When my husband and I first started dating, neither of us had gone looking for an inter-racial relationship. It was something that just happened by fate. As a result we took every “issue” and adjustment as it came along. We mostly joked about our cultures. He would say “ HAHAHAHA (in a fake evil laugh), An Indian finally has power over a white after hundreds of years of oppression, go get me water!” . Then I would respond “ I don’t know if I can do that if I have to walk 50 paces behind you”. This same approach of “dealing with it as it comes “was true when I became pregnant with our daughter. I didn’t think too much about the specific ramifications of having a bi-racial child. I was more excited about just the idea of having a baby. We planned the simple things like giving her a name that was meaningful to both cultures and families. We knew that we would raise her both as a Sikh and a Christian, because we both believe that God is universal and not exclusive to any one religion. We were also certain that we wanted her to speak Punjabi and English, which we knew would take some effort on our part. In all honesty I didn’t think too much about what she would look like. Yeah sure I wondered if she would have my eyes or my husband’s hair and so on and so forth. I never thought how I would feel if she didn’t look like me.
I remember the day that my daughter was born in every detail. She was ten days late and it took three days in the hospital being medically induced to finally have her! All 8 pounds and 8 ounces of her. I remember holding her the first time. It was all so surreal, and I felt in shock. I held her wondering how I should feel, because at that moment I felt disconnected with reality and even my own body. When they gave her to me she was crying so I started to rock her instinctively and she calmed down. I looked at her face. She had a lot of thick black hair! More hair then I had ever seen on a newborn. She looked 100% Indian. In all honesty she looked just like my husband. Like a replica or clone of him actually. I searched and searched her face to find something that resembled me or my family, but I could not find even one feature. At one point I commented to my husband that I thought our daughter had my eye shape and he jokingly said “no, that’s mine too”. It hurt when he said that. I don’t blame him, he was proud of the fact that his daughter looked like him, but a part of me was really hurt that she didn’t look like me at all. I was a new mother and all these fears started rushing into my mind. “ What if people don’t think she’s my daughter? ”, “What if kids in the school make fun of her and say that’s not your mom?”, “ What if she feels no connection to my family because she does not look like them?” I became overwhelmed with all these fears.
I think everyone wants to see themselves in their children. I think this is especially true when the children are of a mixed race couple, because the features can be so different. I knew my daughter was mine, I gave birth to her, but I wanted everyone else to see it too! It’s silly and petty I know, and I hated myself for feeling that way. I had a healthy beautiful child and I was worried that she didn’t look like me. I was ashamed of how I was feeling. So many people came to our hospital room complimenting Nasreen. Everyone loved her thick beautiful hair. Every time someone complimented her I felt guilty for taking any credit for it. I got in the habit of responding to compliments with “ yep she looks just like her daddy”. I felt like I had not contributed anything to her beauty. I was consumed with feelings of guilt and shame and sadness over this silly issue. I pushed the feelings back and focused on being a mom to my daughter, as we started the process of breast feeding and diaper changing.
The day we went home from the hospital my husband had gone down to the car to bring it closer so I would not have to walk very far. As we prepared to leave a nurse carried my daughter in her car seat, and I walked alongside her. We took the elevator down and stopped at one of the floors to let people in. A family walked into the elevator and started cooing and awwwwing at Nasreen in the car seat. They looked at the nurse holding her, who was Hispanic and had long beautiful dark hair, and said “ awwww your baby is so beautiful!” The nurse motioned to me and said “thank you but the baby is hers”, motioning to me. The family said “oh sorry, she must look like her daddy than. She is a really beautiful baby”. I thanked them but inside I wanted to cry. My fears were coming true already!
As the days passed my emotions leveled out and I stopped thinking about the fact that my daughter did not resemble me. I enjoyed being a mother and I had fallen in love with my little girl. One day I was looking at her little toes, because they were so cute, and I noticed something familiar. Her toe next to her pinky toe was shaped a little funny, with a little concave where the pinky toe fits in perfectly. My toes were exactly the same way! I had finally found something tangible that linked me physically to my daughter! I felt a total sense of pride at that moment. I know it was just a funny shaped toe, but it fulfilled something in me. It proved that I had contributed to the making of my daughter. I understood logically and scientifically that it takes two genetics to make a child, and that she was 50% my husband and 50% me. I had finally found a physical attribute that proved this. Its silly but this discovery gave me the confidence to laugh when people told me that my daughter looked nothing like me. When Nasreen was nine months old I was shopping in a store and an older women stopped in an aisle with us and said “Wow your daughter is so beautiful. Was it hard to adopt from India?”. I laughed and said “nope, I didn’t adopt. She came out of me! But my husband is Indian”. The women laughed as well and apologized. I was happy that I had overcome this insecurity.
I have come to realize that Indian genes are very strong. I run a parenting group on facebook for mixed Indian couples with children. We have about one hundred members and the vast majority of the Masala (mixed) children look Indian. They have attributes from the other parent, but for some reason the Indian features are just more prominent. We have discussed many things in that group, and one of those things is our children’s appearances. I now know that I am not alone in my feelings of having wanted my child to look like me, but at the time I felt alone. Part of the reason I am writing this post is so that future parents of mixed raced children will know that its Ok to feel this way. It’s not wrong or selfish. It’s natural to want to see the physical connection between you and your child. I also encourage readers to realize that a new mother or father can be sensitive to comments about their children not looking like them. I was already struggling with my own insecurities and did not appreciate comments that seemed to confirm those fears. Its best to keep all comments positive.
As Nasreen has gotten older, she is three now, her hair has lightened to medium brown and her face has a changed a bit and now resembles both of us. She still looks very Punjabi with a little splash of something different. I think that she is gorgeous, but all moms say that about their children. Having a mixed family is really a beautiful thing. I feel like our family is so blessed to be so full of rich traditions, holidays, and diversity. It is never a dull moment in our home.I would never trade it for anything.