Posted by: Madhavi CN | July 28, 2011

“Your baby looks like you!”

My cousin adopted a lovely baby girl. It seems someone in the mall admired the 6 month baby and with a friendly smile and commented that she looked exactly like my cousin! Now that sort of ‘the baby looks so much like her mom/dad’ remark is very common. Some are great at finding the resemblance in a just-born! Most say it, to make the parent proud. Some say it to show how good their observation skills are, while some do it because they do not have anything else to say while ending the interaction.

The father’s side finds the similarity with someone in that side of the family. The mother’s side does the same with its respective members. The proud mother and father either go with the family’s opinion or give out an individual opinion. But finally, the similarities must be found. Should the baby always look and behave like someone? Obviously yes, says biology and the chapter on genetics in it.

But doesn’t that create complex or comical situations in an adopted child’s case?

Let me take the case of my friend. I have known her for over 25 years now. My friend has been privately adopted way back in the late 70s, which means that she did not come through an adoption agency but through someone who her parents knew who had a friend who knew someone who had a friend that knew someone who wanted to give away one of their kids for adoption due to financial reasons. The reasons unfortunately were always ‘financial’ especially when it concerned a girl-child (that is a different fact that can be discussed some other day).

So here was my friend, living with her parents (for her, they are her real parents and she is unconcerned about the biological ones) enjoying all the attention and love that every child deserves. Having been adopted when she was 8 months made her wonder about why she did not have any ‘baby-baby’ pictures while all her friends had. Whenever she wanted to know how she was born, her parents always had the same story ready: ‘they prayed every night to God for a child who was just like her and one night they got a call from the doctor that the baby was ready in the hospital for them. So they went to the hospital and got her!’ She loved the story as it was her own ‘creation’ story and it had more to it than ‘just went to the hospital and got me’ kind of stories that all her friends related.

In the seventh class, when our teacher was talking about genetics and how it influences how we look and behave to a great extent. The teacher unwittingly made a remark that biological parents love their natural children because they see lot of resemblance in them. She got pretty disturbed (oh come on, by that time she knew she was adopted!) and raised a point in defense saying that she was adopted and yet her parents love her the most. I assume the teacher made the appropriate correction to her offhanded remark; I do not remember it much. But my friend says that it was the toughest moment in her life – she was unsure of her parents’ love. 

She took the ‘big question’ home. Lucky for her, her mother was a thoughtful woman who patiently explained how while all others are limited by their ‘known’ gene pools, she had unlimited possibilities with her unknown gene pool.  My friend still remembers how she imagined the potential contributors to her genetic pool – a mathematician, a sitarist, a danseuse, an astronaut, an actress…the royalty?! Oh, her fantasies made her life exciting, adventurous and a mystery forever!

Now my friend has a biological daughter and she is thrilled to find that her 2 year old has thick curly hair and dimpled chin just like she does. Not that her adoption made a significant difference to the relationship with her parents, but then she says it feels wonderful to see her first genetic relative. As she watches her daughter grow, she finds herself enthralled more and more in the magic of genetics.  

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