Six Words I Never Thought I'd Hear

"Something is wrong with your baby."

My 20-week anatomy ultrasound on Friday went, I thought, perfectly fine. We had William and Elanor there, and the tech showed us the baby's heart, brain, and spine, and pronounced all of them perfect. The kids were fascinated with the images on the screen. William asked if the baby was a boy or a girl, and we told him we didn't want to know because we liked the surprise.

In hindsight, when the tech measured the baby's femur he didn't say much and changed the subject (I think he asked me if I was hoping for a boy or a girl), but at the time I didn't notice.

He stated Baby was measuring right on target, printed out some pictures for us, and mentioned he'd need a few minutes to prepare the report before giving it to my OB. All fine, all routine. 

When we were called back into my OB's office, it did seem to take a little longer than usual for him to come in, but I dismissed that as well. A busy day for him, I thought. Maybe he'd had to deliver a baby or two that morning and was behind schedule as a result.

When Dr. N. did come in, it wasn't with the big smile I was accustomed to seeing from him. He glanced at the kids, who were waiting in the corner of the room with Collin, and hesitated for just an instant. Then he sat down and looked right at me.

"We need to talk about the ultrasound," he said.

I didn't understand why he looked so serious. Surely everything was fine. Wasn't he here to tell me that everything looked great, as he had twice before, during my pregnancies with Violet and Gabriel?

He looked me in the eye, making sure he had my attention. "The baby has club feet."

My first reaction was denial. No. Not my baby. Everything had looked fine. The tech hadn't indicated anything was amiss. He was wrong. He had to be wrong. 

"What?" I stammered.

As Dr. N explained that the results of the ultrasound showed bilateral club feet, my first thought was of Monica and her baby Roslyn. And now Dr. N was telling me that the same thing had happened to my baby. I was having trouble wrapping my mind around it. I'd had four physically healthy kids and had expected that #5 would be equally healthy. But s/he wasn't.

A larger version of the picture that shows one of Tiebreaker's clubbed feet

We talked about what the treatment would involve, and my mind was in a whirl. Casts. Braces. Possible surgery if the baby was in the 5% for whom casting and braces didn't work. Dr. N inquired if we'd found out the baby's gender, and we said no. He said, "I was just curious, as boys are twice as likely to have club foot than girls."

We spent the last few minutes of the appointment talking about my health -- my recent bout with bronchitis in particular -- but I was having trouble focusing on me.

I spent the rest of the evening alternately crying, asking for prayers via social media, and researching the baby's condition. Although I told him he didn't have to, Collin managed to get the next day (Saturday) off work so I wouldn't be alone. That evening, he booked us a hotel suite in North Phoenix (thanks to an accumulation of reward points from, we had a free night coming to us) and we spent the weekend swimming with the kids and talking about the baby's diagnosis. It was exactly what we needed to clear our minds and de-stress.

It's been several days since Tiebreaker's diagnosis, and I'm coming to terms with the news. First and foremost, it could be a lot worse and I'm so glad it's not. My friend Stephanie only had a few precious hours with her son Peter. I was heartbroken for Michelle when her baby Gregory passed away at 19 weeks gestation. I've prayed fervently for Sarah and her son Henry, who has spina bifida. In comparison, I have an incredibly easy lot.

Now that a few days have passed, I've been able to tally up more positives. Tiebreaker's condition likely won't require surgery. It's 100% treatable and 100% curable. The casting process may be uncomfortable for him/her, but it won't be painful. S/he won't require any medication. It's very unlikely that s/he'll have any developmental delays as a result. S/he could even turn out to be another Troy Aikman, Mia Hamm, or Kristi Yamaguchi.

Club feet? What club feet?!

I have the best maternity leave situation of my entire employment career, thanks to my generous employer's short-term disability insurance. I have 12 weeks off, 100% paid. Because I won't lose my income, we plan to keep Gabriel and Violet in daycare, which will allow me to take Tiebreaker to doctor's appointments without any additional kids tagging along. The baby should be entirely out of casts and into the brace by the time I return to work.

I've ordered The Parents' Guide to Clubfoot, and I've already set up a consultation appointment at Phoenix Children's Hospital for August 8. We'll be seeing the specialist recommended for our area on the Ponseti International website

As far as I can tell, there isn't a patron saint for people with club feet, but if I had to nominate one I'd choose Saint Alphonsa, India's first female saint. (One of the miracles that led to her canonization was the healing of a child with club foot in 1999!)

I have really felt the support of all those praying for us these last few days. Monica has been a tremendous help and doesn't seem to mind my pestering her with e-mails multiple times per day. My fear has ebbed and my confidence has grown, and I know that's due to the support of all of my friends and prayer warriors.

Tiebreaker's little kicks and jabs are getting stronger by the day. There's one thing I know for sure -- our baby is a fighter, and s/he's not going to let a little thing like a birth defect keep him/her down.

Saint Alphonsa, pray for us!


  1. Oh JoAnna, I wish I could give you a big hug! Did they really say "something is wrong with your baby"??? That's a hideous way to break the news.

    We are praying for you and Tiebreaker and your whole fam over here!!

    1. No one said those actual words to me, but that's the sentence that kept ringing through my head after Dr. N broke the news.

  2. Praying for you and little TB:) He/she will overcome this obstacle and blow everyone away!

  3. (((hugs))) I'm so glad you explained the ultrasound picture there! I never got a copy of Roslyn's foot ultrasound, so I never got to see exactly how her feet looked in utero!

    I can just continue to say: It sucks, but it'll be ok. :-)

  4. I am glad to get the details of the story and I am so glad that Monica can be such a great guide and support for you! I think Tiebreaker has amazing things in store for his/her life. What an honor it will be to watch it all unfold for God's glory! And what a blessed baby to have such a loving family to embrace him/her and give all the proper care needed.

  5. Praying for all of you JoAnna. You seem like such a strong person in so many ways...I don't even know what else to say. Many prayers.

  6. This is the first time I've stumbled across your blog and am already amazed by your strength and faith! I love that your precious little Tiebreaker is such a fighter already and can't wait to see what God has planned for his or her life!! :)

  7. Your maternity leave sounds amazing! Glad that you will have that time with TB! You got this! You are strong!

    Praying for you!

  8. Another women in our community in Montana had a little boy due the same time as Daniel's original due date who was born with clubfeet. She and her son came to my baby shower and I saw them every week (it was a small community) so while I didn't have a baby with them, I have actually watched the casting process progress and it does work well.

  9. Plucky comic relief says, watch the mean kitty guy sing a song about his new puppy dog -



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