Here, Marianna Bowering, 26, tells the story in her own words...
Squeezing my hand tightly, my hubby Corey never left my side.
‘She seems to be stuck,’ the midwife said. ‘I think it’s time for a caesarean.’
It was our first baby and my labour wasn’t going as planned. Nodding, I held back tears as they wheeled me into theatre.
Will she be okay? I stressed.
But my worries soon washed away when our girl’s cries echoed around the room.
‘She’s beautiful,’ Corey, 26, smiled.
Opening my arms, I was overcome with joy as she was gently placed on my chest.
Her gorgeous brown hair and rosy chubby cheeks were perfect.
Speechless, I brushed her hair with my palm, admiring my angel.
‘Angelica,’ I said, naming her.
Wheeled back to my room, Corey and I cooed over our bub.
But her rosy cheeks were changing, growing darker.
A deep purple shade had formed, covering both her eyes and spreading down her right cheek to her chin.
Maybe it’s just from labour, I thought, remembering she’d been in a difficult position.
Then I realised.
‘I think it’s a port-wine stain (PWS),’ I told Corey – a birthmark.
Shortly after, doctors came in to examine Angelica and confirmed it was a PWS, a discolouration of the skin caused by a malformation.
‘We need to run some tests,’ they said, explaining a PWS is often a sign of a whole list of issues including development delays, seizures and – because the stain was covering her eyes – glaucoma.
‘She’s so tiny,’ I cried. ‘Please don’t be anything bad.’
My heart racing, we anxiously waited for the results but thankfully, within hours, Angelica was given the all clear.
‘She’ll need constant eye check-ups but it seems she’s one healthy little girl,’ the doctor said.
At home, Corey and I continued to fuss over her.
But every time we went out, people would stop us in the street.
‘Aww,’ they’d say, looking at her birthmark. ‘She’s still gorgeous.’
Still? I thought, angrily.
‘I know she is,’ I’d reply in a huff.
I was so upset when people commented that despite her birthmark she was still a pretty baby.
‘Her birthmark doesn’t take away from her beauty – it adds to it!’ I told Corey.
So, I made sure that every day I told Angelica her birthmark should be shown with pride.
‘You’re beautiful,’ I cooed. ‘Your birthmark makes you uniquely you.’
But I wanted to do more.
I wanted to show people there’s no shame in a PWS, and I wanted to share her with the world.
When Angelica was two months old, I started a public Instagram account, @angelica_rose2018, and we had mini photoshoots.
‘Smile for Mummy,’ I said, pulling funny faces behind the camera.
Giggling away, my beautiful girl was a natural!
But between all the gushing, supportive comments I got from my family and friends, hate-filled comments from complete strangers lit up the screen.
Did they push her face onto a skillet? one typed.
Poor thing, another said. What’s wrong with her? Don’t play with boiling water, they went on.
‘How can people say such things about a baby!’ I cried to Corey.
Heartbroken, I stopped posting photos online.
Carrying on with life, I continued telling Angelica how beautiful she was, but I worried about people bullying her when she was older.
Then one day, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a notification on Angelica’s Instagram page.
Instantly, my heart skipped a beat – but this time it was nothing to worry about.
It was a lovely message from a clothing boutique.
We think Angelica is adorable. Would we be able to share her image on our page?
Of course! I replied.
Within days of her image going up, she got thousands of likes and positive comments from all over the world. And soon other boutiques were messaging.
Could we send Angelica clothes and you can upload pictures of her in them? they asked.
At that I paused.
Remembering the hateful messages we’d received, I was overwhelmed by her instant fame.
‘Don’t let these people stop you from teaching Angelica the beauty of differences,’ Corey reminded me. He was right.
So I agreed, and pretty frilly bottoms and fuzzy coats arrived for her.
Slipping into outfit after outfit, Angelica giggled.
Sprinkled among the lovely comments there were still a few nasty ones, but I didn’t let them get to me.
Now, I make it my mission to raise awareness of the beauty in birthmarks.
I even got the birthmark awareness symbol tattooed on my back but I made sure it matched my girl.
‘Can you please put a red love heart on her cheek?’ I asked the tattoo artist.
When people ask about it, I tell them it’s for my daughter. She wears her heart on her face.
With May being birthmark awareness month, I am sharing my girl’s differences with the world because they’re what make her unique.
Celebrating her first birthday a few weeks ago, all our guests drew a red heart on their faces, just like my girl.
Angelica’s already teaching the world that differences should be embraced and that makes her even more special.