We took Zeke’s one year pictures today. Well, to be truthful, we took his one year picture today at 14 months of age, but who’s counting? I try not to, but every time we take pictures of this incredibly cute little blonde boy, I get a little nervous. Zeke was born with a large “V” birth mark on his forehead and red splotches above his right eye. When he is irritated or cries, these marks turn a dark brick red as if I stamped the letter on his forehead or his brother socked him in the eye. He’s beautiful to me with dark red or soft pink blotches, but it’s been an emotional process handling other people’s reactions.
When Zeke was born, at first sight of the marks, I thought I pushed him out too hard. Seriously! After two gigantic pushes, he catapulted into the doctor’s arms so fast that I turned to Hubby holding him and said, “I just can’t push anymore. He’s got to come out.” After his first bath, one of the nurses handed him to me and said, “Oh look! Angel kisses!” Angel kisses? Seeing my puzzled look, she explained that about 1/3 of babies are born salmon patches or red birth marks on their skin (nevus simplex is the medical term). A patch on the face was nicknamed an “Angel Kiss” and back of the neck patches were called “Stork Bites.” Sure enough, after examining every little bit of my sweet boy those first few days, I discovered Zeke was blessed with red marks on his forehead, eyelid, and the nape of his neck.
After the marks didn’t fade in the first few months, I started to worry and with the worry came truly insensitive comments from strangers. “Oh, you’re the one with that kid that has the “V” right?” “Do you think he’ll be stuck with those marks forever?” I felt like everyone that met my baby wasn’t looking at him, but at his birth marks. To make matters worse, I researched studies connecting the cause to the mother’s hormone levels during pregnancy. GREAT! Let’s just load a little guilt on my worry. I was sure I had caused the marks stressing during my pregnancy. I was also convinced that Zeke would be labeled “that kid with the ‘V.’” This unhealthy pattern of thought continued until I was talking to a friend about taking my boys to my parent’s Idaho farm for a few weeks during the summer.
“I don’t want any of my parent’s friends to meet Zeke,” I lamented. “They’re going to make comments and I’m just so sick of people implying that having a kid with birthmarks means you have a kid with something wrong with them.”
Thank goodness for amazing, brutally honest friends. “You know, Alyssa,” she told me. “You’re never going to be able to control what people say about Zeke. He may always have those birth marks, have them for the rest of his life. But does that really matter? Does it change anything about who he is or how much you love him? Do you really care that much about what strangers say about your kids?” I swallowed. She was right. Was I embarrassed that there might be something different about my kid? Were my insecurities at fault? She continued, “Just because other people label him doesn’t mean you do. What a lesson you can teach your boys through all of this, that people are different, and God blessed them that way.” Insert tears here. I’m still crying now reading her words. I always thought I was accepting of “different” people, but I don’t think I was being honest with myself. I accepted that other people were “different” but struggled that MY kid was different. I hadn’t even considered that Zeke had been blessed to be different.
So I got a little nervous today taking pictures, nervous that all of those depressing thoughts would flood back into my mind. They didn’t though. As I watched my precious 14-month-old rustle through fall leaves and pose for the camera, all I could think about was how blessed I am to have him. Sure, he’s got birth marks. He also has an insatiable hunger for graham crackers, a bubbly chuckle, and sandy blonde hair that always smells like lavender. Those angel kisses may never completely fade, but it doesn’t matter to me. He is different and God made him that way for a reason.
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