A day in the life of a strawberry by Jennifer Everett @jeneveritt888
Some of you may ask why I am writing about a strawberry... This isn't just any old strawberry this strawberry is special.
On the 17th July, 2015 our beautiful baby boy, Carter-James was born. A few days later we discovered what looked like a small scratch on carters face. Our midwife possibly thought the scratch had become infected after several creams and a few days later it still had not cleared. On our next appointment with the midwife she advised us it could be a possible birth mark and that we needed to go to the doctors to have it looked at. So we went along to the doctors and they confirmed that it was a birthmark and that we needed to be referred to the children's hospital to see a specialist.
The day arrived for us to go and see the specialist (I, myself didn't really know a lot about birthmarks so wasn't too sure what to expect). I sat there anxiously waiting whilst the doctor glared goggly eyes into carters face. After about 5 minutes of looking he confirmed that it was in fact a Strawberry Neavus. I'm now sat there thinking what is a Strawberry Neavus? He confirmed it was a birthmark that was only going to get bigger and become very raised and red. He requested that we came back in two weeks so he can review it again and look at possible treatments as the rate of growth can happen that quick. I left the children's centre feeling quite shocked with what the specialist had told us. Once it has registered in my head I cried and cried and cried. Some people may judge me on this comment 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 (this was purely down to my naiveness). 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 it's size?
So the next day I gathered myself and did the typical mum thing if in doubt get Google out!! On my research I found quite a lot of information about the strawberry and that they can be found all over the body. Even things as to if the mother craved strawberries and didn't fill this whilst pregnant these strawberries can infact appear?! I then also looked at the images and scared myself as to how big some do actually grow and decided I shouldn't Google any more.
The night before the appointment with the specialist I watched my beautiful baby boy sleeping. For the first time I properly looked at the birth mark and it had got a lot bigger and raised. I looked further to see it was actually in the shape of a heart. (ever since then we have called it his special little love heart). The next day we went to see the specialist he answered all of our questions. Checked to see how my labour went I explained my labour was running smoothly until the pushing stage in which they couldn't locate carters heartbeat so he had to be delivered ASAP without going into all the gory details the cord was round his neck and he had to be worked on for a while before he took his first cry. The doctor then informed us this was a trauma and this was why he had developed the strawberry and it wasn't because I hadn't eaten enough strawberries!! He then explained the treatment process to us. This was for our tiny little baby to be put on beta blockers, these slow down the heart rate they also starve the hemangioma of the blood which 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 on to say that Carter would have to have regular monitoring on his heart. Again I was thinking no no no. The doctor then asked what we thought of this. My first words were 'no way' our little boy is not going through that he doesn't know what it is. It's not affecting him. Why should he have to go through that. The doctor was shocked by our response. He seemed quiteadmirable of our decision as he advised most parents he sees with a birth mark to the face will immediately take treatment. As a family we decided we would go for monthly checkups as it was still in the growing period to see how quickly it developed and how big it was going to go. The doctor was happy with our decision and did say that we can just leave the strawberry to run its course and it will eventually go. His only was concern was as to were it was on his face it could possibly affect his breathing as its close to his nose and also his eating with it being by his mouth. He just advised us to keep an eye on this and if it had any bleeding to come straight back. Lucky this never happened. Every appointment going forward continued to say no (seeing the mark only getting bigger).
After several monthly checkups and massive growth in the strawberry we were advised that the birth mark had stopped growing and that now it was on its fading process which was brilliant news. The doctor then informed us that it could take up to 7 years to disappear but could be gone by the age of 2. We have agreed with the doctor to have checkups every 6 months as he is happy with the process. Up until a few months ago his birthmark has never really been an 'issue'. As he has got older he has started socialising and interacting with children and going to child friendly places. Anybody who knows Carter-James knows that he is the most happy, confident, outgoing always smiling beautiful boy. I now see children and adults sat staring at his face, pointing and refusing to play with him because of that 'thing' on his face. As he jumps into the ball pool all happy and excited to play. My bug bare that gets me the most is when the childs mother or father slyly try to remove there child from the ball pool like its some infectious disease. I see the way Carter looks at me as if to say 'why is everybody leaving the ball pool mummy?' Clearly unaware of his special mark as this is all he has ever known. This breaks my heart to the point of we have sat down as a family as my partner has also noticed this too to consider the options of if the strawberry hasn't gone by the age of 3 we may have to intervene. Not for us but for our baby due to people naiveness, ignorance and lack of knowledge about birthmarks to ensure he isn't singled out when he goes to school and this in turn doesn't knock his confidence all because birthmarks are not widely spoken about or seen.
The whole 16 months of carters life I have only ever seen two babies with a Strawberry Neavus and the relief and excitement on the mothers face when they see Carter and they explain to us the ignorance of some people regarding them. I wanted to write this to make people more aware of birthmarks and it isn't just a 'thing' on somebody's face. I'm hoping this insight will help that and that birthmarks are in fact a 'normal thing' and people with them are not monsters.