So here I am, finally I have the courage to ‘out’ my parenting lesson in hopes to help someone else sharing my struggles.
When our daughter, Ruby (the most beautiful baby in the whole world) was about 4 months old, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. She seemed to be having a problem looking around. If something was right in front of her she was alert and interested but she didn’t care about it anymore if you moved it out of sight. She also slept in one direction no matter what we did.
When I brought it up, no one seemed to notice what I was seeing. I decided to have it checked out, better safe than sorry. So off Ruby and I went to our family doctor. He poked, prodded and yanked. The whole time I felt guilty putting her through what was surely nothing. The Doctor brushed it off and told me to keep doing what we were doing. I went home feeling a little better, conscious cleared and continued doing as I had done.
A month went by and I felt like nothing I was doing was helping. Time was not making a difference. The feeling of clarity soon faded and I found myself sitting in the same position as before, super clueless, in the waiting room of a medical office and feeling really helpless. This time we would be meeting with a developmental nurse at the local Health and Wellness Centre in our town. She was concerned and compassionate about the distress I was feeling, and after telling her everything she felt it best to refer me to a specialist. The appointment was booked and we had a whole month to sit and wait…
There I was again in a gloomy white waiting area (this time it was a children’s hospital in the city next to our town), my head spinning with questions and concerns. Her name was finally called. Here we go, finally the answers we were looking for… We were in that office for less than 2 minutes before a flurry of text book words were thrown at us.
Ruby was diagnosed with Torticollis, a condition in which her head was being forced to tilt one way and her chin was elevated, pointing the opposite way. Basically, she had a major head tilt. What was once a cute tilt became serious. Not only did the Torticollis need treatment but it had been left unattended for so long that it had developed into Plagiocephaly.
Plagiocephaly (in Ruby’s case) is unusual shape of the skull caused by pressure in the womb (fluid leak in our case) and being unable to move her head around when laying on her back causing…A FLAT SPOT! I just went blind. Frig. I had no other choice but to approach this in a way that I would tell anyone else to — let’s get it fixed and move on. No big deal.
After that daunting visit we started physio to loosen up her neck and gain full mobility back. Then she was fitted for her prosthesis.
Yes folks, a helmet.
It didn’t really hit me right away. She was fitted, we picked a color, forked over our couple grand (that’s right, it’s not noticed as medical yet but rather cosmetic) and home we went to wait while it was custom crafted and shipped across the country. Meanwhile we continued physio. Everyone there loved Ruby and she loved going. At home we did all the exercises religiously. Everything felt like it was working out. I felt optimistic. Then two days before we were to pick the helmet up, it hit me.
It was already hard enough to gain confidence being young parents (Ruby wasn’t an accident) and being heavily tattooed parents. I have green hair! It felt like everyone was already staring. I had never seen a baby in a helmet in person. Everyone I saw on the net or in support groups weren’t people I felt I could relate too. I didn’t even know what I was going to tell my friends. My mother’s response was what I did not want to hear, but I needed it.
“It’s not about you this time,” she said. “It’s only about Ruby.”
I called my Mother crying, “What is everyone going to think?”
She was right. If my friends weren’t going to be accepting, forget them. If people were going to stare, it wouldn’t be because of the helmet. I was Ruby’s Mom and it was my job to show her it didn’t matter what anyone thought. She will always be the same beautiful little girl.
Two days later we went and picked up that dreaded helmet … and as it turned out, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, she looked really cute!
At home we all had a laugh at how much braver she was with it on. It was hard at first: 23 hours a day she had to wear it, but she was a trooper.
I researched how to paint and seal it and bought stickers to decorate. There were a few bumps (a new car seat with more head space) but in the end it wasn’t as big a deal as I had envisioned.
I noticed things like I had more to talk about with parents I generally would struggle to talk with before. Sure, we got the odd response now and then, but it didn’t bother us like I thought it would.
Instead I had a new-found confidence. We knew we were the awesome parents, and I no longer felt like I had failed Ruby. I learned to follow my gut. And in the end, the most valuable lesson I learned through our experience was that it really was no longer about me.
Now and forever it was always going to be about Ruby, our beloved daughter.