My left foot

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GUEST BLOG by my mum.

David resisted being pigeon-holed from the get-go.

My local doctor told me I was pregnant and then another doctor at the pre-natal clinic said I wasn’t. I had to wait two weeks before test results settled the question.

On my due-date, I had dangerously high blood pressure and an x-ray was ordered. Based on this, I was told the baby wouldn’t arrive for two weeks. He came that evening.

“It’s a blond,” yelled the nurse in the delivery room. She was wrong, of course. He was as bald as an egg, but at a certain angle in a certain light, you could see traces of ginger fluff. I was shocked. His father was so dark that I never imagined my colouring would prevail.

There were two other shocks on arrival day. One was a strawberry-coloured birthmark, which doctors assured us would disappear. On his upper left arm, it was quite pretty on that milky white skin, so I wasn’t concerned. But his poor little left foot was another matter. Apparently it had been stuck in an awkward position in the womb and hadn’t developed properly. Pressed hard against the shin, it looked more like a chicken claw than a foot.

A paediatrician prescribed physiotherapy. Four times a day I had to stretch and mould the foot for ten minutes. “Do it immediately before a feed and he’ll have positive associations,” was the advice.

Yeah, right. David bellowed the house down when I followed this routine. But who wants their foot pulled when they’re hungry?

So I switched to doing it after the feed. I no longer felt like a torturer but settling him for sleep was much harder.

I persisted all the same and the little claw magically transformed into a normal foot—albeit one shoe size smaller than the other.

I can’t recall ever having been warned about this but years later I learned that David would have been condemned to a club foot without all that play-doh work I did.

A third birth flaw was not understood for 18 months.

Although David was a shockingly poor feeder—taking an hour or more to finish a bottle—doctors and clinic nurses dismissed my concerns. I was too anxious and the baby was picking up on that, they said.

The most useless thing you can do for an anxious person is to tell them to relax.

Not impressed, David’s father decided to make bigger teat holes, so we were practically pouring milk down the poor bub’s throat. But at least he got a decent feed each time.

Then guess what? My mother-in-law discovered the problem. David was born badly tongue-tied. After a little operation and an overnight stay in hospital, everything was sorted and his speech suddenly took off like a rocket (where it’s stayed ever since!).

No wonder I don’t trust doctors.   

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