Adult female with unilateral Microtia
What your child with Microtia might not be telling you…
I want to share with you, my experiences as a child and teenager, living with Microtia. Your child might not feel the way I did, but they might, so some of my words might be beneficial.
I was child with Microtia in the 1980’s and a teenager in the 1990’s, on a small island. I didn’t know anyone else with a little ear, so for me, growing up, looking different to all my peers, was difficult. Reconstruction wasn’t an option, as the results were poor. BAHA’s were also not around then. So, prosthetics were the way forward.
I suffered with low self-esteem as a child. Even my prosthesis didn’t look very realistic. I felt like a freak. I always felt like, ‘why did I have to get it?’ ‘it’s not fair, why did my sister get away with being pretty and normal, but I didn’t?’ Hearing was never an issue for me, I was born half deaf and only knew that way of life. I just adapted to it accordingly, and still do. Like many Microtians of my generation, I have a degree, have had decent jobs and do pretty much what hearing people do. For me it was always more about looking different.
It was much harder as a teenager to come to terms with looking the way I did. I was able to keep my ‘bad ear’ a secret because my hair covered my ear, but with hormones rife and the quest to find one’s identity, as a teen, I struggled with the way I looked. My mum always told me I was beautiful but I never believed her. It was hard not being able to wear my hair back, or walk outside on a windy day, or swim, for fear of my secret being discovered. I hated that I had this deformity and dreaded people finding out about my ear and their reaction to it.
Looking back as an adult, I think my insecurities stem from my own mind rather than how children might have actually reacted to my ear. Yes, children can be cruel, but I was crueller to myself. I’d look in the mirror and cry and call myself ugly and genuinely believe it. Just because I was different and didn’t conform to what society viewed as ‘normal’.
Don’t get me wrong, I did have a happy childhood. I had a wonderfully supportive family, great friends, the odd boyfriend and I was a pretty little girl, but at the time I didn’t see that I was.
Another thing that I think is important for parents of girls with Microtia, know is, that they could have an underdeveloped breast, (I know two other microtians who have this too.) As a teen I didn’t associate it with my condition, it was just, yet another thing to be resentful about! As soon as I was able to, I had breast augmentation, just to even them out. As it turned out they were PiPs (non-medical grade silicone which could be detrimental to the host’s health), so were taken out. It was a scary lesson in life, which made me even more determined to love the way I was intended to be, and not try and change myself, to be ‘normal’. Because, normal is ME and what I was born with (or developed as a teenager!) So tell your teen that as part of their condition, there might be parts of them that don’t develop as much, but that’s fine, it’s just part of who they are.
I don’t know what it feels like to be a Microtian of today or even a boy with Microtia, so it’s hard for me to address how they might feel, but I would say, it’s up to the individual to love themself. They need to accept that this is the way they were made and deal with it. There will be days when children are nasty, as a parent it will be break your heart, but as long as you are there with open arms and listening ear/s they will be just fine. They might find it tough as a child or teenager, but that’s okay. Let’s face it, most teens do find something to get emotional about. But they will grow up as adults, being loved, loving themselves, and others, and their little ear will seem insignificant. They will have more important things to concentrate on. What I’m trying to say is, just listen to your children when they need to vent or cry or just need a cuddle and over the years you will see them cope with their Microtia with more and more strength. And the guilt you feel – don’t. We don’t blame our parents, we might be angry at the world occasionally, but we only love our parents and appreciate the love and support they give us.
This wonderful community of supporting parents and adults living with Microtia, is so encouraging and fills me with hope for the next generation on Microtians – thank you!