My daughter looks nothing like me. That's just
a fact. With her straight, dark hair and almond complexion, she is actually a
perfect contrast to my lighter features and curly locks. We look so different,
in fact, that strangers routinely come up to me and ask if she was adopted—a question I usually laugh off by saying, "That obvious, huh?"
It doesn't bother me that we look nothing
alike. If anything, I am in awe of those differences—my daughter is gorgeous.
I regularly joke that I never could have made one as pretty as her. But I
wonder sometimes how she will process those differences herself as she grows
older. What will it mean to her that she can't look at me and see the source of
her nose? Her mouth? Her eyes?
I was watching my friend's two children
recently, a 4-year-old boy and his 8-month-old sister. It was a beautiful day,
so I decided to take all the kids for a bike ride down to the lake by my house. I
got the two older ones into their helmets and then strapped the baby into an
Ergo on my chest and off we went.
We didn't make it a block before a woman
stopped us, cooing at the little girl in my arms and saying, "Oh, let me see
your baby! She's so pretty—and she looks just like you!"
I could only laugh as I shook my head and
said, "She's not mine." Then, pointing at my raven-haired toddler, I added,
"That one is."
Surely, at some point, she's going to wonder why it is that strangers so quickly pinpoint the fact that she didn't come from me.
The woman looked back and forth between my
daughter and I, seeming shocked and uncomfortable, before finally replying,
"Oh … I … The baby just looks exactly like you!"
For whatever it is worth, I think that sweet
little cherub I was carrying is the spitting image of her mother, who is
gorgeous, but doesn't look especially like me in any way. Other than the fact
that we are both Caucasian.
I couldn't help but wonder if this is,
perhaps, just one of those things people say when they see babies. If the differences between my daughter and me hadn't been quite so
obvious, would people have said it to us, if only because that's just what
Either way, the whole interaction reminded me
of a conversation I'd had with the same little boy I was now watching on his
bike, not too long after his sister was born. He had been explaining to me how
his sister had come from his mommy's belly, and then pointed to my daughter and
said, "Just like JoJo [the nickname he
gave my little girl in the hospital on the day she was born] came from your
His mom and I both laughed awkwardly and
exchanged looks, before she said, "No, JoJo didn't come from Auntie Leah's
belly. She's adopted, remember?"
He looked at us thoughtfully for a moment and
then said, "So where did she come from? Las Vegas?"
At that point, his mom and I both burst into
laughter. Her sister, another very good friend of mine, had needed to pursue
IVF to get pregnant. She traveled to Las Vegas to do so, and we all still joke
that her little boy came from Vegas.
I wish it were as simple as, "A penis and vagina came together, and then I carried you in my belly until you were born."
It suddenly became very clear that answering
the, "Where do babies come from?" question has become so much more complicated.
I talk to my little girl about adoption all
the time. We have children's books on the subject, pictures of her other mama
hanging in her room and an album full of pictures of the three of us together.
There will never be a point in her life when being adopted will come as a
surprise to her—it is something she has simply always known.
But, she's only 2. And I wonder how much of that
origin story she actually understands. If the confusion of my
friend's son, two years her senior, is any indication, then not much. Because, no, she didn't come from my belly.
Or Las Vegas.
Surely, at some point, she is going to have
all these same questions. And she's also going to wonder why it is that
strangers so quickly pinpoint the fact that she didn't come from me.
In truth, that's the only reason those
comments from strangers ever make me cringe at all. I don't mind them
personally; I'm proud of how we came to become a family. But I don't like the
idea of my little girl one day feeling singled out because of that commentary.
My daughter has another mommy. She grew in her
belly, where she was loved and cared for over the course of a 9-month period
when I didn't even know to hope for her. A week before she was born, a chance
encounter and a last-minute adoption plan that had fallen through had her other
mommy asking me to be the one to take and love this little girl. And through
fear and tears in my eyes, I said, "Yes." It's the best decision I've ever made. I
was there when she came into the world, the first person to touch her, talk to
her and hold her in my arms. And the three of us sat in that hospital
together, overwhelmed by the love and loss permeating the room; a mix of
emotions that could never quite be explained in words.
So how do I ever go about actually explaining
it all to my daughter in a way that makes sense?
I wish it were as simple as, "A penis and
vagina came together, and then I carried you in my belly until you were born."
But the dynamics are more complicated than that.
And no one will ever come up to us and say,
"She looks just like you!"