When I was a little girl I never really gave much thought to what kind of mother I would be or how I would parent. All I knew was that I would be a mother and that I was going to have a daughter. She was going to have little brown curls and big brown eyes and she was going to look remarkably like me.
Well, that didn’t happen.
First, I had a boy. I had never really imagined having a boy when I was little (but let me say having a son has been the most delicious surprise of wonderful). But what has also been quite surprising is that this son of mine is blond with deep blue eyes. When he was born, I actually commented that you could see whales swimming in them for they were the color of the ocean.
I have a slightly olive complexion, dark brown hair, and hazel eyes. My son does not look like me. I know he is mine. I was there when he was born. But at times I joke that I feel like I am the nanny. It makes sense to look at my husband. He is blond and his blue eyes are what hooked me on our first date. “A little Jay,” everyone squeals when they see them together.
There is a theory that babies usually tend to look like their fathers at birth so that they know that they are theirs and among certain animals so the fathers won’t eat them. I admit there is a part of me that was waiting until my son grew out of this “theory” of looking like his father and started looking like me. He hasn’t.
My best friend tells me she sees me in my son. She is the only one. She says if you forget about the coloring, that his face, his expressions are mine. And I look at her when she tells me this, wanting to believe her, needing to think she is right, knowing she is stretching the truth.
But why this need to feel connected through appearance? Why is there this need to connect ourselves to our children, to our parents, to know our place within our families? Why when I look in the mirror am I comforted by a little splash of hazel throughout my brown eyes? Because I know that my late father had one brown eye and one green eye. I need that splash of green to be his. I need to know I carry him around with me.
I was sitting with my mother and mother-in-law recently in a diner in New York City. My mother-in-law pulled out a baby picture of her son, my husband, and we all commented at the similarities between him and my son. Then my mother started in about blond cousins who were fair from the old country. And it felt slightly like a claiming of. Which clan did he belong to? I stumbled as I said what I said, but it was something like, “You know the next one may not look anything like any of us.” Then I paused, struggling a little, “and we will love him or her just the same.” It felt like a command.
We were all quiet for a minute, but they knew what I meant.
As I sat there eating lunch with them, I was suffering through my second miscarriage in only a few months. I am hopeful the doctors can figure out why my body is not holding onto pregnancies, so that I can have a successful one. But I don’t know if that will be the case for sure. But what I do know is that I want another child. I want my son to have a sibling. And while a little Rachel with little brown curls would be delightful, I am open to adoption if they cannot figure it out.
I do not know what the answer is. But I know that we will always study the faces of those who came before us looking for a little understanding at this miracle that is creating a life. But creating a life is different from forming a life.
I have a good friend who just adopted a baby. She is white and her son is black. She cannot speak of him without tearing up. He is soothed when placed in her arms. They do not look alike, obviously, but she is his mother. He is her son.
I get why we look for the resemblance, to see ourselves in someone else is a link, a connection to history and to a future. But whether my next child has little brown curls, or big blue eyes or if they are birthed by someone else and their features are a complete surprise to discover and wonder about each and every day, they will be my child. Having a blond-haired, blue-eyed child, visiting my friend’s new baby, I have learned now that it does not matter if my children look like me as much as how they look at me.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.