By Liana Jacob
AN INSPIRING dad has posted pictures of his toddler daughter with a birthmark like a black eye in a bid to beat bullies who say the two-year old is cursed by God and has made the agonising decision NOT to go through with corrective surgery.
Project manager, Nathan Whalen (38), from Calgary, Canada, almost passed out when he first learned that his daughter, Samara (2), was born with a black birthmark across her face, initially mistaking it for a bruise. His wife, Amy, burst into tears when she heard that she was born with a birthmark, until Samara was wrapped in a blanket and handed to her. When she held her in her arms she instantly started kissing her face, telling her she is beautiful.
Doctors then warned them that if they do operate on the birthmark, their daughter may lose her eyesight and may possibly develop glaucoma, an eye condition where the optic nerve is damaged by the pressure of fluid in the eye.
While Samara has shown no sign of awareness of the birthmark, she occasionally rubs her eye, due to the hair growth from the birthmark. Now Nate wants to get rid of the stigma around birthmarks and appearances by posting stunning shots of his daughter.
“I want the world to become desensitised to birthmarks, so they are not met with criticism when people see them,” he said.
“I feel hopeful because society is becoming more accepting towards differences. But I am also feeling concerned because bullying on social media is rampant among kids and teens.
“Some people think it is a black eye and are concerned, others think it is makeup and laugh. Some people think she’s cursed by God and some even say that she is punished for something I may have done in the past.
“Samara was born with this birthmark across her face. We couldn’t see the birthmark on any ultrasound images leading up to her birthday.
“We had no idea there was anything wrong as doctors said she was perfectly healthy girl, so this came as a shock.
“I thought it was initially a bruise from travelling down the birth canal. I thought she was hurt so I was yelling at the doctors to get her help.
“When I told my wife that Samara has a birthmark on her face she began to weep, until the doctors wrapped Samara in a blanket and put her on my wife’s chest. My wife immediately started kissing her face and telling her she is beautiful.
“After the shock wore off my wife and I looked at each other and made a promise to be proud and content that she was beautiful and healthy.
“We accepted the birthmark. We offered her a prayer to God to give her strong will and courage for the rest of her life.”
Due to the possibility of Samara becoming blind from surgery, Nate and his wife have agreed not to go forward with surgery.
“It can grow larger as her face grows. It will get lighter as it stretches out. She can develop glaucoma in her left eye from this and there is a small possibility she can lose her eyesight if we attempt surgery,” he said.
“She can have surgery at around five years old. This will consist of seven to nine surgeries over a five-year period. There is no guarantee it will be completely removed because of the areas around and on her eye.
“It is an option, but because of the risk of losing her eyesight, I may just opt to not go through with it.”
Samara has already faced mixed reactions from the public, particularly in nursery, where children laugh or point, and she has had to learn to hold her own from a young age because of this.
“Some kids run away from her scared; that pains me to see that. Whereas, some kids walk up to her and say she is beautiful and unique; that melts my heart,” Nate said.
“This birthmark grows hair, so she is always rubbing her eye. The hair goes into her eye and makes it itchy. She hasn’t shown any signs that she doesn’t like her birthmark.
“The doctors say when she turns four, she will begin to self-asses and internalise her image more. Other kids do look at her and say ‘yucky’. This does hurt me as a parent to hear this from kids.
“Funnily enough Samara shrugs her shoulders and doesn’t care what they say. She will play by herself if no one wants to play with her.
“I often wonder about her confidence when she becomes a teenager. I wonder if she will ever date or get married or get a job because of her birthmark.
“I just want her to live a normal life. Sometimes we just want to blend in and Samara can’t ever just ‘blend in’ even for a minute.
“I want to say that there are children in the world with health problems, abnormalities, diseases, and disfunctions.
“Luckily Samara’s birthmark is not life threatening, but I still want people to know skin conditions can cause major psychological damage and should not be ignored or understated.
“This condition should be treated with the same amount of care by professionals the whole way through one’s life who suffers from this.
“People with skin conditions tend to retract from society and this is detrimental to anyone’s health and well-being.”
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