Brees was born with an orthopedic condition known as metatarsus adductus, or in-toeing. In laymen terms, she was born with both feet bent inward, like two little kidney beans. Her condition in particular is very, very mild and we were so fortunate that her pediatrician noticed it the very first time she examined her when she was only two hours old. She explained to us that this condition is thought to be caused by the baby having to accommodate for lack of living space in the uterus. Because Brees was such a big sweet potato (9 lb. 11 oz), she ran out of room and compensated by pushing her feet up against the side of my uterus. This caused her feet to turn slightly inward. Our incredible pediatrician (she really should have her very own superhero cape) wasted no time and referred us to a pediatric orthopedic specialist at Children's Hospital in New Orleans.
We first saw Dr. Heinrich when Brees was only 6 days old. Shawn and I were both overwhelmed with anxiety, not sure of what to expect from this appointment. I had researched Dr. Heinrich before we went to see him and was very happy with his credentials and testimonials from his patients. But still, when you have to bring your 6 day old baby to see a specialist, it's just not a good day.
We quickly learned upon meeting Dr. Heinrich that he was a pretty thorough dude. He ordered x-rays and a sonogram and studied her little feet like they were fine pieces of art. Shawn and I whispered silent prayers as we watched him look over her with a fine tooth comb. After a very long morning of tests and assessments and questions, he gave us her diagnosis and big pats on the back. "Don't worry!" he nonchalantly told us. "She'll be just fine. You are very lucky that we caught this so early. Her bones are so soft right now and will form into proper shape in no time with the right treatment".
What was the right treatment? Well, Brees would have to wear special shoes to correct the inward curve of her feet. For the first month or so, she would have to wear these magic shoes for 23 hours a day, allowing us to take them off just for her bath and for little night time foot rubs. At about 3 months, she would only have to wear them for 12 hours a day. He would follow up with her every 4 weeks to make sure she was progressing. Dr. Heinrich assured us that this condition was totally fixable and if we followed through with the shoes, it would not hinder her development in any way. This was all good news!!
Yet I couldn't help but cry my eyes out as I sat in the bathroom nursing her. I looked down at this innocent little angel, so fresh and new to the world, already experiencing her first hardship. The nurse in me knew that everything would be fine, my brother and I both had this same condition when we were born (we were both over 10 pounds, my poor mom!) and we turned out perfectly healthy. I've been dancing since I was three and have never had any problems with my feet. But still, I didn't want this for my child, I didn't want her to have to struggle in any way. Don't we all feel that way?
As I was walking out of the bathroom, though, I walked right by the most beautiful little blonde girl. She was pushing herself in a wheelchair and was talking to her mother. She was so pretty and giggly and something about her just caught my attention. And then I looked down. And saw that she had no legs.
I was crying because my daughter would have to wear special shoes for a few months and here was a little girl with no legs. How selfish could I possibly be? We are so blessed that Brees was completely healthy and had a small condition that could be treated and fixed. This was no reason to cry, no reason to mourn for our little girl. It was time to be positive, to count our blessings and see the possibilities that awaited her in her big vast future. To think of how many elements go into conception, the development of a child in utero, a non-eventful delivery. It really is a miracle. I allowed myself that moment as a mother to feel for my child, but then I knew it was time to move on and do whatever we had to in order to get this fixed.
So here we are, three and a half months later, and her feet are beautiful! She is progressing right on schedule and had made a 75% improvement on the curvature of her feet. We just went to visit Dr. Heinrich today to check in and he was very happy with where we are now. She bears weight on her legs and stands on both feet flat just as he would have hoped. She will continue wearing her corrective shoes at night for a few more months because the left foot still curves in a slight bit.
Here are a few pictures of Brees and her magical shoes:
The most common question people ask us about these shoes is "Do they hurt her?" The answer is no, not at all. She has been wearing them her whole little life so I really don't think she knows any different. She has never once cried or winced in pain when we put them on her and we are very careful to make sure her toes aren't scrunched or pinched. We also give her lots of foot rubs when we take them off. Now that she's only wearing them at night, she gets to stretch her feet out during the day and wiggle those toes around.
Brees' journey through life has only just begun. She has a life full of possibilities and opportunities ahead of her. And now, thanks to a team of doctors who not only are good at what they do but are passionate about it, my little girl will be able to walk through that journey on two sturdy feet. She will be able to play soccer or run marathons or follow in her mama and sister's footsteps and be a ballerina. The sky is the limit for this angel and we will be forever grateful to these people who cared for her enough to not only treat her, but believed in her.