No more baby helmet! Just residual mom guilt

And we’re done with the DOC Band!

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Bring on those hats!

It was actually a little anticlimactic, to be honest.  Officially he was supposed to wear it for another week, but we asked for our last adjustment appointment to be our “graduation” appointment so that we wouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes each way again just to get pictures taken. So they adjusted the band, gave us a little certificate, and sent us on our merry way.  We were thrilled to not have to go back and they were thrilled to never see my face again.

But then, just under a week later, Jacob started getting red spots that took about five hours to go away, which meant we’d outgrown the helmet and were done early.

Which we celebrated by…questioning our decision to remove the helmet.

stupid-questions-reminders-ecard-someecards

Well, that’s how I celebrated.  My husband had zero qualms about being done early because either dad guilt isn’t a thing or it’s much milder than mom guilt.

As adamantly opposed as I was to the idea of a second helmet (and yes, I still think that’s a money grab in many cases), Jacob DOES still have a flat spot.  So am I being selfish for wanting to be done?  But on the flip side, it’s a DIFFERENT flat spot than the one the helmet was correcting, so did I cause this new one by helmeting him in the first place?

The reality is that no one but me (and I suppose other moms who have dealt with flat heads and are now hyper alert to them) is ever going to notice that his head is anything but perfect.  While I now have flat-head-dar and look at the shape of everyone’s heads (it’s terrible.  I look at my students and am like, “wow, you should have had a helmet!”), there are people who I looked at every day for years without ever thinking “Wow, your head looks like the east building of the National Gallery!”  

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Gallery_of_Art#/media/File:National_Gallery_of_Art_DC_2007ex.jpg

Pre-helmet, Jacob’s misshapen head was noticeable.  It isn’t anymore unless you’re really TRYING to find imperfections (and looking at him directly top down.  He’s got a tall daddy, so I’m thinking that won’t be the case for most people for the majority of his life).  By all accounts, the helmet was very successful in reshaping Jacob’s head.  And what it didn’t fix will most likely round out by his second birthday on its own.

So I guess what it really boils down to how to live with the mom guilt.

Pre-baby, it was just guilt.  Which I suppose comes with the territory.  I am Jewish after all, and if our people are known for anything, it’s guilt.  You’re welcome.  (See what I did there?  I learned at the knees of the masters!)

jewish guilt

I automatically assume everything is my fault no matter what.  I should have tried harder.  Been better.  Gotten more people out.  Yes, I was born decades after the Holocaust, but damnit, I should have done more!

So now that the helmet is done and his head isn’t a miraculously perfect round orb, I need to find a way to let it go.  I’m trying to tell myself that that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn here.  A couple of people said to me, after I went public about the situation with Jacob’s head and neck, that we get the baby we NEED, not necessarily the baby we WANT. On the surface, that sounds terrible, because of course I WANT Jacob!  He’s the absolute best part of my life.  

But I get where those people were going because I think I needed to learn that I can’t control everything.  And if I can’t control everything, then not everything can be my fault.  Some things just happen and I need to learn to roll with it.

lesson-i-learned-from-my-dog-no-matter-what-life-brings-you-kick-some-dirt-over-that-shit-and-move-on--83c71

That’s really a struggle for me and was part of why the inability to exclusively breastfeed Jacob was so devastating as well.  I had found something that I couldn’t control.  My mother called me arrogant when I expressed that to her, and she’s not wrong.  But up until motherhood, I lived a life where I was largely able to say I was going to do something and then find a way to make it happen, come hell or high water.  Failure simply wasn’t in my vocabulary.

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For example, I said I was going to dance on stage at a Bruce show. And I did.

It’s been humbling to have to change that without seeing it as failure. In my mind, Jacob was supposed to be the Galahad to my Lancelot (yes, I know only like three people got that. But I took an Arthurian legends class in college and it was cool.  And I’m a nerd. Get over it).  He was supposed to be perfect in all of the areas that I wasn’t.  He would have no flaws.  And while my mother will tell you he’s the most perfect baby ever, I’m still freaking out that he isn’t crawling yet.  And still blaming myself, because if I’d caught the torticollis earlier, wouldn’t he be?

Back to everything being my fault.

my fault

But I’m learning.  If eventual baby number two* isn’t gaining weight with breastfeeding alone, I’m not going to stress about supplementation because I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t control that.  And that, as much as it felt like it was the first time around, it’s neither the end of the world, nor my fault.

*I am not pregnant.  I am not planning on becoming pregnant any time soon.  I have a nine month old.  I’m tired.  I do want a second child in the future, but if you read into this to assume that that’s coming soon, I may slap you.

