Infant Hip Dysplasia: My Journey as a New Mother Dealing with a Medical Crisis

The article was edited for length and/or clarity.

Pregnancy is a wonderful thing to experience. It’s growing a human being, a little mini you that shares your characteristics and those of your partner. Pregnancy is an adventure. It’s unpredictable, and can throw everyone it affects through a loop. More often than not, women go into pregnancy with a certain level of expectation, and for most women pregnancy and delivery goes relatively smoothly. For some however, there is the unexpected, and it’s a matter of learning to push through and adjust your expectations to accommodate the unforeseen. For the mother in this article, she learned how to adjust her expectations when her daughter was born with hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is the misalignment of the hip bone within the socket. Infant and early childhood hip sockets are mostly made of cartilage which makes it softer and more pliable. Hip dysplasia is a believed to be a developmental disposition, often influenced by genetics. Girls are 4-5 times more likely to have hip dysplasia than boys. Other influences include positioning within the womb prior to birth or if the child was a twin or a multiple. Sometimes the cause of hip dysplasia is unknown.

I recently interviewed a mother whose child was diagnosed with hip dysplasia during infancy. Her story is inspirational, and shows the struggles that she went through both in dealing with her child’s diagnosis, and the impact it had on her growing family. This is her story.

My pregnancy with my daughter was your normal, typical pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness for the first three months, but thankfully that went away. I ate more burgers and pizza in those nine months than I think I’ve ever had during my lifetime! It’s all I craved. During my pregnancy I would experience severe back pain, however when I asked my doctor, they said it was a “package deal with pregnancy.” I ended up going into preterm labor when I was seven months pregnant. Thankfully the doctors were able to stop it, but I was put on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I didn’t complain though, I had a giant belly!

Around 37 weeks I went in for an ultrasound and they noticed that I was losing fluid. My daughter was in perfect health, but my doctor wanted to get her out before it became a problem. My reaction was “where do I sign?” They induced me the following morning around 8 am, and I was excited but nervous. I had amazing nurses, and they made me feel so comfortable and confident. My labor was quick! I decided to get an epidural around 3 pm. By the time the anesthesiologist finished putting it in, I was ready to push! Everything was going great, and then my daughter got stuck. She had been in the correct position when they had done an ultrasound during labor. During the last contraction, right before I began pushing, she must have moved which caused her left arm to get stuck. The doctor needed to react quickly because it had the potential to be a life threatening situation. He pulled her out, causing a fourth degree tear to my body, and my daughter was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy is when there is nerve damage caused to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves.

Due to the nerve damage in my daughter’s arm, she began physiotherapy around three months old. We went to physiotherapy once a week, every week. When my daughter was around a year old, she began trying to walk, and we noticed her walking was a bit strange. My husband and I had taken her to physiotherapy one day, and she tried to walk in front of the therapist who also noticed the strange walking. She recommended we be seen at the local children’s hospital just to be safe. If everything was okay, the therapist would be able to make a plan to help my daughter walk better. My daughter was walking with her left food inwards, and would not put a lot of weight on her leg. Other than that, there were no other indicators that anything was wrong.

When we arrived at the children’s hospital, we were greeted by an orthopedic surgeon. I was convinced that nothing was wrong, and that my daughter just needed more physiotherapy. The orthopedic surgeon said that her hip was not where it should be, and that she would need it put back in place surgically and wear a body cast for three months while it healed. It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. My husband internalizes his fears, so he remained very calm and quiet. He tried to stay positive for me, and like me, just wanted a definitive answer on why my daughter had the hip dysplasia. No one had any answers. Everything moved so quickly, and we only had one month to get everything organized.

The day of the surgery was terrifying. My daughter was put under general anesthesia, and the surgeon had to cut the tendon close to her thigh because it was so tight. This caused major bruising and discoloration across her thigh to her pelvis. The surgeon was able to put her hip back in place using a closed reduction, which was minimally invasive and involved manipulating the ball of the hip back into the socket. The surgery was successful.

