They are staring at me. I should stand sideways so they can’t see it. Ugh I wish they would stop staring. They’re going to ask me about it now. Should I just tell them what it is before they ask, so this doesn’t feel so awkward? Oh wait, here they go,
“What happened to your leg, did you burn it?”
I remember the first time I felt like something was wrong with me, that I had something on my body that looked a little different than others. I was a swimmer at a young age and always in a bathing suit. I was a confident little girl, running around and gladly standing up to be the center of attention. I wanted to be a dancer, a singer, an Olympian swimmer – I had goals to say the least. When I was about 12 years old, I was getting ready for swim practice when someone’s mom came up to me. “Do you have Lupus, what happened to your leg, omg are you okay? The entire back side is red!”. What is she talking about? I wondered to myself. “Ohhh my birthmark? Oh no I don’t have a disease it’s just a birthmark. It’s red because it’s the strawberry kind, I think it’s called port-wine stain.” I replied, slightly confused. That was the moment that began my cycle into self-hatred.
I’m different and look like I have a disease. There is something wrong with me. I want it to go away so I can be like everyone else – these thoughts became all too familiar.
The older I got, the more I was self-conscious about my appearance, as a lot of young girls are. I moved a lot and was the new kid more times than I could count. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually feel as self-conscious about my birthmark as I did about the fact that my hair was curly but the pretty girls had straight hair, or that in order to fit in I needed to wear makeup and dress more feminine. I was sporty so this didn’t exactly come naturally for me. I read some magazines and soon morphed myself into the person I thought I should be.
Then college came.
Now 19, I remember going to a party with my friends and we were dressed in togas (ofcourse). All of a sudden, I hear one of my friends say, “It’s her birthmark stop f**king staring”. I looked over and saw three girls pointing with disgusted looks on their faces. Wait, were they pointing at me? My friend grabbed my arm and we stormed away, but I was so perplexed as to what had just happened. Why would someone think I’m disgusting? Why would they make fun of me? That was probably the last time I remember not trying to hide or disguise my birthmark from the world. It began a long journey for me, including failed laser appointments, cover up makeup, editing photos…it was exhausting. To top it off, some friends I had weren’t really nice about it and would make fun of me behind my back, but it always got back to me. College is a time when people are the most self-conscious, so everyone is trying to hide their own insecurities by pointing someone else’s out. Mean girls is not just a movie. When I learned to hide my ‘physical imperfections’ and got attention from guys, I too became the mean girl, aiming my verbal attacks on other girls in order to hide the very true reality that I hated myself. I became my own worst enemy.
This is how things like this work. Something so small becomes overwhelmingly large in our head and our identity gets completely out of wack. I would call my mom crying asking why the doctors couldn’t remove it and feeling bad for me, she would tell me that maybe we could try another doctor but that it’s nothing and I shouldn’t feel insecure about it, that I’m beautiful.
As I grew out of my college years, I slowly started grasping the art of loving myself. I didn’t need to hide who I was. I was perfectly made in God’s image and that’s a miracle in itself. I stopped trying to cover it up. I still struggled sometimes, like in the middle of dating someone new for fear that he would find out about my ‘imperfection’ and think I wasn’t as pretty as he first thought, but my process of healing was from the inside out and I was on my way.
When I was 24, I went to a training program with a Christian missions organization. I loved it. It was exactly where I wanted to be. I remember two leaders came up to me and told me that God wanted to heal my leg and they felt called to pray for me daily for this healing. As someone who had walked away from God and was just coming back, I was vulnerable enough to believe this was what I should be doing – praying for healing even though I wasn’t sick. So I allowed them to, and as they did, I started to think about it all the time. Why wasn’t God healing me? Everyone thinks I should be healed, so why am I stuck with this? He skipped me. God skips me.
I have since learned to let go of the things some have said or done that were misguided because they thought that I had something physically wrong with me, when in fact this birthmark is a testament of a great story. A story I have never told. A story I have just learned and am in awe of because my birthmark is a reminder of God’s saving grace. If I had the option, I would show off my leg at any given time so people WOULD ask me and I could tell this story.
My mom, who is since with Jesus in heaven, went to the hospital 30 years ago because she had a feeling that something wasn’t right. The nurses ran all the tests, as well as an ultrasound, but nothing showed abnormal. There was some discussion about the ambilical cord, but from the imaging, it didn’t seem to be an issue. She was 7 1/2 months pregnant and they decided to check and see if my lungs were fully developed, just to make sure nothing was wrong. My lungs were in fact healthy, and the nurse was going to send my mom home on ‘false labor’ pretenses. My dad says at that point he left with my older sister to go for a walk, to get her out of the hospital for a bit, as they prepared to discharge my mom. When he returned (there were no cell phones back then), he was told my mom was in the delivery room and the doctor was performing an emergency C-section. I don’t honestly know why this happened, other than the doctor had a ‘hunch’ that something wasn’t right. They couldn’t fully know because all the tests were fine, but he was convinced that I was in distress and didn’t want to take a chance. Turns out, the ambilical cord was around my neck and knotted tightly, cutting off my ability to breathe. After I was healthily delivered, the doctor said had they waited any longer, I would have died.
The doctor believes that my birthmark is a result of these circumstances, because of the way my leg was positioned when I was delivered, 6 weeks early.
Flash forward to last night – I attended Zoe Church in Los Angeles and heard pastor Chad Veach share a message about grace, mentioning the pain he’s had to face because of a terrible illness his daughter has, Georgia. He talked about how though it is sometimes unbearable to face, he has been able to reach so many hurting people and has been given the platform to speak into many people’s lives, because of the very thing in his life that hurts the most.
I was driving home thinking about this. For so many years I thought I had something that was a sickness – something that needed healing. I struggled with self-hatred because of it. How crazy is it that this birthmark is a actually a reminder that I was miraculously born 6 weeks early, with zero health problems, completely healthy and perfect. I have a mark on my life, something that serves as a conversation starter so that I never forget, my life was saved. My hope has changed – I hope people DO ask me about it, so that I can share the amazing story and how I plan on giving God everything in my life because he gave everything to save mine.
I looked for a photo to share with you, it was a lot harder than I thought! I guess I never really took many photos with my birthmark showing – obvi that’s changing now that I know I was born to stand out ;). Love you guys!