Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Joie de Vivre to Spare

ps. Yep, phoning it in with the photos. Sorry, AJ.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Going Our Own Way

As we get ready to head to Mexico for our annual winter trip with Mom Canuck, I'm reminded of how right before last year's trip, I thought at the last minute to look up the Spanish word for birthmark (marca de nacimiento), figuring I might get some questions. We were barely off the plane and not even at the arrival gate before that phrase came in handy. As we walked through the terminal, I heard people whispering about and staring at my gorgeous little girl, who I am so proud to call mine.

This year I bet we'll make it through the airport with no nosy questions -- maybe we'll even make it through the whole week. Muffin has a headful of hair these days, enough to put in pigtails, which I have dreamed about doing as soon as they pulled her from my body and told me I had a girl. If I comb it the right way, and there's no wind, and we're not swimming, you might never even notice the ping pong-sized benign tumor on her head.

And yet after almost two years of avoidance, we have finally decided to go ahead with surgery to remove it. This is against the advice of my pediatrician, who told us to do nothing, and said it would be gone by age 2. Most generalists tell this to parents of kids with strawberries, unless the birthmark is somehow impeding vision, breathing or some other vital function.

But after much research and a consultation with a plastic surgeon, I've learned the latest thinking among specialists in this area is to deal with it early, before pre-school. Also, the actual timeframe for the birthmark fading is more like 10-15 years for many kids (Muffin is just two months shy of 2, and although it's flattened out, it's not going away any time soon). I'd still be inclined to wait it out, but the issue with Muffin is this: because it's above her hair line, she will always have a rather large bald spot right above her forehead, even when the strawberry resolves itself. I can't imagine this will bother her much as a small child, but when she's a teenager? After years of writing for women's web sites, I can tell you: hair is of monumental importance to the average American woman. And if Muffin takes after me, thoughts of her hair and how it's looking today and how she can purchase more products for it will take up the majority of her brain space.

What finally tipped the scales for us was finding this man. Dr. Waner seems to be the world's leading specialist on hemagiomas, and we have an appointment with him in a few weeks. I haven't met him, but I kind of want to make out with him a little bit already. He is universally lauded among the vascular birthmarks set, and unlike a plastic surgeon who usually deals with high-rolling boob job patients, Dr. Waner operates on mostly children. I expect he will be sensitive to Muffin, and also Muffin's mommy, who even now gets a little choked up at the thought of what's to come.

I don't imagine it's ever going to feel "right" to put my daughter through surgery to fix something that not life-threatening, painful or even entirely necessary. If you spend any time looking at pictures of hemangiomas, you'll see how truly lucky Muffin is. But I am realizing that we have to have the confidence to be her advocates, and not just accept what we are told. We have to do what we think she'd want us to do if her future grown-up self could advise us. Muffin is starting nursery school in the fall, and I think she deserves to go enter the classroom with skin expanders, a shaved head, a hospital stay, stitches and whispered remarks behind her.

I wrote an e-mail to one of Dr. Waner's associates, and he actually wrote me back a lovely note, offering to look at a photo of Muffin's birthmark, seconding my opinion that surgery seems like the right course of action, and easing my fears about the insurance battle I fear is ahead of us. I think these are good people; I believe we can trust them with our exquisite little girl.