The familiar curvature of the hardened casts force her knees to stay at a permanent bend as if she is ready to do squats. Her slightly squished tiny toes peek out from the edge of the fabric-lined hole, reminding us of the precious baby feet within which we are trying to straighten. Having gone through serial casting shortly after her birth, we had hoped the first four-month round would be enough to defeat the unnatural curves of her clubbed feet. Despite our efforts to fight against the persistent beast, we find ourselves back a few steps. We battled fiercely: we made it to every orthopedic doctor appointment, we did all the casting (and even stopped a while to purposefully allow her feet to return to clubbed position to restart new casting), we went through the tenotomy surgery used to lengthen her heel chords, we diligently buckle on her Ponseti brace shoes each night for 12-14 hours at a time. We tighten the shoes well past what any human would deem a safe tightness for a small child’s delicate foot; yet as her parents we find a way to lovingly shove her feet down all the way and strap them in.
Today we embark on a two-week stretch of more casts. As an 18-month-old, the casts are much larger–and much weightier–than they were previously. Pants barely stretch over them. Carrying her has become more burdensome. All the progress we have made in standing, leg strengthening, and even walking have been halted. Disheartened, we cling to the optimistic expectation that this is temporary.
Evelyn, in true preemie fighter fashion, has barely blinked an eye. Curiosity carried her through the appointment, watching each movement the medical professionals made as they fitted her for leg braces (to be used after casting) and encased her thin legs with heavy wet fiberglass wrap. Always wanting to understand the world her concern focused on learning, leaving little energy left to complain.
As the dread of dealing with sponge baths, difficult diaper changes, and frequent recasting creeped from the past back into our cognizance, it is easier to release the dismay with every smile, giggle, and goofy face Evelyn emanates. She carries on with playing, sitting herself up, and army crawling with heavy casts in tow. In awe of her perseverance, we usurp her will; we continue our fight with her clubbed feet. They will be even straighter, more supportive, and allow for easier gains in gross motor skills. We will return to the brace shoes, we will rebuild muscle loss, we will get her walking again.
We will continue our battle and get her in the best position to succeed in her development. She will continue supplying her innocent bliss and obvious love of life. We will all carry on.