I definitely know more now about keeping baby number two’s head round as well.  I know the signs of torticollis, but the reality is that that may be unavoidable too.  I had low amniotic fluid the first time around, which is again out of my control.  But an earlier diagnosis, if that is an issue again, could be key in the flat head battle.  I know to reposition, I know more about tummy time, I know to wear the baby more.

I also know that if future baby number two needs a helmet, we’ll do it. And I’ll do my best not to beat myself up about it too much.

dont-beat-yourself-up-for-making-the-same-mistakes-instead-just-start-calling-them-traditions-2ba1b

 

What to expect when you’re expecting… a baby helmet

Hi, I’m Sara, and I’m a Google addict.

My baby also wears a DOC band for positional plagiocephaly (a word I learned in my frantic googling when my pediatrician first told us that our baby had a flat spot) that was the result of undiagnosed torticollis (which I caught, thanks to Google).  

when in doubt, google it

But there was a lot of stuff that Google wasn’t so helpful with when Jacob first got his helmet and I had questions, so now that we’re almost finished (THANK FREAKING GOD! We officially have two weeks left of him wearing it, but we had our “graduation” appointment already, so we’re pretty much there!), I figured a blog post (aka adding to the world of Google for other paranoid mamas) outlining all that stuff could help anyone who just got a baby helmet and was frantically trying to figure out if everything was okay or not.

learned more from google than school

Let’s start with how it all works at the very beginning.  In case you haven’t gotten your helmet yet, Cranial Technologies will go over most of this part with you.

Days one and two, you’ll leave the helmet on for three-to-four hour intervals, then check for red spots.  If the red spots go away in an hour or less, cool, put the helmet back on.  (They give you a paper to write down timing on.  Use it.  It helps.  Especially if you’re like me and spending the early days weeping about the helmet and can easily lose track of time.)  If the red spots take more than an hour to go away, call Cranial Technologies.  

Warning: probably not in those first couple days, but you WILL eventually get red spots that don’t go away immediately.  Try not to panic (I’ll get to that in a minute).

panic attacks online

IF your baby’s red spots all go away within an hour after like three of those checks, your baby can sleep in the helmet.

I figured that would be the worst part, but honestly, Jacob adjusted just fine.  He never even seemed to notice it was on.  We did freak out the first couple of nights when we heard loud thuds on the baby monitor, only to find he’d banged his helmet into the side of the crib.  Which also made me wonder how often he’d banged his unprotected head against the crib and it hadn’t made a loud enough thud for me to notice.  But at least he’s protected now when he does it, right?

no clue what we're doing

The first couple of weeks, you’ll need to take off the helmet and wipe your baby’s head down at diaper changes/any time he or she seems hot.  THIS IS A BIG ONE.  That sucker is an inferno!  It’s like wearing a Russian fur hat indoors at all times.  Your baby is going to get sweaty and gross.  So dressing him or her in ridiculously inappropriately cool clothes is important.  (Learned this the hard way.  We had our guy in a warmish car with a hoodie on and he got super fussy.  Turns out his whole back was drenched with sweat. Baby is going to be a little fireball with that helmet on.  Keep him or her cool!)

george sable hat

We did great the first week once we started dressing him cooler.  Then, Friday afternoon, Jacob got a red spot that didn’t go away in an hour.  And it was right after Cranial Technologies closed for the weekend (of course).  

So I did what any rational person would do: I panicked.  

Actually, I took the helmet off, because I Googled “DOC band red spots” and saw that red spots can lead to skin breakdown and I FREAKED that he was going to get a bloody head and we wouldn’t be able to wear the helmet until it healed and by then he would have grown out of it and then we’d have to spend another $2,500 that we don’t have out of pocket for a new helmet.

freak out and panic

But the take-the-helmet-off plan sucked too because we paid $2,500 for this hunk of junk and, damnit, it wasn’t going to fix Jacob’s head sitting on the counter!

That piece of plastic and foam was going back on his head, no matter how much I hated it.  So I slathered Aquaphor on Jacob’s head and the red spot was better by morning.  I also ordered some British “nappy rash” cream that the helmet mamas across the pond rave about for red spots off of eBay, just in case–which is currently sitting in a drawer because the Aquaphor worked beautifully. Cranial Technologies said to use a little cortisone cream, but the Aquaphor did much better for an irritation spot.  Just make sure you wipe the excess off before you put the helmet back on because it can *supposedly* damage the foam.  (I kind of think that’s like the airplane rule of shutting off electronics for takeoff and landing.  There’s a zero percent chance they’d let you have electronics on a flight at all if there was even the most remote possibility of them interfering with the plane’s equipment.  TOTAL BS.  But whatever.)

airplane mode

We got Jacob in for his appointment and they shaved down the spot that had been rubbing (by the velcro opening of the band), and the red spot there got better.  It did come back closer to adjustment number two, but the tech said that red spots tend to get worse when the band needs adjusting and that’s “good” because it means there’s been growth.

