20 Spica(and brace)-friendly Ideas for Keeping Babies Happy

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Lucy went into a spica when she was seven months old, which is around the time many babies start to crawl and get more mobile. I found it quite a challenge to keep her engaged and stimulated for three months and tried to find spica-friendly activities to do together. Some great ideas came from these sources:

* the various babycentre sites (.com, .au and .uk)

* www.thestay-at-home-momsurvivalguide.com

* www.babble.com

I’ve tried to keep the activities simple, cost-effective and do-able for non-creative types like me! ¬†If you can get hold of/make a spica table, don’t hesitate. I think it is essential for keeping our bubs happy when they’re all plastered up.

I hope that you can find something here to try with your little one and would love to hear from you if you have activities to add to this list.

1. Visit a dog exercise area

1397618631559This is something Lucy and I do regularly because we have a dog – Stella – a Staffordshire Terrier (awesome family dogs if you’re thinking about getting one!) Lucy absolutely loves watching the dogs run around and play with each other and it keeps her entertained for ages. She doesn’t mind at all when they get boisterous and bump into the pram – it just adds to the fun!

 

 

2. Tear up a catalogue

Those annoying advertising spreads that clog up your postbox can become your New Best Friends when you realise their potential! I prop Lucy on the couch next to me and she rips up catalogues while I read the paper/have a cup of tea/check emails/whatever for a few minutes. The delight it gives her makes the tidy-up afterwards completely worthwhile.

 

3. Goodie box

1397615186394Gather a few items from around the house that you think may be of interest to your little one. Put them in a box and present it to them to open and explore the contents. I like to put a ribbon around the box for an added challenge. This can be done endlessly, as the most random thing can hold her attention more than any of her usual toys. This is one of my favourite activities!

 

 

4. Sign language

Now is as good a time as any to introduce your bub to sign language while they are forced to sit still and pay attention! Hop onto YouTube for little video clips to watch and then put the signs into practice during your daily routine. There’s a lovely Baby Einstein one that Lucy and I watch.

 

5. Go for a ride

1398057253824We have a little device called a Corn Popper which was given to us for when Lucy is older but she loves it when I pop her on the seat and hold her hands on the handlebars while whizzing her around the house or yard. The added bonus is that it provides an intense workout for your rear end and hamstrings ūüôā There are lots of different contraptions out there so it doesn’t have to be a Corn Popper that you use.

 

6. Rhyme Time

Our local libraries in Australia run a fabulous, free program for babies and toddlers called Rhyme Time. Unfortunately we’ve only made it to one so far due to nap times clashing with the sessions. I know rhymes are important for language development so we’ve come up with a Plan B: the libraries give out Rhyme Time dvd’s in a little goodie bag when the babies are a few weeks old. I pop it into the dvd player and we have our own private session of Rhyme Time, following along and enjoying singing and doing actions together. This way we get to do it when Lucy is fresh and cheerful and can stop it at any time when she’s had enough. When she’s a bit older we’ll get to the proper sessions but this is a good alternative for now.

 

7. Play dates at the park

1398058669395I’m sure you do this already as it’s a pretty obvious way of keeping mums and bubs socialised and happy. One thing I do to encourage social interaction for a spica-clad, immobile baby is to take along Lucy’s modified Bumbo for her to sit in. The other babies are inevitably drawn to this strange contraption and crawl over to investigate! Lucy has more interaction this way than if I am holding her.

 

 

8. Play with food

1397569580531Lucy is now starting to understand that things fit into different categories. I use lunch time to play around with this concept by chopping up finger foods and putting them into little tupperwares with different coloured lids. I sit her at her spica table and give her the tupperwares to explore, talking about what is in each one. We then open the lids and tip out the contents. Eventually she’ll be able to sort the foods back into the tupperwares but that’s a bit advanced for now. When I tidy up the scraps at the end of lunch, I put them back into their allocated containers and talk about what I’m doing. A lunch sitting can last nearly an hour – that’s how engaging she finds all this!