After my daughter was placed in the cast, day to day life was such a blur for the first month. She was uncomfortable, would wake up multiple times a night and didn’t want to eat. You could tell that she was so sad. We had to create a whole new routine, and try to find ways to entertain a one year old while immobile. It was the summertime in Canada when we had the procedure done, so it was very hot. We weren’t able to spend a lot of time outside because my daughter would develop heat rashes very quickly from being in the cast. This made for a lot of time spent indoors. We began to feel isolated, and lonely.

My mental health was not in a good place before this happened. I was suffering, but I didn’t tell anyone. I had post partum depression, and when my daughter was diagnosed with hip dysplasia I was convinced it was somehow my fault. I did something to make this happen. I would think to myself: “My belly is supposed to be the safest place for my child, and yet two horrible things happened to her within her first year of life.” As a parent, you want to protect your child, but I couldn’t prevent my baby from being injured and this made me feel like a failure. I started pushing everyone away, including my husband. I thought, these ailments were my fault, and I was in this alone – but I wasn’t alone. I had support that I kept rejecting. On weeks where I only had three to four hours of sleep a night while working full time, I questioned my ability as a mother, wife and questioned how I was going to survive the three months.

The mom guilt played a big role in my mental health. Our private insurance didn’t have a medical leave option where we could take time off to care for a child. We needed to pay for equipment and other things out of pocket that insurance did not cover, which meant that we needed to continue working in order to cover the costs of her medical bills. I felt so defeated when I couldn’t be by her side all the time. I had to go through hoops with my job to make it all work and at the end of the day, I had no other choice but to continue working full time. I was able to condense my five day week into a four day week, which lead to longer hours during those four days. My husband could see that I was struggling, and he worked out an arrangement with his boss to see if he could work weekend night shifts for the three months my daughter needed the extra care. Instead of being thrilled, I felt betrayed that he had come up with this arrangement without consulting me even though it was helpful. I still felt like I needed to do everything myself. I realize now that I was angry and irrational, and it damaged our marriage. We had pushed each other away so much that we were no longer like husband and wife, but roommates. After my daughter’s cast was removed, it took a long time to mend things and move forward but we did. It’s so important to maintain your relationship with your significant other and put your ego aside, because you will need each other to lean on. You need to be a united front, a team, otherwise it makes everything that much harder.

We didn’t receive a lot of information from the hospital about how to handle any of this. I had no support from a medical professional. My husband and I did a lot of research, watched medical videos, read blogs from other parents, looked at Pinterest for ideas to make a chair for my daughter to sit in and for activities that she could do. It was incredibly frustrating not having any advice. This is a main reason why I am so open about my daughter’s condition now, because it’s a lonely feeling when you are unsure how to provide the best care for your child in a medical situation. Every child is different. Some children adjust easily to any situation but others will take more time. You will find out what works with your lifestyle through trial and error.

My daughter is doing amazing now! She is now two years old, and has advanced so much. She walks perfectly. To see her walk and run brings tears to my eyes. She was so determined to get up and move as soon as that cast came off. She still has a brace she wears at night for the next few years. She is using her left arm more, but I still have concerns about it. I’m not sure if she will ever have full movement but she is strong willed so I know she will adapt to any situation.

Remember this: you are not a one woman show. Use what support system you have. Don’t feel guilty for asking questions, become informed. You are your child’s advocate and should never feel guilty for that! When you have a child who is sick, or a child who has medical problems, it can consume your world and become very stressful. You need to remember to take care of you and your mental health. Talk to someone, join a support group, have naps, take long walks alone, workout, have that glass of wine (or two, no judgment here!). Do what you need to do to make the situation a little less stressful. It’s okay to not be okay, and it can be therapeutic to journal. This helped me a lot.

My contact information will be below. Anyone can reach out to me at any time. There is no one who will understand your mental health or the journey you are about to go on than someone who went through the exact same thing! Remember this, and say it every day: It’s not my fault! You did not do this, you did not ask for this. Take it one day at a time, and make sure to take some time to take care of yourself.

My Contact Information

Rachel Burns
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