I fi­nally got my happy end­ing: From birth­mark baby to beau­ti­ful bride

Cody Holt en­dured years of agony be­fore she got her happy end­ing

Woman's Own - - HELLO & WELCOME -

Grip­ping onto my mum’s hand, I stood wait­ing for the green man on the traf­fic light. ‘Are you Cody?’ a woman stand­ing next to us sud­denly asked. I nod­ded shyly, bury­ing my head into my mum’s coat, des­per­ate to hide my­self and avoid the look of pity I knew I was about to re­ceive.

‘I helped fundraise for you when you were a baby,’ con­tin­ued the woman. With that, my mum stepped in, chat­ting away while I looked at the floor, em­bar­rassed.

I was only seven, and these types of en­coun­ters were com­mon­place, but they never got any eas­ier.

Cor­rec­tive surgery

In Au­gust 1992, I was born with a large, bur­gundy birth­mark that stretched across the left side of my face. Doc­tors told my par­ents, Theresa and Tony, that they could op­er­ate to re­move it, but that in most cases child­hood birth­marks cleared up on their own so it would be bet­ter to wait un­til I was six years old. Only as I grew, the birth­mark grew with me.

By the time I was eight months old, the mark had grown so dra­mat­i­cally that it had dis­torted the left side of my face, and started spreading down my wind­pipe and be­hind my eye socket. It was clear this was more than a skin-deep prob­lem. But with doc­tors un­able to ex­plain what was wrong, my par­ents felt com­pletely help­less.

Then, by sheer fluke, just be­fore I turned one, my mum was watch­ing a TV show about a doc­tor in Amer­ica who treated chil­dren with se­vere fa­cial de­for­mi­ties. Fran­ti­cally, she scrib­bled down his de­tails.

Mum was told surgery to re­move my birth­mark – if that’s even what it was – would cost £230,000. But with just one in­come from my dad’s job as an engi­neer, we didn’t have that sort of money, so they launched an ap­peal to raise it. Neigh­bours, busi­nesses and the lo­cal pa­per in our home­town of Corby ral­lied around to fund the treat­ment, and in­cred­i­bly, in a cou­ple of weeks, we had enough for my surgery.

In 1993, af­ter my first birth­day, we flew to Lu­cile Packard Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Stan­ford, Cal­i­for­nia for my first op­er­a­tion. It turns out we were just in time. Af­ter car­ry­ing out an ex­am­i­na­tion, the sur­geon told my par­ents that the mark was in fact a be­nign tu­mour, which could have blinded or suf­fo­cated me within a cou­ple of weeks.

I re­cov­ered from my op­er­a­tion, but it was only the start of 15 years of reg­u­lar trips back to Amer­ica for more cor­rec­tive surg­eries.

By the time I started pri­mary school, I’d en­dured six op­er­a­tions and al­though my face looked bet­ter, I still had ob­vi­ous scars. But they weren’t nearly as em­bar­rass­ing as the rep­u­ta­tion that pre­ceded me.

I hated it when peo­ple stared or asked my mum ques­tions about me. ‘Why can’t they just treat me like nor­mal?’ I’d cry to Mum.

‘I hated it when peo­ple stared’

Then when I started sec­ondary school in 2003, some class­mates started be­ing cruel. ‘Look, it’s Freddy Krueger!’ one boy taunted as I walked into the school can­teen at lunch, which made the oth­ers erupt into laugh­ter.

Their heck­les hurt and I re­treated into my­self even more, cling­ing to my friends from pri­mary school be­cause I was too shy to make new ones. I even started wear­ing make-up most days, and avoid­ing af­ter-school so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties

On­line dat­ing

It only got worse in my teens, when peo­ple started dat­ing and talk­ing about boys. Of course, I had crushes, but I con­vinced my­self no boys my age were ever go­ing to fancy me. Still, I craved to feel wanted and at­trac­tive, so when I was 17 I signed up to an on­line dat­ing web­site. I didn’t have the courage to re­veal my true self so, one af­ter­noon, I cov­ered the left side of my face with my long, blonde hair and took pho­tos from the right. I up­loaded them to the site and a cou­ple of weeks later I started chat­ting to Lewis, then 18. We spoke about col­lege and mu­sic and three weeks later he asked if I would like to go on a date. I did, but I wor­ried that as soon as he saw the real me, with scars smoth­er­ing the left of my face, he’d be hor­ri­fied. Still, I didn’t want to lead him on, only to be re­jected by him later so I de­cided to be hon­est. ‘There’s some­thing you should know about me,’ I typed in a mes­sage, one night. Then I told him to Google my name – there were plenty of ar­ti­cles about me and pho­tos of me as a baby be­fore my surg­eries, to tell him ev­ery­thing he needed to know. At first there was no re­ply and I felt sure I’d never hear from Lewis again. But 10 min­utes later, he mes­saged me back. ‘Wow, you’ve been through a lot. So, when do you want to meet up?’ He wasn’t put off at all and I felt so re­lieved, ex­cit­edly plan­ning what out­fit to wear. Be­fore our first date the fol­low­ing week, I smoth­ered my face in foun­da­tion in an at­tempt to dis­guise my scars. Even though Lewis wasn’t both­ered, it was more for my own con­fi­dence. We went for a walk by the canal in Le­ices­ter, and al­though I’d pre­pared my­self to an­swer hun­dreds of ques­tions about my de­formed face, Lewis didn’t ask about it once. I sud­denly re­alised that I was the one fix­ated and ob­sessed with how I looked, while Lewis couldn’t care less. I knew then that I had found some­one truly spe­cial.

New­found con­fi­dence

Just af­ter my 18th birth­day, Lewis and I moved in to­gether. He got a job as a re­tail man­ager in a shop in Corby, and I worked as a wait­ress. His love gave me con­fi­dence and brought out a new side to me – one that wasn’t afraid to show off my scars.

In 2013, I found out I was preg­nant, and Lewis and I were ec­static. Our son Jack was born that Septem­ber, per­fectly healthy and weigh­ing 8lb 8oz.

As happy as we were though, Lewis and I felt like there was still some­thing miss­ing. We wanted to get mar­ried, so we booked St Michael’s Church in Corby and in Novem­ber 2017, I slipped on a long-sleeved, fit­ted lace dress, and walked down the aisle to marry Lewis, in front of 30 friends and fam­ily.

As we posed for pic­tures af­ter, I ac­tu­ally en­joyed be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion, and my scars paled into in­signif­i­cance. On that day, I wasn’t ‘the birth­mark baby’ – I was a beau­ti­ful bride.

At our re­cep­tion, Lewis and I made a toast, an­nounc­ing a spe­cial sur­prise to our guests – that we were ex­pect­ing an­other baby.

Our daugh­ter, Grace, was born in May 2018, com­plet­ing our fam­ily and giv­ing me my happy end­ing af­ter years of heartache.

I didn’t have the eas­i­est start in life, but thanks to my amaz­ing par­ents, hus­band and chil­dren, I now know I have a happy fu­ture ahead of me.

‘I wor­ried he’d be hor­ri­fied by the real me’

Cody as a baby, with her mum Theresa. Right: Lewis and Cody on their wed­ding day

Be­fore Cody started pri­mary school she’d had six op­er­a­tions

Cody, Lewis, Grace and Jack

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