Hi everyone. I’m back again, writing for Full of Graces. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while now but haven’t been able to put my thoughts to paper. We have just put the boys to bed after an afternoon at a birthday party. Some of the older children at the party asked about that thing on Andrew’s chin. Jacob, my oldest, explained that it was a hemangioma and that it doesn’t hurt his little brother; he knows that kids usually are concerned that Andrew may have hurt himself. Nate, my husband, told the kids that it would be removed in two days. But that didn’t stop them from using words like “gross”, “disgusting”, and “ugly” to describe it. These were first grade kids. Jacob heard them and so did Andrew. I know they didn’t mean for their words to hurt but man, my mama heart is heavy tonight.
Andrew was born at 36 weeks and he did not have a hemangioma at birth. By the time he was released from the NICU we noticed a tiny mark on his chin, almost like a bruise, which we assumed was from the tape on his face that held various tubes in place during his hospital stay. But it never went away and instead started growing. We now know that hemangiomas are common amongst preemies.
Initially, we were told that the hemangioma would eventually lighten in color and begin to recede. Yet, it has not done so and after several visits with a pediatric dermatologist we were told that it had mushroomed with fatty tissue beneath the blood vessels; it would be unlikely for it to go away. The pediatric plastic surgeon we were referred to recommended removing the hemangioma sooner than later in order to allow the surgical scar to heal as much as possible before Andrew starts school. We have been praying about this hemangioma since Andrew was a newborn and we feel that putting him through surgery to remove it is the right choice.
Having a child with a hemangioma in a very visible place on his face has been an interesting experience. Overall, it has not been too bad. Little kids are curious and usually just want to know if Andrew has had a boo-boo or if it hurts him. Parents of children with hemangiomas have stopped me, usually at Disneyland, to share their child’s hemangioma story. They have always been positive interactions meant to encourage me in that it would go away eventually and I appreciate that. However, we’ve also had enough interactions where older children say something negative about my baby’s beautiful face. As much as I have hated those negative occasions, I also wish the positive experiences had not happened either. It’s not that I wish people would pretend the hemangioma doesn’t exist, I just wish it weren’t the first thing that people notice about Andrew. He was the sweetest, chunkiest baby and is now the most entertaining, happy little boy; there is so much more to him than the hemangioma on his chin.
Andrew can identify his hemangioma just like he identifies his eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. I wonder if he realizes that no one else has one. I will say this experience had been a good teaching opportunity even if it isn’t one that I asked for. Jacob and I have had several conversations about why people always notice Andrew’s hemangioma and sometimes aren’t nice about it. He and I have prayed for the hemangioma to go away and for those that have been unkind. Andrew doesn’t talk much but someday I know I will teach him about how to, and how not to, approach someone who is different. I know that many of my friends are having these conversations with their children too. If you haven’t talked to your child about using kind words, please do. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is simply not true. Words hurt the most.
Unfortunately kids can be mean and we don’t want Andrew to be hurt by other people’s words about it. So we are going ahead with plastic surgery on Tuesday, December 15th. We’ve been told that the procedure will last 30-45minutes; Nate, my doctor husband, says that’s not long at all but I am sure those minutes will feel much longer. Andrew is expected to bounce back quickly because he is young but we have been warned that the scar may be very red for up to a year. That means it should be fading around when he starts pre-school. I am praying that it does fade by then but that if it doesn’t, that the children in his class are kind.
Please join me in praying for a successful surgery, quick recovery, and minimal scaring. Thank you.