Nothing’s more exciting than going for your baby scan when you’re pregnant..not least when it’s your first child. That feeling of nerves and butterflies in your tummy knowing you get to see that mini human growing inside of you! Let’s face it, none of us are that naïve that we don’t ever have those thoughts of ‘what if something’s wrong’, however at the same time nothing can quite prepare you.
When we were pregnant with our first son Harry, both my husband and I thought we were having a girl. So when it was time to find out the sex (I’m too impatient to wait a whole 9mths!), the news of a boy threw us off course slightly. So with that immediate adjustment of us now knowing our baby was a boy, the midwife then announced that she was trying to ‘locate’ his feet. Hang on a minute, what does that mean?
‘Have you heard of Talipes?’ To which we both said no. Then she said ‘have you heard of club foot?’ (instant images of Forest Gump enter our heads).. What is she talking about? So it was explained to us that after ‘locating’ his feet on the scan it was apparent that they were at wrong angles to how they should be growing. Both feet were facing inward rather than out. Looking over at my husband we both got upset. A million questions entering our heads.. Was he going to walk? What does this mean? She left us alone for 5 minutes so we could adjust to the news. I had a big cry, Tye had a little tear but most of all looked pale as a ghost. My instant feelings were I needed to protect my husband’s feelings: this is too much for him, how will he cope? When will he freak out? Will our marriage survive this pressure?
The midwife re-appeared and further explained to us that Harry had Bi Talipes (meaning both feet were affected). She talked to us about the Ponsetti method that is put in place once he is born. Consisting of plaster casts, orthopaedic boots and regular hospital check-ups. ‘Don’t go home and look at the Internet images’ she told us. Are you serious? OBVIOUSLY that’s exactly what we’re going to do!!! And do it we did.
First things first, having got round the idea that our first-born, our precious boy was going to have special feet, and knowing what the treatment would involve, we had to be conscious of what we could buy. No baby grows with feet. Poppers up the legs on everything and no ‘pram’ shoes.
Harry was born in May 2009 on a very sunny hot day. He was born by cesarean section and swaddled instantly. It wasn’t until we were wheeled out of theatre and about 20 minutes later that we realised we hadn’t seen his feet yet! And how super cute were his little turned in feet. So teeny and delicate, nothing seemed to matter. This was our new baby with special feet and he was just perfect.
The next couple of weeks consisted of Visits back to the hospital. To start with he needed his tendons cut on his heels, a procedure that involved just a local anaesthetic and lots of tears, him and me! Then he was prep’d for plaster casts moulded onto both of his legs from his groin down. These had to be worn for 6 weeks getting new casts fitted every Monday and his feet manipulated into the correct position each time. Monday’s came round so fast. We got into the swing of it but nonetheless it was pretty stressful. On arrival of each appointment, we would soak him in a baby bath while his nurse broke/ cut off the casts. He wasn’t best pleased at this, so tears were always expected! Once dried and cuddled, drinking some milk for soothing, his legs were ready for new casts to be put on.
People often stopped us in the street to ask us what was wrong with his legs. Many thinking it was his hips and not heard of Talipes before. During these 6 weeks we had to simply hand wash him as he couldn’t get his casts wet. Snuggling him in your arms was tricky to begin with because his legs were bulky but became totally easy after a while. I think friends and family found that harder to be honest! Because Harry couldn’t bring his knees up to wriggle out his wind, he was often quite uncomfortable. That was probably the hardest thing. Knowing he wasn’t able to lift his legs to help himself. Once the 6 weeks of casting were up he was fitted with his first orthopaedic ‘boots and bar’. Special buckle up shoes with a metal bar adjoined at the heels, the width of his shoulders. No, nothing like Forest Gump…things have moved on! His first pair of boots had to be worn 23hours a day for 3mths. Bless him, this was hard for us. Handling him, burping him etc. That one hour a day was liberating, for him and us! Seeing him stretch his legs and not be restricted. Because of the casts and now shoes, he remained on his back while he slept, and couldn’t move too much when he was laying down to play on his play mat. Subsequently having a slightly flat head at the back- but to be honest that was the least of our problems. With regular hospital appointments Harry was becoming more and more familiar with the routine.
The boots and bar kind of act as a retainer, like you might wear a brace retainer to keep your teeth inline. This works in the same way. We were always told that often children born with Talipes, need to continue with the Ponsetti method of treatment until they are 5years old. Since he was about 4mths old, he’s worn them every night in bed, having 6 monthly check ups, going up in sizes with his ever-growing feet!! We kept his very first pair, which are teeny tiny. Today his are massive! However he NEVER complains about wearing them-even though he can’t quite turn over in bed, or ‘kick off’ his duvet like the rest of us! When Harry hit his 5th birthday last May, we were hopeful it was the end of his ‘magic shoes’ (that’s what we’ve always called them), but despite his feet looking INCREDIBLY NORMAL and he can run like the wind like everyone else his age, they want us to continue for a bit longer.
To look at his feet, you would never know he was born with a disability. His calves are pretty skinny, but that’s due to the casting he endured as a baby. His tummy muscles are intensely strong because of the weight of the magic shoes and bar. He walked, ran, jumped etc all at the exact same time as his peers and has never been held back. He’s never asked about ‘other children’ wearing magic shoes too. The one biggest hurdle we’ve faced over the more recent years is ‘dry nights’. We don’t have them! Harry is 6years old in 2 weeks time and still wears nappies in bed. Because of his magic shoes, getting himself un-strapped, to the toilet and strapped back into them in the middle of the night is near enough impossible. So we’ve never put the pressure on him to do such a thing. He knows it’s not forever, and he’s fine with it.
We’ve promised him that when he’s finished with his magic shoes and no longer needs to wear them at night, we’re going to throw a super big party! … After all, he’s a superstar!
If you have any experience with Talipes, I’d love to hear from you 🙂
For further information on Talipes, visit-