My Baby Does Not Look Like Me – The Reflections of a Mother of a Masala Child

Holding my daughter for the first time

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.

Nasreen and Daddy look each other over

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.

Here she is at 3 months, she changed so much over time

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.

Mommy and daughter

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!

Family photo, age 6 month

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.

Most recent family photo on the way to Gurdwara

My beautiful girl is a mixture of both of her parents

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21 thoughts on “My Baby Does Not Look Like Me – The Reflections of a Mother of a Masala Child

  1. Beautiful, honest post. My daughter initially looked like me but now she looks more like my hubby. Sometimes I think people at the park assume that I am a nanny because of her `tan` and also my age.

    • Thats funny about the nanny thing. I was once working as a nanny to a sweet little blond haired blued eyed girl and I would bring Nasreen with me to play with the other girl and they would assume that the other girl was mine and Nasreen was the child being watched. lol

  2. I look forward to the day where we might be blessed – and even though I have not gone through it yet, I can understand ow those thoughts did go through your head regarding looks etc.
    I have a niece who is half Punjabi, but she does not look Punjabi at all really. Funny what role genes play isn’t it?
    One day undoubtedly I will be in your shoes, and facing motherhood alone is a scary enough prospect, despite the fact I know I want it so badly. But I will keep reminding myself, that I am proud of this mixed masala family, as despite the fact so many westerners say they are not racist but instead very accepting – they stare at couples or families like us. Yet I have the strength and acceptance, and such an open mind, to take this on, like you and others here. That is something to be proud on. We are the real example of multicultural Americans, Australians, etc. And two cultures and traditions to follow – double the richness! Bugger the rest!. LOL. 🙂

    • I agree we have alot to be proud of in our Masala couples and families.Being a mother to a Masala baby is really a beautiful thing as well. Its funny in my experience I have never really had many american people staring at our mixed family,. This could be because I have always lived in very diversified areas ( California and Michian have tons of Indians) or maybe typical “american” are not as out spoken. Nasreen has been mistaken for being adopted or not being mine, but not much judgment beyond that. Its mostly the Indian people that stare and talk and sometimes say rude things. Like saying “Oh your daughter would have been so beautiful if she had fair skinned like you”. Which is really hurtful and I dont stand for any of that. I always stand up and say I love her beautiful coloring and skin. I will not raise a self hating individual. I have always loved how she looked.

  3. Your daughter looks precious and beautiful – reminds me of my older one when she was her age (she is eight now).

    My story is similar to yours in terms of the inter-cultural layout. I, the dad, am the Indian in our relationship. Your post resonated with me at many levels – just that it’s flipped the other way round in our case. It’s a mixed bag, actually. My older one looks like a perfect mix of both of us but the younger one (she is barely three years old), looks totally like my wife’s “mini-Me”. She’s a carbon copy of her. Nothing Indian about her when it comes to her looks.

    True story: one day we were all out at the supermarket, busy doing our weekly grocery shopping. My wife was about 10 yards ahead of me and I was behind pushing the stroller with the baby in it but turning away to a different direction as I wanted to check something out. At this moment, a “friendly” woman (also a shopper) came running to my wife and helpfully “warned” her that it looks like that man over there is taking your baby away. She did not use the word “stealing” but she might as well have. Now, THAT hurt, It still does. Nothing like a bad brown baby stealer to drive home the point.

    • Thanks so much for sharing its so funny how genetic plays out. A friend of mine has one child that looks 100% indian and one that looks 100% european, ppl assume they are step siblings. My sisters kids are half african american and favor that look. When my sister was giving birth the okder child was down stairs in the hospital with her Caucasian grandfather and she started screaming let me go I want my mommy and having a toddler fit. Well that looked really bad. Security was called and everything. That must have been really shocking for some one to think you were taking your own child. I bet it would happen if I was a man lol. I think most ppl assume I adopted a little girl from india lol. I was once hanging out with my sister and daughter and we were playing around and linking arms while walking and people gave us funny looks I think they thought we were a lesbian couple that adopted lol Its funny now but as you know it can hurt as a parent. Wanting to connect with our child and ppl questioning it is so painful.

  4. I’m loving your blog more and more Tina 😀
    You are talking about people belonging to different races having kids and I say my son is more than a replica of me. The only difference being that he’s a boy 😀 and my husband feels a pinch of it till date :p
    Though the personality matches with his father 😀

  5. Hello,
    I just started reading your blog y’day
    and i m already luving it 🙂
    my daughter is now 9.5 months old n she looks exactly like my husband
    sheZ a photocopy of my husband….everyone who meets her says d same “u r Jr. XX”
    n u knw wht….with every such complement my luv for my husband increases….donno d connection
    but i always wanted my baby to look like him
    n i so happy tht she looks EXACTLY lik him 🙂
    My mom says if u luv ur husband more than u luv urself then ur baby looks like ur husband 🙂
    which is very true 😀 😀

    • I am glad you like the blog so far. Awww 9 months is such a great age! My favorite age actually! I also glow inside when I see my husband and daughter together when they look so much a like. Its like wow! I just got sad at the beginning when people thought she was not my child. Being a different race makes the difference look more extreme. Now I appreciate the fact she looks like her dad.

  6. People – especially strangers – who comment on the looks/lineage of a child should be dealt in either of the 2 following ways: 1. If you care about offending the offender in question, with a deep tone of equal measure sadness and condescension say, “You are right! Poor me!”. 2. If you do not care about offending, laugh out load and say out loud, “Someone finally got it!” and watch their reaction.

    Whenever anyone has commented that our daughter looks more like either of us parents, my stock response is “She looks like BOTH of us”. End of discussion.

  7. I love what you have written and I especially love how you came out of your insecurities. It’s not possible for a lot of people to do so. You have a beautiful little girl by the way and she’s going to grow up to imbibe a lot of you, as is wont of daughters. 🙂

      • I look like my daddy sat on a xerox machine and I got popped out 🙂 But the time I dress up in all my im-a-woman finery, i look a helluva lot like my mum 🙂 Don’t bother about any nasty comments. Your lil one is an angel and she is beautiful!

      • Someone once told me that when you are expecting, your baby tends to be a lot like what you are looking at. Hence, they tell mommies-to-be to do nice stuff, watch nice stuff, etc. At an ultrasound, a friend’s baby was seen to be sleeping in the same position her husband does! We all did girly shrieks when she told us coz it was KEEYOOT!

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