Adorable babies and Pavlik harnesses

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Sometimes, as a parent, you feel like you are just nailing it. Last week was one of those weeks for me. E got another ultrasound of her hips, and they have developed just fine, so she no longer has hip dysplasia. She still has to wear her evil harness, which irritates the hell out of me, but I’d much rather be irritated than worried about her (more on that below). Xander started preschool, and is killing it there. He already has the teachers wrapped around his manipulative, charming little finger and I’ve witnessed him rallying the kids to break the rules already (of course, he wasn’t the one to get caught). I have a little leader there, I must help him learn to use his powers for good rather than evil. E started eating solids and loves it all. She doesn’t even make a mess she’s so desperate to ensure every last morsel ends up in her mouth. And X had his first live-action experience on the potty. We were both equally shocked, actually. To be honest, I think it sort of disgusted X, as he has no inclination to ever do it again. But at least he did it once.

That was last week. And I was smug, and swaggered around like I was just the most amazing parent. I’ve mentioned before here you should never get smug as a parent, because with arrogance comes a massive reality check. My reality check was this week for me. Z is off in Kurdistan, and I’m trying really hard not to think about the fact that he’s one Peshmerga away from ISIS. And it’s my first time alone for a substantial amount of time with the two kids. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s gone and they miss him, but they are acting like little hellions. Well, X is having attitude problems, where his only word at the moment is “no.” (Yes, Mom, I know I deserve this. I’m sorry for when I was two). He’s especially jerky after school and wants to play with all the big kids, and refuses to nap. E’s intake of solids has led to some, ahem, digestive issues and she’s been up all night crying. I do not feel like I’m nailing it. I just want to lay my head down on the desk and weep. The checklist in my head this week is: Did they eat today? Are they wearing clothes? Are those clothes appropriate for the weather? Did I eat today? Is there anything at all in the house to eat? Are we all still alive? Forget showering or educational activities, we’re set on survival mode.

I also wanted to share my experience having a child with hip dysplasia and wearing a Pavlik harness (as seen above). I know there are parents out there going through a similar thing, so here’s what we went through. Hip dysplasia is when the hip bones aren’t quite developed and have a tendency to dislocate. While it’s painless at birth, it can lead to pain, limping and even hip replacements later on in life. There is an easy fix – a harness that holds the legs splayed in the proper position for them to develop normally. It’s not fun, but when you consider the alternative it certainly is worth it.

When E had her initial ultrasound saying she had mild hip dysplasia, I really didn’t think anything of it. The orthopedic surgeon told me it would likely develop fine on its own without intervention so I believed him. I was shocked a few months later when I discovered that her right hip still hadn’t developed properly and she would need to wear this harness. Shocked and devastated. The harness looks like some kind of torture device, all straps and uncomfortable angles. They showed me what the harness looked like on a doll. The doll’s legs were stretched into a 180 degree split. I was horrified. Looking at the doll’s frozen smile made me want to sob.

I felt very sorry for myself and E for approximately five minutes. But the reality is that I was in a children’s hospital, where there are children with actual real problems and parents just trying to keep it together. It’s pretty humbling so I sucked it up. We would make the best of it.

And it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The harness has more give than it seemed, and also babies are much more flexible than creepy dolls, so I don’t think E has ever felt hurt by it. The bigger she gets, the more she protests when I put her back into it, but I believe more so because it hampers her movement. She certainly doesn’t like it, no more than I do.

She had the harness put on five days before we flew to Canada. I had no idea how I was going to hold a baby all stiff and harnessed up, ensuring her hips weren’t compressed at all for the long flights ahead, but that worked out too. I just lay her down across my lap and tried not to move. I may have done serious damage to my own shoulder, but I don’t think she was uncomfortable.

We were also super lucky that we were able to take the harness off once a day to change and bathe her. A lot of babies with a worse diagnosis than hers can’t even do that. Some kids spend the first many months of their life never out of that harness, having little wipe-down baths and being awkwardly changed around the thing. And babies produce a lot of really disgusting liquids that you do not want to think about. That harness was disgusting by the time we went in for the follow up ultrasound.

Now that we have the good ultrasound, I’m counting down the days for when I can take the thing off for good. If the next ultrasound goes well, then she’ll only have to wear it at night. It’s going to be great to have her out of the harness, because as far as I can tell, the biggest problem is her development is behind now. She’s nearly six months and isn’t rolling over, can’t sit herself up (although she’s learning to sit without falling over), and she can’t crawl around. Not that I really want her to start moving, babies are so convenient when they stay where you leave them, but I don’t want her to be behind. We’ll see how that development goes.

A practical issue that also comes up with the Pavlik harness is car seats. Most car seats are narrow and force the legs towards each other, which is what you’re trying to avoid with the harness. The OTs who were working with me suggested I layer towels in the bottom of the car seat until her hips were clear of the sides. However, she looked super unsafe once that was done. We could barely do up the straps, and when we did the pelvic strap wasn’t even covering her. I basically told them there was no way I would drive around with my baby in such an unsafe state, and they agreed it probably wasn’t best (um, thanks OTs). They did give me info on a car seat that was designed for babies with hip dysplasia – the Maxi Cosi Opal. There are places in Geneva that rent this car seat, which is sweet because you typically will need a normal car seat as well – you can’t ensure your baby will be in the harness for the whole time. However, we looked in Canada because that was where we were spending our time right after she got the harness and although the Maxi Cosi website says you can rent them, the stores said you needed to order and purchase them. That sucks, because car seats are hella expensive.

In terms of hip dysplasia, we got pretty lucky, although it’s going to be great to put all of this behind us. I really feel for parents whose babies spend months and months in these things – they are awkward and inconvenient, and it does make it harder to snuggle. But essentially it’s worth it in the long run.


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