Sunday, February 9, 2014


To the hospital pediatrician and the kindly nurse practitioner in Orthopedics at Connecticut Children's Medical Center:

You both said the same thing, when you told me. As you told me my newborn, the sweet little thing, appeared to have hip dysplasia, you looked at me carefully. When you detailed what it meant to have a shallow hip socket that required her wearing a harness at the very least to start in order to correct the issue, when you said she would need to wear it 24 hours a day and come back for ultrasounds and continue to be checked because if left untreated the condition could lead to one leg being shorter than the other, to pain and a limp, I felt as if you were both holding your breath, watching me quizzically.

"You seem to be taking this very well," both of you said in more or less the same words, the pediatrician on Chloe's very first day in the hospital, and the nurse practitioner four days later. "Usually this is harder on the moms than it is on the baby."

You have to know I DID cry a little. I am not this great stoic. And at times I'm certainly not a model of maturity and calm. I DID cry at home, thinking about my baby being shoved into a brace, and wondering if that meant it'd be difficult to cuddle her and if it would bother her terribly, and wondering how long she'd have to wear it and if it would make all of those milestones difficult if the brace caused her to struggle to roll over, or crawl. And yes I selfishly thought of all the fun of dressing her in cute little girl outfits and whether or not I'd be able to or if the stupid brace would always be in the way and I'd have to answer a million times to people wondering what was wrong with her. I am only human, and while I would of course always do whatever we needed to do to keep her healthy and strong and growing correctly, I did feel a little sad.

But I didn't cry or freak out to you, and you kept making sure I was okay, and I reassured you that I was. I told you it was because I'd already done a little research on my own and understood what was going to happen. Knowledge is power and all of that. And yes, that was true, but there were two other things I didn't tell you.

I didn't tell you that when you hear the words "hip dysplasia" followed after by "but it's correctible" it's much different than hearing "your son has autism" and knowing it is something that stays with him always. I didn't tell you about the helplessness of learning your child has a disability and knowing there is nothing in your power (like a brace, or a pill) that can just - poof! - take it away. I didn't tell you about walking into Connecticut Children's to take Chloe to Orthopedics and seeing those elevators I took up to the fourth floor, to Developmental Pediatrics, the day Ethan was diagnosed.

And there is something else. When I push Chloe in the stroller down those colorful halls at CCMC so they can take another look at her hip, I also pass those elevators that brought me to Intensive Care four years ago, just a few months after Ethan got his diagnosis. My friend's baby girl was diagnosed with a rare kind of liver tumor when she was just a few months old. As I look down at my sweet girl I can't forget the face of that other one as she lay in a hospital bed so big for her little body. I think of fall sunshine streaming through the windows and the brave smile of her mom and how everything seemed so wrong. I remember the January day a few months later, a day much like the one when Chloe was born, when we gathered at the church to say goodbye. In my mind's eye, again and again, it's emblazoned: I see us sitting there and looking to the front at a very small coffin, and I can't forget the tears that wouldn't stop. They shouldn't make coffins that size, I remember thinking angrily. We should never have to see a coffin that size. Ever.

Yes, my daughter has an issue with her hip. And it's a pain to drag her back and forth to appointments and to shove a brace on her all of the time, especially if she's shrieking as I do it. If the brace didn't work and she had to have surgery or her legs in casts for months at a time, it would be a hardship. I'm sure there'd be more tears on both of our parts.

If this were my first child, and I was still driven by the Parents-magazine, BabyCenter-mindset that you just have to do everything just right for your baby and it will all turn out fine, that everything is still under your control, then I would perhaps be "losing it" as you well-meaning hospital staff are expecting me to.

But I know now. These last four years have granted me a precious gift that allows me, for the most part, to look down at my daughter and cherish her even more than I thought was possible. It wasn't something I willingly asked for. But now through the lens of time most days I see, I remember down deep to my core what it is to be blessed -- with perspective.

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