When a mom has a new baby, one of the first things she does after birth is inspect her little one from head to toe. I was told Oliver was perfectly healthy, with ten fingers, ten toes, a nose. He had some ear tags, but it wasn’t a surprise. Tommy had them at birth, too. So while I was told he was healthy, I still had to map out my new baby. We were going to have some kangaroo time of skin-to-skin contact to help him nurse a bit better.
I sat in my hospital bed and unwrapped him from the swaddle cocoon. I unsnapped the white cotton wrap t-shirt he wore and lifted him onto my chest. As I settled him into a snuggle, I noticed a very faint purply-brown speckled circle on the right side of his back, a few inches below his armpit. It was flat. I thought maybe it was a bruise from birth. It was the size of a quarter. I decided to ask about it the next time the pediatrician did rounds, but I wasn’t worried.
I forgot about it. Because of the drama and difficulty of our first days nursing, I simply had other things on my mind. We were sent home from the hospital and told to schedule weight checks for our teeny man. At one of these appointments, I pointed out the mark which was now more red, deepening in color, and growing in size. It was still flat. The PA said it was a hemangioma. It was in a good location, meaning not on his face or neck, which can interfere with sight, smell, and feeding. Ollie’s hemangioma would most likely grow, but be gone by late childhood. My sister had a hemangioma, too. Hers was on her chest and looked like Great Britain.
Oliver’s hemangioma is now about the size of a thumb and shaped like Australia. It’s raised. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. Of course, the older kids ask about it when they see it. Their main concern is that it hurts him. I assure them it doesn’t. If you touch it, he doesn’t cry or wince and he doesn’t mind being on his back.
“It’s just a birthmark,” I remind.
One night, Beatrix was curled up next to me on the couch as I held Ollie. “Mama? I wish I had a birthmark like Ollie.”
“Why?” I answered, taken by surprise.
“I don’t know why. I just do.” She shrugged and smiled.
It’s because she sees it as a thing of beauty. She sees nothing but beauty when she looks at Ollie, so anything associated with him is lovely. It’s not a fault or a defect, even though many would use those words to define a hemangioma. She doesn’t. None of us do. It’s just him and we love him.
So I kiss Sydney and I kiss Perth and I kiss Ayers Rock and I know when the last remnants have sunk into the sea of a big boy Ollie, I’ll miss it.