9. Play with scarves

1397615407203Colourful scarves lend themselves to all sorts of games for babies. The original idea was to tie them together and put them in a box for Lucy to pull out. It didn’t quite go to plan so I improvised and dressed up our dog instead ūüôā She was very accommodating – any attention is better than no attention! ¬†Pull your scarves out the cupboard and see how your baby responds and go with the flow…

 

 

 

10. Wrap up toys

Unwrapping one of her 'presents'

Unwrapping one of her ‘presents’

Gather a few toys that haven’t been played with for a while and wrap them in gift paper. Put them in a bag and let your baby rummage through the bag and unwrap the ‘presents’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Read books

My little book worm

My little book worm

One of our favourite regular outings is to the local library to take out books for Lucy. The library has a huge selection of books for babies and a lovely play area too. I started reading to Lucy very early on and at one stage I nearly gave up because all she wanted to do was grab the book out of my hands. Thankfully I persevered but now stick to just the board books which can sustain rough handling and I allow Lucy to turn the pages while I’m reading. She has become an avid little reader and I often walk into her room when she’s woken from a nap and find her lying there with an open book in her hands and one on her lap. As an English teacher, I couldn’t be more thrilled ūüôā

 

12. iPad games

talking-tomI confess I’m a bit old-fashioned in terms of not wanting Lucy too device-savvy at a young age. I don’t let her play with my phone or iPad even though there are lots of apps that have been developed for babies. There is, however, one app that I have used with Lucy and she absolutely loves it: Talking Tom! I figure it’s good for aiding her speech development since the cat repeats everything she says.There is a free version available but I recommend buying the app so that you’re not inundated with annoying adverts. It’s a great one to have on your phone for when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and need to keep bub entertained.

 

13. Two-handed clacking

Future drummer?

Future drummer?

This is handy for when you need to keep your bub busy while you’re cooking. I move Lucy’s spica table into the kitchen and give her wooden spoons and spatulas etc to make some noise with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Videos on on your phone

Like most parents I can’t resist taking lots of videos of Lucy being cute. I often play them back to her and she is absolutely captivated by them! When I get videos of my nephew doing cute things I show them to her too. Babies love watching babies!

 

15. Play with bubbles

There is a gorgeous video clip of a baby in hysterics watching her dog eat bubbles. If you haven’t seen it before, please pause and give it a watch – her giggles are contagious! I haven’t quite had that reaction yet from Lucy and our dog hasn’t quite eaten the bubbles that enthusiastically but I am going to persevere because, well, it’s fun.

 

16. Paint swatch sorter

Playing with paint swatches

Playing with paint swatches

Visit a paint shop and gather up a selection of free colour swatches. At home, get a yoghurt or icecream tub and cut a slot in the lid. Play with the swatches together with your baby, discussing the different colours, then show her how to put them into the container through the slot. It doesn’t matter if she chews or bends them because you can just get a fresh batch when they get tired.

 

 

17. Aeroplane

Lucy hates – I mean¬†hates – tummy time but I know it’s especially good for her in the spica to help prevent pressure sores. One fun way of getting her onto her tummy is to do the old favourite aeroplane trick (lying on your back with your baby resting on your shins). She gets to see the world from a different angle and I sneak in tummy time without her even realising it.

 

18. Join a toy library

1400075732813This has been a lifesaver for us. After a few months of playing with the same old toys, Lucy was so bored of them but buying new ones can get very expensive. We have joined a toy library and pay $60 for a year’s membership. It is worth every cent for the amount of toys we now have at our disposal and I can experiment with different toys to see which ones she likes without having to buy them first and potentially waste a lot of money on things she has little interest in.

 

 

19. Visit the zoo or a farm – without driving anywhere!

A visit to the farm!

A visit to the farm!

A friend of ours kindly passed on a box full of toy animals when her girls grew too old for them. We’ve been having a lot of fun with them – some days we visit the farm and learn the names and noises of all the farm animals. On other days we visit the African plains where lions and zebra and giraffe roam (what noise does a giraffe make, anyone?!)

 

 

 

20. Make a collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

When you go for a walk, take a bag with you and collect little bits and pieces of interest as you go. When you get home, create a collage on paper or card and talk about all the things you saw on your walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to expand this list so please let me know what else you’ve been doing to keep your babies happy!

