Fairly soon after the boys were born, we noticed that M had a fairly pronounced “tilt” of his head. As I’ve discussed before, he was diagnosed with torticollis, a condition where he got sort of smooshed* in utero. We got him into physical therapy, and for some time he’s been more or less better, his head only flopping over when he’s worn out or sleepy.
One of the comorbid conditions that often come along with torticollis is a plagiocephaly, or “flat-head” syndrome. Because the head ends up stuck in one position for so long, the spot where it is pressed ends up flattening out. This starts out in the womb, but is exacerbated by sleeping in the same position on firm mattresses after birth. (Plagiocephaly is on the rise in general because of the Back to Sleep Initiative, which encourages parents to forget the previous advice to have newborns sleep on their tummies.)
So the neck and bed together contributed to a decent flat spot on the back of M’s head. We were told that with p.t. and plenty of tummy time the flat spot would round out with his skull’s growth. (I’m still sort of hoping it pops out suddenly with a “fwonk” sound like a dent popping out of a soda can.)
So the neck was getting better and the flat spot was kinda sorta rounding out – and I mean barely – but his disproportionally large head was still that and an almost perfect circle. We sort of hit the point where we were getting concerned about this; M wasn’t dramatically different than the average, but we decided to play it safe and look into it.
The medical folks we asked said it should correct itself, but we might want to get an ultrasound to see if he had benign external hydrocephalus.
He was diagnosed with BEH. (Now, you really need to focus on the first word of this condition.) With BEH, the skull is basically bigger than it needs to be for the brain. The space between is filled with fluid (there’s your “hydro-“), but more fluid than there should be.
In a big middle finger to physics, the length of time between a diagnosis and meeting with a specialist is longer than the time going on around it. It provides one plenty of time to get online and scare the crap out him- or herself. Between WebMD and other sites, all the studies and “studies”, testimonials, and forums, there were a number of associated issues that seemed to be possibilities. According to the Internet, M is at greater risk for autism, motor function problems, speech impairment, and other developmental disabilities.
When we finally met with a neurologist, he put us both pretty much at ease (me more so than K). He told us he treats this all the time, we were perfectly within a normal, self-correcting range, and that M should grow out of it no problem. He said that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t get an orthopedic helmet (although you can get some pretty cool customization) that the graph on the growth chart showed that his head was exactly where he wanted it to be. We also still have time to fix address any complications or problems that might come up before he’s too grown.
We love our boys no matter what, but we’re glad to hear that they’re healthy and on track to stay that way. Now our only concern is with the size and shape of that big old melon he uses for a head. The neurologist said that his hair will eventually hide its shape until it hits its stride, so hopefully he’ll avoid other kids being bullies and calling his head a “melon” until he grows into himself. Hopefully we’ll be able to find hats that fit so he doesn’t have to wear them like the guy from Oz L.