There are few things more terrifying than to be woken up to the sounds of your child screaming. That’s where Heather and I found ourselves two different times in the last week. After an already difficult week, we were both exhausted and drifting off into sleep. We were excited because Eli was asleep. And we are always excited when Eli is asleep at night!
But the night was to have other plans. Just as we drifted off into sleep, Eli woke up screaming as loudly and panickedly as we have ever heard him. He was so loud, that at first we thought maybe it was coming from someone outside. (But no, Eli just has a set of lungs when he needs something.)
Heather and I rushed into Eli’s bedroom to find him sobbing uncontrollably. Now this is unusual for Eli. He’s a very even tempered kid who only cries when we don’t feed him fast enough (according to his own judgment of course!) To find him crying was unusual. To find him crying in terror was panic-inducing. Both of us felt a sense of dread. Something I hope we never feel again.
The problem with clubfoot is that when your child is acting “funny” (in this case screaming) you’re never really sure why. Usually the problem isn’t with his braces. Usually it’s because they want food, changed, or simply miss you. But your mind always races to the braces first. You’re always afraid that there is something terribly wrong with them and that we’re actually causing him pain.
As the minutes passed Eli simply wouldn’t calm down.
After a few more minutes we took off the braces.
Fortunately that did the trick. Eli settled back into sleep.
I’m not sure I can explain how chilling that is to a parent. You know that the best thing for him is to wear his braces. But in the back of your mind you wonder if you’re actually hurting him. Everything in your body tells you that you need to protect your kid from pain. As a parent you’re torn from following the medical treatment (I still remember the doctor’s dire warnings of what can happen if you don’t follow the 12-hour rule) and making sure your kid isn’t suffering. I’m not sure this will ever get easier.
That’s why brace non-compliance is so easy to fall into. Something that Victoria graciously shared with us in a past guest post. The grueling nature of dealing with clubfoot wears you down. It’s a literal 24/7 battle. For me this has been the hardest part of dealing with clubfoot.
In the end we didn’t put the braces on and Eli had a great night’s sleep after that. But we never found out what made him scream with such terror or force*. Hopefully we’ll never find out.
*our best guess is that he slept with his legs straight up in the air, and they fell asleep, which is what made him scream.