When George was placed onto my chest after I had given birth to him, I was so completely overwhelmed. He had his cord wrapped tightly around his neck and I had been in labour for days. These two factors combined with the usual clamour of congratulations from the midwives and ‘I love you, well done’s from PB, all meant I didn’t quite register the bruise type birthmarks on George’s back at first.
But, as they wiped him down and lifted him off of me to be weighed, I caught sight of them and instantly felt a pang of sorrow and guilt for him. I honestly thought he had been hurt, either by my body as it had pushed and squeezed him out or by either myself or the midwives as we had held him and rubbed him to help his breathing. I felt terrible, until my midwife turned to me and said ‘Have you seen these markings? It’s all a birthmark called Mongolian Blue Spots. Very common and nothing to worry about. But we have to make a note of them as they look very much like bruises.’
Such a relief! I exhaled so hard that it made her reach out and reassuringly pat me on the shoulder. He was dressed and then whisked off to the special care unit before I could get a real chance to see his birthmarks again.
It was a full week before we were home, and the first thing I did was to give him a bath and explore the little unique pattern he was sporting and completely oblivious to. No surprise there really, he didn’t even know where he was let alone what his skin was doing!
What are Mongolian Blue Spots?
Mongolian blue spots, as the midwife said, are harmless birthmarks that babies are born with. The blue colour is caused by melanocytes, which are the cells in skin that contain melanin, that are located in the skin’s surface. These cells are in the deeper region (the dermis) which results in the deeper pigmented spot. Usually, they are seen as multiple spots or one large patch, which covers one or more of the lower back, the buttocks, sides, and shoulders. It results from the entrapment of melanocytes in the lower half to two-thirds of the dermis during their migration from the neural crest to the epidermis during embryonic development. They are completely harmless and cause no pain or discomfort. They can fade over time, usually by the time the child reaches puberty. But occasionally they last for life.
So, where have they come from.
We believe that George’s resulted from his genetic history. His Daddy, PB, is mixed race from Caribbean descent and these birthmarks are very common with mixed race backgrounds. We are so proud of the Caribbean roots that the boys and PB hold, and even our eldest Teddy has a tiny strawberry birthmark on his hip too. But George’s are much more prominent and their colour make me wish to raise awareness of the cause of these marks.
There are some alternative explanations. Mostly folklore stories and old wive’s tales, that depict that the marks happen after spirits whom are guiding the mother and baby through the birth, give the baby a whack on the behind to hasten their entrance into this world. I especially love that because George certainly took his time to get out of my womb. To all intents and purposes, he was in all senses ‘evicted’ from me at two weeks over being full term. So, who knows? Maybe someone was stepping in to hurry him up!
He has a cluster of Mongolian blue spots dotted all around his back. Mainly to his left hand side, at the base of his spine. Then they lead up sporadically to his shoulder blades. They are quite faint, only really showing up prominently in certain lights. And sometimes when he has had a warm bath and boosted his circulation.
I love them. They’re a part of him and he is a part of both myself and PB. It would be ridiculous to say anything to the contrary! There are pitfalls that come with having them though.
One example would be that medical records have had to be made to note down that the birthmarks exist and have done since birth. I even have a diagram in George’s little red book that the midwife doodled during one of his earlier home visits. This is to ensure that there are no misunderstandings if we ever take him to see the GP or (heaven forbid!) A&E or somewhere like that. The last thing you want is for authorities to accuse you of beating your baby!
Which leads me on to other scenarios that can be quite awkward. Take swimming for example. I am still yet to take him to a pool. And whilst I have had to avoid it because I can’t take a toddler and a baby swimming single handed, it is also because of fear. I fear that someone will see them and assume the worst. If someone challenges me about them and insinuates that I have caused him harm, it could make for a pretty awkward time. Possibly even break my heart.
I do worry.
There have been times when I have changed him in front of people and they have, quite understandably, reacted with shock and concern. I’m always quick to reassure them that all is well and hasten to explain what they actually are. I have been diagnosed with PND and PTSD this year, so I’m extra self conscious and eager to clear up misunderstandings. Crazy Mama on the brink who beats her baby is not a label I wish to be given!
My main worry if for George though, not myself. Human nature is cruel. I fast forward a few years to when he is paddling in the sea or swimming in a pool. Or running around with his shirt off in the summer time. And I worry that he will be ridiculed and questioned unfairly over his birthmarks. Even the idea of people staring makes me wince a little. But, having such a negative and fearful mindset is not the right way to go. I have to own these birthmarks alongside him. Show how it is just a part of him that makes him special. Who wants to be ordinary after all?
No, I shall help him be proud of them. They are a sign of his lineage. His history shining through in physical form. It is the way my body grew him and, for that alone, I am so proud. He is a beautiful boy. And, like I say, these birthmarks are just one of the things I love about him the most.