“She has hip dysplasia. She will have to wear this full body pavlik harness 24/7 for three months. Sponge bathe her and try not to give her a regular bath so she understands that this isn’t to come off and get upset when you try to put it back on.
DOCTOR: “Any questions?”
ME: “Umm, her legs are pulled up like a frog, what kind of clothing is she supposed to wear, it’s winter otherwise I’d put her in dresses or even just a diaper would work. But in the cold…”
DOCTOR: “You will just have to put her in oversized clothing and boys sweatpants a few sizes up from her size.”
What the fuck.
This was like a triple whammy:
1. She apparently had hip dysplasia since birth and I had hip dysplasia so she ‘should’ have been diagnosed right out of the gate. My own mother told the doctors hour after her birth that I had hip dysplasia as a child and she needed to be truly checked thoroughly.
2. When you are new to the parent thing and they are only (3) months old and you barely have any sleep or clue how to care for them as it is it’s another blow.
3. But what was the most mind-blowing thing to me was the fact that NOT ONE CLOTHING COMPANY IN THE WORLD CATERED TO THESE CHILDREN! Not a subset of a clothing company. Not an independent clothing company. No one.
When I got home I poured through all the new clothing she had received as a baby all the way up in sizes. Not one item worked. So off I went to a big box clothing store and purchasing bags of clothes. After trying on over 10 pairs of pants I purchased for her in all varying sizes including 4-year-old sizing (again, she was 3 months!) I was horrified not one item worked. I remember getting back in that car and driving to return them and it was then when all the above-listed whammy items hit me and I screamed and punched my steering wheel and went into a hyperventilating hysterical crying fit to the point I had to pull over for everyone’s safety – me and those on the road with me.
Clothing. A basic need for a child. When a parent cannot provide the three basic needs: clothing, food and shelter, the feeling is pure helplessness. How did all these parents do this? How did not one person decide this was a need that needed addressing? Never mind you also have to deal with an unpleasant diagnosis (if the harness didn’t work she’d have to get hip surgery and be casted from the feet up to the waist with a hole cut out of the cast for the diaper. Just imagine how much fun that is for various reasons. But to have no clothing on top of it all?
That thought was unacceptable to me. So I decided right then and there as I got back on the road after pulling myself together, I wanted to change that fact. Always a doer, always one to say complaining did nothing in life if not accompanied by action, I decided to figure out how to address this need.
After sharing my thoughts with my husband I started to outline my thoughts about snaps and Velcro on the clothing that would allow for all the ‘hip’ therapies that were most popular: the pavlik harness and the spica cast being the top two. I confided in my neighbors at the time and one of their mothers was a seamstress by trade who offered to do up a few prototypes based off super rough sketches. Thus, the start of BabyHipWear began.
I put a call out on a site (not as many resources 11 years ago as today!) looking for a seamstress and found an amazing one in middle America. I went to the local fabric store and purchased a few stretchy 100 percent cotton ‘fun’ fabrics and sent it off to her along with elastic, velcro, garment tags and snaps all of which I researched on my own. It was a daunting task because I was so conscious this was kid clothing so there could be no room for error and I expressed that to the seamstress as well (what if a baby pulled a snap off and choked!?)
I purchased insurance and quality controlled the hell out of every piece of clothing she sent back. I started a website and made up come collateral and designed a logo and got packaging all lined up. I was ready to go.
I researched message boards (remember those were like the only way to go? No Facebook or any social media to speak of at that time!) and started word of mouth advertising.
The result was fairly immediate, and the emails I got from parents all over the world brought me to tears. I made sure to ship everywhere because there would be nothing more frustrating than finally finding clothing for your disabled child only to read ‘ships only in USA!’ BHW was my true labor of love and first taste at entrepreneurship. In the end, I learned more lessons I could ever have imagined, but the biggest was filling existing needs with something that solves a problem or fills a void is critical.
Sadly, a few years in, I lost my seamstress and being I didn’t have the capital to mass produce, nor could find another seamstress (so sad it’s such a lost art) I had to shut my doors. There simply was no way I could scale the business to make sense (how I wished Kickstarter and all those places were available back then.)
To this day it breaks my heart I couldn’t make BabyHipWear work but at least I helped hundreds of parents for a short while and started to realize the pull of entrepreneurship that would continue on for me over a decade later.