Their method of determining where to shave for red spots is… well… interesting.  They put lipstick on your baby.  Not on his mouth, but on the red spots, then put the helmet back on, wiggle it around, and shave where the lipstick rubbed off on the helmet.  Which seems legit.  I mean, nothing screams “medical professionals” like lipstick on a baby.

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All was well.

Then I went back two days later for another adjustment because we got red spots that wouldn’t go away again.

That was by far the most frustrating stretch of wear in the helmet so far.  And by then, I was pretty disillusioned with Cranial Technologies because A) they didn’t do any measurements at his official adjustment, just told us “oh, wow, it looks great,” and B) I had to take off work TWICE in the same week to get Jacob up to Columbia for adjustments.  Like, I do have a job other than shuttling him to the helmet store! (Yes, I’m calling it the helmet store.  Because they’re not doctors.  They sell helmets.)

And I got even more disillusioned when they shaved a little more foam out and then told me Jacob had heat rash.  It was 40 degrees out, which yes, was better than last week’s polar vortex-nado thing, but it was still cold.  How do you get heat rash when it’s 40 degrees out?  

things-that-are-dangerous-when-left-out-in-the-heat-RAa

In my frustration, I spent a while reading everything I could find on that 2014 study that claims the helmets don’t do anything and was thinking I’d just wasted 16.6 Springsteen tickets worth of money on this thing that was hurting my baby.  (Who am I kidding?  I don’t go to concerts right now.  I have a baby!  But that’s still my unit of measurement, soooo… maybe someday I’ll be going to shows again.)

springsteen-tickets

They told us to keep it off until everything was totally skin-colored and to put a little cortisone on the “heat rash.”  They also said that in areas where babies have “stork bite” birthmarks (which I totally didn’t think was a thing when our pediatrician said it at first… I had to Google!), heat rash is more common.  And Jacob has a tiny stork bite under his hairline, right next to the helmet-induced red spot.  So we went home and followed directions.

I will say this–Cranial Technologies deals exclusively in baby helmets, so they do know their stuff.  The spot that they shaved out stayed skin-colored and the other spot WAS heat rash.  It went away in a day, but started creeping back if we let him get too hot in the helmet.  We were out of it for about 30 hours that weekend before I realized (thanks Google) that baby powder helped.

baby powder lost freedom

Now I know baby powder is the current baby antichrist, but if your DOC Band baby has heat rash, it’s a miracle cure.  The Johnsons and Johnsons kind is cornstarch now, not talc (meaning don’t use the old bottle from the 80s that’s under your sink!), so it’s less bad. Just make sure you shake it away from the baby and just use it in his or her hair where baby gets sweaty/heat rash.  And if your mom guilt won’t let you use it for that, just remember, all of our moms used the bad talc kind of baby powder on us and liberally shook it right from the bottle onto us and none of us have powder-related breathing problems.  

good mother.jpg

Heat rash crisis averted.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, the smell.  I Googled HARD to figure out the best way to combat the smell before we even got the helmet because my lovely pregnancy sense of smell decided to stick around postpartum and I do NOT want a baby who smells like a foot.  And not a cute little baby foot, I mean a stinky husband foot!

smelly-gif

Google didn’t disappoint.  One random mama on BabyCenter’s messageboards posted that she used wintergreen rubbing alcohol.  So I ordered some from Amazon (then later discovered that Safeway carries it for much cheaper.  Oh well).  And that stuff WORKS. Granted, he now smells like a stick of gum when he goes to bed, but his head is mercifully stink-free the rest of the day.  

face smells like peppermint

So my method is to put the wintergreen rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle (it’s like absinthe green, which definitely leaves a green tinge on the foam over time, but… well… who cares?), spray it in the helmet, scrub with a toothbrush, then wipe out with a towel. Let it dry for the full hour the helmet is off, then back on it goes.  Between the wintergreen alcohol and the baby powder, we’ve had zero smell issues, and we definitely have a sweaty baby, so I can attest to this stuff working.

Happy helmeting!

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The episode where I lose it at the helmet place

I may have had a little meltdown at Cranial Technologies a couple of weeks ago.  