First X-ray Post Spica

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I am pleased to report that Lucy and I had a very positive trip to the hospital this morning. It was supposed to be the day her spica came off but because that got taken off two weeks early¬†we just had to have an x-ray done to check on the hip’s progress.

As much as I hated that awful spica, it seemed to achieve good things! The angle of Lucy’s left acetabulum went from being a very bad 38 degrees in January (6 months old) to measuring a much more stable 24 degrees today (10 months old). One of the mum’s in the DDH Parent Support Western Australia¬†¬†group took a sneaky pic of the angles chart at Princess Margaret Hospital. According to this chart, 21 degrees (plus or minus 3) is the normal angle for babies her age. This means that both her hips are now in the normal range – woohoo!

angle info

Angle chart from Princess Margaret Hospital

A graphic version of the acetabular angles chart. The heavy back line indicates what is normal per age group

A graphic version of the acetabular angles chart. The heavy back line indicates what is normal per age group (this is not Lucy’s chart – it belongs to another hipster bub)

 

I know that it is possible for the hip socket to regress (as I’ve already seen with Lucy) and for this reason I am “happy” to keep Lucy in her Rhino brace for a few more weeks. The downer for me this morning was that I had been told by one of the specialists that she would be in the brace for 6 weeks full-time and 6 weeks nights and naps, but the specialist we saw this morning is a 3-month man: he prefers a minimum period of three months per treatment type.

He said that by the time babies reach the age of two, their bones are no longer plasticine or malleable enough for any form of bracing to be effective. From that point on, surgery is required to correct any problems. So, while it is still possible to mould Lucy’s hips, we’ll persevere with the Rhino brace and hope that it will do the trick.

Lucy is so much happier in the Rhino and her favourite time of the day (other than meal times) is when she gets to splash in the bath. Her legs are getting stronger by the hour, she is sitting beautifully, kicking madly, holding her toes at every opportunity and far less cranky when made to do tummy time. We are slowly giving her some brace-free play time which she absolutely loves!

Our hipster bub is making progress!

Trying out her new table that Dad made for her! Paint job still to be done

Trying out her new table that Dad made. Paint job still to be done!

 

Skin and the Spica

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In the words of one of the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital: “Spica’s are notoriously hard to work with.” This was in response to the state of Lucy’s skin when her spica was removed last week – two weeks before it was scheduled to come off.

While we are doing everything we can to get Lucy’s hips better, Lucy’s body seems to be sabotaging our efforts. It refused to be shackled by the Pavlik Harness (read about that story here) and it reacted very badly to being in a cast for what should have been three months.

RASHY BUM

About a week and a half into the spica, Jon and I discovered that Lucy’s skin on her lower back/top of bottom was looking badly chafed. We weren’t sure how to treat it because we’d been told that no creams or powders were allowed. We decided the best thing would be to create a barrier between her skin and the cast so we placed a cloth nappy insert to line that area. Fortunately there was enough space to do so. I know a lot of casts fit too snugly for this method to work.

The skin was looking terrible and started peeling and then Lucy developed a temperature. On the second day of her temperature reading above 38 degrees celcius I decided to take her in to the hospital to be seen to in case she had developed an infection. Typically, it happened to be a Saturday which meant I could only take her to the Emergency wing rather than Orthopaedics.

The staff on duty weren’t too familiar with spicas and we were due to take Lucy for a 3-week check-up with her specialist in a few days’ time. After examining Lucy, they concluded that her temperature was unlikely to be linked to the condition of her skin and advised me to give her Panadol to keep her fever down. They also took a skin scraping to send to the lab to check for a fungal infection, and said I should discuss it further with the specialist on Wednesday.

Fortunately her fever came down on the third day and by the time we went for her check-up the skin was looking a lot better. (The cloth nappy insert proved to be a very effective addition to our nappy system and we used it for the duration of the spica, changing it at least twice a day. Lucy never had another skin problem in that area.) When I raised the issue with the specialist he wasn’t remotely concerned about it and said that he had seen some pretty ghastly skin conditions in his dealings with spicas but that it was worth it for the good achieved by the spica. He didn’t even take a look at her skin!¬†The lab results showed that the skin didn’t have a fungal infection.¬† Interestingly, he said we should go ahead and use the usual Sudocrem or similar to treat any rashes (even though all the info I’ve read from various sources advises against doing so!)

