On the day Eden was born, I stared at her. And stared. And stared. And stared. I've given birth three times and still it's hard to believe that the little person in my arms was once in my belly. As all mothers do, I looked over (inspected) every inch of her soft skin. Beneath her dark brown hair, I noticed two little dots on her head. And I mean little. Like, grain of rice little. But, they concerned me. The next morning, I asked the pediatrician what they were, he told me they were "stork bites" -- the little red dots most babies have. But, I simply wasn't comforted by that answer. Several years before Eden's birth, even before I was pregnant with Ava I watched a Discovery Channel show about hemangiomas. The children on the show had large masses on their faces that required surgery. Those masses started out as tiny dots. When I saw Eden's, I just had this feeling in my stomach. I knew they were hemangiomas. At her one-month check-up her doctor confirmed what I already knew. Because of the location of one of the hemangiomas, her doctor in Mississippi ordered a CT scan to determine if it was deep-rooted. Fortunately, it wasn't.
Here's what I can tell you about hemangiomas: they're benign tumors. Ten-percent of babies have them in some form. Most of those babies are girls. No one knows why a child develops a hemangioma and there are some treatment options, but more often than not, they aren't necessary. Hemangiomas are fast little buggers. They grow rapidly in the first year of life. At just a month old, Eden's teeny spots had grown to 10 times their original size. Now, at 11-weeks-old, they're at least five times bigger than that (width and height). And she has a new one growing on the back of her neck.
Initially, I struggled with the thought of my little girl having something "wrong" with her. I tortured myself by looking online at pictures of "worst-case-scenario" hemangiomas. Some were as large as grapefruits, others impeded eyesight or left large scars. I cried thinking of mean kids teasing my sweet little girl. Or having to deal with the stares in the grocery store. Or people focusing on what was on the outside, rather than the sweet spirit inside. I'll admit, most of it was superficial. I didn't really worry about her health at the time because hemangiomas will go away on their own. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes it takes nine. Sometimes they get huge, sometimes they don't. I worried about what people would say. I'm so embarrassed to admit that.
In the midst of my pity party for myself and my baby girl, I had a brief moment of clarity and did something I should have done from the beginning, I turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer. I needed comfort. I came away from that prayer ever more grateful for my baby girl. But still, there was something eating at me. So, I asked Andy to give her a blessing. Again, something I should have done from the start. And it was during that blessing that I received not just the comfort I needed, but an important realization: Eden is perfect. She is a blessed daughter of her Heavenly Father. Her "issues" are nothing. She's a little different that's all. I needed to stop looking at the hemangiomas as something negative and instead recognize the positive impact they could have on our family and others. So, rather than calling them tumors, or "owies" (when kids asked) I started calling them her sweet spots or her polka dots. Ava and Jax, who were very worried about the frightening-looking bright red bumps on their baby sister's head, loved that. Then, from there we started calling her "Princess Polka Dot." Now, when Ava's friends at school or kids at the library ask we tell them that Eden is a little different and that she was born with special polka dots. It's always Ava's job to share Eden's nickname with others, she loves the reaction it gets.
I have used the hemangiomas as a teaching tool with my two older children. They see that even though Eden is different, she doesn't need to be treated differently. When we were in Mississippi, Ava had two special needs children in her class. I was able to explain that like Eden Heavenly Father just made them a little different. So, my sweet Ava did her best to befriend those two children. She always said hi to them, paid them compliments and comforted them when necessary. When we see someone in the store with a disability, as is natural, my kids stare. So, I always ask them if they're curious about that person's condition, and I tell them about it. I don't ever want them to be scared of differences or disabilities. Because, I'll admit that in the beginning I was.
Now, I know that Eden's hemangiomas aren't serious. I am in no way comparing our situation to a much more severe condition or disability. However, I'm a mom and a human. I worried. I felt sorry for my baby and myself. No one has a baby and says, "I really hope she has a physical abnormality" or "Please, let my baby have a disability." Part of it is not knowing how to deal with the difference, but for me, part of it was not knowing how to deal with the guilt that inevitably comes when there's something wrong with your child. No matter how out of your hands it is, as mothers, we worry. We take on our childrens' pains and ailments and beat ourselves up, wondering what we could have done to prevent it, or wishing we could take it upon ourselves so our children would never have to experience physical or emotional pain.
But, I'm over all of that now. Eden's hemangiomas aren't painful. They'll go away over time. We had a little scare when the third one popped up on her neck. In some cases, multiple external hemangiomas can be a sign that they're also growing internally and internal hemangiomas can lead to heart failure. I took Eden into a specialist at Phoenix Children's Hospital and he said we had nothing to worry about. They'll keep growing for the next year or so and then gradually start to shrink on their own.
So, like I said, my children are perfect. I am so grateful for the things that make them different and I hope I can teach them to embrace everything about them that is unique.