This whole, crazy journey began during a routine visit to my son’s pediatrician. It was January, my son, Nicholas, had turned 4 months old, and it was time for his “well check” appointment. My husband usually goes with us, but he had to work that day. So, I packed up my three-year-old daughter, Ella, my son, and myself and off we went into Orange County for our appointment. These routine check-ups are always exciting to me because I love seeing how much my kids have grown, how much they weigh, and how tall they’ve become. The nurse had taken all of the normal stats, and told us the doctor would be with us shortly.
When the doctor came in, we talked about how everything was going, and how big Nicholas was getting. I was happy to know that overall he was a very healthy, rapidly growing baby boy. The next thing I heard stopped me dead in my tracks. The doctor expressed to me that he was very concerned with the shape of Nicholas’ head, and he was recommending that I take him to a cranial specialist. A what?? What in the world was a cranial specialist? My heart sank as panic raced through my entire body. I pretty much didn’t hear anything else the doctor said after that sentence.
That day I learned a new word that would change the course of my life, as I knew it. Plagiocephaly. The basic meaning of plagiocephaly is that a child has a misshapen head. There are several different types of plagiocephaly, but I was clueless as to what any of it meant. Once I gathered my wits about me, my first question for the doctor was how is this affecting my son’s brain development. Thankfully, the doctor reassured me that it had absolutely no affect on his brain development, and that plagiocephaly is basically a cosmetic issue. I have learned since that it is not always just a cosmetic issue, but I will expand more on that later. My next question was…how is it treated. This was an even bigger blow to my already stunned system. The doctor told me that my son, most likely, would have to go through helmet therapy. This meant that he would need to wear a helmet, 23 hours a day, for 12-16 weeks. This meant our reality was about to quickly change.
When I left that fateful appointment, I could barely breathe. My heart was heavy, and I had a lump in my throat the entire way home. How was this going to affect my son? How was this going to affect me? How was this going to affect our life? I had so many questions and concerns racing through my mind. When we got home, my husband was home from work, and I began to cry. I tried to explain what the doctor had said, but I couldn’t even get my thoughts out. My husband actually took it much better than I expected, and much better than I was taking it. He stoically said that we would do whatever we needed to do to help our son. I knew we were going to move forward with treatment, but it was a world that I was not yet ready to embrace.
Now, I am not a vain person, but I do care about what I look like, and what my children look like. So, when I am told that my son will have to wear a helmet for 23 hours a day…needless to say, I was overwhelmed. My initial thought was, what are people going to think? An honest confession…I was thinking that I wouldn’t even take him out of the house for the 3 months or so that he would have to wear this dreadful helmet. That way I wouldn’t even have to deal with the stares, comments, and looks of sympathy I would be getting from outside people. I would just keep him surrounded by our close-knit family, in my own little “safety net”.