Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pouring My Heart Out...It Only Hurts for a Little While

"You should pull your sleeves down.  Your arm looks weird," I overheard the little girl say to my daughter, as the two of them sat on top of the monkey bars at the park.

"Yeah, I'm getting cold anyway," Bella replied, pulling her pushed-up sleeves back down to cover her arms.

Bella glanced over at me and I gave her my bravest smile, even though my heart was exploding into a million jagged pieces.

Later that evening, I approached her.

"I overheard what that little girl said to you about your arm.  How did that make you feel?" I asked.

Avoiding eye contact with me, she continued to color as she answered, "I'm okay, I guess."

She paused for a couple seconds and then quietly continued, "But my arm IS weird."

A lump formed in my throat, as this was the first time Bella had ever said anything negative about her arm.

My mind went back to a conversation she and I had a couple years ago after seeking the advice of yet another surgeon.

Back then, at the tender age of 4, she wasn't bothered by the scar which covered the entire bicep of her right arm.  In fact, I can still hear her tiny voice telling me, "It doesn't bother me.  I think it's pretty and I like it.  I want to keep my scar.  It makes me special."

Even now, those words bring a smile to my face.  So innocent, so resilient, so accepting.  Back then...

You see, Bella was born with a hemangioma on her right arm.  At first, it was nothing more than a bright red dime-sized mark on her bicep.  The NICU staff explained to us what it was and said it would probably fade with time but, in rare instances,  hemangiomas can grow at an alarmingly fast pace.

Bella - 11 days old
Her hemangioma was one of those rare instances.

By the time she left the NICU, 4 weeks later, it was obvious the hemangioma had grown tremendously.

Bella - 26 days old

For more details and to view more pictures, you can read this post.

While Bella knows the story of her hemangioma, she gets tired of repeating the story to others....curious strangers who simply have this undying need to know what happened to her arm.  We finally told her, "Just tell people it's a birthmark and leave it at that."

Bella - 10 months old
As she continued to color, I responded, "It makes me sad to hear you agreeing with that little girl.  I remember a time when you thought your arm was beautiful and you loved that it made you special."

Bella - 13 months old
"I know, Mommy," she said softly.  "But you don't know how often people ask me about it and I get so tired of having to explain what it is.  And then some kids don't even believe me.  They think I got burned or something, like I'm lying about it.  Or they say they've never seen a birthmark like mine before. Maybe they're just jealous because my arm is different but hurts my feelings.  Sometimes I wish my arm looked normal like everyone else's."

Bella - 3 years old
I pulled her close to me and found solace in the sweet, fruity scent of her freshly washed hair.

To my dismay, the inevitable had finally occurred but I still couldn't help feeling caught off guard by it.  It was much sooner than I expected and much more heartbreaking than I had anticipated.

As a parent, I want all my children to be accepted and loved for who they are, regardless of how they look or whatever physical or character flaws they may  have.  I want their inner beauty to be just as valuable as their outer beauty.  More than anything, I wish everyone could see what I see when I look at them...incredible, wonderful, amazing little human beings.

My hand glided over the tough, leathery skin on Bella's right arm as I spoke, "I understand.  I really do.  I'm sorry those people hurt your feelings.  I just want you to be happy and comfortable in your own skin.  You are beautiful and special, no matter what.  We can go back and talk to the surgeon again, if you like."
Bella - today at 7 years old

Bella put her crayon down and looked up at me.  "Not yet.  I can wait until I'm a little older.  Besides, the comments do hurt my feelings but it only hurts for a little while.  Don't be sad.  I'm not."

With tears welling up in my eyes, I beamed at my daughter as she began to color her picture again...her words forever embedded in my brain.

It only hurts for a little while.  Don't be sad.  I'm not.

It never ceases to amaze me.

The fact that my 7-year old daughter is so much braver and more tolerant than I am as an adult is something I will truly never understand. Registered & Protected


Julia Hunter said...

My son has a birth mark on his forehead and I worry all the time about what kids will say.

Your daughter is brave and beautiful and strong.

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful, strong little girl she is!!! That is a testament to you too, mom!! You're both amazing! =)

Jenny said...

Your sweet daughter has me in tears right now. My daughter has many scars from many surgeries and I wonder how it will be for her when she grows up too. I hope she can be as brave as Bella. :)

Tina said...

Kids can be so cruel...Your daughter is an awesomely beautiful little girl and her birthmark does make her special.

Catie said...

What a precious little girl. This is beautiful!

IASoupMama said...

Bella is as beautiful as her name, through and through. She is a lucky girl to have you for a mom and you're a lucky girl to have such a wise, sensitive soul for a daughter. Good work, mama!

championm2000 said...


Kids are much stronger than they should have to be and so much stronger than I'll ever be.

angel shrout said...

