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Overcoming Clubfoot: A Parent's Story

Written by Natalie Eagle from Global Clubfoot Initiative

Motherhood is hard. We all know that. Your life is never going to be the same again. All those lie ins, spontaneous nights out and spending sprees seem so far away; you now have this tiny human who is your entire world. Everyone tries to prepare you for pregnancy. There are so many books detailing every week but where’s the manual for when they’re here; and where’s the volume button. You carry this precious heartbeat for 9 months that’s all of a sudden here with 10 fingers and 10 toes; they’re perfect. However, what happens when you’re told your child isn’t perfect?

After trying for 2 and a half years my husband and I were so delighted to find out that we were pregnant. Everything went smoothly, and I had a wonderful, natural birth at 39 weeks. However, when Alfie was born something just didn’t look right with his foot. Nothing had been picked up on any of our scans. I asked the Midwife to check his foot. She politely told me not to worry “babies are curled up right after birth”, he’ll righten himself eventually. I wasn’t convinced. A few hours later, this time more persistently, I pointed out that his foot was still curled around itself. They still didn’t seem concerned, but we got referred to a physiotherapist.

The next day we met Charlie, our physiotherapist. She came to see us and yes, Alfie had clubfoot. I then had this out of body experience when I could see her lips moving but all I could think about was his future. Would he be able to walk? Play football? Reach all those big milestones? I had no idea what his life would be like. I was exhausted. A new Mum trying to breastfeed on 3 hours’ sleep with all new emotions and now being told that my son wasn’t perfect. However, Charlie reassured me that her team would be there with us every step of the way, and that his future would be exactly as I dreamed - full of love, fun and opportunity!

I wish I had known then what I know now about clubfoot and that the ‘unknown’ really isn’t scary at all. That Alfie being born with clubfoot meant he was born into a wide community full of support and love. Watching your child go through treatment is hard but you never really see how brave and strong your child is until they get to prove their resilience. Alfie’s treatment was a mixture of casting, a minor procedure and assisted boots he had to wear at first for 23 hours and then for 13 hours a day. No major operations, no painful procedures and thankfully no life filled with pain. Now 3 years on Alfie still wears his assisted boots at night but by day he’s my bike riding, sofa jumping, tunnel digging, beautiful boy with no obstacles in his way.

Not every child born with clubfoot is blessed with the same journey and outcome as Alfie. If you would like any more information on clubfoot, ponseti treatment or how you can help a community in need please visit www.globalclubfoot.org.