I actually wrote this blog back in January for an organization called “Cool Mom’s Care” http://www.coolmomscare.org…but I thought now would be a good time to post it here as well:
The other day in a store, my husband was holding my then 4-month old daughter and a woman walked by, looked at her, and said “Oh, she’s tarnished!” My husband, in all his wonderful humor, explained that he just didn’t know where to put his cigarette out. My husband doesn’t smoke and the “tarnished” spot the woman referred to was a red birthmark on our daughter’s face.
In honor of National Birth Defects Prevention Month (January), let me just say a little about my daughter’s “birth defect.” It’s funny how you dread and fear that awful statement: birth defect. You wonder if you will love your child any less, or if you’ll feel you have to cover up and make excuses for it. I’m lucky. My daughter will probably outgrow her little strawberry hemangioma, even though right now it is just growing along with the rest of her body. I have seen horrible pictures on the internet of these birthmarks that completely take over a face, impairing a child’s eyesight or mouth development. I am so, so lucky. My precious little daughter has a precious little “ladybug” dot on her cheek. I never even think of it as a problem.
I originally thought she had scratched herself, but I’ve steadily watched it grow and grow, and although it’s small, it’s definitely not going away anytime soon. In reading about these birthmarks; they get bigger and bigger but usually max out and fade away anywhere between the ages of 5 and 10. Oftentimes the treatment to remove them sooner is more detrimental then beneficial. Yet in our era of cosmetic consciousness, we worry how other kids will treat our child. Wow! First off, I know of the trauma of having a fatal defect, or something that creates a disability for life. I’ve always had a heart for children with anything that brands them as “not normal.”
Yet then I think about how I have such a passion for unique things. In our culture we crave to “stand out,” yet when it is something we don’t know about (something as scary as a defect or disability), we want to hide it or excuse it. Why not embrace it? We can’t erase it, and many times, it’s not something we can prevent. Sometimes, because of genetics or the way the wind blows, these things happen. Yet I look at my daughter and know that there is NO WAY I could love her any more than I already do. I love every piece of her (even down to the big red dot on her cheek). It’s a minor, minor detail, but I’ve seen how cruel people can be even with such a small thing. What if I had a child with Down’s syndrome or Cerebral Palsy? Imagine the looks I would get. I can get so mad to see how people can be so hypercritical of these children! These children are unique! I can’t begin to count the number of inspirational stories I’ve heard about people with disabilities, birth defects, handicaps (whatever label gets put on them) and how they have inspired us to look at what all we take for granted. These children help us to see beauty in things we normally pass by. They overcome and do great things.
While many of us sit and moan because we have to walk from the farthest parking spot, someone else just wishes they could walk. While we badger the child who bounces off the walls, we don’t tend to see that the famous painting we have on the wall was created by a child just like that.
My child is learning sign language. Not because I have a deaf family member, or even because I’m determined to make her a genius and get her started early. She’s learning because, one day, she’s going to know what it’s like to be teased since she looks different then other kids. I have always admired American Sign Language, and have made it a point in my education to learn about the deaf world (one degree is in ASL Interpreting). I have really enjoyed learning about not only the defects and medical statistics, but the Deaf culture and the community they have created. They have taken what some people see as a “handicap” and have empowered themselves to do anything they want. About the only limitation a deaf person has is that the rest of the world doesn’t know sign language. But I’ve learned of the beauty of communication, and how even people with different languages can still communicate through basic signs. I’ve been with my deaf friends and seen the ogling looks we get, and how people steer clear of us. On the day my daughter sees a deaf person for the first time, she’s NOT going to be one of ones who just stares. She will be able to talk to them just like everyone else.
Birth defects happen. Sometimes we do everything in our power to have the perfect child, and it ends up that our perfect child is different than what we imagined. Yet even with this “flaw,” they still have the ability to grasp our hearts and hold on tight. And we start to see that our child is different, but not in a bad way. They are unique. They have the gift of showing us something we may take for granted. They have the ability to feel for the underdog. They have a chance to step up and be in charge of their own attitude, and push that positively to everyone they meet.
They have more power than we could hope for, because what they have brings an element of mystery to the outside world–people will stop and stare–so hopefully these beautiful children get the chance to share their sweetness, and someone will walk away blessed instead of bewildered.
Because of the cruelty of the world, they can understand and hopefully help to lift up and put a stop to cruel comments like this as we embrace the beauty of all the unique people in this world. Because, although someone may say they’re “tarnished,” we know that they are precious, beautiful children who shine even brighter in their own unique way.