When Ruby Ashby was born it was love at first sight.
A smiling, happy baby with a bubbly personality, her parents thought she was perfect.
But they were concerned that as she got older she would face problems other children didn’t have to worry about.
Ruby was born with a large mole on her head, covering almost a quarter of her tiny face and reaching down into her eye area.
Dark brown in colour, it is also mostly covered in hair.
“We’re just calling it a birthmark – we had the tests and it’s all clear for now but who knows what could happen in the future,” Ruby’s mother Natalie Ashby, from Towradji on the NSW south coast, says.
“When she’s older she won’t want to have it either.”
Ruby is the one baby in 500,000 born with the condition, called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus.
In January she will have the first in a series of operations to remove the mole.
“I’m getting a bit nervous actually, it’s all starting to feel real,” Natalie says of the plan.
Ruby’s first surgery is on January 12, and will be to create excess skin for surgeons to use to replace the mole-covered area.
A silicone balloon will be inserted under the skin and gradually inflated to stretch Ruby’s existing skin so that doctors will have enough skin to work with.
This process might need to be repeated three or four times.
To remove the mole from Ruby’s eye area, doctors will need to take a skin graft using the soft, sensitive skin behind the little girl’s ear.
All up, the process could involve seven surgeries, and take four years.
The Ashbys don’t want Ruby to be bullied at school, or to have to worry about the mole as she grows up and so they made the decision to get it removed now.
At just seven months, Ruby doesn’t yet understand what her future holds, but Natalie says she thinks by the time the surgeries are over her little girl will be able to comprehend what is happening.
“I look at her and think she has no idea what she’s about to go through. There’s another lady I’ve spoken to, her daughter is four and she’s had it done and she sort of understands,” she says.
“I hate when people say it’s not a necessity and I think for her it is. I spoke to a man in his 20s who had had one removed when he was a boy and he said it was the best thing his parents could have done.
“We’ve done our research, we’re not taking this on lightly. We think it is the best thing for her.”
The Ashbys want to give Ruby the best care, but all in all the surgeries Ruby needs this year will cost about $30,000.
“We were a bit shocked by the cost,” Natalie says.
So Natalie’s sister started a Go Fund Me page to help the family meet the cost. It has raised over $12,000 in just seven days.
“We are so overwhelmed by the support – people have been amazing.”