In the early stages of my last trimester I had a dream that my son was born with a birthmark on his face. It was a coin-sized, purplish mark on his cheek. I remember feeling complete and utter anguish for my son during this very vivid dream.
At 37.5 weeks, my husband and I welcomed our healthy, beautiful baby boy. Then at just a week old, he had what looked like a teeny tiny pinprick on the upper portion of his forehead. I asked the Midwife what it could be, and she said it looked like a broken blood vessel and could have been from crying. And man, did our son cry. For the first 3 months of his life, it seemed like all he did was cry.
As the weeks sped past, the mark on his forehead grew bigger. The midwife told us that it was likely an infantile hemangioma, a common benign tumor that develops in 5-10% of infants. I suddenly had a flashback of my dream, and wondered if I brought this on. Trying to find the humor and irony, I joked with the midwife that I craved and ate blackberries throughout my pregnancy. Maybe they left a stain.
With each monthly milestone photo, I would notice the growth of his birthmark. My mother-in-law would say that he’s been kissed by an angel, whereas my nephew who’s just 9 months younger than our son would point at it and tell us it’s a boo-boo. My dad jokingly referred to our kiddo as Spot. I quickly put a halt to that nickname. And then one day while waiting in line to renew my license, the lady behind the counter shouted across the room “Oh, you have a raspberry baby!”
Gee, thanks lady. I hadn’t noticed.
She used that opening line as a way to tell me that her grandson had one too. I nodded along while she talked and spouted statistics about hemangiomas. All the while all I could think of was; who else is listening to her and trying to spy my kid’s birthmark? Meanwhile, he sat in his car seat at my feet playing with his soother clip none the wiser.
Every so often I would feel embarrassed by his bright red ‘angel kiss.’ Always wondering what people thought when they saw it. During some outings, we would be asked if he had fallen on his head, or if he was bitten by a bug. I would often shake my head in disbelief – yeah buddy, a really BIG bug. My husband and I always replied with “Nope, it’s just a birthmark” and I would pull our sons hat down just a tad more.
As he’s gotten older, his birthmark has begun to fade away – just like WebMD said it would. The questioning is disappearing too; we don’t get asked about it in public, and children don’t shout out “Mommy, what’s on his head?” anymore. The only people that seem to mention it now is my hubby and I.
His birthmark has become a part of who he is, and what he looks like. Sometimes I think he would look pretty boring without it. But to him, it’s all he’s ever known. He’s 2.5 and has yet to ask me what’s on his head. He simply doesn’t notice it.
And it’s with that undeniable innocence that I remind myself that I’ve been the one that’s had the issue with his birthmark. I’ve been the one that feels self-conscious from the questions and inquisitive looks. His birthmark literally branded me to be defensive. And why? Did I feel bad for him because I worried that he would be tormented as a child if it didn’t disappear? Yes. Did I think if his own Grandfather created a nickname for his bright red ‘spot’ that others would too? Yes. Did I ask the Dr. at each progress appointment if there’s anything we could do to lighten it, or remove it? Yes.
Perhaps I worried about his birthmark more than anyone else, but isn’t that the job of a Mother? Don’t we worry about our children 24/7?
Will they be liked?
Will they think they’re handsome/pretty/attractive?
Will they blame me for what they look like?
Yes, they will. All of the above.
My child will always be liked, in fact, he will be loved. I’ve thought he’s the most beautiful thing to walk this planet the moment the midwife showed him to me. And I have and will continue to take blame for things; those I can control, and those I cannot.
So, what can we as parents learn from the lady at the DMV? People will notice us, and some will point out our weaknesses, or blemishes. And it is our job to make sure that we show our children love and acceptance. That we tell them they are beautiful. That we take note of how they view life, and accept ourselves wholeheartedly.