And by may have, I might mean that the hubby yanked me out of there when I started turning into Ursula from the end of The Little Mermaid.  So I was only about 25 feet tall and faintly purple by the time I got out into the hallway.  I wasn’t QUITE creating a giant maelstrom with my trident yet, but I was close.

ursula
https://giphy.com/gifs/ursula-147AEdkCZVDdiU

Why?  Two reasons.

Reason number one was that they moved the goalpost on us.  At the appointment two weeks before that, they told us that they estimated that we had six weeks left in the helmet.  Which sucked at the time, because I wanted them to be like, WOW!  He’s made SUCH amazing progress that you’re going to finish WAY early, like in two weeks!  But I joked that they were the helmet groundhogs and must have seen the shadow of a helmet, meaning we had six more weeks of helmet.groundhog-saw-his-shadow-six-more-weeks-of-red-wine-0f967

Then, when we went back two weeks later, the technician (who is lovely. They all are. They all look vaguely like Barbie dolls, and are very good at providing reassurance.  Which, misogynistic as it may sound, does NOT provide me with reassurance that they know what they’re doing) said the exact same words she said the previous time: “We’re a little over halfway done, so about six more weeks left to go.”

This part of my meltdown was not rational.  I will, of course, keep him in that horrible hunk of plastic for as long as necessary to get the optimal correction. However, her reasoning when I asked why she had added two more weeks did not instill a sense of confidence that the technicians there have any business claiming to be medical professionals in any sense.  Why did we have more time left when she had not measured his head?  Because that’s how much more room he *could* have in *THIS* helmet.

not a real medical professional

Aka, she was priming the pump for the second helmet discussion, which, with no help from insurance and a marked improvement in his head shape already, I was not interested in having.

And I’m sorry, back up a minute.  Are you telling me that the end of treatment depends on how much foam you shave out of the helmet, not how much progress he’d made?

Cranial Technologies does not provide you with measurements until after treatment is done.  And we had to request mid-wear photos to see progress, because they don’t typically do that either. They usually just put a stocking cap on the baby’s head and then look at it, look at the original image on their computer screen, look at the baby’s head again, and say, “Wow, he’s making GREAT progress.”

See why I don’t have a lot of faith in this process despite the progress we’ve seen?

BS attention span

But that wasn’t when I really melted down.  It was when we looked at the pictures of Jacob’s head and the technician told us, “His ears are really coming into alignment beautifully.”

Admittedly, I am not in a profession where I stare at pictures of baby’s heads from underneath (which are super creepy.  They make them look like hollow doll heads) all day, but I am super awesome at those find-the-difference-between-these-two-pictures games.  And while there were notable differences between the two pictures, the ears were not one of them.

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Actual creepy underside picture of my son’s head. Note the lack of perfect ear alignment.

I pointed that out to the tech, who said, “No, they look great!”

Which is where we entered the type of situation that I handle less well than any other situation on the planet.  The situation where the “expert” is telling me blatantly wrong information.  For example, I got kicked out of a college astronomy class when the professor told us you couldn’t take the square root of something without a calculator.  (“How do the calculators know how to take square roots then?” I argued.  “They didn’t program themselves!”)  And I drive my husband nuts because I will argue to the death when someone tells me something wrong.  No, I will not just let it go in the face of incontrovertible proof.

I will probably someday be responsible for arguing a climate change denier to death.

climate change denier

But I digress.

So I took a picture of the screen and drew a line through his ears on my phone to prove the lack of improvement.

At which point the technician said she’d just go get her computer so we could figure out what was going on, and then decamped for 20 minutes until I started to turn into a giant purple octopus and we decided to just leave.  She looked visibly relieved when my husband dragged me out of there. Which I suppose is understandable, as by then I WAS swirling King Triton’s trident in the ocean and hissing, “The waves obey my every whim.”

ursula waves
https://ohmy.disney.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2014/05/Waves.gif

I went home and fumed and stamped my feet a lot and vowed we’d take the helmet off at four more weeks regardless (which everyone who listened to my rantings and ravings knew wasn’t true.  I am, if nothing else, a rule follower).  And I photoshopped the two pictures over each other to further prove my point about the ears.  Then I had my dad calculate the change in his head shape based on the numbers from the initial report.  (He’s a physicist.  He was able to recreate their numbers and then calculate what the change was using math and science, neither of which I’ve had to use since high school.  Don’t let your teachers lie to you, kids.  If you go into the humanities, you don’t need math anymore as long as your dad is a physicist!)

i-do-my-best-math-in-the-morning-when-im-trying-to-figure-out-how-much-longer-i-can-sleep-8de7b

 

Then I called Cranial Technologies and spoke to the manager, who was even more skilled at providing reassurance (I suppose that’s how she became the manager), and who agreed with me that his ears had not changed.  She also agreed to provide numbers to show the change in his head shape, even though they won’t normally do that.  And she did say that based on the improvement they’ve seen, they would not recommend a second helmet for Jacob.