WEEPING SKIN

I must say I was a bit taken aback by the callous manner of the specialist and the way he told me- basically – to suck it up and let the spica do its job. So when we encountered our next skin-woes we felt that we should try and manage it as best we could rather than take her back to the hospital. This time, after about a month of being in the cast, we noticed that Lucy’s skin on her upper thighs were starting to weep a bit. It was tricky to see exactly what was happening inside the cast but a yellowy-fluid was making its way out the cast and onto the edges of her nappy. We used a damp cloth to try clean the skin then dried the area before placing sanitary liners on the inside edges of the cast to soak up the fluid and create a barrier between the cast and the skin. We noticed an improvement after a few days of doing this.

Less than a week before she was due for her 6-week spica change, her skin took a turn for the worse and this time, not only was it weeping but it started to smell rotten. Again, it was on the weekend when this happened so I called the plaster room at the hospital to ask them what I should do. They said to wait until her cast change on Wednesday and the doctors would decide whether to put the new cast on or let the skin heal for a few days before fitting the new cast.

Cast change day was a long ordeal (more details here) and when Lucy came out of theatre she had on a new cast. I assumed that either her skin wasn’t too badly affected or they had doctored it in some way so that they could still put the new cast on.

The first two weeks of the new cast went by incident-free and fresh-smelling but week three brought a return of the weeping skin. Again we tried to manage it ourselves and this time used diluted dettol to clean the skin and prevent infection. We used bamboo nappy liners on the inside edges of the cast and changed them morning and night. The dettol seemed to work and when we went for Lucy’s three week check-up the staff at the plaster room had a look under the cast when I raised my concerns with them. Firstly they told me off for putting the liners inside the cast, then they said that all they could see was dead skin and that that was perfectly normal. When I explained the weeping skin to them they said they had never seen that before. I was told to bring her back in if it happened again.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

This is what was oozing out of Lucy's cast

This is what was oozing out of Lucy’s cast

 

Well, it did happen again. And with a vengeance. We tried our usual cleaning and disinfecting and drying and bamboo-lining but it got worse. One morning the smell had become so bad and the colour of the liquid oozing from her cast had turned a brown colour and I knew that the spica had to come off. I took her to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for over three hours before we finally made it into the plaster room. The staff took one look (and smell) of the liner I pulled out and they agreed with my verdict.

 

 

THE CAST COMES OFF EARLY

Lucy's thigh a day after the cast came off

Lucy’s thigh a day after the cast came off

The sight of Lucy’s skin under the cast was not a pretty one. Her left thigh was bright red and oozing and angry. One of the nurses asked me if no one had told us not to put anything down the cast, implying that we had caused this breakdown of skin. At the time I was trying to console my screaming baby and didn’t have the strength to defend myself against her accusation masked as concern. Later on at home when I had a chance to properly examine Lucy’s skin, I could see that the areas we’d been able to reach to clean and disinfect were a lot better off than the unreachable areas so I don’t think we did too badly in nursing her at home. Unfortunately you just can’t see what is happening under most of the cast so you’re pretty powerless to fix it all.

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

The hospital gave us some loose dressing to place on her skin under the Rhino brace and advised that the best thing for the skin was air, rather than something like Sudocrem which forms a barrier on the skin. For the first few days we didn’t put any leggings on Lucy so that as much air as possible could reach her skin and promote healing.

 

 

MY HYPOTHESIS

I’m not a doctor therefore not qualified to explain why Lucy’s skin reacted the way it did to being in the spica. I know that when she first went into the cast she had a fungal nappy rash. Perhaps this had something to do with it? With the second cast, the left side was a much tighter fit than the right side so less air was able to get in there and dry up the inevitable urine that sneaks in no matter how careful you are. I also suspect that on the day her spica was changed the doctors should have opted to leave it off for a few days to give it a chance to heal. It was late in the day and her procedure had almost been cancelled but the anaesthetist had pushed for them to go ahead with it. They probably just hoped for the best rather than delay her treatment.

THE ROAD AHEAD

One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

I have been amazed by how quickly her skin has healed. It looked dreadful the first few days as the skin dried and peeled but after just a week it is almost completely better.

