Hip, Hip HOORAY! We are hip-healthy today! Our Journey with Hip Dysplasia
When Nick and I decided to try for baby number two, I prayed day and night for a little girl. If you know our son, Vinnie, then you also know that he is ALL BOY. That might not be a “politically correct” term these days, but there is no more accurate way to describe this kid.
Fast forward to baby girl’s arrival and I fell head-first into all of the pink and floral I could find. After 3 ½ years of monster trucks and mud, I was thrilled to indulge in all things girly. Bring on the dresses and cute little shoes, I was ready to dress my life-sized doll.
At Sofia’s one month check-up, her doctor did all of the typical tests to ensure she was developing as she should. After checking her eyes and ears and her heart, she began pushing her little legs to her belly in a circular motion. I remembered the doctors doing this at all of Vinnie’s check-ups, but it never occurred to me what they were checking for.
Her doctor explained that since Sofia was breech (she never flipped head-down in my belly), that it was protocol to check her hips for proper development. Apparently, it is common for breech babies, especially first-born female babies, to have something called Hip Dysplasia.
I had never heard of such a thing so she explained that when a baby doesn’t flip upside down in the womb, this can sometimes affect the development of their hips. Some babies are born with their hips completely out of the socket, while others have a milder case where the hip bone isn’t deep enough in the socket.
She pushed around on her legs a few more times and determined she didn’t hear any “clicking,” so she wasn’t concerned. She offered to send us to get an ultrasound to double check, but she didn’t think it was necessary.
If the doctor wasn’t concerned, why should I be?
At Sofie’s two-month check-up, her doctor did the same tests and assured us that she didn’t think there was anything wrong with Sofie’s hips, but she wanted us to do the ultrasound anyways, just as a precaution since she was breech.
About a week later, we went in for the ultrasound. Normally, I overly stress about EVERYTHING, but I felt oddly calm about this. Her doctor wasn’t concerned so neither was I. Our baby girl was perfect and there was nothing to worry about.
We headed home and waited to hear back from her doctor.
A few days later, I received an email from her doctor at 10 o’clock at night, letting me know that they had detected some mild Hip Dysplasia and she was referring us to an orthopedic specialist.
I immediately googled “Hip Dysplasia baby” and this picture popped up.
Although the baby in the picture looks as happy as can be, all I could see was what looked like a baby-torture device
I LOST IT. I began hysterically crying. Nick tried to comfort me and tell me it was all going to be okay and we didn’t know if she would really have to wear that device, but I was completely heart broken.
I continued researching and let me just tell you, that was a horrible idea. I started reading about the different treatments and devices these poor babies had to wear. There were surgeries and casts and plastic PVC pipe-looking contraptions.
I was in complete denial. I told Nick there was no way any stupid doctor was going to put my baby in that torture-device. I spent the next few days in a dark depression. I cried all day long, holding my sweet baby girl and praying that this wouldn’t be our journey. I begged God to heal her hips.
The Orthopedic Specialist
We had to wait two very long weeks for our appointment with the orthopedic specialist. I was so broken by this news; I couldn’t bear to go to this appointment alone. We thought we could be sneaky, but they wouldn’t allow Nick to come inside because of Covid.
We were about the get some life-altering news and Nick couldn’t even be in the room.
As soon as the doctor entered the room, I face-timed Nick so he could be a part of the decision making. Little did I know, we weren’t going to be given an option.
The doctor told us she had a mild case of Hip Dysplasia. Basically, her hips weren’t deep enough in the sockets and she would have to wear the Pavlik Harness (the torture device described above) for 12 weeks. The harness would force her hips to remain deep enough in the sockets while the cartilage around them began to solidify and become bone. Once this process takes place, the hips should be secured in the sockets without the harness.
Fortunately, her case was very mild, and he was sure the harness would have a 90% success rate, as long as we followed his directions. She would have to wear it 24 hours a day, with the exception of a 15-minute bath every other night.
I just couldn’t believe this was happening. We went home that day in the Pavlik Harness.