Of course, my mother said they’re ONLY not recommending a second helmet because they want to be rid of me (understandably so).

The bottom line is, he’s improved from 11mm of asymmetry to 6mm of asymmetry, which is TECHNICALLY considered a normal head shape.  (Cranial Technologies considers it borderline between a mild and a moderate deformity.)  Which also means my dad’s numbers were accurate.  Yay science and math!

science magic

And as much as I want to be done with the helmet forever, and as much as it may be true that his head would round out by two years old like the Scandinavian study says, it’s pretty incontrovertible that the helmet is helping his head to more rapidly improve.

That still doesn’t mean that Mama Bear totally trusts these non doctors, especially when it feels like they’re on a script.  I think there’s a lot of guesswork involved with these helmets, which makes sense when they’re not doctors.  But I do appreciate that the manager spoke to me and worked with me to make it right.  And as hubby pointed out, we ARE planning to eventually have a second baby, and if (please God, don’t let us need a helmet for baby number two.  I’ll start being nice–er, nicer–to people and stuff!) baby number two needs a helmet, I don’t want them to hate me.  So if they say six more weeks the next time we go back, I’ll do my best to smile and nod and not destroy the ocean.  

smile nod agree
thedeepdish.org

Forget FOMO, I’ve got FOLM. Thanks Obama–I mean Facebook

I am a crazy perfectionist.

Which may sound strange if you know me in person, because I’m also a mess.  My desk at school is currently a raging dumpster fire of papers, my car looks like I live in it, and let’s not even get started on my closet. But I’m an organized mess.  I know where everything is at all times and I don’t let my mess get in the way of my quest for perfection.

hot mess

I’m also insanely competitive, which, if you’ve spoken to me for even three seconds, you already know.  I’ve joked before that that’s why I like eBay–not only do you get to shop, it tells you you win when you buy something.  And I love winning.

Combining being a perfectionist with my competitive nature, however, has been a disaster in motherhood, especially once we hit the torticollis and helmet bumps in the road. Because that helmet feels like a giant neon sign saying that my baby isn’t perfect, and as he is an extension of me, it feels like it’s screaming to the whole world about one of my flaws.

not competitive as long as i'm winning

Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.  But it’s still how it feels.

And it all ties in to the latest feeling of failure, which I’m calling FOLM–Fear of Late Milestones.

Much like FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, FOLM has always existed, but is exacerbated by the social media era.  I’m sure that moms hundreds of years ago worried when they went to the park, or factory, or public execution (hey, hundreds of years ago, people had pretty sick forms of entertainment) and saw that other babies who were the same age as their babies were walking already and freaked out that there was something wrong with their baby. But it’s worse now that it’s all broadcast on social media.

craziest-thing-since-leaving-facebook-ive-had-nomo-fomo-71338

Last weekend, I saw videos from two different friends, whose babies are within a couple of weeks of Jacob’s age, and their babies were crawling all over the place.

Jacob is not crawling.  Nor does he seem anywhere close to it.

I cried. I Googled. I cried some more.

The reality is that babies are expected to start crawling between six and ten months, and Jacob is eight months old.  So it doesn’t mean he’s behind.  According to our physical therapist, part of that is disposition; Jacob is the most chill baby ever (which he certainly did not get from me, the anxiety queen), so he’s content to sit and watch the world.  He’s also huge, weighing in at over 21 pounds at eight months, and bigger babies tend to reach some of the gross motor skills milestones later, as they have more weight to lug around with them.

oh-i-am-getting-so-much-done-around-the-house-now-that-my-baby-is-crawling-said-no-parent-ever-73f8c

He also seems to have no desire to crawl yet, which may be my fault.  He’ll reach his hand out for something (which really looks like he’s using the Force.  Mama’s inner Star Wars nerd is so proud of her little Jedi!), and one of us usually gives it to him.  Who needs to crawl when you have a mommy slave?

star wars hate jar jar

But I crawled at six months, walked at nine months, identified letters on the fridge at 18 months, and wrote my first novel at 22 months.  

Okay, that last one was more like at 25 years.  But still. I was exceptionally precocious with all developmental milestones.  

And Jacob was supposed to be even better than me with all of that.

