We had Mya’s annual club foot appointment on Wednesday. Mya is almost 5, and now she understands Club foot. She knows not everyone has it, she knows it was a struggle, but I also feel she knows she’s a fighter. Right before we left, as I was packing the car Mya asked, “do you think the doctor will say I don’t need my brace anymore?” She asked with such excitement, like a birthday present waiting. I felt my heart ache, for her this appointment can be signified with rewards, whether her foot is good or bad. “Your foot is fixed no matter what,” I told her, “the brace just helps.” The waiting room was crowded. Filled with broken legs and casts and splints. We found a quiet waiting room to wait for our appointment. I didn’t realize the waiting room we had found was for newborns with Club foot. We were early for our appointment so I saw several families with tiny babies. Some with casts, some awaiting their first cast. And memories flooded back to me. Those uncertain days holding a newborn with a full leg cast. A family sat next to us with twin boys, they looked to be about two weeks old, both with full leg casts. The mother asked Mya how old she was and Mya responded with her standard four and a half but my birthday is July 31st. I said I remember the casts but that Mya doesn’t. And Mya said she’s the fastest runner in her class and showed the mother the scar on her ankle. I wanted to tell the mother how easy it was, how the days leading up to a fixed foot are filled with simple procedures that don’t bog a memory down, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t promise something easy because it wasn’t, so I simply said that Mya doesn’t remember a thing and that now she is almost 5 years old and her foot is fixed and she runs and jumps and swims and soon club foot will feel like a memory. I wanted to say that the hardship of weeks of castings lessens as the years pass by, but she looked so tired I didn’t want to suggest any hardship existed. Every journey is different. Our appointment came and Mya showed the doctor her brace and he stretched her foot and said he was very pleased. Prognosis, once Mya outgrows her current brace we can say goodbye to AFOs. She can live without a brace. We have an appointment scheduled for a year from now and if her foot is good that will be our last club foot appointment. That will be her graduation. If there is ever concern we can always come back for follow up, but there will be no need for routine checkups. When we first received this diagnosis, before Mya was born, I don’t remember how I pictured the prospect of a final appointment. Admittedly, I didn’t think her club foot journey would be this hard. But knowing what has happened, and seeing how far she’s come, the idea of graduation in a year feels pretty wonderful. I saw those newborn babies in the waiting room, so tiny, with casts of feet pointed downward and still angled inward, the beginnings of transition and the memories came back so strong. But with Mya racing down the hospital halls, I felt hopeful for those babies. They will be fine. And Mya is fine. She is so much better than fine. So we celebrated with ice cream and the park and I let those memories live inside me. They don’t feel as hurtful as they used to. They feel like part of a process that got us here. A little girl who acknowledges her diagnosis and is proud of it, who can find solidarity among newborns in a hospital waiting room, and who really is the fastest runner in her class, and maybe the fastest in our whole city.
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