Over the past year or so, a number of people have reminded me that their kid looks nothing like them either. I know this is meant well, so it has never upset me. But it’s never quite been the comfort that the person intended it to be either. I’ve thought about this for a long time and have figured out why not. My child not looking like me is nothing to do with narcissistic disappointment that I haven’t replicated a ‘Mini Me’ — it’s a reminder of the journey.
– OnFecundThought • January 19, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a fellow mom via egg donation about our experience. It was interesting to learn that not only did she never see a photo of her donor – not even as a child – but she was okay with that.
I’ve come to understand that it’s fairly typical for some clinics (they tend to be on the East Coast) to limit the amount of information about donors; whereas my clinic on the West Coast not only shared photos of our donor, her son, and our donor as a child, but also a fairly lengthy questionnaire she completed, along with the results of her genetic and psychological screening.
Being able to pick our donor based on what she looks like was important. I wasn’t looking for a supermodel, just someone who looked like she could be in my family. I wanted someone I could relate to and who shared similar interests. How the hell would my RE – a man I met only once – be able to pick someone?
The thought of blindly being matched by a stranger fills me with something akin to horror. For me, not having control of who replaced my genes, but also surrendering that choice to a doctor who knows only a limited medical history – certainly nothing important about me that makes me ME – is not something I could have agreed to. My conversation with this other mom was illuminating. It really does show how different we all are!
The conversation came about because this mom said V looks just like her dad, which she does; but I responded that I can also see a lot of Nellie in her too. It’s like Nellie’s facial features, especially her eyes, have been painted on DH’s skull! And, to the other mom’s surprise, I said I like seeing Nellie in my daughter and was glad I know what her son looks like – and he looks nothing like V.
My comrade said she would find it hard to know what her donor or her donor’s kid looked like. We chuckled at how we are the polar opposites on this. For me, it’s kind of like my contribution. I know, I carried V to 37 weeks – a pretty lengthy contribution, and equally important as the sperm and egg that fused together – but seeing flashes of Nellie soothes the pang when I witness others cooing over who their baby looks like more.
Maybe only other third party / adoption parents can fully understand this, but: I’ve stopped remarking on how much someone’s kid looks like them. It’s hard for me to resist because I come from a family where we all (even my parents) look alike – I’m a photographic morph of my parents, and my brother and I have been mistaken for twins. So I stop myself from saying how the baby has his daddy’s eyes or his mama’s hands, because I am envious that I will never have that experience. If you’ll forgive the psychobabble self-analysis, I guess it’s because in my family’s likeness gave me a sense of belonging, so the inverse is that by not having that with my own kid it taps into a fear of not belonging.
Which is logical, but ridiculous.
First, of course V and I belong together. Whose mother is hers, if not me? Whose daughter is she, if not mine?
Second, we none of us belong to each other. We are individuals, not objects. But I am aware of how so many of us have parents who live vicariously through our achievements or connections. One friend, born into a family of doctors, briefly contemplated not going to med school until she succumbed to familial pressure. I studied languages at university because I was never particularly academic and it seemed the ‘easy’ choice – but looking back, I think I cultivated French and Spanish because these were skills my mum envied and therefore encouraged.
V is musical and verbal (two qualities I relate to) but also athletic (she likes balls and is very active), which is not something that I relate to at all. I want my daughter to be free to be whoever she is and I want to support all of her interests, even the ones which hold zero appeal.
V is also a terrible sleeper. She hates naptime and still, at 13½ months, does not sleep through the night. Some
days nights I wish I knew why. How much easier it would be to know my aunt or brother had been poor sleepers! How reassuring to be told the approximate age when they did begin to sleep through the night. Alas, there is no such light at the end of the tunnel, proverbial or otherwise. It’s just who she is.
Tonight I’m wondering if one of the advantages to not passing on your genes means it’s easier to see your child for who they actually are and not who you want them to be.