Astronaut Baby

October 2, 2011

For the past month and a half, I have anticipated — with varying amounts of dread — the event that took place last night.

That’s Baby A.’s new companion: a STARband cranial remodeling orthoses; aka “the helmet.”  After months of various appointments with the pediatrician, a pediatric neurosurgeon, a pediatric physical therapist, and the folks at the helmet center, we finally picked up the stylish blue headgear.  And last night was his first night sleeping in it.

He slept just fine!

I am so thankful, because this — the decision to treat his plagiocephaly — has been such an agonizing process.  We noticed early on (only at bath time, of course, when those locks of love were wet and plastered to his head), that Baby A. had developed quite a flat spot on the right side of his head.  His right forehead also seemed to bulge, and his left ear stuck out noticeably more than the right.  Baby A. also had a hard time holding his head up, and when he did, it was often tilted to the left.

Just sitting in the waiting room at the dentist, enjoying the fact that I have no teeth.

Our pediatrician was sensitive to our concerns, and in March we took him to Children’s for some x-rays.  The biggest worry at this point (since he was not displaying developmental delays or lacking in motor skills) was craniosynostosis.  There is a family history of this condition, so everyone was eager to rule it out.  Thankfully, all sutures were present, accounted for, and un-fused, so we proceeded on our merry way with a plan to focus on his sleeping placement to prevent further flattening.

By July, we had decided that the wait-and-see was not working, and the flattening was not self-correcting as it does in a majority of babies once they start rolling and sitting up.  Worried that the pediatrician wouldn’t realize the severity of the head shape situation (the hair! oh the hair!), I came armed with a water bottle and a wash cloth to wet his hair on the spot.  I needn’t have worried; she told me my anxieties were all she needed to refer us to the next level of medical expertise.

It took a while to get an appointment with the pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s, but we finally got one in mid-August.  After measuring Baby A.’s head from front-right to back-left and front-left to back-right — with an instrument that looked oddly like those on display at the National Holocaust Museum and came in a little black box — the doctor pronounced “severe plagiocephaly.”  That means that the disparity between the two measurements was above 6mm; 16.5 mm in Baby A.’s case.  Yikes!

The doctor referred us to the cranial remodeling specialists (think of them like orthodontists), but assured us that it was OK whichever route we took.  Using a helmet to tone down the asymmetry was good; but choosing to let the head develop on its own was good too.  Basically, the medical world has not been able to find a link between plagiocephaly and any kind of developmental delay, so it is a largely cosmetic issue.

Sparing you the weeks of motherly anxiety that raced through my head (and poured out of my mouth in conversations!), we moved forward with the helmet option.  Knowing that our insurance covered it 100% — and that Baby A. was both young enough to never remember the hassle of a helmet and easy-going enough to likely not care — we took the plunge.

And so that brings us back to last night, and the joy I felt this morning when I woke up and realized he had not awakened from slumber due to an uncomfortable blue helmet that we had opted to get for him.

Now, the important question remains: should he be an astronaut, a football player, or a Roman centurion for Halloween?