We are having an x-ray this week on the day that her spica was supposed to come off. In the meantime we have been told to keep her in the Rhino brace for two weeks on top of the six weeks full-time and six weeks nights only that was originally prescribed.

Spica Change Day

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Yesterday was Lucy’s six-week cast change at the hospital. Anyone unfamiliar with spicas might assume this would involve an hour or two at the plaster room and not much in the way of trauma for child or parents. Well, what we went through yesterday was an eight-plus hour affair involving many, many,¬†many tears from our little one. Fortunately this time I managed to hold myself together and could comfort her through it all. It was also a huge help to have Jon there for the day.

One of the biggest challenges for Lucy is that she had to fast before having the general anaesthetic. This was the basic outline of our day:

No solids after 07h00

No breast milk after 11h15

Admission 11h15

No water after 12h15

Procedure at 14h15

The day started off in good cheer, particularly since our new friends were there too for their daughter’s cast change. There is a lot of waiting around between admission and the actual procedure so it was lovely to be able to chat and compare notes and keep the babies distracted from their growing hunger.

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Lucy and Scarlett all dressed in their hospital gowns ready for theatre

To save time in the operating theatre, the doctors like the casts to be split in the plaster room beforehand. By this stage of the day, Lucy was getting pretty darn cranky due to her very empty tummy and no sleep. She didn’t find the ear phones, loud sawing noise and weird vibrations fun at all and expressed her displeasure very loudly and vehemently in the plaster room.

Trying to console Lucy while her cast is getting split with a saw

Trying to console Lucy while her cast is getting split with a saw

Once the cast was split, the plaster lady bandaged it up to hold it in place while we continued our wait for the procedure. We didn’t get a chance to see what her skin was looking like underneath. Jon reckons it’s probably better that way! A few days ago we were very concerned about the skin at the back of her thighs because it was getting raw and weepy and very smelly. We tried to clean the area using a damp cloth and tea tree oil, then blow dried it before placing sanitary liners under the cast to draw moisture away and form a barrier between the skin and the cast. We also applied some Sudocrem to the affected skin. It seems to do the trick and the skin was looking better by the time we got to the hospital. Apparently in some cases they delay putting on the new cast in order to let the skin heal. This was the last thing we wanted so we were very relieved they were able to proceed with the new one.

Lucy with her cast bandaged up, doing some quiet reading in the waiting room

Lucy with her cast bandaged up, doing some quiet reading in the waiting room

Unfortunately the theatre was running late because there was a patient undergoing an operation who also had shingles. To prevent it from infecting other patients, they had to keep the patient in the theatre until he/she had come round from the anaesthetic rather than take them to the recovery room as per usual. Then they had to do a thorough scrub down of the theatre to make sure it was infection-free. So instead of a 14h15 theatre slot, Lucy only went in at 15h30. Jon took her in for the gas anaesthetic which they use to put them to sleep before being taken into theatre and given the stronger anaesthetic administered via a cannula in their hand. When he put her down on the table she got very upset but the gas quickly worked its magic and she was asleep within about twenty seconds.

Grabbing a bite of lunch at the hospital's cafe. Love the hospital staff but the building is a pretty depressing place

Grabbing a bite of lunch at the hospital’s cafe. Love the hospital staff but the building itself is a pretty depressing place

An hour or so later, I was called to the recovery room to sit with Lucy while she came round from the anaesthetic. She was a very miserable baby at this point, crying inconsolably. I tried to breastfeed her to comfort her and get some food into her but she just kept on crying. The nurse gave her some Panadol via IV. Having a cast change can lead to some pain because the legs are accustomed to being in one position and the slightest change in this position can be sore. I also summoned my nappy bag to see if I could get some other food into her. She wolfed down a whole sachet of blueberry, apple and banana puree so she must have been famished. She eventually settled and her pulse calmed to a normal pace. She had, however, developed an intense dislike for anyone wearing a uniform and started crying angrily the moment any nurse came close to measure her temperature or check that her toes were warm and moving or even just to say hi! Any time I put her down on the bed she got worked up because I think she anticipated another unpleasant procedure. We had to wait an hour and a half in the recovery room because the surgeon hadn’t written an operation report and we weren’t allowed to leave until the report was available. The surgeon was busy with his next operation so only when he was done could we go.

