I watched Tangled with T the other night. We got to the part where Rapunzel is reunited with her parents, and I immediately started tearing up. I get so damn emotional sometimes.
When Rapunzel’s mother looks at her, she recognizes her daughter right away, even though it’s been 18 years. Sure, the animators did a great job making Rapunzel look pretty much exactly like her mother. But it still made me all mushy inside.
It reminded me of something I thought about a lot during those days T spent in the NICU.
When T was born, he was taken immediately to the NICU. I saw the flash of a baby passed between nurses, but I didn’t see his face until several hours later when the nurse loaded me up in a wheelchair and pushed me down the hallway.
I wondered if I would recognize him. I wondered if I would know that he was mine, just by the way he looked. I wondered if that was a part of the maternal instinct.
When I saw him, his eyes were covered by felt “sunglasses” to protect his eyes from the phototherapy lights. His face was bruised from his quick delivery and his skin was red. He looked just like any other baby, except a bit smaller.
I thought about this a lot during those days I spent curled up in a chair with him in my arms amongst the steadily beeping monitors in the dim lights of the NICU. I was reminded of those stories you hear about babies being switched at birth. I looked at this tiny person, and I didn’t recognize him. He didn’t look like his dad or me – he just looked like a helpless little baby.
As T started to grow, I noticed he looks a lot like my older brother. But he also looks like himself. I recognize him from the baby I held those five long years ago.
But if he had been separated from me for an extended amount after birth, would I still recognize him as my own? Would he recognize me immediately, as Ashley Judd’s son did in Double Jeopardy?
If someone from the hospital were to call and tell me that my child had, in fact, been switched with someone else’s baby at birth, I wonder how surprised I would be.
I believe you can find similarities in people when you are looking for them. My aunt and my mother are routinely mistaken for sisters, when the fact is that they were married to brothers. My aunt adopted her daughters, but people still tell them how much they look like their mother.
I look at T, and I know he’s the baby I brought home from the hospital, because I have been around to watch him grow. If that hadn’t been the case, I don’t feel like I would still know him as mine.
The things in him that remind me of me are all behavioral. Which goes along with the nature vs. nurture argument. Is his impatience a learned behavior from his mother, or was he born that way? I’m pretty sure he learned his I-don’t-like-to-have-my-hands-dirty thing from me, but what about his intellect? Was that because I refused to speak in baby talk when he was young, or is he biologically programmed to speak well and demand it from others (yes, he corrects his friends who say ‘frew’ instead of ‘threw’)?
When I was younger, I used to think I looked nothing like either of my parents. I wrote stories as if I had actually been adopted, or switched in the hospital with another baby shortly after my birth.
Now, I am at an age where I look in the mirror and it’s suddenly very clear that I am my mother’s daughter. It’s obvious that I’m not finding the similarities because I’m looking for them. They’re really there.
Maybe that’s what it will be like when T gets older. Maybe he’s still too young for me to see my features in him. Or maybe he’ll just always look like my older brother. Or maybe he’ll get older and look more like his father.
Looks aside, I still feel that maybe there is a small part of the maternal instinct missing from me. If T had been taken from me at birth and returned on his 18th birthday, would I know him immediately – as Rapunzel’s mother did?
I guess I can’t really know until I see what he looks like when he’s 18.
What are your thoughts? Do you look like your parents? Do your kids (if you have some) look like you? Are you as weird as me and get emotional over Disney movies? Have I asked enough questions? Do you like hot chocolate?