Years and years ago, my dad used to get this catalog in the mail–I think it was called the Music Stand. It was basically music paraphernalia, not the kind of stuff you’d find in a Guitar Center like picks or music stands or sheet music, but kitsch. Ornaments shaped like your instrument of choice, Broadway musical souvenirs, an entire spread dedicated to The Wizard of Oz (understandably so). I loved the catalog mostly for the tiny instruments you could buy, miniature replicas of your instruments of choice, everything from flutes to trumpets to guitars.
This catalog also had gloriously geeky music-themed shirts. By “gloriously geeky,” I mean that these shirts were awash in puns galore, yards and yards of fabric dedicated to the kind of dad jokes that your dad really commits to if he’s a musician. They said things like “I’m a musician, I can Handel it” and “I’ll be Bach” with a picture of Bach wearing Terminator-style sunglasses.
One of these shirts had this on it:
It’s a pun, but one that only people who can read music get. It says “Sometimes be sharp, never be flat, always be natural.” Which are the key signatures in those staves. Get it? GET IT??
(it took me until I was like. 16 to get it. I couldn’t read music at all before that point, which is why I stopped playing the flute before everyone else stopped with their instruments in fourth grade, like yeah this isn’t happening)
Related to things being flat, the twins had their two month check up last week, on Kyle and my anniversary, because “busy” is the name of the game around these parts. And the check up itself had a funny story surrounding it (tl;dr – Kyle decided to let me sleep in, not knowing what time the appointment was and forgetting that it was a school day for Sam, so cue a very grateful me scrambling to get everyone to the doctor’s office on time), but on its own, it went very well. Mostly.
The twins are very healthy, zooming towards the 10 lb mark, starting to hit their six week and two month milestones, and suffering only a little from their vaccinations. The only real issue at hand, or rather at head, was what appear to be two cases of positional plagiocephaly.
Positional plagiocephaly, for the uninitiated, is the fancy term for “flat head syndrome.” Babies’ skulls don’t fuse together until about two years after they’re born, which is absolutely wild to me (and sounds dangerous), and this usually doesn’t cause problems, but every so often, a perfect storm of issues mixes up, and you end up with a baby whose head is flat on one side or on the back.
Or, in our case, two babies with flattish heads.
Plagiocephaly develops for a variety of reasons, and our twins basically had the decks stacked against them in that regard. With full term, healthy singletons, it’s often because they don’t change position often enough in early months, so they end up with one part of their head being flat (and it’s worth noting that the “back to sleep” campaign, while it’s saved countless lives from SIDS, has also caused a HUGE increase in plagiocephaly cases). You can also see babies with an issue called torticollis, in which the neck muscles are too tight, so the baby can’t move their head around and get the pressure off one part or the other.
So these are all things that happen, but then you add on the risk factors our two collected, and it’s not at all surprising that they’ve developed this. For one thing, since there were two of them in utero, they had less space to move around, and after a certain point, the big movements that would’ve repositioned their heads just couldn’t happen. They were born six weeks early, which meant that their skulls were softer when they were born than if they had gone to term, and they spent two weeks in the NICU, getting used to sleeping on their right sides.
Like I said: it’s no surprise, all things considered.
We’ve been trying various exercises to get them to turn their heads, but it’s been to no avail. They just keep whipping their heads back to the right. And so, in all likelihood, we’ll be looking at helmets and physical therapy for them.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, the helmets and the PT. I was looking at the whole thing kind of like braces, like okay, here’s this thing that will cause problems if we don’t fix it, and yes, it means spending a lot of money and you wearing something uncomfortable for a little while, but it’s better than the alternative. Some Google Fu led me to a few websites with really adorable decals for the helmets, decals that can be changed out on a whim with a little bit of mod podge and some very satisfying moments spent peeling. And what’s more, because the twins would be so young when they start the helmets, they’d be looking at a much shorter stint in them than if we waited.
The interesting thing to me has been reading people’s accounts and feelings on plagiocephaly and the possibility of a helmet. A lot of people seem to be really upset by the idea, devastated by it. I keep reading accounts of people sobbing uncontrollably, of being heartbroken, and not to try and discount anyone’s feelings, but… I just don’t get it?
I mean, there are things I don’t share feelings on that I understand. I never felt absolutely devastated by my really early losses–maybe because I hadn’t had a chance to get used to getting pregnant, but they made me feel more embarrassed or angry than devastated. But I get why people would feel devastated by that. I get why people would be heartbroken over not getting the birth experience they dreamed of and why they’d experience gender disappointment and other things related to babies.
But this, I just… I don’t understand the devastation. I’d understand if plagiocephaly was, say, a serious disorder that could result in death or if the helmets were really tantamount to torture, but everything I’m reading suggests that the consequences of untreated plagiocephaly are primarily physical inconveniences and social difficulties, not death. The helmets themselves apparently become security blankets for babies after they get used to them, so…
I don’t know. A friend of mine whose babies were treated for torticollis pointed out that the twins’ stay in the NICU probably put things into a different perspective for me, and I tend to agree with that. Give them helmets, give them braces, make them do uncomfortable PT, whatever you need, but let them do it at home. Let them be just a few rooms away from me. Let me still have my days and nights with them, not just a few hours borrowed here and there. Let them breathe on their own and eat without their hearts stopping and sleep without wires and tubes and monitors coming out of them. Let them sleep in a room where the only sounds are the television and the air conditioner and family conversation, not the beeping of monitors and medical personnel.
Honestly, compared to the NICU, plagiocephaly sounds like a cakewalk.
(and again, definitely not trying to discount anyone’s feelings because everyone experiences the world differently, and that’s okay. Just for me, I’d take helmets over them being back in the NICU any day)
I’ll keep updating as we move forward. The appointment isn’t until June 22, so we’re doing what we can to mitigate flatness in the meantime, but I’ll be honest: the mitigation would be a lot easier with just one baby to play “no, face that way” whack-a-mole with than two.