After some Panadol and food, Lucy has finally calmed down but does not like nurses much!

After some Panadol and food, Lucy has finally calmed down but does not like nurses much!

But not go home. We then had to go to the next waiting room for observation and also to have the edges of Lucy’s cast taped to make them more waterproof and take care of any sharp bits. Lucy was beside herself at having to endure further treatment and wailed miserably the whole time the kind nurses were taping her up.

Getting the edges taped up - the last straw! (We went for purple legs this time)

Getting the edges taped up – the last straw! (We went for purple legs this time)

Eventually, at 19h15 we were discharged, exhausted and so happy to be able to get home and get our distressed child to bed.

The good news is that we are now half-way through our spica experience. May the next six weeks fly by…

The Spica: Four Weeks Down

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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.

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Lucy in her Steelcraft Cruiser Stroller, with a cushion and a foam wedge behind her for support.

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.

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The modified bumbo, which I usually use for feeding time. The tray doesn’t fit on unfortunately so things can get a bit messy!

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.

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Lucy’s New Best Friend Scarlett in her Avante Hi Lo high chair.

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.

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Scarlett having her cast cooled with a homemade cooling device.

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!

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Lucy about to have a nap lying on her bean bag.

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.

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The splash pool! $15 at KMart.

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!

Surgery and the Spica

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So, at the age of seven-and-a-half months, Lucy was scheduled to have her first ever surgery. We had to check in to Princess Margaret Hospital at 6:45 a.m. for her 8:15 a.m. operation. I set my alarm for 4:45 so I could grab a quick shower before waking Lucy at 5 for her last feed (she had to fast for three hours beforehand). This was an early start after getting to bed late due to packing my hospital bag and getting various things organised, not to mention Lucy’s multiple wake-ups during the night!

Lucy all dressed up in her hospital-issue pj's, looking like a jailbird! And a bleary-eyed mama trying to be strong.

Lucy all dressed up in her hospital-issue pj’s, looking like a jailbird! And a bleary-eyed mama trying to be strong.

Before the procedure we had to speak to several people all asking pretty much the same questions, have Lucy weighed and measured up for her cast, sign various consent forms, select the colour for the cast and then decide who was going to go through with her when they put her under anaesthetic. In my mind it was always going to be me but at the last minute I told Jon it had to be him because the closer we got to 8:15, the more frayed my nerves were becoming and I lost confidence in my ability to keep smiling while she was being put to sleep.

As the team of medical staff arrived to wheel her off and Jon went along with them, I couldn’t help myself and burst into tears in the busy waiting room, the lack of sleep and suppressed anxiety taking its toll. (I’ve wisened up now and know to wear waterproof mascara to all medical appointments!) Jon was back within probably two minutes. Lucy had been completely calm and very quickly went to sleep when they gave her the gas, without any dramatic rolling of eyes or convulsions!

My little pin cushion :(

My little pin cushion ūüė¶

After two-and-a-half hours, two doctors came through to report back to us. The anaesthetist¬†explained that it had taken her a whole hour to find a vein to put the cannula in for the second dose of anaesthetic and that Lucy’s arm would look like a pin cushion. <SOB!> Then the doctor reported that they had injected her hip socket with dye and taken an x-ray to see exactly what was going on before they operated. The x-ray showed that there wasn’t any build-up of tissue in the socket, like they had previously thought, which meant that they didn’t need to operate after all! All they needed to do was put the cast on, and this procedure is known as a ‘closed reduction’ (‘closed’ because no surgery was required to get the hip socket into the optimal position). The cast has to stay on for three months in total and will be changed after six weeks to accommodate Lucy’s growth.

I was then taken through to the recovery room as Lucy was coming round from her anaesthetic. The nurse explained that I should breastfeed her straight away to reassure and comfort her. This was somewhat tricky since she was now in a bulky, heavy, scratchy cast and had some tubes attached to her. The nurse took her temperature a number of times and each time it was well below normal. To warm her up, they placed a blanket-type thing over her into which a pipe was blowing hot air. We sat there for ages until she had eventually warmed up and could be taken through to the ward where we would spend the night.

