Marianna Bowering holds her breath every time she posts a photo of her 20-month-old daughter, Angelica.
Angelica was born with a port wine-stain birthmark on her face, and people can be cruel.
“The worst comment online that I’ve gotten is when someone asked if her face had been pushed onto a skillet. Basically, saying her face looked grilled,” Bowering, 27, told Britain’s Caters News Agency.
The mom from Australia revealed that the toddler has also been called “hideous” and one bully wrote that “she would never get a boyfriend later in life.”
But not everyone hides behind a keyboard.
“In person, I think the most hurtful thing was when someone at a soccer game told me that she was a ‘defect,’” Bowering recalled. “He just said that to me and then walked away. I was shocked.”
Both Bowering and her husband, Corey, see Angelica’s birthmark as “a unique addition to her beauty that should be celebrated.”
“I would never hide my little girl because of it, I think she is absolutely stunning,” Bowering said. “The thing I hate most is when people tell me she can just cover it with makeup when she’s older. Why should she cover it up? If she wants to flaunt it, she can.”
Port wine stains are capillary vascular malformations that occur in three out of every 1,000 births, according to the The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.
Children with port wine stains on their faces are at risk of developing glaucoma and Sturge-Weber syndrome, a condition that affects the development of certain blood vessels causing abnormalities in the brain, skin and eyes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
“Thankfully, we’ve done tests and Angelica is totally healthy,” Bowering said. “We just need to have regular check-ups, especially for her eyes as glaucoma can be a concern.”
The most common approach for treating port wine stains is to use a pulsed-dye laser to treat the superficial component of the stain.
"Gradually over several treatments, this lightens the skin and in some cases, the stain may temporarily go away," Dr. Gregory Levitin told TODAY Parents. But the stains typically return over time, said Levitin, director of Vascular Birthmarks and Malformations at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City.
"In about 10 to 15% of cases, the skin not only darkens, but thickens and enlarges causing soft tissue changes," Levitin explained. For these patients, he recommends reconstructive surgery to restore the skin to a normal size, contour and appearance.
Bowering, who is an ambassador for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation, will continue to educate people about differences.
“It breaks my heart to think of anyone being mean to her. But I see her now, and she is such a confident little girl and she isn’t afraid of anything,” Bowering said. “I am sure she is going to get through anything life throws at her. She is more than her birthmark. She is her own person, and she is not different to anyone else.”