All of the Emotions
I spent the next week grieving all of the things we had lost. There are so many things that would have to change.
I wasn’t even sure how to hold her in the harness, everything was so awkward. My sweet new baby, and even holding her didn’t feel natural anymore.
What would nursing look like with this stupid contraption?
We could no longer swaddle Sofie because her legs had to stay in the “M” position at all times. How was she going to sleep at night? We didn’t even have time to prepare for this.
Diaper changes were extremely difficult maneuvering around the harness.
We completely lost our bedtime routine. I had to grieve the loss of bath time, my favorite part of our days.
Remember all of those adorable outfits I had looked forward to? Yeah, those were gone too. Since we couldn’t take the harness off, she would only be in long-sleeve onesies for the next three months. No pants, no dresses, no cute little shoes.
Not to mention, we were smack-dab in the middle of winter. How were we going to keep her warm without pants?
And what about milestones? Would this delay her development? Was she going to be able to roll, and crawl, and eventually walk?
And then there was another set of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for.
What were people going to think? I didn’t want anyone to think there was something wrong with my beautiful baby girl. I didn’t want people to see her in the harness and whisper, “what’s wrong with that baby?” I worried about what my friends and family would think. It felt like a dirty little secret that I didn’t want anybody to know about.
I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my closest friends. I was in such a dark place and I wasn’t ready to talk about it.
I know that might sound superficial and prideful, but it’s the honest truth. It’s easy to make judgements and proclaim what you would do in the situation, but nothing could have prepared me for all of the emotions I would feel.
We got the harness two days before Thanksgiving and all I could do was pray that the holidays would be cancelled so my family wouldn’t have to see her in it. I was even ashamed to post pictures of her on my social media because I didn’t want people to talk about it.
After about a week in the harness, I had finally accepted this as our journey. It took every ounce of courage in my heart to post about it. I had finally come to the realization that I wasn’t going to let this temporary inconvenience steal our joy. My baby girl is just as beautiful and happy and content in the harness as she is out of it. She didn’t let that silly harness faze her at all. So, how could I?
After I shared the news on social media, I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Our secret was out, and we were going to wear that harness with pride. If this is what we had to do to make her hips healthy, then so be it.
We had to go back to the orthopedic specialist every three weeks so he could adjust the harness as Sofie grew. At her 9-week check-up, he did an x-ray that showed she was just ONE degree shy of where he wanted her to be.
In 9 weeks, she had gone from 59 degrees to 31 degrees. He recommended she stay in the harness another three weeks to get her below 30 degrees.
After 12 very long weeks, Sofie was declared hip-healthy and we were finally allowed to take her harness off.
We celebrated by having a “hip hop” party and gifted Sofie her brand-new DJ booth.
Oh, where do I begin? I have learned so many things throughout this journey, especially about myself. I have always cared a little too much about what others think of me and this journey forced me to let that go. I had to accept this as our story to share, even if it was picture-perfect.
The old cliché, “life doesn’t always go according to your plans,” has never been truer. And for a planner/control freak like myself, that’s a tough pill to swallow. You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does. This was completely out of my control and I had to just let go and let God take over. It taught me that I had to give it completely to Him and have faith that He was going to heal her.
It also made me realize how fortunate I am to have my faith to hold onto during difficult times like this. As depressed as I was, I always had hope that God had a plan, and I don’t know how I could have gotten through this without that.
I learned that babies are so resilient. Sofie never fussed or complained about being in the harness. The whole process was so much harder on us as parents than it was on her. She adapted to her new accessory and kept a smile on her face the whole time. And if you ask me, she looked pretty damn cute in it.
My baby girl taught me that she is already so strong and there isn’t anything this world can throw at her that’s going to stop her from being exactly who she is meant to be.
What the Future Holds
Sofie will have her hips checked again at 9 months and 12 months to ensure her development is on track. We will continue monitor until she is two years old and if she remains hip-healthy, we are in the clear!
Praise Jesus! We are so thankful she is healthy and happy!