Getting in a nap despite the noise of a busy children's ward

Getting in a nap despite the noise of a busy children’s ward

The room we were in was so much better than I’d anticipated! I thought it was going to be a huge room filled with babies but there were only three beds in it and a fair bit of space so we weren’t on top of the other families. The nursing staff at the hospital were all friendly and efficient and Lucy was very well taken care of. Jon was allowed to stay pretty much as late as he liked so long as he didn’t actually spend the night. After a long day, he headed home around 9 p.m.

Lucy and I then had a very long and disrupted night. We were both exhausted and desperately trying to sleep but the odds were not in our favour. I wont list all the factors involved except for the main one that prevented us from getting any decent sleep: one of Lucy’s room mates was a seven-week-old bub with a condition called sleep apnea. According to the Babycenter website, babies with sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep. The baby might gasp or gag as he finally takes a breath. He may also turn blue. This poor little boy was hooked up to a machine that monitored his breathing and whenever his oxygen levels got too low an alarm would go off loudly to summon the nursing staff. This happened a LOT. And when he was awake – he cried. A LOT. So yes, a very long night was had by all in Room 5.

Lucy as bright as a button on Day 2.

Lucy as bright as a button on Day 2.

The next day we were more than ready to get home but had to wait until they could do an MRI to confirm that Lucy’s hips were in the correct position in the cast. The MRI is a pretty scary procedure for anyone who gets claustrophobic and for babies it can be especially scary because there are all sorts of wierd noises that go off during the scan. It lasts about 10 minutes. I went in with her and had to sit at the one end of the tunnel to hold her arms still and speak soothingly to her. She surprised us all by staying totally relaxed and was falling asleep by the end of it!

"Get me outta here!!"

“Get me outta here!!”

By mid-afternoon, the doctor was able to review the scan and confirm that all was well and we could leave. It had only been a day and a half but it felt like we’d been in there for a week! As lovely as the hospital staff are, we couldn’t wait to get home again.

To end off, I’d just like to thank everyone who sent texts and Facebook messages to us during this daunting time. That long night in the hospital was made a lot more bearable thanks to all of your encouragement and prayers. I truly did feel buoyed by your support.

And I’m sure your prayers had a little something to do with the fact that Lucy didn’t have to have surgery in the end…

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What happened to my miracle?

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God, I have to be honest (which I think you prefer over lip service): believing you had healed my baby only to find out her condition has worsened and she has to undergo surgery is hard. I feel like a kid at Christmas who unwraps the gift I’ve been begging for all year only to discover it’s faulty and has to be sent to the manufacturer for repairs. And all the other kids around me are happily playing with their presents and showing them off and posting pics of them on Facebook.

I know that you are not a genie in a magic lamp who I can summon at will and present my wishes to. But you said in Luke 17:6: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

I’m pretty sure I had at least a mustard seed of faith, possibly even an acorn. And just in case I didn’t, I asked my friends and family to pray too so that all of our prayers together might be enough to move your hand.

And when you were¬†knitting Lucy together in my womb, as per Psalm 139:13, we prayed that she would have the best of Jon and the best of me in her. I’m not sure how this translates into a genetically pre-disposed hip condition. Did you drop a stitch?

Walking with you can be perplexing and some scriptures seem so paradoxical. I find the older I get and the more I read and experience, the less I know.

But I’ve walked with you now for over twenty years and there are a handful of things I do know beyond a doubt. I have experienced the truth of them enough times to be convinced of them:

You are a good father. (Psalm 100:5)

You will never leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 1:6)

You are constantly at work to make every circumstance beneficial for me. (Romans 8:28)

Lucy gets so upset now whenever I leave the room and I have to console her on my return. I find myself saying soothing things like, “Oh my baby, just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I’m not here”.

And, “My darling, you need to learn to trust me. I’ll never leave you on your own.”

And, “Lucy, everything I’m doing is only for your good.”

And I can almost feel you poke me in the ribs and chuckle and say to me, “Sound familiar, Jen?”

And then I know – regardless of the confusion of prayers seemingly unanswered – that everything really will be alright.