Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Although doctors know a birthmark are a clumping of blood vessels, heightened melanocytes, smoothed muscles, keratinocytes, or fibroblasts, they don’t know why they occur. Thus, human nature fills in the gaps with folk impressions and superstition.
“Maternal impression” sprung up to explain the occurrence of birthmarks. If a mother-to-be experienced a strong emotion during pregnancy, her baby might bare a mark representing the mom’s feelings. Trans-positioning of sorts involved a pregnant woman beholding something unpleasant resulting in an ugly mark upon their unborn child. Women were therefore protected and surrounded by peace and beauty when in their “delicate state.” In parts of the Middle East, some believed touching a pregnant woman’s stomach during a solar eclipse or time of a comet passing resulted in marring the child’s skin.
Other theories for birthmarks involved diet. A mom-to-be had to monitor her cravings. Eating too many strawberries resulted in red marks, some thought, while indulging in chocolate resulted in a café-colored spot. Beets, jams, and jellies could cause marks on the infant in port-wine hues. However, another theory involves not giving in to cravings, pointing to a woman’s intuition. If a woman craved something, it was best to give her the desired food. If not, the child’s skin might bear the mark of the denial.
Birthmarks could indicate the child’s future. Marks on the right brought prosperity, while those on the left bore challenges. However, a birthmark on the left foot indicated intelligence, wanderlust, and adventure, so even the folk wisdom is confused. A birthmark could even provide a clue to a past life, according to some cultures. A hemangioma could indicate how a person met their end before they reincarnated.
Some feel birthmarks indicate blessings. The word for birthmark in Italian, Spanish, and Arabic are all related to the word for “wishes.” They can indicate divine favor. Thus, touching a birthmark conveys good luck. Others feel the birth-marked child is tainted by evil as evidenced by the unnatural marking.
Birthmarks, be they referred to as nevus, mother’s marks, beauty marks or stains, strawberry marks, stork bites, or angel’s kisses, can be viewed as an enhancement of the child’s natural beauty, or a detriment or blemish.
Skin is idiosyncratic. Areas of heightened pigment can be any shade of brown, rust, plum, or strawberry in color. Some fade or disappear with time and aging, while others last into adulthood. Cindy Crawford, Mikhail Gorbachev, and New Orleans Saint Drew Brees all bear their marks with pride. They can appear on any patch of skin, head to adorably plump toesies, and since about 80 percent of babies are born with them, and since they are benign, embrace the uniquely marked child!