In July 2006 in the middle of my amniocentesis my doctor announced that the ultrasound revealed that my daughter had two club feet. I didn't know what club feet were. I thought they were feet that weren't completely formed when in fact they are feet turned in and possibly upside down, which in our case appeared to be both.ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â Take your arms and stretch them out in front of you, then point your hands toward the ceiling like you are looking at your fingernails. Now point your fingertips at each other the move your fingertips away from you slightly. That's a pretty good representation of what mild club feet look like. More severe club feet would be similar to adding one more step which would be twisting you hands palms facing you.
If you have been recently told the child you are expecting has one or two club feet you are now experiencing a huge range of emotions. First, shock - no, not my baby, he/she is suppose to be perfect and healthy. Denial - maybe the next check up we'll find out it's gone. Guilt - what did I do to cause this? Fear -what else could be wrong? What will life be like for this precious one and for us now?
First of all take a deep breath and realize that this is not your fault, you did nothing to cause this and it's not going away. As a matter of fact no one is really certain how this happens. Perhaps it's a bit genetic plus environmental but no one knows for sure. Blaming yourself or your partner will serve no purpose so put those thoughts aside. Secondly, of all the birth defects your child could have this is the BEST one. It's treatable, it's CURABLE. The child WILL move past this and live a normal life. Thirdly, ask your doctor point blank if there are any other concerns, make sure there are no complications.
Statistics, 1 in 1000 births are club foot, in 50% of the cases both feet are affected. If one foot is affected, that leg may have a smaller calf muscle and that foot may be smaller than the other.ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â Many cases require a minor surgery in which the Achilles tendon is severed, it's out patient and done around age 4 months. More severe cases sometimes require bone reconstruction and may require hospitalization overnight.
The first thing to do is call your pediatrician and get a referral to a Pediatric Orthopedist, don't wait until the child is born. Get the doctors name and phone number, the hospital will contact them when the baby is born. Trust your doctor, BUT check with your insurance and see if contacting a doctor at a local Shriner Hospital would be in your best interest.ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â they will cover your deductibles AND anything your insurance won't pay. Some insurances have huge deductibles where Orthodontics are concerned. Contact the Orthopedist and ask them about the types of casting they do for club feet. There are a couple of different types, some easier to deal with than others. What you need to know is that they will want to put the baby in casts for approximately the first 3-4 months of their life, changing the casts weekly as they move the feet/foot back into the correct position. This does not hurt the baby, but it can be uncomfortable and frustrating for everyone involved.
My advice, take the baby home from the hospital and cuddle it without the casts for a week. Enjoy the soft cuddly closeness and love that little bundle with all your heart. Then begin the casting process. Why? Casts are hard and heavy and it's a bit awkward handling the baby with them. My parents wouldn't even hold my daughter because they were afraid they would drop her. Have infant Tylenol and Motrin on hand. Check the dose with your Pediatrician, give it to your child in the doctors office just to help with any discomfort they may experience getting used to the casts. The children usually develop strong leg and stomach muscles from lifting those casts and kicking with them. Believe me, after a while they can wail those things around and if you're not careful you could get a black eye just trying to give them a kiss on the tummy!My daughter loved to slam them down on the changing table, just to hear the banging noise.
After the casting is over the child will be fitted with braces ( little boot like shoes with a bar in between their feet that allows a bit of movement) that they will wear 24 hours a day for a short while then you will begin to wean them off of the braces until they only wear them at night and nap time. Normally the children wear the braces until they are 3-4 years old.
When the casts are changed, expect tears, it's not painful but it's scary for the baby and by now you will probably realize they don't want anyone messing with their feet. If you can get the casts that can be removed by the parents the night before the recasting appointment, do so. That's exceptional cuddle time and it's an easier transition for the baby than having the casts cut off once a week. If you can get that type, once they are off, give the child a bath and moisturize their legs and feet BUT wash them before her doctor appointment because while her skin will need the moisture the lotion has to offer you don't want it on under her casts for sanitary and cast slippage purposes. If you can't get that type, bring lotion with you to the doctors office and once the casts are removed you will be allowed to wash her legs. Use the lotion ONLY if his/her skin is dry and flaking and again, wash his/her legs after a few minutes to remove the lotion before they put on her new casts.
Advice, don't try to hide the casts in public, no ones going to think you are bad parents. When asked by a stranger what's wrong, smile and say,"It's club feet and she's doing fine. "You will be surprised how many people will volunteer a club foot story about someone in their family and they usual end with how well they are all doing now. One more thing, restaurant high chairs and club feet don't mix, be prepared, bring in the infant car seat.
People with club foot
- Football players Troy Aikman, Charles Woodson, Pat Summerall and Miguel Riffo
- Olympic Soccer Player Medalist Mia Hamm
- Professional Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguchi
- Baseball players Jim Mecir and Freddy Sanchez
- Roman Emperor Claudius
- Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott
Lastly, know you are not alone. Check with your local parents as teachers association and see what they have to offer. They may know of programs in the area or state that can benefit you or your child. They will also come to your home and check on your child's physical and mental development and help you determine how they are doing and where they should be in their regular development. They should crawl and walk pretty close to schedule but if they are a bit behind don't worry, they will catch up.
And yes, you will feel cheated, you will feel denied of your cuddling opportunities of a soft little baby. That's when you need to remind yourself of how lucky you are to have this sweet little baby in your life and how lucky you are that it was only club foot, it could have been much worse. Remember to be brave, remember to be proud, remember your baby is watching you and taking note of your emotions and reactions to things and you need to be positive for them.ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â You can do it. It's not going to be easy, but you will get through it AND everything is going to be alright.ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â Hang in there!