Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Ties That Bind

The Peanut is the spitting image of her father. Same eye shape and color, same complexion, same round head. I joke about how I don't know who her mother is, since she doesn't look a thing like me.

And when I make those jokes, I wince, because a little more than a year ago I didn't know whether I would ever have a child with a genetic connection to me, and that was breaking my heart. I truly believe that it would have made no difference in terms of how much I love my child or how I parent her if she had come to us via adoption or an egg donor. Yet, at the time we were considering these options, the possible loss of that genetic link felt like a pretty brutal narcissistic injury.

Some of my desires and fears in this area stemmed from my mother's experience. When my mother found her five birth siblings after years of searching, we were all amazed at how much she was like them. Despite having grown up in two very different families, on opposite coasts, my mother and her birth relatives shared not just a physical resemblance, but similar tastes, gestures, vocal intonations, even hobbies. (Who knew that mah jongg was genetic?)

In the eleven years since, we have all remarked on and rejoiced over those similarities. We have celebrated the genetic ties that bind us together and make us a family despite our lack of shared history.

And now there's a new kid in the family, one who shares my DNA. Who knows what genetic traits she has inherited from me? I certainly hope not a propensity toward obesity, diabetes, ovarian or breast cancer, and it would be nice if she were spared the nearsightedness as well.

I have no idea whether she will come to resemble me in any way. At any rate, at least right now, she doesn't look like me.

The weird thing is, that is totally ok with me. When I look at my daughter, I don't find myself searching for myself or my husband. I find myself gazing at a unique individual. She is completely and only herself. She looks like Gabby. Which is exactly as it should be.

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