Many people who come to adoption after infertility already know that there is a grief process involved once one realizes that one will not have genetic children. I never considered this as a big deal during the first several years of trying to adopt. My genes were not all that great, so what’s the big deal? My husband and I are not related by blood, yet we love each other more than anything! So what if our children won’t have the same DNA as us?

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to notice things and reminisce and develop a whole new appreciation for my family. Recently, I had passport photos taken. When I looked at the finished product, I realized that I recognized my mother, aunt, grandmother in the woman looking back at me. It wasn’t necessarily anything specific about my features that I could pinpoint. The face just looked familiar, but not in the way that my reflection looks familiar in the mirror.

And then I sighed at the thought that the buck stops here. Whatever resemblances I may be picking up on in myself will not get passed on to my children. It’s not that the features are so great; it’s that they’re familiar. There’s a history and positive association there.

If a given feature is foreign to us, give it time. Once we establish positive associations with the new feature by spending time with people who look a certain way, it will become second nature to us as if the new feature had always been a part of our family history.

I spent the first 20 years of my life with no particular affinity to Latinos. Then I met my husband. Now, even though I may not be able to relate to all of their cultural nuances, I am fond of the physical features people share with him because they are familiar to me. I look into my husband’s face, and I see the bone structure of a Central American Indian. I look into his eyes and I’m reminded of Mediterraneans. All of a sudden, through my positive associations with my husband, my fondness has grown for several segments of the population, even though they look nothing like me.

I think the same thing will be true of our children. While their features may not be similar to mine or my husband’s, they will nonetheless become endearing precisely because they will be the features of my children. I don’t love my relatives because of their features; I love their features because they belong to people who are important to me. And that’s all that is important, anyway.