasound at 6 weeks (September 30) if it worked or if there are more steps we need to take. So, fingers crossed.

For any mom or dad or guardian beginning this journey, let me tell you – it’s a pain in the butt, but totally worth it to avoid hip pain and/or surgery in her teens or early adulthood. There is a slight risk of nerve damage if the angles aren’t right (some doctors will do the adjusting as the baby grows, but we have been instructed to do this ourselves). You’ll know if you get any time out of the brace (some don’t get an hour off at all) and she can’t move her legs, like one or both have fallen asleep. If that happens, it’s called femoral nerve palsy, and the harness has to be removed. It’s not very common though, so the risk is probably worth the reward.

Diaper changes can be difficult, having to tuck the tabs under the harness straps in the back. Sometimes the Velcro gets stuck to the harness itself. Sometimes the harness Velcro sticks to her clothes. We sized up her diapers a little early to get as much back coverage as possible to avoid up the back blowouts that might get on the harness, and that’s been successful thus far. If anything gets on the harness, we usually have to leave it – only twice in three weeks have I used some of her time out of it to wash baby vomit out and make it smell a bit more fresh. My husband and I relish our sweet baby cuddles every night, because the harness makes her stiff, and somehow heavier (like dead weight almost) – not at all like the cuddly newborn ball she is without it. I know those days are fading quickly, and it makes me sad. Her bedtime onesies don’t fit at the moment, and some of her cute outfits had to be retired early bc of this. She pretty much can only wear onesies under the thing, so we are looking forward to getting her back into some cute stuff in a few weeks. For now, convertible jammies and a sleep sack are getting us through the nights.

We will share an update at the end of the month when she has her follow up ultrasound. For now, I’ll leave you with this pic of my brave little 2 month old :).

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