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A woman born who was branded an 'alien' while growing up for being born without a belly button is now proud to embrace her 'uniqueness' by wearing crop tops.
Jess Kaufman was born with an omphalocele - a rare birth defect where some of a baby's organs develop outside the abdominal wall during pregnancy and so have to be put back inside at birth.
It happened because the 30-year-old's umbilical cord wasn't cut externally as normally happens at birth, and so she was left without a belly button - which unfortunately for her meant a lot of bullying growing up.
However, Jess - who once had a belly button piercing just to fit in - now proudly shows off her stomach and 'no belly button piercing'.
Jess, from Kansas, US, said: "I started noticing that it was different really early and kids were mean. They would ask why I didn't have a belly button and call me an alien or say 'ew'.
"I was really self conscious about it so I would cover it up and only wear one piece swimsuits. It made me hyper-aware of my body.
"People were always telling me I could get surgery to fix it when I was older which made me think that if my body wasn't perfect I needed to 'fix' it.
"But as I got older and started on my health journey around 21 years old I started to be a lot more accepting of it and realised it's part of my story and who I am.
"Now I wouldn't change it even if someone gave me the opportunity to."
Jess was adopted as a baby and so doesn't know much about how her birth defect came to be, other than her biological mum experiencing pregnancy complications.
She eventually visited a doctor when she was 18 who explained that belly buttons come from cutting the external umbilical cord whereas her abdomen had to be closed, leaving her without one.
She was told she was lucky to be alive, but spent her childhood and teen years feeling insecure about her smooth stomach - especially when pals started getting their belly button pierced.
However, her older brother and piercing apprentice, Taylor, came to the rescue with a DIY surface piercing where a belly button would normally sit, allowing her to feel included in the trend.
Jess said: "I laid down on the kitchen table and he did it and I've had it ever since, I love it.
"At the time it made me feel like I was fitting in in my own way but later in life I realised I don't need to 'fit in' or be self conscious about it and I have control about how I feel about it."
A mum to eight-year-old Mitchell Kaufman, she's always been open to him about her stomach and hopes this will teach him to be a more accepting person than most people she has encountered.
Jess said: "My son's always been curious about it. He asked me why I didn't have one so I explained it and he asked if it hurt and I told him it didn't - that was all he was concerned about.
"I've never presented it as a bad thing to him and have always been very body confident around him, so he's always been really kind and accepting."
One in 4,200 babies have Omphalocele, but it's rarely talked about. Jess now raises awareness of the condition via her social media profiles.
Jess said: "I've had a lot of moms of babies with it message me asking about how it's manifested in my adult life, so it's cool to connect with other people that have it.
"It's easy to let it make you insecure but if you accept who you are you will attract the people who are meant to be around you."
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