'My baby's birthmark'

Eloise Lewin

A week after Eloise was born, her mum, Claire Lewin noticed a small red rash behind her left ear.

Watch a video about haemangiomas and how to treat them 

Claire showed it to the midwife, who said it was nothing serious and that it would go away. But it didn’t and, within a couple of weeks, it had grown into the size of a 'bright red golf ball'. It was diagnosed as a haemangioma, a collection of tiny blood vessels that produce a raised mark on the skin.

At six weeks old, Eloise was put on a course of steroids, which she continued for seven months. She also had an MRI scan to make sure the haemangioma was not growing internally, which could have affected her breathing or hearing.

Claire, who lives in Sunderland with husband Barry, says she initially struggled to deal with Eloise’s condition. “It was awful,” she says “I wanted her to be perfect.”

Claire slowly gained confidence and began to come to terms with her child's condition from speaking to other parents with similar experiences. Her advice to parents is to research their child's condition and contact support groups.

"Don’t be afraid to take your child out. Your child is perfect. They may be different, but they’re beautiful.”

The stares

For tips on coping as a parent of a child with a birthmark or unusual appearance, read Coping as a parent

 

The stares were the hardest to manage. “People can be so ignorant,” she says. The stares started to make Eloise uncomfortable, even though she was too young to understand why people were looking. “I’d tell her, ‘They’re looking at you because you’re beautiful’,” says Claire.

One woman stared so hard she nearly walked into a lamppost. “She felt embarrassed that I’d noticed her,” says Claire.

Once, on a bus, a drunken man sat next to them. “He noticed Eloise and said, ‘Eurgh, what’s that?’ and poked his finger in her face.”

Claire hid her outrage. “I didn’t want to cause a scene and the man was drunk,” she says, “but I was upset that no one on the bus intervened.”

'Not alone'

Although she has got used to Eloise’s appearance, Claire hasn’t got used to the stares. “When I see people staring, I stare back and I say, ‘It’s not nice to be stared at, is it?’”

There were times when Claire felt low and didn’t want to leave the house. “But I realised it wasn't doing Eloise any good because she could feel my negativity,” she says. 

She gained strength from researching her daughter’s condition on the internet, talking online to parents with similar experiences and talking to the Birthmark Support Group.

“It’s nice to get feedback from other parents who’ve gone through the same experience. Talking about it helps.”

When Eloise reached nine months, the haemangioma started to stabilise, and by 21 months, it was shrinking. Surgeons are waiting to see how far it will recede before operating.

Eloise has been shown photos of other children with birthmarks to show her that she’s not alone. “She calls it her ‘Hemy’,” says Claire.

The toddler is still too young to be self-conscious about her birthmark. “It doesn’t bother her,” says Claire. “She doesn’t understand what it is at her age.”

Claire no longer feels the need to cover Eloise’s face in public. “Her birthmark is a part of who she is, and to me, she’s beautiful,” she says.

Birthmarks (haemangioma)

Haemangiomas are vascular birthmarks caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin. Find out how to deal with birthmarks and what to do if they cause complications, such as problems with eyesight or breathing.

Media last reviewed: 26/05/2012

Next review due: 26/05/2014

Page last reviewed: 02/10/2012

Next review due: 02/10/2014

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Paula70 said on 30 June 2010

I completely agree with Sally Nicole - she IS perfect! The first thing that I saw when looking at her face was that cheeky expression and that lovely smile. The birthmark was secondary. Eloise was a beautiful baby and is no doubt growing into a lovely little girl, of whom her mother is rightly proud.

While I fully understand her mother's concerns and worries about other people's reactions - and admire her openness and honesty about her own initial response - Claire is promoting a very positive approach to this and is right to bring this to the public's attention. I hope that the birthmark continues to shrink for Eloise and for her family's sake, as too many people are too quick to judge on appearances alone, yet I do think that we have all been guilty of staring at someone with some form of disfigurement in the past. It is a very natural, if unsavoury, reaction. Let's hope that this story will now encourage more people to look beyond to see the real person underneath.

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Sally Nicole said on 03 March 2009

As soon as I looked at this baby I smiled because she has such a lovely, bright smile it's infectious! Whether or not her birthmark shrinks I think everyone in society has a responsibility to make sure this child keeps on smiling and never feels alienated or discriminated against because of the way she looks. We are all different in some way but we have more similarities than differences; before staring or commenting people must rememebr that people with visible differences such as Eloise's 'hemy' are people with emotions, likes, dislikes and a sense of humour, just like the rest of us!

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