Most moms-to-be spend a good part of their 40-week wait pondering what their baby will look like. Will he have my complexion? My eyes? My nose? Sometimes the answer is no with a capital "N."
Vanessa Coppes of Staten Island, New York, was surprised her baby looked nothing like her. "I thought for sure he'd come out with black hair," says the Dominican mom to Tomás, now 2. "But I gave birth to a blue-eyed, red-headed baby who clearly took after his father of German and Irish descent. I thought, ‘I gave birth to my father-in-law.'"
The disappointment hit Coppes hard because her father had passed away shortly before she became pregnant. "My brother had his daughter, and she has traits from my father," she says. "You long for that."
This emotion isn't surprising, says Joanne Stern Ph.D., author of Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life. "A woman may feel kind of left out or separated. She's the one who has gone through everything to bring this human being into the world and then she is on the outside of the family like a surrogate mother."
Coppes pushed past her delivery room dismay to focus on her son. She even joked about him being adopted, which helped, especially when others asked inappropriate questions like "Is he yours?" Stern says humor is key, suggesting that if someone asks, "Is your baby adopted?" to just laugh or say "Goodness, no. Do you want to know what I went through to birth this baby?"
Patience is also a good strategy. Stern says moms should know that a physical resemblance can take years to develop and isn't the only thing that makes family members appear similar. And, of course, you'll continue to feel closer to your baby as he connects with you in his own loving way. "As kids grow, more physical attributes may come out, like the way he holds his mouth or the way his nose grows," Stern says. "Also, they begin to mimic your mannerisms, speech patterns, facial expressions."
As for Coppes, she says she's already noticing small characteristics of her own in her son. "I've been looking through more recent pictures, and I'll notice his nose is like mine," she says. "I just say the next one is going to look like me!"