This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week in the United States. I came across an article this week about two British parents who got matching tattoos on their legs so their young daughter would not have to feel bad about her natural birthmark. You can read the story here. Scrolling through the many comments, there were a lot of negative comments about how the parents should allow their daughter to be unique and not be the same as everyone else, some of these people had visible birthmarks of their own, but I would guess, many probably do not. I do, and so do my two daughters.
The article does not specific as to what type of birthmark the child has, but the American Academy of Dermatology has a great description of different types of birthmarks. I was born with a cafe-au-lait spot on my chin. I hated it growing up and I hated it even more when people would make comments about it; “Did you know you have chocolate on your face?”, “Can I pull you aside for a moment? You have something on your face,” or at makeup counters, “Would you like to shop for something to cover that up?” I always wanted to make a some snarky comeback, but usually, as my Grandma Herron, taught me, I would remain polite and simply say, “I know it’s there, it’s a birthmark, it’s been there all my life.” I’m also know that there were guys who would not date me simply because of my birthmark.
When my first daughter was born, she started to show a hemangioma under her nose shortly after birth. Hemangioma’s are non-cancerous blood tumors that grow for years but eventually start shrinking and may go away. However, in the case of my daughter, her hemangioma grew large enough that by 2 months, it was blocking her nasal airway, making giving her breathing difficulties, and was also growing into her mouth, affecting her ability to eat. At three months, she was taken to Children’s hospital and began therapy with the beta-blocker Propranolol, and her hemangioma began to shrink over a year’s time, at three she had laser surgery to take some of the remaining red out of her birthmark. You can read more about Propranolol therapy for hemangiomas here.
It was a difficult time for me that first year of her life, there were non-stop comments about the birthmark on her face, really nasty comments, usually from adults; and they came everywhere we went, restaurants, in the check out line at the grocery store, even at church. My second daughter was also born with a small birthmark that is not as visible on her forehead.
What are the chances that both of my daughters would end up with birthmarks on their face just like their mother? I have no idea, I’m not a mathematician. What I do know is that I was able to sympathize with them, because I had been there, which is probably what the British parents are attempting to do. When my daughter got to the age where she was talking and understood what people were saying to her, she would ask about her birthmark, and I would respond that it was her “special spot” put on her face when God created her, just like God put a special spot on my face when he created me.
Our society bases so much of our worth on outer beauty, and people stare and comment if you look different, whether it be a birthmark, burns, or some birth defect. If you’ve never had to experience what it’s like to go through life with something like that, you have no idea what it feels like. When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted my birthmark removed and begged my parents to have the procedure done, at 29, I’m so thankful they didn’t listen to me, and here’s why:
I LOVE my birthmark, it is a part of me, it makes me who I am. I mean, who would Cindy Crawford be without her trademark mole? In high school when I was home “sick” (sorry mom I was probably just skipping), I watched an episode of Montel Williams that had Sylvia Browne, the psychic on it. Now, I have never really been a fan of psychic’s or really even believed in them, but something she said resinated with me that day; after a question from an audience member about a birthmark, she explained that birthmarks are really just fingerprints that your deceased relatives leave on you to let you know they love you. This may or may not be true, but I not only have the birthmark on my face, but one under my armpit as well, and they are both shaped similar to a thumbprint, so I held on to this explanation, I still do to this day.
Both my grandfathers died when my parents were young, I never knew them; but being the sentimental daughter of the family I thought about them often so upon hearing Sylvia Browne’s message, I believed my birthmarks were really thumbprints, I still do.
The point is, it took time for me to embrace my birthmark, there were days that the comments stung, there were days they stung so bad I would cry and wish I had been born “normal.” Then I realized, I am beautifully unique, I’m not like other people, my birthmark is a part of me, despite what science has to say, I believe it was put there by God when he created me (with the help of my deceased Grandfathers). What these parents in Britain did is, in my opinion brave. Yes, their daughter’s birthmark may fade over time, but they will now have a sense of what she is going through when she comes home from school after wearing a pretty skirt crying because other children made fun of her.
My birthmark and my children’s birthmarks are a part of them, a part of who they are. They are part of our stories. My birthmark has made me more confident about myself, negative comments or questions no longer hurt me, I embrace them. My hope is that if my daughters ever come home crying like I did when I was young, I can remind them how truly beautiful and unique they are; God chose them out of all the children to have their own unique birthmark 🙂 and, as I always remind them, God never makes mistakes. But I can also sympathize with them, because I’ve been there too. And I can remind them, because I have embraced the beauty of my birthmark.
So to my beautiful daughters, remember that your birthmark does not define you, it makes you even more beautiful, it is a part of your story. You are amazing, you are beautiful, you a unique and you are marked.