Monday, May 13, 2013

Family Resemblance

Toby on left, Christer at the same age on the right.

At the 20 week ultrasound, the tech snuck us a fancy 4D picture.  Instead of the outline of baby’s silhouette, we saw his little face, waving his hand at us.  I immediately remembered my older son’s baby face.  I told anyone who would look at the little printout, “He looks just like his brother.”

At birth the doctor lifted Max up over the curtain, and I got the same quick view of him that I got of his newborn brother.  Red and wiggly, face scrunched up, and then he was gone.  I was curious to meet this new little life, but also reminded of that other birth four years earlier.  “He looks just like his brother,” I said proudly, “but he has more hair.”

In the days following Max’s birth and diagnosis, we had such wonderful support.  Afterwards, several friends confided that they didn’t know what to say, that they were worried they would say the wrong thing.  Quite honestly, at that point, my emotions were all over the place, and nearly every comment we got—from “Congratulations, he’s adorable” to “I’m so sorry”—spoke to something I was feeling.

But if you want to know the best thing anyone said, it was the early intervention evaluators who came to the house a month later.  They looked at Max, looked at Toby’s picture on the wall, and declared, “This must be his brother, I can see the resemblance.”

Max shares physical characteristics with the other people out there with 47 chromosomes.  But he is also ours.  He is a part of our family, and he shares characteristics with us.  He’s got blue eyes, like the rest of us, and the same sandy hair that will probably get darker as he ages.  He’ll pick up Christer’s grin or my wrinkled brow, and just the other day he gave me a grimace that he certainly learned from his brother.  I don’t want to erase the evidence of Down syndrome from Max’s face, but I do want for him to be seen for all of the other things that he is and will be—starting with being seen as a member of our family.

Before Max was born, Christer posted the picture above on Facebook.  It generated lots of chatter.  The resemblance is striking, and amusing.  I look at the picture now with some trepidation – I wonder if we’ll ever be able to put Max’s pictures up to ours, or to others in our family, and comment on the resemblance.  And so I spent some time with Toby’s baby photos.  I was proud (and yes, a bit relieved) to see that my babies look an awful lot alike.  Max is many things, but first of all, he is ours.

Toby on the left, Max on the right.

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