The other day whilst at the local soft play area, I was approached by another Mum. She complimented me on my happy smiley baby boy. I was pleasantly surprised when she went on to enquire if my son was having the Ponseti treatment. She had noticed the boots and bars that my son currently wears, for 23 hours a day. You can’t exactly miss them to be honest. It was refreshing to have someone that already knew the problem with my little ones feet rather than have to explain the whole procedure. Though with that said, I always prefer to have the opportunity to explain to those that ask, rather than pretend to have not noticed the stares and whispers that, far too often, happen instead. The lady explained how her friends son was treated with the same method for his severe bilateral talipes and that he is now 8 years old and is a happy boy that is the same as any child without talipes. She was very encouraging that my son would be just fine following this remarkable treatment. I couldn’t agree with her more. This short-lived encounter made my day. In fact, it made my next few days. Positive stories and encounters go a very long way and are received like a good tonic.
My baby boy was born with bilateral talipes. We discovered this at the 20 week pregnancy scan and I can’t deny that it created a cloud over the rest of the pregnancy. My initial feeling was one of devastation that my baby would not be “perfect”. A mixture of confusing feelings followed but the foremost feeling of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of coping, fear of the treatment being successful and fundamentally fear that the talipes was a sign of a more sinister condition. We were enlightened by the hospital of several chromosome conditions that, on rare occasions can cause the talipes. Further scans and more intrusive tests followed and we felt extremely lucky that the talipes did appear to be isolated. Obviously there is no way of being entirely certain.
On the 10th July we finally met our baby boy, Zachary. When he was 4 weeks old we began the first stage of the Ponseti treatment, the casting stage. Zac had 6 weeks of casts, changed on a weekly basis. This was followed by a tenotomy on both his legs with a further 3 weeks of casts while the scar healed. The next stage is the boots and bar stage which he wears for 23 hours a day for an initial 12 week period. The final stage if the process is successful, is wearing the boots and bar during the night-time only. This can continue for 5 years.
We are now 6 weeks into the full time boots and bar stage so half way. So far, we have been very lucky that the process has on the whole, been a positive one. Zac has continued to smile throughout, laughing with the physio’s while his casts were put on and the boots do not seem to bother him at all. My beautiful Zac has made the process all the more bearable for me. I am aware that this may not always be the case but for now I’m happy to be on this journey.
I use the word happy with some apprehension. Obviously I would prefer if we did not have to go through any of this treatment. I would prefer my boy to have been born with straight feet. I would prefer to be choosing cute little baby shoes. But being on this journey has taught me some lessons, just like all of life’s journeys. I have learnt that the cute shoes aren’t important; instead I am grateful that we are able to receive the amazing treatment freely, at our local hospital just 10 miles away as this is not the case in all countries. I have learnt that I am stronger than the stares and whispers; instead I am proud to show off my baby in his boots. To replace every stare there is often a positive and reassuring encounter. I have learnt to talk to people about the condition, in doing so creating awareness. I have learnt that although not ideal, things could be terribly worse. I have learnt to be patient, for you cannot rush the process. I have learnt to be in the moment even for just an hour a day. The hour that we are boot free, the world stops while we enjoy this brief time. I’ve also discovered the wonderful group ‘Happy Feet’ that was set up by Harding. Having contact with the strong, positive women on this group is a constant support. Zac is now almost 19 weeks old. I never imagined that a 19 week old baby could teach you things. But our journey with , albeit early days, and the ever present smiles from Zac have taught me some precious lessons. For that, I feel lucky and very happy indeed.