I’m fully aware that my competitive nature has not won me any friends.  In fact, it’s cost me a lot.  Because not only do I try to be the best at everything, I succeed just enough to be insanely annoying.  My mom was only in labor with me for eight hours (which is considered supersonic speed for a first baby).  I told her I’d beat that, and I did, giving birth to Jacob six hours and one minute after my water broke.  She lost eight pounds off her pre-pregnancy weight with me.  I lost nine after Jacob was born.  Etc.

not a competitions

Do you hate me yet?  I kinda hate myself reading that.  (And I bet I hate me more than you hate me!  Okay, okay, I’ll stop…)

So watching Jacob not be the first to do everything is difficult, because there’s nothing that I can do (besides continuing his physical therapy and doing as many of his exercises with him as I can) to catch him up.

And even more upsetting, our physical therapist showed us a scale of things he should be able to do, and he’s definitely behind in a few areas.  Even though the tilt from the torticollis is gone now, he still has residual shoulder strength issues.  She said it’s really the chicken or the egg here–did his weak shoulder strength cause the torticollis, or did torticollis cause shoulder weakness.  

She did assure us that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it either way, but I still feel like it’s my fault.  Torticollis CAN be caused by low amniotic fluid, which I had.  Yes, I know that wasn’t my fault on the logical level, but if it’s possible that my body did this to Jacob, I still feel like I did this.

b9bc468442efd28423fa6abadc1ebafc--shitty-moms-shitty-mom-quotes

On the plus side, our physical therapist assured us that he’s making progress, that we’ll keep working, that we’ll get him to where he needs to be, and that the age that babies walk and crawl at has no correlation whatsoever to the age that they hit any other developmental milestones at.

She also recommended I get serious professional help because I’m actually competing with myself for what age Jacob does things at.

upon-closer-inspection-your-issues-are-not-the-type-that-can-be-easily-fixed-you-may-want-to-seek-professional-help--ebfd8

Not really.

But that’s another one of those hard first-time parenting things, because what my brother and I did is my only real basis of comparison for what Jacob should be doing. And I hate worrying that he’s not exactly where a chart says that he should be.

Until then, feel free to keep reminding me that just because he’s not the first one to do something doesn’t mean he’s actually late. It does take both early and later babies to make up those average age ranges after all.

everyone-is-always-happy-when-youre-above-average-unless-its-your-weight-f9998

Happy holidays, folks!  I’ll see you in the new year!

So your baby needs a helmet. Step one: cry. Step two: deal with it.

Ah, the dreaded baby helmet.  See my previous post for the lead up to realizing we’d need one.

life is tough

So basically, I wish we’d gone to Cranial Technologies for an evaluation the second my pediatrician pointed out his flat spot, because the earlier you helmet your baby, the less time you spend in one.  But my pediatrician advised waiting, (which seems to be her advice on a lot of things, which doesn’t mesh well with my personality.  I’m impatient. And a hypochondriac with anxiety issues who has a major addiction to Google.  I don’t wait well.) so we spent an agonizing two months flipping Jacob like a pancake while he slept and praying he wouldn’t need a helmet.

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https://www.twotwentyone.net/pancake-costume/

Now that he has one, however, I feel like a total moron because A) it’s not THAT bad, B) no one actually cares, and C) we could have been done already if we’d just gotten an evaluation sooner.  And the people at Cranial Technologies would have caught his torticollis and all would be well now.

But despite preaching daily to my students to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, I’m insanely obsessed with my image and what people think of me.  On a logical level, I’m fully aware that no one actually notices 95 percent of what I do.  On an anxiety level, I think every single person I saw today noticed the chipped nail polish on my right ring finger and judged me for it.  

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When you have a baby, that feeling of everything being under a microscope is even worse.  Even though I felt like that about having to supplement with formula, and the reality was that zero people cared that I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding, a helmet was going to be SO much worse.  EVERYONE would see it.  What would I tell older relatives? That girl I didn’t like from second grade who was my Facebook friend was going to think I was a terrible mother.  I debated getting off social media for however long Jacob needed a helmet for.  And I’m a social media junkie.  THAT’s how serious this was.

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So what actually happens when you might need a baby helmet?

We went to Cranial Technologies on a Monday.  They made us strip Jacob down to a diaper, put a stocking cap with a hole in it for his face over his head, and held up a fan with flashing lights to get his attention while they took pictures.  Then they brought us to a room to scare the crap out of us.

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Not really.  But they definitely pitch it as worse than it is when you’re there.  And like the scared sheep–I mean parent–that you are, I’m pretty sure everyone in there says “baaaaa” (or wails it like a crying banshee as I did) and then schedules an appointment to get a helmet.  

