Can you see what’s wrong with my son in this picture?
How about this one?
Still don’t see it? Good. I’m hoping nobody else does either.
He was born almost 4 years ago with a large birthmark on his stomach. Specifically, it’s on the right side of his stomach. It’s rather large and splotchy and ranges from pale pink to reddish depending on the temperature of his skin.
I remember my husband telling me the day our son was born that he had a little birthmark on his stomach. Oh, okay. I secretly was worried about what it looked like and why it was there.
I saw the birthmark and was quite surprised at how large it was. I wondered if I had done something wrong during my pregnancy. I wondered if I had caused this cosmetic flaw. Then I wondered if it was purely cosmetic.
The pediatricians visited and examined my baby. They closely examined his birthmark. I was worried that they would be worried. They said that by age 5, the birthmark would either darken or get lighter and that would be an indication of how it would look long-term.
At every well baby check-up, each new doctor at the practice that we saw closely examined his birthmark. They always asked us the same questions. How long had it been there? Had it gotten any darker? I felt like it was fading and would likely be gone by the time he was 5. That was my hope anyway.
I remember spending the early months after my son was born with my mother’s group. We were all first time moms with babies around the same age. We talked about everything baby when we got together. We took notes. We compared notes.
Then one day, at a friend’s house, my son had a blow-out to end all blow-outs. It required not only a change of clothes but a complete scrub down. I took off my son’s onesie and started to bath him with a washcloth and a bucket.
That’s when one of the other moms noticed. Oh! He has a birthmark on his stomach. I suddenly felt embarrassed. And I felt ashamed for feeling embarrassed. I felt like my baby was flawed and even felt like maybe it was my fault.
Let me be clear. This is my problem. There is nothing wrong with my son. There is nothing wrong with anyone noticing his birthmark. My problem is that I am already projecting my fears and insecurities.
I wasn’t the most popular kid growing up. I didn’t have a boyfriend until college. I never liked the way I looked. I thought I was too fat. I thought my breasts were too big. I thought I wasn’t pretty enough. And kids can be cruel.
I sometimes flash forward my thinking to those awkward adolescent years for my son. I imagine him at the beach or at the pool with his friends. I imagine him feeling embarrassed about his birthmark. I imagine the girls or even the other boys making fun of him. I worry about the cruelty of other kids.
Then I snap back to reality. The mark has faded quite a bit since birth. But truth be told, my son is almost 4 and has never even noticed it. It’s on his own body in a prominent area and he’s never once mentioned it or asked about it.
As children, I would imagine that we all start out feeling good about ourselves. I’m sure some insecurities pop up but for the most part, as kids, we shouldn’t have to even think about that stuff.
The problem isn’t with my son. It’s with the way I feel he might feel about his own body someday. However, I don’t talk about it or mention it. Instead, I’m trying to take cues from him. We are what we are and we look the way we look. If my son needs a reminder of that someday, I’m prepared to give it to him.