What the hell is craniosynostosis, anyway?

And why I know so freaking much about it

What is with this weather, man? We’ve had snow twice this winter in South Louisiana. It’s cold and weird, but I don’t hate it. School closed for an entire week, and we got to play together as a family. From looking at social media, most parents were complaining that their kids were making them crazy. Maybe Darcy makes me crazy on a daily basis, but I honestly loved having Ben and Darcy and Clark and I home together. It was a continuation of Christmas break, and I think we needed the down time. Ben is in school at LSU for his last semester of engineering, so that’s why we’ve been able to enjoy the breaks together. He does work part-time, but his office was closed during the snow fiasco because the entire state of Louisiana shut down.

Now, some of you remember that Darcy was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at 5 weeks old. What is craniosynostosis? Well, when babies are born, their skulls are not one solid bone. They are actually several separate bones held together by lines of fibrous connective tissue called sutures. This allows the skull to expand and accommodate a rapidly growing brain. With craniosynostosis, one or more of these sutures is fused too early meaning proper skull growth cannot occur. If the skull cannot grow as the brain grows, intracranial pressures can increase and cause brain damage. Also, the child will have an abnormal head shape. There are certain syndromes associated with craniosynostosis, but most cases are non-syndromic and only involve one suture. Darcy’s was non-syndromic sagittal craniosynostosis. She underwent a total cranial vault remodeling surgery at 12 weeks old. It was hard, it was brutal, but she is growing, thriving, and developing perfectly.

I am both a nurse and a mom. A lot of people say, “When it’s your kid, it’s different,” but I seem to be an exception. It’s really hard for me to turn the nurse off. I assess my children critically and clinically. I knew that Darcy was a beautiful child, but I also knew her head shape was different, that her temples were dimpled inward, her head was narrow, she didn’t have posterior fontanelle, and that she had a strange ridge down her head. I remember mentioning it to her pediatrician as he assessed it. We got scans that day, and she was diagnosed. When Clark was born, I noticed immediately he didn’t have a posterior fontanelle and had a small ridge down his head. I specifically asked the neonatologist (who was stupid about a lot of things) if the MRI showed craniosynostosis. He said “No way.” I can’t let things go, and it gets me into trouble sometimes. When something is bothering me, I get total word vomit–I just blurt it out and throw my persistent thought/worry out into the universe, and not always so elegantly. Ben jokes that he never has to wonder what’s bothering me because I’ll just straight up tell him. In my heart, I knew Clark had craniosynostosis despite what others said.

“But the MRI showed he didn’t.” “His head doesn’t look as narrow as Darcy’s.” “He looks just fine.”

I mentioned my concerns to our pediatrician at Clark’s one-month appointment, and he said we could just continue to monitor it. That held me over for like 2 days before my propensity to not let things go led us back to his office requesting imaging studies. We got an X-ray of Clark’s head that was consistent with a craniosynostosis diagnosis. Our pediatrician then referred us to Darcy’s craniofacial surgeon who we love ♥️At that appointment, he told us that he was moving to California in 2 weeks and unfortunately the neurosurgeon on Darcy’s team has retired😭

–This was devastating to hear, but moving on–

He told us that without a CT scan we couldn’t be 100%, but that Clark looked like he had partial sagittal craniosynostosis whereas Darcy had complete sagittal craniosynostosis. This would qualify him for a less invasive surgery using an endoscopic approach. This means they would use a small incision to remove the fused suture, and then use helmets to shape his head over the better part of a year.  Our CT scan the following day confirmed what we knew—Clark has partial sagittal craniosynostosis. I asked our craniofacial surgeon why both of our children had this and what could cause this genetically. He said that the sagittal suture is typically NOT associated with genetic origins. He said that it was “extremely rare” to have 2 children with non-syndromic sagittal cranio. I asked “How rare?” and he said that he had actually never seen it occur twice in a family. We’re SpEcIaL! Ha! Honestly, after the hell we’ve been through, the fear and anxiety, this seems like small(ish) stuff. It’s probably a mark of how bad shit has been when you look at neurosurgery as not a big deal, but we don’t see it as that big of a deal. Not after what we’ve been through. This is fixable, man.

After Darcy was diagnosed with cranio, I swore I would never miss that diagnosis as a future practitioner. I never anticipated having another child with it, but we did, and I didn’t miss it. We’re getting an early jump on it, and we should be meeting with our new neurosurgeon in the next few days to come up with our surgical plan for baby Clark. He should also begin physical therapy in the next couple of weeks as well. His tone IS improving, and he’s pretty much perfect in our book.

Darcy loves “baybee.” In fact, we wish she would love Clark less. She excitedly runs up to him and throws blankets over his face and body so he won’t get cold. She jams his pacifier into his face as he screams in protest. She tries to pick him up and is the opposite of gentle. It’s actually probably a good thing he’s going to be wearing a helmet 23 hours a day after his surgery. Darcy has added so many words to her vocabulary. She got a toy kitchen from Santa Claus and begs us to play in her “kitch” every day. She loves to throw and drop things while yelling, “Oh, no!” She says “okay” after everything, loves to play outside, and yells, “Go Saints!” whenever she sees football on tv. Darcy loves to point to the chair, couch, or floor and tell us to “Sit.” We’ve been going to the grocery store every Sunday just the two of us, and she likes to help put the groceries on the conveyer belt. She’s the best little toddler I know.

I decided to return to grad school this semester because my life is very calm, and it’s a very rational choice. 😑That’s a glimpse into our crazy lives right now. It is legitimately crazy and unfairly blessed. I am thankful to my Jesus for this life. Love to all.

P.S. That picture is from our craniofacial surgeon’s office. We have the same picture of Darcy at the same age. It’s becoming this weird family tradition 😂

4 thoughts on “What the hell is craniosynostosis, anyway?”

  1. I pray for you and your whole family on a regular basis. God has this under control and don’t you forget it!!! Beka, your intelligence and what you know as a nurse has played a major role in your life as a mother and the lives of your precious children. You are so blessed. Most people would have thrown their hands up and given up. Not my Beka!
    I thank God every time I pray for making you such a smart and persistent mother, wife, daughter, sister, special friend, and more than anything…a child of God.
    I love you,
    Elsie Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ELE, that’s the sweetest thing anyone has said to me. You’ve been my greatest example of keeping the faith in hard circumstances. I still say that YOU should write a book on your life. You are precious to me and also such an encouragement to me. I’m blessed to know you. Love you too much.

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  2. Cohen was diagnosed with sagittal craniosynostosis at only a month old. He had surgery at just under 8 months of age. The sutures have closed again and he will have a second operation in a couple of more weeks. His daddy also had sagittal craniosynostosis and was diagnosed at 3 months of age. Praying for your sweet babies and your family.

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    1. Bless you. It is so hard to see our babies go through this, and Cohen having to do it twice! I am so sorry you are going through this, but know you have a community of cranio mamas who understand. I’m praying for your little love.

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