Worth noting: the place sells helmets.  They’re not doctors.  If you even THINK you’re borderline on a helmet, go to a pediatric neurosurgeon to get real measurements and a REAL diagnosis.  If real doctors tell you you don’t need a helmet, you don’t need a helmet.  Cranial Technologies wants your money and thinks you need a helmet.  They told us that our numbers were “moderate-severe” when we were there, but on the official report, the numbers were all in the moderate category.  And if you actually GOOGLE his numbers, most of them are on the milder end.  I’m not saying the helmet doesn’t work; it’s a great product and service, and some kids totally need it, but they’re still salespeople.MjAxMy03MmMyMmY0Mjk3YzdjZDM5

And the reality is that you agree to the helmet, despite some research saying they don’t do anything, because you want to know that you did everything you possibly could for your kid. End of story.  Does it actually work or do heads start rounding out on their own once you correct torticollis and they’re sitting up more?  Who knows.  

Their insurance team then calls you two days later and in our case, tells you that insurance won’t even think about covering the helmet.  Which I already knew, because the Google Queen combed through our policy and found that “cranial remolding helmets” are only covered for post-operative craniosynostosis and are considered cosmetic and unnecessary otherwise.  Viagra?  Totally medically necessary under our policy. Preventing a baby from looking like a conehead for the rest of his life? Cosmetic. Makes total sense.

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So we bit the bullet, said we’d pay the $2,500 for a helmet, and scheduled the next two appointments.  The first one was easy.  Another stocking cap (this one without a face hole cut out, so he looked like a baby bank robber) and more pictures and we were on our way home in under 15 minutes.  

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http://looneytunes.wikia.com/wiki/Baby_Buggy_Bunny

The next appointment was hard because it’s when they actually fitted him with the helmet.  And I’ll admit, I cried when I saw him in it.  I joked that he looked like a Spaceball, but seeing that white orthotic helmet on him was absolutely devastating to my sense of self as a mother. What were people going to think of my son, let alone me? When I’d seen those helmets before, I assumed there was something wrong with the baby, which meant other people were going to think that.  I couldn’t handle the thought of that.

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Jacob was clearly as upset as I was about his helmet.

The one small, silver lining came in the form of decorating the helmet.  I researched online (of course), decorating the helmets and discovered that some car wrapping companies will wrap the helmets.  But there were none who advertised that they did that within an hour of where we lived, so I started reaching out to local companies, then remembered that a former student’s dad owned a sign company.  I sent her a quick message asking if that was something they’d be willing/able to do, and she replied immediately that not only would they custom design Jacob’s helmet, they’d do it for free because of the difference I made when she was in high school.

Yes, I cried again.  

We settled on an aviator-style helmet (I voted for R2D2.  Hubby vetoed that. I’m still bitter.) because it would look more like a hat than a helmet, and we got it put on two days after he got the helmet.

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At which point, I came clean on Facebook and Instagram and got nothing but wonderful, positive support.  And many parents shared stories about their own children’s imperfections and struggles, which was a great reminder that it’s okay to not be perfect. I, like everyone else, try to present the best possible image of my life on social media, but NO ONE is perfect.  The helmet is temporary, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Jacob is adorable in it, and I love him more and more every day, helmet or not.  

So if you’re struggling with the decision, stop.  Take a breath.  Because the helmet has one truly awesome benefit to it: you get to worry a little less.  There’s no more repositioning, or pillows, or freaking out that he’s sitting in something that might briefly touch his flat spot and make it worse.  You’ll still worry that the helmet won’t work or that they’ll recommend a second one and you’ll have to pay $5,000 total out of pocket (they recommend a second helmet to everyone.  See above.  They’re salespeople).  But once I went public, my stress level actually went way down.

Does it suck?  Yes.  Without a doubt.  But as long as it helps, it’ll be totally worth it.  And if someone stares in the grocery store, it’s their problem, not yours.  Your baby is perfect; you’re just making him or her a little more perfect so no one nicknames them Beldar. (Only my dad got that joke, but it’s okay!)

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Hang in there, mamas!  

Uh oh, plagio: the flat head diagnosis

I know I’m jumping around a bit with this post, but it’s what’s happening now, and finding other blogs on this topic helped me.  So if I can pay some of that forward, it’s worth sharing.

Jacob’s pediatrician pointed out that he had developed a flat spot on the back right side of his head at his four-month checkup.  Hubby and I then descended into a shame spiral of shock and embarrassment that we missed it, panic that it was there in the first place, fear that we caused it, etc.  Seriously.  We turned into the seven dwarfs of parenting guilt.

