Life's Tough. Get A Helmet

When my daughter, Piper, was born, I was handed a beautiful baby with a slightly wonky-shaped head.  I was told that she would outgrow it and that almost all babies who are born “naturally” have a bit of a funny shape to their head. 

Fast forward to her one-month check-up and her pediatrician mentioned that she had a flat spot on her head, but as long as we kept up with the prescribed amount of tummy time, it should naturally correct itself.

Guess what?  It didn’t.  And at her 6-month check-up she was referred to an orthotics specialist to see if she should be evaluated for a cranial reshaping helmet…and then I lost my $#*!. 

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The mom guilt was so strong.  So, so strong.  I had all kinds of questions – What could I have done to prevent this?  Did she not do enough tummy time? For the record, Piper hated tummy time and sounded like she was being murdered every time she did it, so I did the bare minimum recommended amount, because my heart and new Mom nerves couldn’t take it.  But maybe that was bad.  And seriously, why didn’t I make her do more?  And did her Rock N’ Play give her a flat spot?  And on and on and on…oh my gosh.

And then there were more questions.  Some were selfish: Will everyone think I’m a bad mom?  Will people think I just left my kid on her back in her crib for the first 6 months of her life? Some were really worrisome: Will the helmet make Piper unhappy?  Will it affect her development?

I did a ton of research to see if a cranial reshaping helmet was right for Piper.  I read more about plagiocephaly (the official medical term for a baby with a flat head) than I ever cared to.  A large majority of doctors think that growing into adulthood with a flat spot on one’s head will not have any long-term health effects.  However, a few studies suggested that not fixing a flat spot could lead to a kid having vision problems or headaches in the future.  I also thought about the fact that I have no idea what kind of person Piper will be or what her style will be as she gets older.  What if she wants to style her hair in a pink buzz cut someday?  Would her flat spot prevent her from being able to do that? 

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After a few head scans and fights with the insurance company, Piper got her helmet.  It came with the instructions that she had to wear it 23 hours per day.  And there were so many tears…but only from me.  She was totally unaffected by the whole experience.  It may be coincidence, but she actually started sleeping through the night once she got her helmet.  And she totally loves it.  Like, really, really loves it.  Like, loves it so much, that if I take it off her, she immediately snuggles with it.  No joke.

I also decided that this experience was the first opportunity we had to teach Piper to roll with the challenges that life throws at you.  So, while I wasn’t excited by the helmet, I asked my sister-in-law to make a ton of great t-shirts for Piper and I ended up decorating the helmet with watermelons (the perfect Summer look).  I had no idea how many companies cater to helmet babies.  You can buy decals, bows, t-shirts and all kinds of cute accessories (I got Piper’s helmet decals from here). 

And you know what else I learned?  It’s temporary.  Her time in her helmet is coming to a close soon and it passed by in the blink of an eye.  She has a nice, round noggin now and she’s adorable as ever.  The doctors assured me that there was very little I could have done to prevent her flat spot, and I choose to believe them.  Because the mom guilt?  It’s just not worth it…

Kat benjamin.jpg
story by kat benjamin.jpg

An Adventure in FPIES

It all started one dark and stormy winter night. Just kidding, it was a gorgeous morning, the birds were chirping, and I had an almost two year old and a 5 1/2 month old happily cooing back and forth at one another. As a two-time so called “experienced” mama, and a pediatric occupational therapist, I felt confident enough to introduce solids into my little one's diet. What I didn’t know was that there would be a slightly turbulent road ahead.

So that day, I mixed some lovingly pumped breastmilk with some Earth’s Best baby oatmeal (it’s $3, organic and hypo-allergenic...total mom win), and gave my sweet Emma girl a couple spoonfuls. She was totally digging it, so I gave her a spoonful more. And then maybe another spoonful after that. Can’t argue with a happy, hungry baby!

