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Did anyone else hold their breath through every check-up on their newborn?

So, his hearings fine? And she can see? Oh, OK. So, they’re OK?


But what happens when the doctor finds something out of the ‘norm’?

Jennifer Everett describes what it felt like to discover her son had a strawberry birthmark and why she needs other people’s opinions to change.

On the 17th of July 2015, our beautiful baby boy, Carter-James, was born. A few days later, we discovered what looked like a small reddish scratch on his face.

Our midwife’s first thought was that it was a scratch with a minor infection, but a week or so later, it was still there, and we were referred to our GP. After this, we went to the doctors, and they confirmed that it was a birthmark and that we needed to see a specialist.

A few weeks later, not knowing what to expect, I found myself sat anxiously waiting while a specialist examined my little boy’s face.  After what felt like a lifetime, but was probably more like five minutes, the doctor confirmed that it was a strawberry naevus.

‘Sorry, a what?’ I thought.

He confirmed it was a birthmark that would only get bigger and become significantly raised and red. He requested that we come back in two weeks to review it again and look at possible treatments as the rate of growth would be quick.

I left the children’s centre, feeling shocked. Once it registered in my head, I cried and cried. Some people may judge me for this, but as a mother, you expect your child to be born ‘perfect’.

Even though Carter-James was and still is the most perfect boy ever! The initial shock of our baby having a big red raised birthmark on his face was quite daunting.

I had so many questions running through my head.

How big is it going to get? What even is a strawberry birthmark? Why has it appeared? How long will he have it? Can we do anything to reduce its size?

The next day I gathered myself up and headed straight to Google.

I found quite a lot of information. I even saw a site that claimed that if a mother craved strawberries in pregnancy, and didn’t eat enough, then a birthmark could appear. I can tell you now that this is NOT true.

The night before our second appointment, I looked adoringly at my beautiful baby boy as he lay sleeping. For the first time, I properly looked at the birthmark, and it had got a lot bigger and raised. I looked further to see and discovered that it was in the shape of a heart. And ever since then, we have called it his special little love heart.

The next day we went to see the specialist. He asked about my labour, and I explained that there was an issue where the doctors couldn’t locate Carter’s heartbeat, and we had an emergency delivery. Without going into all the gory details, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and he had to be worked on for a while before he took his first cry. The doctor said that this trauma was the probable cause of his strawberry naevus.

The doctor explained the treatment process was for our tiny baby to be put on beta-blockers, which slow down the heart rate and starve the haemangioma of blood. This then stops the growth, causing the birthmark to die.

As soon as beta-blockers was mentioned, the first thing that came into my head was ‘NO!’. He then continued to explain that Carter would have to have regular monitoring on his heart.

Again, I was thinking, NO! NO! NO!

The doctor asked what we thought of this. My first words were ‘No way!’ our little boy is not going through that. At the moment, this is not affecting him. Why should he have to go through that? The doctor was shocked by our response, he seemed to admire our decision, and he said that most parents immediately take the treatment. As a family, this wasn’t right for us, and instead, we decided to opt for monthly check-ups to see how things progressed.

The doctor was happy with our decision and he explained it was possible to let things run their course, and it would eventually go. His only concern was that it could possibly affect his breathing, but the advice was to keep an eye on it and if it had any bleeding to come straight back. Luckily, this never happened.

Every appointment going forward, I continued to say no to the treatment.

After several monthly check-ups and massive growth in the strawberry, we were told that the birthmark had stopped growing and that it was now in its fading process, which was brilliant news!

The doctor then informed us that it could take up to seven years to disappear but could be gone by the age of two.

But now, something has changed.

Carter-James is a happy, confident, outgoing, always smiling, beautiful boy, and up until a few months ago, his birthmark has never really been an ‘issue’.

However, as he’s got older, he has started socialising and interacting with children more and going to child-friendly places.

I now see children and adults staring, pointing and refusing to play with him because of that ‘thing’ on his face. Parents even slyly remove their children away from him like it’s some infectious disease.

I see the way Carter looks at me as if to say, ‘why is everybody leaving mummy?’

He is unaware of his special mark, as this is all he has ever known. This breaks my heart to the point that we have sat down as a family to reconsider our options.

I feel frustrated that it’s other people’s reactions that are causing this discomfort. And I get it because I too was naive at first. But I hope that sharing my story will raise awareness over birthmarks and help us to be kinder, so that children like Carter aren’t affected. 

It’s rare, but whenever I see another child with strawberry naevus, the relief and excitement on the other mother’s face is palpable, it’s like being in a tiny club that no one understands.

I hope this insight will help people realise that birthmarks are a ‘normal thing’ and the people with them are not monsters.

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