While my firstborn didn’t start resembling me until she was about eight months old, she didn’t exactly look like her father either. When my son was born, however, it was like I birthed a mini-version of my husband. I didn’t exactly feel great about that, like most moms who realize their babies look more like their partners than them. My husband was definitely proud. I felt let down.
I had hopes of passing down only our favorite qualities to our kids. My husband’s eyes. My hair. His athletic ability, my parallel parking skills. However, there is no sure outcome when you combine two people’s genes and if parenting has taught me anything, it’s that expectations and reality are two totally different worlds. Expectations: my kids are adorable versions of the most beautiful parts of us. Reality: you get what you get and you don’t get upset.
A few hours after my son’s birth, when the look of a gnarled tomato gave way to a plump and perfect infant, I scanned him head-to-toe for any sign of myself. Nothing. His nose and mouth and the geography of his features on his face were undeniably akin to his father’s. As his hair grew in, it was like his dad’s. As his baby fat started melting away, the sinewy build of his father was noticeable. Everyone says his sister looks like me, and I don’t see it. I guess I should hold that thought close, though, because I will never hear it said about my son.
I’m not that upset about it, anymore, just a little dismayed. I still remember what it felt like to hold a newborn who looked nothing like me, and everything like my partner, and here were some thoughts I had in those moments:
"How Is This Possible?"
It boggled my mind. How could this little boy, made up of equal amounts of DNA from me and my husband, totally favor him in appearance? That isn’t even mathematically sound. I want some scientific data to back up this strange occurrence, because it really feels like a fluke.
Then, of course, I usually end up looking around at other babies and realizing they look less like their moms than their dads, too.
"I'm More Than A Little Disappointed About This"
It actually hurts to look at your baby and see no signs of yourself. We were literally linked during pregnancy and I just assumed that the connection would manifest itself in a resemblance to me, no matter how slight. To peer upon my baby’s face and not see any sign of myself was, at the very least, unsettling.
"This Is Absolutely Not Fair"
Feeling bummed gave way to anger. This is what I get after 42 weeks of pregnancy, labor and delivery? To look at my baby’s face and see a miniature version of my husband? Now everyone thinks it’s the cutest thing that my son looks just like his father. Other than my hospital gown, mesh undies and engorged boobs, there was nothing that indicated the baby in the room was mine. Put me in street clothes and you might have mistaken me for a very tired, well-endowed aunt.
"Did They Give Me The Wrong Baby?"
Kids get switched at birth, so maybe that’s what happened? This may sound outlandish but for any mom who’s delivered in a hospital, it’s a real concern. I actually had a nurse wheel in someone else’s baby when I moved into recovery after giving birth to my first child. Luckily, it became immediately obvious when she attempted to match up our hospital IDs and realized the kid wasn’t mine. But what if they had messed up our tags, or put the wrong ID placard in the bassinet? All these squished faces in identical hospital blankets look sort of the same, right? OK, now I’m panicking all over again just thinking I might have been raising someone else’s daughter for the past eight years. Moving on.
"Nobody Warned Me About This"
Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so burned if I had seen this coming. I didn’t know to ask, and nobody I spoke with mentioned, that many people perceive newborns to resemble their biological fathers more than their mothers. A little heads up might have helped me deal with the confusing feelings of not having your biological child look anything like you.
"I Feel Really Left Out"
I bristled at the heaps of attention my partner received for having his visage mirrored on our son’s face. I should have been more gracious about it; It kind of is a magical thing that our kids look like the person who did not carry them or push them out in the world. Isn’t it nature’s way of making sure the male partner sticks around to co-parent? How could a guy abandon a baby who looks just like him?
"Maybe He Has My Ears, Right?"
On day two of staring at my infant, who looked nothing like me, desperation was setting in. At this point I’d take any kind of resemblance, even if it was with my least favorite body part. I remember wanting to claim just a piece of my baby, to assure me there was no question I had a special connection and that I did more than just house a gestating fetus for nine months. I wanted physical proof he was mine. I’m still waiting for it, as he continues to grow into the spitting image of his father. So I’ve learned that bits of ourselves manifest in our kids in ways that aren’t always visible. My son and I will forever be bound in our mutual love of cheese, so I’ll just cling to that.