It’s taken me four weeks of Lucy being in the spica before I could sit down and write this post. For many reasons. An eight-month-old baby forced into immobility is a very needy little thing, demanding my full attention and having mini-melt-downs if she doesn’t have it. I have also just surfaced from my escapism stage. For the first two weeks I spent what little spare time I had watching movies and season five of The Mentalist on weekly hire from the dvd store ($10 for 8). Watching Patrick Jayne crack every murder case with such ease and charisma while he desperately tries to track down serial-killer Red John is one of my favourite ways of zoning out from my own dramas. And then there is our evening bedtime routine which has been turned on its head since Lucy went into the rhino brace two months ago. We have done the same calm, soothing bedtime routine for months and it’s always worked beautifully. But recently Lucy has been resisting going to bed at night and getting her to sleep can take up to three hours – occasionally even more – meaning that I don’t have any evening hours to myself to do adult things like writing blog posts. The purpose of today’s post is really just to report back on how our little girl is going in her spica and what we’re doing practically to make things work. One of the positives to come from this hip dysplasia journey is our new friendship with a couple we met in the hospital ward. Their daughter is Lucy’s age and had her spica put on at the same time. We have been in regular contact and met up a few times since then and it has been such a comfort to have friends going through the same thing as us. They have also come up with some very cool coping strategies which I’ll share here too.So my first tip for today for any parents facing DDH: make friends with other DDH parents! When you’re at the hospital, engage with other parents and get chatting. You may discover some awesome new friends who will become your closest confidantes over the next few months. There are also support groups on Facebook that can connect you to other parents. I’ve signed up to a Western Australia support group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Ddhparentswa/) as well as an international hip spica one (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Hiptoddlers/). People are really generous with their advice and encouragement so it’s worth being part of these networks to feel less alone.
Car seats: We hired a Safe-n-Sound Sleep-n-Recline seat from Kidsafe. This seat works for both the rhino brace and the spica. I recommend that you wait until your baby is in their brace or cast before buying/hiring a seat to make sure it fits properly. The Occupational Therapist from the hospital checked the seat before we were discharged and she added some foam padding to support Lucy’s lower back.
Prams: We are fortunate in that Lucy still fits into her pram (Steelcraft Cruiser Stroller) and we didn’t have to buy a new one. We place a cushion behind her to boost her forward so her legs clear the sides of the pram. The O.T also added a wedge of foam behind the cushion.
High chairs: My biggest saving grace is the Bumbo. I saw this idea online and it is an easy, cost-effective way of seating Lucy for feeding or playtime or when I need my hands free for a few minutes. Jon simply used a kitchen knife to chop out some of the foam at the sides so that Lucy’s legs can fit. See if you can buy one off Gumtree second-hand rather than buy a brand new one for this purpose. We got ours for $20.
Our friends from the hospital visited a baby shop and tried out different high chairs to see if any would accommodate the spica. They bought an Avante Hi Lo chair. Nappies: A nurse at the hospital showed us how to put nappies on in a way to minimise leakage. It is a lot simpler than I expected. She recommended a large size nappy that can fit over the cast then put an incontinence pad inside the nappy to soak up most of the wee. We’ve been using sanitary towels during the day (cheap homebrand ones from Woolworths or Coles) and incontinence pads at night. We’ve added a third component to the system though. Within a few days of being in the cast Lucy had developed a horrible raw patch on her bum where the cast goes across at the back. To stop that area getting chafed we now put a cloth nappy liner in that area and it seems to have solved the problem. Interestingly, our friends from the hospital were shown a different method of using two nappies, both going over the cast, with no additional pads. To save money, they use a disposable nappy as the first layer then put a cloth nappy on the top.
Cast cooler: There is a company that makes a cast cooler (www.castcooler.com) which is supposed to be excellent for easing itchiness and reducing odour under the cast. One desperate night after many long desperate nights of Lucy battling to sleep I very nearly ordered one but stopped at the last minute as I couldn’t bring myself to pay the expensive international delivery charges. Our friends have come up with their own version of it, involving the top of a Nudie juice bottle that attaches to the pipe of the vacuum cleaner. Their daughter absolutely loves it!
Sleeping: The first few nights were pretty traumatic. At times both Lucy and I would be up in the wee hours of the morning with Lucy crying in frustration that she couldn’t sleep despite being exhausted and me crying in frustration that I couldn’t do anything to alleviate her distress. She had a raw, chafed bum which she had to sleep on for hours and hours without a change in position. She could also be experiencing cramp or itchiness but of course has no way of telling me what the matter was. We’re now a month in and I am happy to report that our nights are much more bearable now. Most nights I give her one dose of either Nurofen or Panadol or Dymadon before bedtime to offer some relief from teething pain and any pain or discomfort from being in the cast. I don’t give it to her in the day and I try to alternate types. (Some people may feel I shouldn’t rely on medication but I am only willing to engage with them on this topic if they themselves have a child in a spica.) I place a cushion under her feet to make her as comfortable as possible. I have also had some success using a bean bag in the cot. It provides nice support as it moulds to her body. Unfortunately it’s just been too hot to continue with it but I may try it again when the cooler weather sets in.
Play time: This is tricky because it’s hard to keep Lucy adequately stimulated, especially for solo play. I sit her in the bean bag or I lie her down on her mat surrounded by toys. My newest discovery has been a splash pool in which I sit her up with some cushions behind her. She really likes this one! Each option works fine for a few minutes but she very quickly gets frustrated because she can’t reach things easily so I need to be close by to help her out. She is a very social little bub so I try to get out at least once a day to have coffee with friends or go to different places where she can interact with people and get that social stimulation to make up for her lack of physical stimulation. Bath time: Oh man I can’t wait to give her a proper bath at the end of these THREE months!! For now, Jon sits on the edge of the bath with Lucy on his lap while I use a cloth and soapy water to wash her top half. Jon keeps a towel tucked in around her cast to keep it from getting wet. Fortunately Lucy doesn’t have very much hair so this method is working fine for now in terms of keeping her hair clean. In the nappy area I just use baby wipes to keep her clean.
I’ll leave it there for now. If I come up with any more ingenious ideas by the end of her time in the cast I’ll do another post like this. Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions. Feedback welcomed!