It all starts with the baby shower. The gift tags, gift bags, greeting cards—so many of them have pictures of tiny baby footprints on them. The mother-to-be might get a kit to press the baby’s feet into clay to make a keepsake of the footprints. Special frames are used in anticipation of the big event—the baby’s birth and the footprints, which can be framed for posterity or put into an album. 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. These frames often come with little poems:
Two little feet, ten little toes,
Leave their impressions today.
Soon they will wear two little shoes,
And be running and jumping at play.
Two little feet, too little time,
Before they are walking to school,
Kicking a rock, or skipping a rope,
Wading a puddle or jumping a pool.
Two little feet, one little child,
Will soon go their own way,
But footprints in my mind recall,
They stood here yesterday
Or short and simple:
Little hands, little feet
Pure and precious, and Oh So Sweet!
A baby makes footprints in our hearts
that never dim or fade.
Where ere a baby's little footprints are found,
There is precious and hallowed ground.
The pitter patter of little baby feet
is music to the ears and ever so sweet!
In parenting magazines, it seems that every single baby and toddler is shoeless and sockless. I did a little study of it recently, and it’s hard to turn 5 pages without seeing some baby feet! No one wants to cover up those precious little toes!
It was into this world that my son, Jordan, was born, a baby with clubfeet along with a dislocated knee and dislocated hips. It was hard to look at his little footprints on the piece of paper. The doctors immediately started saying how he “wouldn’t be much of a walker,” and they began casting his feet when he was 9 days old. He had two surgeries on each foot and one on his knee, all in the first 15 months of his life. Plus, physical therapy, braces, walkers, crutches. Instead of cute little socks or letting him go barefoot, my baby was in casts for almost the first year of his life, and after that, braces almost 24 hours a day, including the brace with a metal bar between the feet. When he was around 4, he had more casting done to align his feet again--with his condition, his feet keep trying to go back to how they were when he was born. They keep trying to adjust his feet until he stops growing, and then they will stay where they are when he's an adult.
When he was about 2 months old and all of this was so new to me, with so many doctors appointments and so many dire prognoses, one day we took a break and went to Babies R Us. We went into the nursing/changing room in the back. I loved that they had this little room set up for us. It was so comfortable, with sofas, a changing table, room to just sit back and relax. Feeling relaxed for the first time in a while, I looked up from feeding him for a minute, and right in front of us on the wall was a huge probably 5 foot by 8 foot poster, a close-up of baby feet! I couldn’t escape!
Many times seeing those photos of the cute baby feet--and even the feet of my friends' and relatives' kids, who always seem to go around barefoot--tore at my heart. Why was it so easy for everyone else? Why were these babies crawling and then walking, not using any devices, not using any braces, when they were still SUCH BABIES, while my son talked like a professor so early, gave us “lectures,” as he called them, at age 1½, knew all the words to book upon book of nursery rhymes before he was 2, started sounding out words at age 3?
Someday I'll jump through puddles,
Take a stroll or run a race.
Someday I'll walk across the street,
Or maybe walk in space,
Someday I'll scale a mountain,
Or I'll join a ballet corps.
Someday I'll walk a tightrope,
Or explore the ocean floor.
Someday these feet will do some things,
That only heaven knows,
But for today they're happy
Just to wiggle all their toes.
Some babies can’t wiggle their toes and will grow up never wiggling them. The only toe Jordan can move is his big toe on his left foot. He has no movement at all in his right foot. But he does jump through puddles—using a walker and braces. He does whatever he wants. He doesn’t know about the stress this has caused me, having him not fit into the “mold” of the “perfect baby” that is drummed into our heads. He is just himself—rough, tough, sensitive yet strong, hilarious, and “all boy.” I now look back at his baby footprints and see something different—the feet were so tiny and were not aligned perfectly, but they are the feet of MY little boy.
Just 2 weeks ago, he took his first steps without his walker or crutches. I was happy about it, but suddenly I realized that it didn’t mean as much to me as it once would have. I know now that the important thing is that he can get around independently, and whatever device he has to use to do that best is okay with me. The doctor is now talking about another surgery for Jordan's feet and knees. I am looking into nonsurgical options because I now wonder if all of this has been too much, trying to align things to make them LOOK good. But if they're working for him... It's a hard balance. I don't want there to be any damage to his knees or feet from walking the "wrong way," yet I don't want him to go through anymore surgeries if they're not totally necessary.
In the meantime, the doctor said that the braces with the bar between them really aren’t doing any good for him anymore. So for the first time in his life, he does not have something on his feet while he sleeps. I lie there next to him in bed and make sure his bare toes are touching my leg. They feel so cozy and soft, like they belong there. The beautiful, perfect toes of my little boy.