This is a post about my birthmark journey. My blog is about embrasing your beautiful no matter your shape, size or skin and this post is my story of my birthmark. It’s not intended to get sympathy or anything just a little insight into me.
As I mentioned in my last post I was born with a large port wine stain birthmark on the left side of my face, this stretches from my eyebrow to the lower part of my cheek. What is that? You’re not the first person to wonder. A port wine stain is a capillary malformation in the skin, made up of tiny capillaries with a pink,red, or purple color to it. It can appear anywhere on the body but mainly on the face and happens every 3 out of 1000 babies. It’s something I’ve struggled with throughout my life and sometimes still do. I know the first thing people see when they look at me is my birthmark and I know it’s because they assume I’ve been in a fight or a fire.
That’s me as a baby.
When I was a baby there was no treatment available in Northern Ireland for port wine stains so my parents had to do fundraising with the hopes of getting a laser treatment machine and facility. They did this while they both worked full time and had to look after me and my older sister Aine. AND IT WORKED!! My first treatment happened when I was about five. My parents managed to raise enough money to get me laser treatment. To be more specific, pulsed dye laser, which is the most common type of laser treatment. Brief explanation is : The laser passes through a fibre optic cable, on the end of the cable is a device that looks like a pen. This is gently held against the surface of the skin and a button is pressed, which sends a beam of light to the skin. The light goes less than 1mm into the skin and is then absorbed by the blood vessels just beneath the surface, causing it to heat up. The heat damages the blood vessels, which creates a bruise. After treatment my face was like a little valley of circular bruises.
My mum tells me that I was at my treatment while she was due to give birth to my amazing little sister, unfortunately Niamh had to wait a day to be born! (Sorry Niamh). My treatment days as a child would consist of being nil by mouth from the night before and an entire day in the hospital before being put to sleep before my laser. This would be every few months and made my skin even more sensitive to light and sore. This meant that I had to be extremely careful, which for a child like me was difficult because I had also Inheriting the clumsy gene and being told not to fall was not easy! What made my treatment easier was the staff, they could not have been nicer and are definitely part of my inspiration to be a nurse. They knew me and my whole family by name and I was with the same staff until I was about 15. I pretty much grew up there and having my same consultant taking pictures of my birthmark to track my progress was great. To this day I still continue with my laser treatment, although now I can no longer have sedation (due to the amount I had as a child) and as you can imagine being awake for this treatment is excruciating. On top of that pain I also have to wear cling film on my face. (Which isn’t very attractive) However, although I am now used to that I still remember the embarrassment as a 16 year old putting cream on her face an hour before the treat my so it would numb and covering it with cling film but I always tried to see the funny side of this. Occasionally my consultant will take out my pictures and talk about me growing up and how it’s changed so much.
I probably didn’t start caring about my birthmark until about 12 years old. Before then, I was to busy being a normal kid, Yeah I had to go for scans, treatments and appointments more than the average kid but I have been doing that since I was a baby so it was normal for me.
During my childhood I think that my parents probably had it worse, when I was a baby I didn’t know any different and would have been oblivious to any passing comments or views. When parents have a baby, they love them no matter what but other people can be very opinionated. I will always remember my mum telling me a story about when she was approached by a woman who had a little girl with a small birthmark behind her ear. This woman went on to tell my mum that I was deformed and should have “THAT” covered up. Mum always tells me how hard it was to contain her anger. My parents are the most amazing people that I know and having to fundraise for me, attend scans, treatments and consultations left, right and centre with me as well as looking after my older sister, my little sister and my little brother.
Getting older was defiantly harder. Kids are cruel, they tease and they can be brutal. I realised some kids didn’t like the way I looked, and it confused me. Why? Why was it my face that was different? Why we’re my friends teasing me because of my face? Then came the days of name calling. “Tomato face” the constant “are you crying”, “what happened”, “why do you look like that” and “who punched you?”. Some of the children would avoid me in the hall at school because I had a “disease”. It’s hard not to take these things personally I don’t know how many times I cried or felt down about this and as a child you don’t know what to do other than take it personally.
My little sister Niamh also knew how to cheer me up, in primary school she was told to write a story on someone she admired the most. After sitting through all her shows and all of her stories about people she loved I never thought anything off it until mum showed me. This story was about me. My amazing little sister chose me. There it was with her little drawing of me, birthmark in check and a story about how she admired me, how I was always smiling and how I have a birthmark. Making less of my birthmark than anything else. The first time I read this I cried, obviously I didn’t tell her this but made fun of her like sisters do. To this day I think about that, When I’m feeling down, hating myself or putting my hand over “that” side of my face it makes me feel happy and confident. Even if I don’t have that confidence I know I can stop crying because I never achieve full coverage because I have too. My little sister looks up to me even though she wrote this as a child and she’s now an adult as an older sister I think I should show her that okay life isn’t always perfect and neither is skin but we should be confident women.
Getting older my doctor started to tell me about other forms of treatment in which he thought would work and this is when the First discussion of skin grafting took place, luckily that was taken off the table as quickly as it was put on. I told the doctor I was happy with who I was and my mum told me how proud she was. She told me I was beautiful and it made me feel so safe. The next treatment he suggested was a Chemical face peel and boy was that a mistake. For days all I could smell and feel was my face burning. This was probably the most horrible thing that I’ve ever had which is strange because I’m used to that. How people do that for purely cosmetic reasons I will never understand. Not recommended by me because I had no results from this treatment. Thirdly was liposuction. When I heard that my ears lit up but then I found out it would only for my face, to try and get rid of the access skin under my eye. Because this is extended my consultant hoped to reduce this. After this I had to wear bandages on my face for a few weeks but unfortunately this wasn’t successful.
After that makeup became my safety blanket. Which I’ve been wearing since I was about 16 religiously, admittedly not very well for a years but a safety blanket none the less. For those of you that know me you’ll know I’m very bubbly, outgoing and generally make a joke out of things. At home since i moved out everyone tells me of how quiet it is without me but sometimes without makeup I will be a completely different person. I want people to know me for my personality not my face. Getting recognised is something that I think everyone with a birthmark will encounter. Make up or not people recognise me and that’s fine. In fact it’s great if your out in a club with your friends talking to a really cute guy who recognised you from the teenage disco in the church hall ( who then said he had a crush on you 🙊) but not so great if that one time you told a girl to stop bullying you recognises you in work.
Okay so enough of that fast forward a few years to now. I’m 25 and I’m doing a degree for my dream job and I am madly in love with make up. I think its unfair that the only people who blog about skin and beauty are those who have perfect skin and natural beauty. That’s why I started this blog, I just want to help those who aren’t sure what to do, how to start or get through the journey with a birthmark as well as exploring makeup. I know the struggles of watching a tutorial or looking at pictures of makeup with your face not being totally symmetrical and that’s OK. A birthmark is beautiful, it is unique, and it makes me… well me!
So that’s my story! I hope it was a nice insight into not only me but what it is like to have a port wine stain as a woman. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you comment me any thoughts or questions you have about anything I’ve said. There are lots of pictures on my Instagram of my birthmark and I really look forward to hearing from you guys
Just a reminder that my Instagram is bigbeautyaisling and I’ve updated all my social media’s in my contact section.