Bless her heart. Momma you are doing a great job raising a confident young lady. It makes me mad that she has to feel that way though. I wonder if you went to school and talked to her classmates and showed them the pictures they would understand better and maybe be more tolerant.

Brooke said...

you do have a brave little girl on your hands!!

SRM said...

your daughter is an amazing person and she is so wise beyond her years. This blog made me tear up, both at the heart ache we moms feel when our children are hurt by hurtful comments and her amazing courage. Give her a hug for me.

irishtwinsmommababybook said...

Wow!!!! Tears and smiles. The little girl you are raising has more confidence than many adults. I fear this with anything to do with my kids.... And how kids can be so cruel. You just want them to be perfect and happy. What a great job you are doing!!!!!

Missy | Literal Mom said...

Kids are absolutely amazing, aren't they? Bella is a special, special girl. (I think her mama has a little something to do with it). :)

Amanda@runninghood said...

A little choked up here. Beautiful. Children are so resilient and wise. I always learn from my children...they teach me about love, forgiveness, JOY and so much more. Such a brave girl your daughter is. Thanks for sharing your story ..sounds like you're doing a great job!

Xazmin said...

Thanks for making me bawl.

Take heart, I have a daughter who also has a prominent birthmark. It is right below her left eye. It looked like a freckle when she was a baby, but stretched as she grew. It is now probably about thumbnail sized, but it protrudes slightly from the rest of her skin, and is very prominent.

When she was around your daughter's age it bothered her a great deal. It sort of looks like she got punched in the eye and people both young and old, even perfect strangers in the store would ask her what happened to her eye, and it bothered her so much to always have to tell them it was a birth mark.

She is now 11, and has quit complaining about it (not that she complained a lot before, but she would sometimes mention things.)

I asked her the other day if people still say things to her and she said they did. I asked her if it upset her and she told me that it honestly doesn't. She has gotten used to it from new people (and rude people), and has great friends that don't even notice. And she says it's part of what makes her her.

I'm glad your daughter seems to be handling the comments so maturely, and I bet it will just get better as she gets older.

It's so hard to watch our kids struggle and not be able to fix it!!

Karen Peterson said...

She's such an amazing kid. What a lesson there is here for all of us.

Nezzy said...

Well, I've never made it a secret what a Bella fan I am and I'm so amazed at the confidence in this seven year old. Wow, have you done a bang~up job or what.

My daughter is filled with scars from many surgeries and procedures due to congenital heart defects. She's always had the attitude, at least I'm alive.

In kindergarten another mother approached me to inform me that my Social Butterfly was chargin' kids a nickle to see her three belly buttons. (belly button with drain tube scars on each side). Now get this...for a quarter she would make a Chinese man talk.

Again, usin' the belly button as a mouth pullin' the two scars up like Chinese eyes. The girl's a riot!!!

God bless ya and tell Miss Bella how proud we are of her great attitude!!! :o)

Evonne said...

Big words for a little girl. Bella is amazing!

Brad Jenkins said...

What a great kiddo! Things that make us different also make us special, or great, or whatever you want to put in here.

Valerie said...

Bella's a keeper for sure!!! What a special little girl you have.

Jenny said...

Such an amazingly strong girl you have! Beautiful for sure. said...

--I am madly in love with Bella.

She can teach us all a great deal about life :))

x kiss her for me.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

OMG. Bella is so sweet and brave and amazing. Someone has done a most excellent job to raise such a confident and strong little girl! :-) I love her quote - shouldn't we all live by that?

Marcia (123 blog) said...

oops, I realised I wrote my comment on the other blog post you linked to :)

SherilinR said...

that made me teary. kids and adults can be so unkind and unwilling to understand about any differences sometimes. as if outward perfection is required of us all.

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

Kids don't have the ability to filter what they say yet and so many times it can be hurtful. I'd like to think that she didn't really mean it in a mean-spirited way, but more of an observational way. Nonetheless, it still points out a difference and nobody wants those pointed out. We just like to fit in and blend in. It's not until we get older that we realize those differences make us shine so brightly.

Hugs to your sweet girl!

Jen said...

She is amazing! What a lesson to us all.

Shelly - Tropical Mum said...

Everyone has said it all already, but I'll put my two cents in anyway. Your Bella is so confident and she really is special. I don't remember having a fraction of her confidence at that age.

I also enjoyed reading the way you told this story.

HeatherB said...

What an amazing little girl you are raising! I wish that I had half of her wisdom and confidence--both at her age, and at my current age.

Myne Whitman said...

She's amazing! And I pray she never forgets it. Warm hugs to you both.

Heather said...

She is very cool. You are one lucky momma!

When I was in 5th grade I had an operation that resulted in a scar on my forearm.

I spent all of my middle school and high school years covereing that scar up so no one would ask about it.

