Saturday, March 17, 2007

The GREATLY-FEARED.....mongolian spot.

I always end up with sparks shooting out of my ears whenever adoptive parents' cyber-discussions turn to the topic of Mongolian spots (look here for the technical-speak; good picture at bottom of linked page). I'm tired of them being talked about as something to be concerned about, something to cover up; a fear-inducing blemish that can't fade fast enough. You know, I'm not sure exactly how Korean parents feel about their children's Mongolian spots- perhaps they, too, hope for them to fade quickly for all I know. Regardless, there's something just not right about white adoptive parents bringing children from racial backgrounds in which Mongolian spots are prevalent, into a country where it is more likely that someone will be ignorant about said spot(s)....and then wishing for them to fade away quickly so that the Mongolian spot(s) combined with the ignorance won't cause any trouble. Arrrrgh!

We white adoptive parents of children with Mongolian spots are advised to have these bluish-pigmented spots documented to the Nth degree (pics included) in the medical record. We are also advised to carry a copy of all this documentation with us AT ALL TIMES. In addition, we should show our kids' spots to all their caregivers (and anyone else who might ever glance upon their sweet little backsides), carefully explaining what a Mongolian spot is (so the ding-dongs we trust around our children won't report us for suspected child abuse immediately upon seeing the 'bruises'). Is this normal protocol in countries where the majority of the folks actually know what a Mongolian spot is? Is it normal protocol for people who are parenting their biological children? I detest the fact that this is even an issue. An accusation of child abuse is monumental, in and of itself, but if such accusation were to find its crux in such utter ignorance (sometimes more like stupidity) - well, that possibility just angers me to no end.

I'm a mandated reporter (of suspected child abuse). I understand the rationale for such laws, and of course I believe in measures that would reduce or eliminate child abuse. I understand that mandated reporters are not perfect, nor are they expected to make any sort of inquiry if they have minimal reason to suspect abuse - - I get that. But good golly, a Mongolian spot looks absolutely *nothing* like a bruise - right from the most cursory glimpse by the most untrained eye. So, regardless of the good intentions of the mandatory reporting laws, I don't think anyone who doesn't know what a Mongolian spot looks like should be allowed to be a mandated reporter. Child abuse damages children...hell yea...but so do false accusations of abuse...and so does being forced to bare one's backside to 'educate' all the ignorant madated reporters before they have a chance to report.

I have not completely followed this list of suggestions meant to protect myself from allegations. My son's doctor didn't say a word about the Mongolian spots when he examined him (as it should be, in my opinion - even the nurse's aide commented on them as a 'birthmark'). In fact he was so unconcerned about them that I had to ask him to document them in the chart, which he did - though he didn't seem to think it was truly necessary. And that is the extent to which I've gone to 'protect' myself. I figure that I'm helpless against determined ignorance, anyway (as was proven by the complete nutball that verbally and physically attacked an AP last summer when nutball noticed the 'bruised'-and-crying baby riding in a shopping cart at the local grocery store), so I don't spend my days and nights worrying about it. I understand why adoptive parents of kids with Mongolian spots might be concerned, even worried or fearful about being suspected of abuse. But for me it just doesn't jibe to have white parents wishing the spots away because they are surrounded by people to fear (other white people!).

I know this much: a Mongolian spot is an extremely common birthmark. It looks nothing like a bruise. The fact that measures are not taken to ensure that ALL mandated reporters know what Mongolian spots are, is unacceptable. My son is not going to bear the humiliation of Mongolian spot show-and-tell so that dumb people can oooh and ahh and cringe and gasp over him. In my workplace it is likely that soon enough, we will have inservices with updated information about the laws and discussions about mandatory-reporting scenarios. When that happens, I will be happy to present a session about differentiating Mongolian spots from bruises. I will never wish for my son's spots to fade quickly. However long they last (or remain prominent), I will not give my son any reason to think that he should be worried about or ashamed of this natural pigmentation which commonly manifests within people of his race.


At 6:54 PM , Blogger cloudscome said...

I have wondered about all the hubbub too. I never thought they looked anything remotely like a bruise, but then I thought it was just me and my kids. Maybe some times they do look that way? It's pretty obvious that they are birthmarks to me. It's just the horror that someone would/might think you were abusive I guess. And maybe also a little bit of the alien/exotic thing going on... they are a "different" race you know... strange that way... makes some of us uncomfortable? Even the name "Mongolian spot"... sheesh.

