First Sucker Punch for Mama

28 Jan

Two weeks into parenting, and I have already learned how to increase your sense of protectiveness toward your daughter a million-fold: Have a doctor tell you that something isn’t perfect about your perfect baby.

Annabelle has hip dysplasia – a totally treatable condition, but a condition nonetheless. It means she has a loose hip joint that could dislocate if not addressed, so to avoid catastrophe down the road (surgery, arthritis, legs growing at different rates, etc.), she has to wear a Medieval-looking device called a Pavlik harness for the next few months.

Hip dysplasia runs in my family. I had it and my Dad’s sister had it. If you have a family history and you’re a first-born girl, your chances of having it are quite high.

If treated, the whole thing can be fixed within months and your baby can lead a healthy, happy life with no impediments. There is no reason to believe Annabelle’s recovery won’t be complete, as was mine.

On the spectrum of bad news parents can hear about their kids, hip dysplasia ranks pretty low in severity, so I’m trying to keep it in perspective.

Still, no amount of reasoning or gratefulness that we caught it early could have prepared me for receiving the diagnosis at Annabelle’s pediatric orthopedic screening. I had stupidly assumed everything would be perfectly fine.

The doctor examined her hips by ultrasound and recited to us a bunch of sciency gobbledygook in an extremely loud voice so as to be heard over Annabelle’s screaming. Then he brought in the harness (what an awful word — “harness”) and put it on our sweet, unsuspecting little baby, giving instructions to George while I sat in a chair and cried messily into the palm of my hand.

As her sweet Aunt Erica said, "She pulls it off!"

Through tears I remarked that it was “so sad,” and the doctor shrugged and said it was no big deal. I can appreciate that he didn’t want to give into my hysteria, after all, he probably sees so much worse, including cases where the hip dysplasia wasn’t caught in time to correct.

But ultimately, he was wrong. It IS a big deal. It’s a big deal because this is the first time my heart will break for my daughter. It’s the first time we have to face life a little unconventionally to make room for an unfair imposition on my sweet baby.

The doctor left the room and I looked down at my crying daughter in this strange new contraption. I nursed her so we could endure the 1.5-hour drive back to Stillwater from Tulsa, and for the first time since her birth, I actually enjoyed it. Something I had up until then dreaded every time because it was physically painful had become an easy way to soothe little Annabelle, and I was more than happy to sacrifice my own comfort to answer her needs.

You can’t save your child from every difficulty that may come her way, but I discovered in that doctor’s office that I will always want to.

Welcome to motherhood, I suppose! Consider me duly initiated.

“My darling girl, my darling girl, you’re all that matters in this wicked world. All that matters, all that matters … Well I can’t stop the pain when it calls, I’m a man. And I can’t stop the rain when it falls, my darling, who can?” – Mark Knopfler

20 Responses to “First Sucker Punch for Mama”

  1. Lisa Murakami January 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    That’s so interesting about the chances being higher for a first born girl. Do they know why that is? It doesn’t seem the eggs would be any different, or the sperm. ????? It’s also so interesting that you’re a worrier like me and this is the one thing you weren’t worried about! I swear that it’s always the thing you *don’t* worry about that ends up happening. 😛

    I really believe watching your child struggle is the most painful and significant lifelong burden every parent bears, and it’s sad (but like I said before, also beautiful) that you’re feeling that torment at such a tender age, and when you’re still so emotionally vulnerable yourself as a new mom. But I really believe it’s things like these that strengthen the mother-child bond and that ultimately give you true confidence in your parenting instincts and your ability to give Annabelle exactly what she most needs. And that confidence is SO important in parenting. You will be all the stronger for this in the end, and SHE will be too because she’ll have a stronger mother 🙂

    That feeling of wanting to save your child from struggles is one I know I’ll wrestle with throughout Matthew’s life. I’m a big believer in, once your kid gets to a certain age, *not* saving them from most struggles, even if you can … because struggling builds character and the capacity to empathize with others, and it’s the only way they’ll learn to “be okay” when life throws them the awful things that we *can’t* save them from even if we did want to. Over the years I have so often found myself thankful for my struggles and the strength they’ve given me (and the perspective) BUT now that I’m a parent, those thoughts are IMMEDIATELY followed with a shudder because I know that Matthew WILL have deep, painful struggles and rough times, the type of which would just torture my soul as his mother … and that he HAS to, to reach his full potential as a person. I HATE IT!!!!!