It was so silly (and sometimes so hot - long sleeves in the summer aren't always a great option).

I wish I had had your daughter's confidence!

Zeemaid said...

I had never heard of such a thing. What an awful thing to have gone through. I can imagine how tough it is for you to have to go through this with her. In a way though, you are both drawing comfort from one another and really strengthening that mother daughter bond. That in itself is beautiful!

Kelli said...

She's so much stronger than I am, and she has my overwhelming respect!

Jode said...

What a beautiful, beautiful soul your Bella is...inside and out!

I never knew those marks could of my twins has one the same on her chest and i can't tell you how mnay times we were told it will go before she is sign of it going.

The other twin has a shocking scar on her nose from an accident diving off the lounge chair....we are already getting pressure to see a plastic surgeon but i wonder what is the right thing to do!

I am just in awe of your daughter though...and you for how you spoke with her about such a tough subject!Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and inspirational moment.xx

Kristen said...

Oh my gosh. you are the last blog I can read tonight. I love you. I love your family. And I'm bawling my eyes out. Such a beautiful girl. It does only hurt for a little while. big hugs to you momma. You handled it so well. I would'a punched that girl. Ok... I wouldn't have. But - you always help me to be a better mom... because you are just an awesome person.

Sela Toki said...

Sweet darling Bella. So mature for her little age of 7. Shows she'll have no trouble handling anything. Stronger then you might think Helene. Truly her mother's daughter. Thank you for being bold enough to share this with us. Truly a touching story.

myheartlongsthesea said...

The last phrase in your post reverberates in my mind. I am whiner mom and i am humbled by your baby's strength. God bless her!

call tracking

Natalie said...

Wow what a brave and beautiful girl inside and out! You've raised a good one there :) That takes a lot for a little girl to say that.

Maureen | TatterScoops said...

Awww I got teary eyed reading this. Her strength is amazing. Thank you for sharing your wise little girl with us. Some of us have scars that's invisible and we tried hard to not let other's comments get to us. You daughter have wisdom beyond her years. You raised her good, mama well done!

Charlene said...

Aww she is such a brave little girl. Scars are what makes us who we are...some of us have more noticable ones than others.

Nicholas has three spots (one twice as big as the other two) on his head that won't grow hair. It's only real noticable when he gets his hair cut, which of course he needs to have cut. These are scars from his birth. He also has one on his side from kidney surgery.

It's always harder on us (maybe because we know what they've went through getting those scars) than it is on them.

Keep up the good work, you are doing a wonderful job raising her.

Kimberly said...

I give you so much credit. She wouldn't have such a positive attitude if you didn't instill such encouragment and positive words.
Kids are cruel.
But she is doing beautifully. She is beautiful inside and out.

Heather said...

You're raising such an amazing little girl! I'm sure it gets tiring to explain over and over. You're doing a great job at giving her confidence!

Olusola said...

Made me cry. Your Bella is a very beautiful angel inside and out.

Christine said...

Bella is such a brave and confident girl!

My 7-yr old son had kidney and bladder surgery at 18 months old and gall bladder surgery at 4 yrs old. He has several scars on his side and torso. He doesn't talk about them often, they are kind of a non-issue. I can only hope that he never gets self-conscious about them.

Adie said...

Wow I love how your daughter seems to take it with a grain of salt, you have raised a wonderful little girl!

MJ Lamon said...

Thanks for sharing. I often times worry about my kids having to deal with how cruel other children can be. Another reason to remind my children to be kind!!

Barbara said...

You are doing an amazing job! She is one wonderful little girl!

Hope Full said...

What a smart little girl. Wisdom well beyond her years. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story.

Over Joyful

Shell said...

Bella is amazing. I'm so glad she has the self-confidence to let something like this only hurt "for a little while."

She has more guts than a lot of grown ups I know.

Still- this had me tearing up. I want my kids to be accepted exactly as they are... but I wish I could make it easier for them.

Twins Squared said...

You have a WONDERFUL little girl! She sounds to me to have so much maturity. What a gift! I'm sorry for both of you that you have to go through that. So true - so much contributes to our beauty, not just what we look like. And you have one BEAUTIFUL girl!

MiMi said...

What a sweet sweet girl. She has the best attitude. Way better than I would have at that age.
She should tell people that the angels didn't want her to leave heaven so they held on real tight. :)

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

She's amazing...must have some pretty good role models.

Michele S said...

Hey, Helene! It's Michele. Since our kids are in the same grade, I know first hand that second graders are as mean as snakes. Have you thought about taking her to a plastic surgeon and see if they can do anything? I would do it NOW. Those kids only get meaner. By middle school, they're barely human. The little bastards.

So sorry she's going through this. She's such a cute and funny kid. ((((((hugs))))))

Anonymous said...

Bella's seriously an angel. So precious <3

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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