At 8:16 PM , Blogger MomEtc. said...

My dd has a HUGE Mongolian spot that covers her whole behid and back of her left leg. She also has some Mongolian spots on her back. It was never a big deal to me and truthfully I don't even notice them anymore.

And, I agree about them really not looking like bruises...they don't hurt like bruises. I don't know how they could be mistaken for abuse.

At 10:08 PM , Blogger Bek said...

I didn't realize this was an issue (I guess I don't read the right posts?). I cannot believe that a doctor would ever mistake one for a bruise... I am pretty sure they talk about them in med school.....

Wow. This is a new one to me (and I have two kids that have them....)

At 3:58 AM , Blogger Mom2One said...

A Dr. probably wouldn't, but at my son's daycare when he was an infant, they questioned me about his Mongolian spots which were, at that time, large and covered his butt and went up onto his back. I explained what they were to the workers and then got documentation from the Dr. and also information from respected reference sources (I'm a librarian) to give to the daycare director for future reference.

As far as the name, it has to do with the country Mongolia -- I know all of this because of the research I ended up doing ;).

At 6:23 AM , Blogger zoe said...

Bek - -

Thanks for stopping by :)

My point was more that APs are going nutso over something so ridiculous because a few bad eggs (who happen to be mandated reporters of child abuse) have paralyzed them with fear by making stupid accusations. And then you also have the general population who aren't mandated reporters but just want to do their good deed for the day and are very 'concerned' about the 'bruising' (think busy-bodies).

I don't know. Maybe I'm just seeing a certain portion of the AP population, but it sure seems like alot of people are pretty hyped up about all of this....when in reality there's nothing that can be done to protect against an accusation if someone is determined to accuse.

At 6:48 PM , Blogger art-sweet said...

Interestingly, my agency sent us tons of stuff to read about them before we went to visit our son - I guess they were afraid we would think he was being abused.

I agree that it verges on the insane.

At 5:55 AM , Blogger Third Mom said...

Hi, there, long time no talk! Thanks for raising this issue - and you are right, it amazes me that this is such a topic in transracial adoption circles.

Not exotic for me - I'm white, and I was born with a good-sized Mongolian spot right below my tailbone. I think if someone had told my Mom she had abused me because of it, she would have thought they'd lost their marbles.

At 5:45 PM , Blogger Andrew said...

being Korean myself, I can tell you that in our culture we regard the "Mongolian spot" as something that proves your Korean heritage (Koreans and Mongolians tend to be more bluish than the other Asians). Mine covered my whole back up to the base of my neck. It goes alway after a few years, though some people have little marks into their adulthood. As for Korean moms (and dads), no one gives any concern to it whatsoever. They might show more concern if the baby was born without said "birth mark."

At 8:27 PM , Blogger Roberta Rosenberg said...

I knew about them, wasn't concerned except to point them out to my kids' nanny and a baby sitter who might change a diaper.

I changed my mind, tho, and had them noted in my children's health files during my son's post-op for his circumcision. I was repeatedly asked by nurses attending him "why my son's backside had bruises."

These were RNs in a major medical center in the middle of a racially, ethnically diverse community in Maryland.

I had to spend 10 minutes educating the gals about mongolian spots.

Trust me, from then on, my kid's charts noted them.

At 9:23 AM , Blogger shilohsMum said...

I am a 48 year old caucasian woman who was yesterday diagnosed as having a mongolian spot on my middle back becaused of my raging hormones, due to being peri-menopausal. I initially went to the Dr saying I had an unexplained bruise on my back. They thought it was fungal and did skin scrapings but after 4 weeks, nothing grew in the petrie dish. Their conclusion so far, Mongolian Spot!

At 8:32 AM , Blogger laurie said...

I am a nurse in a maternity unit. I have worked with babies for 29 yrs. Parents and grandparents of color have asked me about the bruise on the baby. So I don't think even all people of color know about this. I do recommend these birthmarks be documented. And I have seen some that do look more like a bruise.
My understanding is the name Mongolian spot comes from the Mongolian race including Asians, Polynesians, Amerinds, Eskimos, in which this birthmark is prevalent


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