    Anyway, great blog entry – much food for thought.

    • Lisa Murakami January 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      These smiley-face icons are weird. The first one is supposed to be sticking his tongue out, the second is supposed to be a sweet smile. They both look like jokesters… lol.

  2. ParentsDesk January 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    You have a beautiful baby girl.
    You are dealing with her condition
    And you are a good mama!

  3. Rebecca January 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I am so sorry that you are dealing with this! I am positive that she will be just fine and not know any better, but it is so tough on you! I can relate to feeling so helpless and upset about even the smallest health problem (for us it was a little bump on A’s skull that eventually went away). But hearing news like this as a new Mom is like nothing else. I have been wondering how you are doing and would love to talk soon. Awesome job on the writing!

  4. Jill Wieland January 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Hillary, you are so articulate about your experiences. I can feel your sadness that Annabelle has to go through this. Matt had to wear a contraption also, all those years ago. One of his feet turned in, so he had to wear a special shoe all day. When he went to bed, he wore that shoe attached to about a foot-long bar that separated his legs and “directed” his foot. It looked awful. I always felt so bad! He really wasn’t a very good sleeper (I wonder why?!), but he did turn into a pretty good runner later in his life!

    • speedfamily January 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks, Jill. Wow, never knew that about Matt! Yes, I just saw him on the other side: track star!

  5. Ann Melrose January 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Dear, dear Hilary,
    You’ve written so eloquently about the first of many bridges you will cross in your experience of being a mother. First and foremost you did what you needed to do: cry and acknowledge how HARD this is for you. The details of Annabelle’s hip dysplasia are tangential to your pain, and your “hit me in the gut” discovery that your beloved baby is a separate being and you can’t protect her from everything.

    From those vital and important tears came your courage: you would do whatever was needed for Annabelle, for yourself and for your husband to see this through.

    There will be more tears. My last bout of uncontrollable grief and tears over mothering/parenting our son came within the last two years, when he was 19 ! He survived that episode and is well. So are we.

    I believe when I first met you, Hillary, you were wearing your 1980s version of the harness. I don’t recall that it distracted me at all from my delight in holding you.

    You are in a very tender time in your life as a new Mom. Be gentle with yourself, knowing that Annabelle is the luckiest little girl in the world to be born to you and George.
    With love and much care for you right now,

    • Lisa Murakami January 30, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      It’s so true what Ann says. You never know your own strength – you never even have a CLUE – until you become a mother (unless maybe you start your own business or something). It is a deeply rewarding but sacrificial situation… you’ll do things you never dreamed yourself capable of and what’s more, you’ll hardly bat an eye. It really is SO beautiful.

    • speedfamily January 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks, Ann! It so helps to hear from other moms about how it’s all normal, wonderful, hard but worth it! xoxo

  6. kirstinfranklin February 2, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    It’s a beautiful thing…the love we have for our children. Isn’t it? It’s true far worse things could have been diagnosed but it’s that initial feeling of “my perfect baby’s body isn’t perfect?” what can I do to fix it?? Though I know it’s not nearly the same experience…I had the same sinking feeling when I found out about Gunnars growing hemangioma…and I think it’s so beautiful how you describe enjoying nursing her after that moment. I understand that completely and I think that is why I am STILL breastfeeding. Why take away the one thing that will comfort him every time? It’s as much for me as it is for him…comfort in knowing I can make things all right…even if just for a moment.

    • hillaryspeed February 9, 2012 at 12:38 am #

      Aw, that’s a really good way of putting it. It is amazing to feel this kind of maternal love, which I always thought I’d feel and now finally do.

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