The journey of my mini man comes with much anxiousness and anticipation, some of this perfectly normal for a second child, some not within the norm at all. I had recently returned back to work from having my daughter when finding out I was pregnant again, and excitedly we shared the news that we would be introducing another beautiful cherub. Those early days were full of constant nausea and exhaustion, and chasing around my little girl who was all of 8 months old at the time. We had our standard ultrasound around 12 weeks and got see our baby kicking around on the screen, melting our hearts in an instant. Everything looked perfect and we left the ultrasound rooms with smiles of sheer joy. We excitedly shared the photos, my nausea began to ease off, and my belly steadily began to grow.
We reached 20 weeks and headed again for our ultrasound, excited to again see our little one and hopefully find out whether we would be welcoming a little boy or girl into our family. The 1st December, my daughters first birthday, I will never forget that day. We were running late and my husband dropped me off while he parked the car, so I began the ultrasound on my own. The instrument slid across my belly and I happily relaxed as I could see my baby on the screen.
I vaguely remember thinking that there was a lot of focus on the legs and thought there must be some difficulty finding out the gender. The technician asked if my husband was coming and I responded he would be here shortly. My husband arrived and we happily watched our child together. After a few more minutes the technician turned to us and said that there was something wrong with the babies feet. My heart instantly dropped. He continued talking and explained that he had detected talipes in both of the babies feet. He explained that this was a highly treatable condition but that it also could be associated with more significant disorders. He said that he’d checked the babies legs, arms, hands, and internal organs and everything else looked clear which suggested there was nothing more sinister going on. An amniocentesis was suggested to rule any of these things out.
I heard none of it. There was something wrong with my baby. I fought back tears. This isn’t what was supposed to happen today, this wasn’t what we were supposed to come here to be told. There was something wrong with my baby, what had I done wrong?
The technician continued the scan, he talked us through everything, showing us the feet, clearly showing and explaining how the foot was turned on a different angle than expected. He showed us the legs bones, the arm bones, the hands and fingers. He showed us the brain, the chambers and blood flow of the heart, the face and the lips that looked to be formed as they should be. Everything formed as it should be. The baby is also a boy he said, which talipes is more common in.
I managed to make it to the elevator before I broke down. I sobbed into my husbands chest, holding the ultrasound DVD and photos in my hands and thinking how pointless they seemed. Within 20 minutes my phone rang, our obstetrician’s receptionist. The ultrasound technician had called them, and our obstetrician was leaving a conference she was at to meet with us within the next hour. We went to my husbands parents home, where my birthday girl was, and told them the news. I sat and hugged my daughter while they processed the information also. We met with our obstetrician who was so relaxed about the whole thing, “everything will be fine” she repeated to us, the treatment is amazing, the baby will be perfectly fine and will lead a normal life.
We declined the amniocentesis, a decision I had made before leaving the ultrasound room. Everything pointed to no other issues, and if there were other issues then we would just deal with these as well. While it was never suggested to us that termination may be an option with more significant issues, it was certainly something that I was not even willing to entertain the thought of. Having the amniocentesis, and possibly being posed with that question, felt like I was betraying my son in some way. Regardless of what came our way my son would live a full and happy life.
We were referred to a neonatal paediatrician who we saw a week later, who walked us through best case to worst case scenario. In this time I had done a little processing, a little reading, and had a little idea of what we were in for. The paediatrician was very comforting and reassuring, he reviewed our ultrasound and was confident our boy had only talipes.
Following this I threw myself into research, reading studies on talipes and the treatment, searching frantically for support groups which just didn’t seem to be around, least of all in Australia. I managed one day to stumble across Aussie Clubfoot Kids and found an online forum full of stories of babies, toddlers, and parents, all living their daily lives with talipes. Reading the success of these families was so comforting that the tears began flowing again, but the anxiousness began to ease. People were doing this daily, and the outcomes were indeed amazing. We could do this too.
My pregnancy progressed, we had another ultrasound at 35 weeks and everything continued to follow the path of any other child, apart from the feet, still noted to be turned. Finally on Easter Saturday we got to meet our son. He arrived feet first, with his first breath he filled the room with his voice, and already displayed the chubbiest of cheeks. He was assessed by the paediatrician and finally reached my chest, settling almost immediately. My beautiful boy. The paediatrician quietly came over and said his feet had been assessed and looked to be isolated, would I like to see them. As I stared at my son’s face, soothing his cries from his abrupt entry into the world, curly feet were the furthest thing from my mind. He remained wrapped, snuggled up in his daddy’s or mummy’s arms, for hours.
I didn’t unwrap those little feet for hours, and in the end only because I wanted to see them before our families arrived. I didn’t want them to know more of my son before I did. Slowly, preparing myself, I exposed those wrinkly little newborn feet, only to find two feet tucked up to my sons bottom, as if that is where all feet were meant to sit. There was no shock, no tears, nothing other than my baby. He was perfect.