Thursday, July 09, 2009

Our little Jaggernaut

We now have a little Jaggernaut on our hands. We finally decided to try the helmet with Olsen. I kept looking at his head and noticed that his left side bulges out more, so we went to get it measured again, and it turns out that his head is 7 mm assymmetrical. Insurance covers the helmet at 6 mm off, so he is at the borderline between not helmeting and helmeting. We decided to go ahead and go for it so that we can say we did all we could for him and not have any regrets later. I know that many people that I've talked to say they don't really notice it or that it isn't that bad (but then again, who really wants to tell someone that their baby's head is odd-shaped?), but people also told us that at 5 months and now when I look at videos from then, I think 'gosh, his head looks flat' and I cringe a little that at the time I didn't think enough of it to get his helmet back then. I really don't want to look at videos from now in the future and think the same, so we have gone ahead with this helmet treatment. I dreaded this helmet so much at first, but now I am quite used to seeing my little helmet head.

This is silly but I think that one reason why I dreaded the helmet is because I didn't want to seem like an awful mother who left her baby on his back all day, resulting in a flat head. Before we had Olsen, I was totally aware of the possibilities of babies getting flat heads if left lying on their backs a lot, so I was careful to hold him most of the day and give him plenty of tummy time. He never even sat in a swing (mostly because he hated it) and wasn't really in his carseat that much, so I thought I was doing good. But we did not know about his torticollis until two months in and when he slept on his back, he only turned his head to the right, resulting in that side getting flat. Plus, he did take his naps in his bouncy chair, which probably didn't help things.

I also worried about the helmet because I didn't want to give the impression that I am unhappy with the way my little boy looks or expect him to be perfect. Right now, he is a little older than the ideal age to start the helmet, so he may not get perfect results, and I am okay with that. I just don't want him to have any future ill-effects from assymmetry. I read a couple of articles (from peer-reviewed journals!) that untreated plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) can cause some issues, like jaw or sinus problems and even learning disabilities, although the articles did not discuss the severity of the plagiocephaly of the research subjects so I'm unclear if these things would apply to Olsen since he is more on the mild side. I also don't want him to feel self-conscious about it in the future. We definitely plan on teaching Olsen that looks mean nothings if not accompanied with a spirit of generosity, empathy, and appreciation.

But, it can still be easy to feel a little self-conscious. I use myself as an example: I was in a pretty serious car accident several years ago and I fractured my spine. I had surgery and rods put it but somehow the part that was fractured slipped forward a little so my neck is not inline properly and comes forward. This makes my posture look awful! And I do feel self-conscious about it, especially when I have to give a talk, since bad posture does not really give the desirable message. But to fix my neck, I would have to have another invasive spinal surgery with a long recovery and all the other risks that come with having a surgery around your spinal cord. My neck issue obviously hasn't bothered me enough to get a second surgery, but if i could fix it just by wearing a huge, cumbersome back brace for a few months, I would totally do it. So, I think if Olsen can get a little bit of correction wearing this helmet for a few months, then it will be worth it. He doesn't mind it at all and the only real negative effect is that people stare at him. But Olsen doesn't understand the stares, so that is really something that I have to deal with. I think, though, that people would probably stare at him anyways, because people generally stare at cute babies.

At first, I was pretty sad about the whole flat head issue and the helmet wearing. Olsen has had a series of small issues in his first year: hip dysplasia, not nursing for two whole months, torticollis, plagiocephaly due to the torticollis, reflux, and milk and soy protein intolerance. These things have all been pretty minor, though at the time of their peaks, they have felt like huge issues to me. But today, Olsen had a follow-up appointment with his ped ortho to check his hips again (they look good!) and we saw several little ones in spica casts to treat their hip dysplasia, while Olsen only had to wear a harness. So, I am thankful that Olsen has been really fortunate that all of his issues have resolved pretty quickly. He has been in good health and has actually not been technically sick yet. I think we will make it through this whole helmet/plagiocephaly issue as well.


Nikki said...

Lisa, I would feel the exact same way. I hope that the helmet helps. He is such a cute little guy!

Anonymous said...

I must agree that Olsen is one good looking guy and i usually don't find babies cute..