If your child has a prominent vascular birthmark during early infancy, you may experience a range of emotions, from disappointment to fear.
One of the most common reactions you may have, particularly if your child has a facial birthmark that was not evident at birth, is disbelief, as you watch your infant's skin become abnormal in appearance. Other emotions you may experience are panic, sadness, a sense of isolation, and guilt or self-blame.
Once you begin to take your baby out in public, you will also need to deal emotionally with the reactions of strangers, who may stare, offer unsolicited advice, or worse yet, accuse you of neglect or child abuse.
Later, you will undoubtedly have concerns about your child's self-esteem, particularly when he or she begins to feel sensitive about his or her appearance, typically around four years of age. In addition, you may worry that your child will be rejected or made fun of by peers.
Certainly, having a child with a prominent or disfiguring vascular birthmark presents challenges to parents, the affected child, and the entire family. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you weather the emotional ups and downs that invariably occur.
One important source of support is a vascular anomalies specialist, who can help you--and as your child becomes self-conscious about the birthmark--deal with many of the emotional issues. For example, the specialist can tell you what to expect and what the outcome will likely be, help you distinguish between what is normal behavior for a given age and what might suggest a problem that requires intervention, and, as your child matures, suggest strategies to help him deal with the reactions of teachers, classmates, and friends.
If your child's primary care physician who communicates with the vascular anomalies specialist and is knowledgeable and up-to-date about the latest treatments for vascular birthmarks, can be a source of ongoing support, as well. Some parents also find it helpful to seek counseling with a mental-health professional.
Other valuable sources of emotional support are your friends and family. One recent study showed that parents of children with disfiguring facial hemangiomas found it helpful to interact regularly with a group of adults and children who knew their child and were accustomed to the appearance, as this provided a much-needed respite from strangers' stares and questions.
The support of extended family members, including in-laws, is also enormously important. In addition, some parents find it helpful to join a support group, where they can share their experiences and feelings with others in a similar situation.
Vascular birthmarks that are prominent or disfiguring, even those that will ultimately go away, invariably challenge parental coping skills. But with adequate information and continued support and guidance, most parents find they are able to manage very well and enjoy all that is unique about their child.