Monday, June 4, 2012

Craniosynostosis, Part I: Could you ask about the bump on the back of his head?

“Any questions for the pediatrician?” my husband, Wally, asked offhandedly, as he packed Joshua’s diaper bag for a 2-month wellness visit.

I flashed through my head and came up empty; yet in an effort to be a conscientious mom, I offered out, “How about the bump on the back of his head? Could you ask him if we should be concerned about it?”

It was the first wellness visit I would miss, but after dutifully attending the multitude of routine check-ups for his 20-month-old brother, Joseph, I felt okay trading an hour in the waiting room and ten minutes with the pediatrician for the opportunity to show up at work on time and reassure my coworkers that I was, once again, a functional member of the team (though not completely meeting their expectations for an energetic, rejuvenated mother, fresh from a leisurely 10-week maternity leave).
Wally sent me a quick update while I was at work: The doctor’s not concerned, since Joshua’s head is showing growth. But he’s referring us to a specialist, just in case.

I didn’t get a chance to read the pediatrician’s referral note until nearly 10 o’clock that night, still feeling dizzy from the lack of sleep that gets delivered with every new baby and trying to acclimate to the new working mom evening routine of abbreviated quality bath, stories, and bed time with our toddler and then the tedium of sanitizing bottles and breast pump parts for Joshua’s milk supply the next day.
Barely able to decipher “craniosynostosis” from the doctor’s handwriting, I managed to type it into my phone’s web browser for what I expected to be a quick Google check, all while pacing and bouncing with Joshua fussing in the Moby wrap. Everyone recognized he was an unusually unhappy baby, but easily attributed it to the half cup of coffee I gratuitously drank each morning, colic (whatever that is), anxiety from a rough birth (two months ago?), or the glaring conclusion that I felt from family, friends, and strangers alike: I just wasn’t in tune with my baby enough to soothe his needs.
Josh settled in his sling, a rare relaxed moment

As I scrolled incredulously through the images from the online search, I experienced a strange sensation of fear and dread, and yet, also relief. I recognized the elongated head, the misplaced cowlick, the broad forehead, things I had thought were just idiosyncrasies as Joshua’s head developed. Yet here they were, symptoms of something called craniosynostosis, a condition of sutures in the skull closing too soon, and not allowing the brain and head room to grow during the pivotal first year of life outside the womb.
I had a restless night, waiting to call the craniofacial specialist in the morning.

The normal sutures in a baby's head

The sagittal suture already closed in a baby with craniosynostosis and the effect on head growth

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