Baby, LIFE

Nursemaid’s Elbow

You see it in all of the movies and television shows.

A family, walking with a tiny one (usually between one and four years of age). The baby is between the adults, holding their hands for safety, and then the adults start counting.


The baby smiles.


The baby may laugh or hop a litte.

Three! The adults lift the baby into the air from their hands, swinging the little one into the air for a few seconds in a fun, baby-friendly swing.

It was that scene that flashed in my mind as my mom and I started counting in December, as we walked with Ava from a clothing store to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. She was walking in between us, holding our hands, and we decided to swing her.

I’ll preface this to say that we NEVER do this. I mean, almost never. One reason is that we rarely take her out much (#COVID), so we don’t need to hold her hands as she walks around every second. Another reason is that we are rarely taking her out together when she isn’t being held or in a stroller. A third reason is that they tell you *not* to do that, so honestly, we just didn’t.

Yeah, that third reason is a big one.

I know now (because she told me), that as we started counting, my mom had the same flash of “… should we do this?”. She and my dad have done that kid swinging thing many times with my nieces, with zero issue, so it was strange for her to wonder the same thing I did. But we both talked ourselves into it easily. Kids do this ALL THE TIME. We don’t do it often, so the chances of something going wrong are lower. Ava’s a strong girl, and loves pulling herself up, so we though, what could go wrong?

As we swung her, I felt a small pop in her wrist. It honestly felt like her wrist just popped from being pulled, very light but definite. I didn’t think much of it. But as we walked into the grocery store, she started fussing and then crying. Then, really crying. We took her outside to calm down, but she cried and cried.

It was past lunchtime and almost naptime, so we thought she was just hungry and tired. At first, it wasn’t hysterial crying. It was fussy crying, and it would stop during random times. But as we drove home, she started really crying. By the time we got home, I got Josh and asked him to help me calm her down. She curled up on our laps and cried, and then we noticed she wasn’t moving her arms. She would calm down and stop crying, but when she moved her left arm, she would cry again.

We decided it was time to go to the ER.

On the way, I Googled dislocated shoulders, dislocated wrists, dislocated elbows… but then I found a website that called out exactly what happened to me. “Think you broke your kid’s arm? Read this” it said. Then, it spelled out the situation we had just gone through: swinging a kid (under 4) by the hands, feeling a pop, then child crying and not using her arm. The verdict? Nursemaid’s Elbow.

Basically, it’s a small elbow dislocation. It happens most often with small kids because the annular ligament might be weaker ,and let the radius slip out of place. When we took Ava to the ER and explained it, they nodded in understanding and got us back right away.

“Let’s get this fixed and get you back on the road,” the nurse said.

The doctor stopped by very quickly after, and began what I thought was an evaluation of her arm. She cried while he did it, especially when he seemed to push down on her forearm, but as he stood up straight, he said, “all fixed!”

Nursemaid’s elbow is apparently very easy to fix, as I thought he was still doing an inspection of her! She did cry again (she had been calm and fine as long as she didn’t move her elbow), but pretty soon after stopped crying, and then wanted to get down and wreak havoc in the patient room (#toddler, #ava). She was truly back to normal within MINUTES of him fixing her. Before he left, the doctor told me that it was very common, I had told the “right story” for nursemaid’s elbow (the swinging, the pop in the wrist) and he didn’t need x-rays because he felt a very satisfying clunk as it went back into place, and because by then, she was reaching around and even smiling at him and the nurses. Zero pain.

I’m writing this because, thanks to my frantic Googling, I was able to ask if it was nursemaid’s elbow, and they got us in and out SO quickly. I mean, yeah, we were in the ER for around an hour total because of paperwork, waiting, etc. But they took great care of us, and I was unbelievably relieved that Ava would be back to normal when she had been crying hysterically mere hours before. I hope that if someone else experiences this and frantically googles like I did, maybe this will come up and they’ll see my experience.

I also hope that those who swing kids around by their hands watch out for this possibility. I obviously don’t expect people to stop swinging their kids like that for good – it’s an institution of parenting. Will I do it to Ava? NEVER again. She might be prone to it, but it was awful seeing her so sad and upset, and know that it’s just as easy to pick her up by her waist and toss her in the air a little that way instead. But if you feel a pop, I hope people are at least aware of this possibility to know what to do!

Parenting, man. Neverending fun.

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