My infant daughter Charlie Kate has a large "birthmark" on her face called a capillary hemangioma. To be specific, it's about 5cm x 6cm. It is usually the first thing people notice about her. I know, because it's usually the first thing that people comment on.
I try, daily, to remind myself that most humans are kind and well intentioned. I don't get angry about brief stares. I understand that it's human nature to do a double take when you see something about someone that makes them different. That said, I'd like to share some knowledge.
First, Hemangioma 101. A capillary hemangioma is a vascular tumour that can range in size and shape. It's a birthmark, essentially. Sometimes they are referred to as "strawberries". Hemangiomas are a defect that occurs extremely early in pregnancy when the vascular system is developing. There is no known cause or prevention. Depending on the location, they can be troublesome if left untreated, because some of their rapid growth. For example, a hemangioma that's sitting near an airway could grow until it closed an airway, or a hemangioma on an eyelid could block vision.
They can also be a marker for some other more serious disorders. For that reason, most physicians will order diagnostic tests to rule out any other internal involvement as a precaution. For us, any other complication were eliminated and Charlie's hemangioma was deemed cosmetic. She is observed by her specialists to make sure it doesn't ever obstruct her vision and she takes a daily medication to keep it from growing any larger. Most hemangiomas involute or disappear eventually.
I've gotten a variety of remarks from family, friends, and strangers. I've done some thinking and I want to share our perspective as parents.
We don't need to talk about it every time you look at her. We see past the colour of her face. Charlie is Charlie and it's part of who she is. It doesn't need to be constantly commented on, critiqued, or questioned. While I don't mind educating curious minds, I don't need your opinion on how it its progress or the affect it may have on her. It's a part of her unique beauty. It may never disappear, and guess what? It doesn't have to. I would much rather chat about her latest milestone achievement, her amazing smile, or how gorgeous her eyes are.
She isn't in pain or ill. She simply has an unusual quality about her appearance. The most common sentiments are "I'm praying that it goes away." Or "Bless her poor little heart." I'm constantly being asked "When will that go away?" I've even heard things as harsh as "Turn her to her good side" or "Too bad, she's so pretty otherwise".
I encourage you - instead of praying it will disappear, pray that she grows into a confident girl who loves herself no matter what she looks like. Pray that constant comments and opinions from friends, family and strangers will end before she's old enough to overhear them. Pray that she will be a strong person in the in an age where we are bullied for any number of reasons.
I encourage you to look past it. What if I came up to you and loudly asked "What's wrong with your baby's weird ____ ?" Or, "I will pray for your child that her (genetically unusual quality) goes away."
Just consider that. Consider that you are offering to pray away one of my daughter's beautiful features that makes her who she is.
Hold the pity. She's a healthy baby girl and we are blessed. Her hemangioma is just as insignificant to who she is as a freckle on her arm. You don't need to mention it, and you don't need to wish it away.
She doesn't have a "good side" that we choose for family pictures. I don't retouch her hemangioma in photos. Her entire face is my sweet Charlie, and it doesn't matter what it looks like.
This piece has been republished with permission.