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https://sweettmakesthree.com/mom-guilt-bingo/

“Just try to keep him off of it for a couple of months,” the pediatrician advised.  “You can keep a wedge under that side of his mattress so it’s easier for him to turn his head the other way, and do a lot more tummy time.  If that doesn’t fix it, you can always get a helmet.”

Sara the Hysterical Google Queen took over.  

So I learned ALLLLLLL about plagiocephaly (flat head on one side), brachycephaly (flat back of the head, which I didn’t think was a concern, based on the pictures I found online and then compared frantically to Jacob’s head), and every other kind of cephaly there is (I was already a microcephaly expert from the single, non-Zika-infected mosquito bite I got while pregnant.  Have I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac?).

What did I learn?  That repositioning could help and that this probably happened because he was such a great sleeper–which he did NOT inherit from me, the worst insomniac in the world.  So because my perfect baby started sleeping through the night at two months old (don’t hate me), his little head grew crooked.  

sleeping through the night

And a lot of nasty people on the internet said it only happens to parents who didn’t hold their babies enough. Guess what?  I hold my baby all the freaking time.  And this still happened.

But I’m Super Mom!  I could fix this!  I can fix anything if I try hard enough!

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I repositioned like it was my job.  For two months I barely slept, but not because Jacob, the most perfect baby in the world, was waking me up.  No.  I barely slept because I woke up every three minutes to make sure he wasn’t sleeping on his flat spot.  I became an expert at flipping him over without waking him up.  I joked I was going to patent a baby spatula for perfectly turned babies.  

kids are like pancakes
http://quoteaddicts.com/author/kelly-ripa

I bought seven, count them, SEVEN different types of flat head pillows, ranging from $15 to $110 each (I only bought one of the expensive ones).  I sent him to daycare with one.  I put one in his stroller.  I put one on his changing table.  I put one on his floor gym.  But I only let him sleep on them for supervised naps while I stared at him the entire time to make sure he wouldn’t magically flip onto his belly (which he wasn’t doing yet) and suffocate.

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I studied that head from every angle, trying to convince myself that I was seeing improvement.  I wasn’t, but it also wasn’t getting worse.  I will say that.  The pillows do prevent it from getting worse.

And I kept Googling.  But as we got closer to his six-month checkup and his flat spot hadn’t improved, I started worrying more.  My baby was going to need a helmet.  I could feel it.  

One day, I took him for a long walk when his dad went out of town, and I took some pictures because he was so cute.  And when I looked at the pictures, one eye looked bigger than the other.  Cue the panic.  I had read, in my frantic Googling, that plagiocephaly could cause facial asymmetry. (Note: we later learned he has no facial asymmetry.  Literally, they measured digitally and there’s none at all.  I am a crazy person.  But in this case, the craziness was a good thing.)

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Once I Googled the facial asymmetry with plagiocephaly though, I started finding another word a lot, which I had mostly ignored because I didn’t think it was an issue: torticollis.

Symptoms: head tilted in one direction with chin pointed toward another.  Often causes difficulty breastfeeding on one side and difficulty looking in the direction of the head tilt. Rolling to one side only.  A flat spot.

It was like one of those scenes in a movie where the protagonist figures out who the killer is.  He hated breastfeeding on the right side, where he’d have to turn his head to the left.  He only rolled to one side.  And as I began scrolling through pictures in my phone, he was facing the same way in every one.  Jacob had torticollis.

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We took him to the pediatrician immediately, who wasn’t nearly as convinced as I was, but she did say it was time to visit the helmet place for an evaluation.

She wanted us to wait to see what the helmet people said about starting physical therapy, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Knowing that I’m my baby’s best advocate, I reached out to my network of moms and got a recommendation from a family friend to a WONDERFUL physical therapist who deals in infant torticollis.

Long story short, I think our pediatrician should have caught the torticollis (or at least mentioned it to us when she noticed the flat spot, because had I looked for that in pictures sooner, I would have spotted it. And I think dealing with the torticollis at four months would have helped the flat spot enough to potentially avoid the helmet), but it’s too late for that now.life is tough

I’ll do another post about the helmet situation (we’re in it now.  It sucks, but we’ll deal), but trust your gut, mamas!  If you think something is wrong, say something to your pediatrician.  And if they won’t hear you out, go to a specialist.  Jacob is doing AMAZING in physical therapy.  The torticollis is now gone, we’re just working on some residual muscle strength issues in his shoulder, and in another few weeks, all of that should be absolutely perfect.

And if you want to learn from my experience, make sure you’re changing the direction that your baby sleeps in frequently starting at birth and doing lots of tummy time even if your baby hates it (and they ALL hate it!).  And if you have to get a helmet, I promise, it’s not the end of the world.

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