Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Genetics are a funny thing

(WARNING: children discussed)

Having conceived our sons through the use of donated ova, I have never had any expectation that they would resemble me in any way.  Sure, I imagine that through the years of their growing up, while they are strongly under my influence, they may well acquire certain traits from me, like patterns of speech and behavior, but anything innate will come from either MM or the donor.

(On a related side note: I've thought often over the past months since our sons have been born how raising children conceived through donor gametes will be, in some ways, an unintentional longtitudinal study of how "nature vs. nurture" plays out.  Fascinating.)

Far from being upsetting to me, I find this fact rather freeing.  I think there is a natural human tendency to look at our children and think "Oh, that's just like me" or "That's just like my sister/father/mother/grandmother/cousin."  Because I have zero expectation that anything about my sons will come from my genes, I feel I am more able to enjoy discovering them for themselves, rather than as a reflection of my relatives or myself.

I've long observed that there are some families where all the children seem to resemble one parent, families where some of the children resemble one parent and other children the other parent, families where the children look like a mix of the parents, and families where the children look nothing like either parent.

From the day they were born, both MJ and AJ have strongly resembled MM and his father.  (I often tell them that they are "little M____s".)  As a newborn, MJ looked almost exactly like MM as a newborn, apart from the fact that his hair was/is brown while MM's was/is blonde.  Their hair grew in similar patterns, even though the colors were different.  He even acted the same way at birth: alert, eyes wide open and looking around, while only a few minutes out of the womb.

AJ's little face was so skinny at birth (because, at 34 weeks, he hadn't had time to lay down any fat deposits yet) that it was hard to see a resemblance to anyone.  In an odd way, he reminded me of my father at first.  Not because he necessarily looked like him, but there was just something about looking into his face that was remeniscent of looking at my father for me.  (I was the only one who thought this, BTW.)  It did look like he had MM's hairline and forehead, and I thought he'd have MM's ears once his were no longer smooshed from positioning in utero.

As AJ has grown and his face has filled in, he has looked more and more like MM.  And my MIL dug out some baby photos of my FIL, and AJ looks nearly identical to his grandfather at the same age.  (My FIL, unlike MM, had brown hair as a baby.)  MM bears a strong resemblance to his father, and when you look at AJ and MM in profile, there is a strong resemblance there as well.  Everyone who meets the boys comments on it.

So where are our donor N's genes in all this?  At this point, it's hard to tell.  Both our sons have brown hair, but MM's father is a brunette, so even that is not necessarily attributable to her.  AJ's eyes have changed hue ever so slightly so that they look like they might eventually be green--like N's--but MJ's eyes are deepening into a true blue.  (I've read, though, that eye color can still change up to age 3, so the jury is still out on both their ultimate eye colors.)

Our boys have very different builds: although they are close in length, MJ weighs about 2 lbs more than AJ.  MJ is stocky (and a little chubby) while AJ is "long and lean."  But there again, I don't necessarily think that their builds at not-quite-6 months of age are what they will be when they are older.

In terms of personality and temperament, it also seems a bit early to be able to come to any conclusions.  In the beginning, MJ was more demanding and needy, but that has changed over the past couple of months.  Now AJ much more often demands to be held or has a "meltdown" if a need (or desire) of his is not immediately addressed, while MJ is (usually) content to wait.  (It also helps that MJ is very physical and would rather be rolling around on the floor than be held unless he is sleepy.)

Still, I do notice certain resemblances in personality and temperament to MM as well.  AJ seems not to like change, and he shows signs of being a picky eater.  (Both traits of MM's.)  MJ is very high energy and active, much as my MIL has said MM was as a child (and still kind-of is).

One thing I will say, honestly: the fact that both boys physically resemble my husband has made dodging questions about their conception easier for me.  Naturally there are a fair number of people in our lives who do not know that they were conceived with donor eggs.  Now, when those people notice that our sons look nothing like me, they just assume that MM's genes beat mine out, apart from the brown hair.  If one or both of our boys looked exactly like the donor, it might raise more questions.  (Although, I will also say that I purposely picked a donor with enough physical resemblance to me to avoid that possibility.)

It will be interesting to see how our boys develop over time.


  1. I have friends that did DE and both kids (who are now 9 and 6) look JUST like their father. But I think it's probably one of those things that even if they looked just a little like their father, that would be what stuck out. Unless there was something that really stuck out I think people are more likely to see similarities rather than be able to pick out the differences.

  2. Yeah, this is interesting.

    My daughter recently observed that her brother looks NOTHING like us. She's my clone. He looks like the baby picture I have of the egg donor. Exactly. Except she has brown eyes as an adult, and he will probably remain blue-eyed.

  3. My daughter looks nothing like either me or my husband; in fact, we couldn't tell whom she looked like until about 6 weeks when we realized that except for her nose, she's the spitting image of my father-in-law.

    At 8 months, I still can't see anything of me in her. It's strange holding her and standing in front of a mirror and seeing how different we are.

  4. I wonder/think about the same things as you...will be interesting. So glad we're in this "experiment" together!!

  5. I think it's easy to see my husband in our daughter because I don't know what our donor looked like. Little G definitely looked like him when she was a baby, but now that she's a toddler she has come into her own. I have even had people tell me we look alike. Who knows?! I think people see what they want to see.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.