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Exactly two hours later, Emma was a wreck. She vomited every five minutes for the next two hours, and was quite lethargic. I had a hard time arousing her, but figured that vomiting was pretty exhausting, especially for a 5 1/2 month old. Now, if I know anything about moms, it’s that we always blame ourselves. Certainly there was something wrong with the breastmilk I had mixed or that I possibly just overfed her since she was loving it so much.  I felt awful, and was so embarrassed, but the doctors office said not to worry, just to wait a week or two and try again.

Fast forward to two weeks later, we tried again. This time, I told myself I would be super smart and only give her a teaspoon since I surely overfed her last time. Exactly 2 hours later, she had an even worse reaction. Every five minutes she vomited like clockwork for the following three hours. As a mom of two small children, I have seen my fair share of nasty stomach bugs, but I had never seen vomiting quite like this. Have you guys ever seen that scene from the Exorcist where green vomit sprays 10 feet across the room? That was my tiny baby. When Emma ran out of things to throw up, it started coming out like slimy yellow and green bile. She was so lethargic that she wasn’t even blinking, not even flinching each time she’d throw up...it would just pour out of her mouth.  At that point, I did what any respectable Millenial Momma would do...I called my mom. Together we called my pediatrician, and they told me to go to the ER. On our way, Emma stopped responding to me. I was pinching her feet, calling her name, moving her around, doing anything I could think of to keep her awake. I could have dropped her on the ground, and she would not have reacted.

You guys, this sounds like a scary story, but I have to tell you I was calm as a cucumber. That is, until I met the ER doctor. Ladies, I want you to close your eyes and take yourselves back to the guy at the bar in college. The super hairy, kind of creepy, extra narcissistic guy that somehow showed up drunk everywhere you went. That was our ER doctor. I spent $1500 for him to tell me that she had a stomach bug. Yes, a stomach bug coincidentally 2 weeks apart at exactly two hours after eating oats. Love that guy.

If I’ve learned anything working in the medical field, I have learned that doctors are human. Some doctors are better than others, and everyone has a different opinion on everything. Luckily, I have two great pediatricians who have been ultra supportive. The ER doc told me I could continue to introduce all foods slowly, and unfortunately Emma had the same reaction later to rice cereal. 

ABOUT FPIES

One lengthy Google search for me, and another Google search for my super experienced pediatrician, and he came up with a diagnosis of FPIES...food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome. And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. Basically it’s a rare food allergy that has a characteristically delayed reaction because the allergy doesn’t occur until the food is processed in the gastrointestinal tract. The main symptoms include profuse vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, extreme lethargy, pale or blue skin, and eventually can lead to a sepsis-like shock. Unfortunately, there are no tests that consistently signal an FPIES diagnosis, and it is often considered a diagnosis of exclusion. In our case, blood tests were performed to rule out traditional allergies.  Because it is not a traditional allergy, it does not respond to an EpiPen and sometimes requires a hospital trip. In an emergency situation, fluids are given to help stabilize blood pressure and improve dehydration. The good news is that FPIES usually resolves with time, at around 3-4 years old. Medically supervised oral challenges with trigger foods are given to children once they are suspected of outgrowing the diagnosis.

DAILY LIFE

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Right now, my baby girl is on a grain free diet—meaning no rice, oats, wheat, quinoa, or barley. Who knew babies could live without Cheerios? I find myself reading labels constantly at the grocery store, and I admit that pre-FPIES I thought “gluten-free” meant grain free...nope! Most gluten-free foods are made with rice flour...who knew? Luckily, Emma is only 10 months old now and does not seem to notice big brother’s waffles or Pirate’s Booty versus her green beans and chicken, but someday soon we will all have to transition to grain-free. Guess we will have to hop on board the paleo bus after all!

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story by ashley deckers.jpg

Disclaimer: We are not licensed professionals. The content in this post is someone's personal experience and not intended as medical advice. If you think your child has a medical issue, please contact professionals.