“My entrance to this place we call Earth started in the early hours of a Friday morning on the summer solstice. Reflecting on this, twenty-four-year-old me would agree this is pretty on-brand, as I love an early morning, and well, who doesn’t love Fridays? The Friday celebration was to soon come to a halt once my father laid eyes on me for the first time.
Before we jump into the specifics, let me set the scene for you. My mom, Mary Beth, and dad, John, were seconds away from becoming parents (yay)! Both of my parents were in their early twenties and living in Atlanta at the time. The ‘96 Olympics were in progress and life was good. What better time to have a baby? Like any parent, all my parents hoped for was a healthy, happy child. They seemingly got both of those things. It just took a minute for the new reality to settle in.
My birth was rather normal but my parents were taken back by my appearance. I was born with a vascular birthmark, called a Port Wine Stain, which, at the time took up nearly half of my face. My skin was blotchy, veiny, and far from perfect. Irrationally, my dad stated, ‘She will never have a boyfriend,’ and rushed out of the room for privacy to process his shock. My mother had the opposite reaction and embraced my uniqueness immediately. To be fair, my dad tends to be the more dramatic one in the relationship so this doesn’t shock me.
The doctors quickly assured my parents my condition was normal and there was no need to be scared. In fact, one in every 1,000 children is born with a Port Wine Stain birthmark. 2 weeks after being born, things became complicated in Atlanta due to the bombings that occurred during the summer Olympics. My parents and I fled to South Florida, where both were born and raised.
Life hasn’t slowed down since moving 2 weeks after I was born. This move served as a kickstart to our numerous moves to follow throughout my childhood as my dad’s job always kept us on our toes. I’m not quite sure when this process began, but my parents were determined to educate themselves as much as possible on my birthmark. Luckily, my birthmark did not cover my eyes as this can lead to glaucoma or other eye issues. Additionally, my birthmark was not raised or textured, which was a great sign.
A common misconception surrounding vascular birthmarks is treatment is solely for the purpose of getting rid of your birthmark. This is wrong and not always the case. There are several lasers that can be used to treat vascular birthmarks and they do so by absorbing the red color in the blood vessels through the beam of light put off by the laser. In my case, treatment broke up my birthmark into what I later began calling ‘islands’ as opposed to one large birthmark across my face. Something else to take into consideration is the growth of your face from infantry to adulthood. My birthmark used to be much darker and shocking, due to the surface area it covered. Over time, as my face grew, I would like to think I grew into my birthmark.
My mother shares stories with me about the never-ending stares and questions that ensued throughout a large portion of my childhood. Ironically, we have found most commonly adults are much more rude and abrupt in their assumptions and comments surrounding my birthmark. I will note the placement of my birthmark is rather alarming to a stranger, as it does appear like I may have been hit, punched, or slapped across my left cheek.
Without my knowledge, the constant stares, questions, and assumptions led to the slow build of the confidence I pride myself on today. As a child, I embraced my uniqueness and I credit that to my parents. My parents never made me feel different, always reminded me I was perfect the way I was. I slowly started to believe them and emulate that in my everyday life. But as always, life is not all rainbows and butterflies. Once I hit elementary school age, I began to struggle with bullying, as to be expected.
I would consider myself someone who really thrives in a collaborative environment. I loved school and woke up excited every single day. There was one day in particular that really knocked my confidence and still sticks with me today. This particular event took place in the fifth grade in front of my entire grade. It was lunchtime and I was eating my home-packed lunch, as I did every day. Friends were indulging in the lunch offering of the day, spaghetti and meatballs. After we finished eating and began socializing a rather obnoxious peer got the attention of my entire class and questioned me while pointing at my birthmark, ‘Hey, Reagan, is that dried spaghetti sauce all over your face?’ as he pointed and laughed. I was mortified. Fast forward 15 years and I still laugh at the thought of this story. It was senseless and cold, but also so unrealistic. How would I have even managed to smear spaghetti sauce over half my face?
My outgoing personality flourished as the years went on and I began expressing myself through clothes, accessories, and pretty much anything that sparkled. Once my teen years hit, I experimented with make-up as I started to develop acne. A large source of my insecurities stemmed from the combination of not only having a huge birthmark on my face but pimples too. This was a struggle that lasted throughout my high school years.
I would say I leaned on make-up as a crutch for my insecurities for a large portion of my life. If I was ever in public without makeup, I would note how ‘gross I looked’ to try and beat people to the judgment. It wasn’t until I neared the end of college I really started to embrace my natural beauty. I began photographing myself ‘bare-faced’ and going in public make-up free more often. I began more heavily researching other people who may have had the same experiences as me but was often led in the direction of Facebook support groups for parents of children with PWS. This void led to the creation of Hello Port Wine Stain on Instagram. I started this page in 2017 with no intention of posting myself, rather others with vascular birthmarks to spread awareness. My page saw slow growth but I began building valuable connections with people just like me.
My confidence soon skyrocketed and I used this page as a mood booster whenever I was feeling alone in the world with my vascular birthmark. There are so many times I wish my younger self could have connected with these beautiful individuals. I’ve grown to accept my natural beauty and now teach others how to love themselves the way my parents taught me. Over the past few years, I have learned beauty standards are so outdated and there is room for everyone to shine in their own way.
I love to share my experiences and stories through TikTok videos, Instagram stories, and feed posts. I help others build confidence through one-of-a-kind custom apparel and accessory items that feature catchy phrases and portraits of their birthmarks. My heart is warmed by the daily messages of gratitude shared by the members of my digital community that has grown to over 3,500 members. My goal is to continue educating people on vascular birthmarks, treatment options, and confidence through my raw content and catchy apparel items.
Life throws unexpected curveballs for a reason. I was born unique for a reason and my dad can proudly say he was wildly wrong that day he assumed my appearance would get in the way of my success in life. If anything, it has built my confidence in a way that never would have existed without my birthmark. I challenge you to shift your perspective and be kind to yourself. My dad did it and so can you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Reagan Baylee Campbell. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about Port Wine Stain birthmarks:
‘Were you in a fire?’ ‘Did someone beat you?’ ‘No one will ever want to date you!’ It was cruel adults asking, not curious children.’: Woman born with Port Wine Stain views it as a ‘blessing’ to filter out ‘shallow, undeserving people’ from her life
‘I can’t! I can’t leave the house without makeup!’ I was shocked. He looked me in the eye. ‘You can’t, or you won’t?’: Woman embraces port wine stain birthmark after years of ‘feeling ashamed, insecure’
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