Friday, February 20, 2009

frenulum: it's not a naughty word

I haven't blogged about my daughter's frenulum before (let's face it: who has?), because it seemed kind of personal, something she could blog about someday if she so chose. But now that her frenulum has been clipped, it doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. If you don't know what a frenulum is, like the receptionist at one of the ear, nose, and throat doctor's offices I called, you're mighty curious by now, I bet. Anyway, I'm writing this story in case somebody can find our experience useful.
Our Friday the 13th involved blood, gore, scissors...and Zoralee. Scary, isn't it? Zoralee was born with a very short frenulum, the membrane under the tongue, something we noticed fairly soon. Hers went out nearly to the end of her tongue, so she couldn't stick out her tongue very far. An uncle of mine had it, and they simply clipped it in the hospital when he was born. Jason and I debated whether or not to have Z's clipped. Frenulum-clipping is a very old procedure; long ago, midwives would simply clip it with their fingernails if they noticed at birth that it was short. Z's frenulum wasn't affecting nursing, so our pediatrician and midwife weren't concerned. But we read and heard enough horror stories of parents whose kids had speech impediments later as a result of it, and we knew it to be a very quick procedure, that we decided to go for it.
Enter a frustrating round of phone calls to pediatricians, hospitals, doctors, dentists, and facial surgeons around here. Come to find out, it is no longer stylish in the medical field to cut frenulums; they don't even train doctors for it. This is partially because they used to cut frenulums more often than was necessary, and the procedure got to have doctors-taking-advantage-of-ordinary-folks connotations. I can see why. GET THIS: a dentist would do it, using a laser, for around $200, and an ear, nose, and throat doctor would gladly do it for just under $600 (because he would knock Zoralee out with anaesthesia).
I knew that this procedure was literally 3 seconds long and would likely produce one single drop of blood. How frustrating to envision spending a minimum of $200 for it! If I had known how far back to cut, I most certainly would've done it myself. We got a break though. A receptionist at a dentist's office gave me their price quote in her normal receptionist voice, then did a Jekyll and Hyde maneuver and said under her breath, "Listen, my daughter had this done 15 years ago by a great doctor in Kalispell named Dr. Wilder, who didn't charge anything. Go see him."
So we did, on Friday the 13th. Dr. Wilder is a very friendly older doctor who didn't charge a cent either for the consultation or for the clipping, saying he never wanted to be accused of funding his retirement with such a simple procedure. It took 3 seconds. Granted, they were long seconds for me, as I held Zoralee's arms down. She cried, yes, and bled a little more than typical, and my eyes watered for her, but she was over it before we left the office. We appreciated Dr. Wilder's candor and his honest concern for Zoralee. He said hers was a borderline case that we could've gone either way on.
So there we had it - a good lesson in parenting, where you make a choice and have no real idea if it was necessary, if it did more harm than good or more good than harm or neither, and if you saved your kid from future heartache or not. As Dr. Wilder said, parenting is one big journey of feeling guilty for things you didn't know you were supposed to do and taking credit for things you probably had less to do with than you think.
(The picture above was actually taken before the procedure, but it's so appropriate for this post.)


Autumn and Dan's family said...

Poor baby. Sounds a little better than the way Rhett's frenulum was smashed and cut on the chair when he was 9 months. Who really needs a frenulum anyway?

Taylor said...

I'm pretty sure Dr. Wilder is they guy who delivered me and my brothers. I'm not totally sure you should ask my mom.