Robert Hoge’s mother thought he was such an ‘ugly’ baby that she refused to look at him. In fact, she refused to take him home with her. That moment shaped his life, but not in the way you might expect. And hearing how Robert has redefined what it means to live a life being labeled ‘ugly’ and ‘disabled’ is truly inspiring!
Mom Doesn’t Want ‘Ugly’ Baby
At the time when Robert was born in Australia, pre-natal ultrasounds were nowhere near as common as they are nowadays. So, his mother had no advanced warning that her fifth baby boy would look radically different as a newborn.
“My mother had four healthy children before me,” Robert explained, “and to not have some shock when a child is born with some medical issues would be a surprise.”
Robert was born with a large tumor in the middle of his face, and both of his legs were mangled. In hearing a description of how her son’s appearance from her husband, Robert’s mother refused to look at her baby. When it came time for her to go home, she decided to do so without him.
“I wished he would go away or die or something,” she wrote in her diary.
It’s the kind of admission you’d expect to be devastating to Robert’s self-esteem. Perhaps even something he’d spend a lifetime trying to overcome.
But it had quite the opposite effect! In fact, it’s become an integral part of Robert’s story and identity. God blessed him with incredible wisdom that he’s now using to inspire others.
A Change Of Heart
Robert’s mother started visiting him at the hospital regularly but still couldn’t bring herself to bring him home. She even told his sister, “He is so ugly.” But gradually, she began working through the issues in her own mind that were keeping her from loving her baby.
One morning, the family took a vote on whether or not baby Robert should come home to live with them. His four siblings unanimously voted “yes.” And that was the day Robert became part of the family.
Robert’s mother used a little blue diary to document her struggles in accepting and managing her son’s differences. Though the brutal honesty written on those pages is heartbreaking for most of us to hear, as a child, Robert felt quite differently. He regularly asked his mom to read aloud to him from her diary.
And it helped mold him into the courageous and inspiring man he is today!
“I didn’t really feel hurt by my mother being initially reluctant to take me home. It was like a movie that has some sad parts in the middle but has a happy ending,” he explained. “I really appreciated how honest and frank my parents were with me.”
In fact, his mother always felt her initial rejection was an important message for all to understand.
Don’t Give Up
Robert underwent some of the most advanced facial reconstruction surgery Australia has ever seen. When a reporter met with the family to do a story, he recommended leaving out the part about Robert’s mother not wanting him at first. But she insisted it be part of the article — that it was extremely important for others in similar situations to hear.
“And she said ‘no, no it’s good because this is going to happen to other women and they should know that this is a natural reaction’.”
Certainly there are those who have an immediate connection with their baby, regardless of any deformity or medical complications. But for some, it’s a completely traumatic experience. Robert’s mom wanted those people to see hope in her story rather than shame. To understand it takes time but is completely possible to move past the shock to acceptance.
A Special Bond
And rather than being hurt by his mother’s reaction, Robert understood it with the type of grace that can only be described as divine.
“She saw her son lying in a cot with a big tumor, as big as a newborn baby’s fist in the middle of his face,” he explained, “Eyes at the side of his head, deformed legs, and I can’t imagine how upsetting that must have been for her at the time.”
And in her commitment to overcome such powerful emotions, Robert saw love.
“There should be nothing wrong with a newborn baby. It should be a wonderful moment where you can say, ‘look my child is perfect,'” he said. “When a child is born every parent is owed that, and so my mother’s reaction I think was quite natural. You know – shock, disbelief, anger, rejection, and then working through it slowly.”
What would have been damaging for many, Robert used as motivation. He found the strength to accept his differences, but also the realization that he is not defined by them.
Robert has lived boldly, never allowing his differences to hold him back. And his story is inspiring for us all because he had to learn to accept himself for who he is — something each of us must do regardless of appearance or physical ability.
“Everyone’s uglier than they think,” Robert says. “Everyone’s more beautiful than they think, too.”
Married with two children of his own, Robert has worked as a journalist and a well-respected political advisor. But now, he encourages others as a disability advocate, and uses his story to inspire with the release of his memoir titled “Ugly,” — what he calls “a beautiful story about one very ugly kid.”
How We Look Doesn’t Define Us
While some people dislike the title, Robert says he genuinely agrees that he is ugly by society’s standards, and has no problem describing himself that way.
“We should stop trying to convince kids that their appearance doesn’t matter by pretending that differences in appearances don’t exist,” he says. “Kids have a whole range of appearance, they look different and that is OK. We should not pretend that everyone looks the same because they don’t.”
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And Robert raises an important point. Appearance is just one piece of the picture. Yet, far too often it’s the part that gets the most attention. He says,
“How we look is part of who we are, we can’t hide that. But it does not define all of us. That is what I tell kids. The should not try to pretend that they are not who they are. They are also defined by the sports they like and the books they read and the other interests they have got; not just by how they look.”
h/t: Daily Mail
Featured Image Credit: Mater Children’s Hospital