It all started at Jackson's 4-month well visit. Jackson had developed a flat spot on the back left side of his head. I read that this has become more common since the advent of back sleeping and that it typically goes away once the baby is able to roll over and sit up, so I wasn't too worried. However, I started to incorporate different activities throughout the day to help, such as rotating his sleep position and increasing his tummy time, but the flatness seemed to be getting worse.
I asked the doctor if his head shape seemed out of the ordinary and she checked it out. The first question she asked me was if he always tilted his head to his left. He had seen a different doctor at his 2-month well visit and she asked the same thing, but then said nevermind... That question had been nagging at me since, but I just figured I was worrying over nothing (as I tend to do). As soon as I heard that question again, I knew something was up. I told her that I guess he did have a tendency to tilt his head that way. (Of course, I started blaming myself immediately for not bringing him in sooner). She thought the head tilt could be related to the flatness and she referred us to a physical therapist for further evaluation.
When I got home I looked at the hundreds of pictures I've taken of Jackson and saw, very clearly, that he definitely tends to tilt his head... I guess I just thought it was a cute little quirk of his. I mean, come on, who would think there was anything wrong with this adorable little face:
Next, the physical therapist took Jackson through a series of strengthening exercises. I could tell he wasn't super thrilled with all she was having him do, but he held it together.... at least for a little while longer. The stretching exercises were done last (and now I know why). He immediately started
Finally, I got the worst news of the day. Jackson would most likely need a helmet in order to correct his head shape. Since this wasn't discovered earlier, even once the torticollis is resolved, his head probably won't reshape itself. It's mostly a cosmetic thing, but in some cases the ears may become misaligned, which can lead to vision, balance, and TMJ issues later in life. Now it took everything I had not to cry, especially when she informed me that these helmets must be worn 23 hours a day and that he'd probably have to wear one for several months! I realize there are much worse things that can happen, but it was really hard to hear.
I fought back tears all the way home and kept telling myself that everything would be fine. A few hours later, I had worked up the courage to try the stretches. He immediately started screaming and I was only able to hold the stretch for 7 seconds (I'm supposed to hold it for 30). At this point, I had completely lost it. There is nothing worse than having to do something that causes your child pain. Plus, I was feeling extremely guilty about not catching it sooner or asking more questions at his 2-month appointment. I also couldn't help but wonder if doing more tummy time would have helped.
Over the past few days the stretches have gotten less painful (for both of us). He does much better when I distract him with my beautiful singing voice (if there was a sarcasm font I would have used it there). I have also gotten less freaked out by the whole helmet idea, especially after chatting with another mom whose son also had to wear a helmet. Thank you Melissa! She even pointed out how helpful it was to have a helmet during the rolling over, sitting up, and learning to crawl phase. (If Jackson is anything like John and I, a little extra head protection will be a very good thing).
We have an appointment with an orthotist next week, who will fit Jackson for the helmet (and make sure that he's even a candidate). We are also scheduled to meet with the physical therapist every other week, through September, to help correct his torticollis. She'll give us different stretches to do at home as he gets stronger.
Despite all of this, Jackson is just as happy as ever and has even started laughing (it's the best sound in the world)!!! He's only done it three times so far, even though John and I have tried EVERYTHING to get him to laugh. Apparently, he doesn't find us all that amusing. We have yet to capture his elusive laugh on video, so this picture will have to do...