Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ellie's Family

Both of my daughters are so beautiful to me; I can happliy sit and look at them for hours. Ada is a classically beautiful child; people on the street tell me so. (More on that later.)

Ellie is just as beautiful, but in a completely different way. She is so different from me: her skin is so fair, and is missing the yellow pigment that underlies my own. Her hair is light, where mine is dark, and her eyes - her eyes! - are the most amazing, clear, bright, beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen. My eyes are warm brown, with flecks of green and gold, nothing like hers.

My face is pretty traditional; people are always telling me that they know someone who looks just like me.

But Ellie's face is so unexpected. She has these flat planes to her cheek bones, and these beautifully tilted eyes, that look so exotic when combined with her unexpectedly fair coloring. The effect is - to me - mesmerizing.

Surely every child deserves a mother who thinks she's the most beautiful child in the world, and has no cognitive dissonance applying that superlative to each of her children at the same time.

I have a friend who once talked about using an egg donor to conceive a child. Both of my daughters are genetically my own, so I can only imagine how that must feel. I feel like I have a small window into that world, however. Perhaps we each do: our children might be genetically our own, but they're also half other, our spouse's family.

And for me, with Ellie's Down syndrome, there's another peep hole in the wall. Ellie is obviously my daughter in so many ways. She is as much a part of my family as I am. But, when we're out somewhere with other people with Down syndrome and I'm noticing all the similarities between her features and theirs, it's always felt a little bit like she belongs to this other family as well to to mine, to me.

Surely parents feel that way as their children grow up and make decisions on their own, beginning to live their own lives. Like when I rebelled and dated a Republican for three years.

But different, too, because I've always felt this way, from the moment in my pregnancy when I learned about Ellie's trisomy 21. I brought a daughter into this world, into my family, but into another family too, one I can visit but never truly belong to.


brooke said...

Sarahlynn! I LOVE how you describe Ellie and her other family! I can't seem to figure a way to explain just the sense of -- you've taken this piece (am I saying that right) of Ellie that many people see as being a detriment, and really hit the nail on the head with the gift that it is.. I mean, I don't see it as a detriment.. agh. I'm trying to be sensitive, but I don't think I'm accomplishing my goal. Anyhow, she does have this other family and what a great gift for her. She gets to belong to it, you don't, and what a gift for her. She gets yet another family who truly understands a side of her that you can't. Yeah!

Seasonal said...

What a lovely post! I too can sit and look at my children for hours and admire all the wonderful and beautiful things about each. My son has the most amazing eyes, blue/gray/green...and so direct and clear! My daughter, she has one of my dimples and these curls to her hair that just make me want to play with her hair all day. Delicious!

I can understand, to some extent, the 'other' family that Ellie belongs to. For my kids, they are both mine, and they share the same sperm donor. To that effect, they are part of another family that I am not privy to as well. I have some contact with other half siblings' families, and in that sense we can relate to each other, but I am a visitor to that world as well.

Since becoming a parent, my view of 'family' has become very different than it was pre-kids in so many ways.

Jessica said...

When you rebelled and dated a Republican....*snort*!

Sarahlynn, this is beautifully poignant and I can certainly vouch for your girls' beauty.

Sarahlynn said...

Thank you, Brooke and Seasonal and Jessica!

Jessica, my writing teachers and colleagues assure me that my habit of sticking sore thumbs (like that Republican line) into my pieces is jarring and unpleasant. But I can't seem to help myself, I do so enjoy it.

Brooke, I understand, and you are being very sensitive.

Seasonal, yes, I was thinking of familes like yours specifically. And then, upon rereading, I kicked myself sharply for my unintentionally gender-specific generalizations. Argh.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful. I can relate to those similarities too. My favorite place on Miss E's face is that little flat spot between her eyes, the place most people have a bridge.

Seasonal said...

Saralynn, don't kick yourself over any generalizations! I know that you are one of the 'good ones' and I certainly didn't take anything away from your post that wasn't good and positive. :)

Canada said...

Such a wondeful post.

I have a friend whose sister is deaf, and she has described the very similar feeling, that her sister is a part of their family, but also has this whole other culture in which she is immersed, that the rest of the family only gets glimpses of.