By Anne McGuire
A week ago I saw what must be the sweetest face I’ve ever seen. It was the face of my first nephew, who is due to be born in a few months – the first of his generation in my immediate family. A couple of weeks ago, my sister sent a generic video clip about Baby’s development, and the thumbnail image gave me pause. It showed the face of a sleeping unborn child. I must have seen hundreds of images like this already, but given the context, it affected me differently. As obvious as it may sound, it suddenly hit me that my nephew has a face. A week later we learned that Baby is “he,” and I was able to see the ultrasound of his face, which already has adorably discernible features.
I studied a bit of human embryology in college, and I’ve known many pregnant women. Even so, I continue to find myself in wonder as I see pictures of the newest members of my friends’ families on Facebook or meet them face to face. Can it be that these… whole, complete, entirely new people were just there, hidden inside their mothers? Now you see them, now you don’t (or vice versa, that is). Of course the answer is “yes,” and yet I find myself trying to wrap my mind around this incredible reality when faced with it in my own life.
Maybe it has something to do with an increased awareness that comes with age. As a child, the facts of life were very simple. A mother is pregnant, and then when the baby’s ready, he or she comes out. Done. Simple. Yet now, as I see various friends and family meet their future spouses, fall in love, get married, and have children together, the miraculous nature of these children softly beckons me to wonder and awe.
It also continues to surprise me how much children are “their own people” from such young ages. Of course there are similarities in looks or temperament between children and their siblings and parents. But even if they look like they could be identical twins with their parents’ younger selves, they aren’t their parents. They aren’t their siblings. They are 100% unique individual people with funny little quirks, preferences and mannerisms.
A colleague recently told me about the entertainment his two-year-old son likes to provide for himself, by imitating and re-enacting, with surprising nuance and perceptiveness, what he sees when the family goes out. He isn’t taught by his parents or anyone else how to do so. As a person with his own interests and fascination, he acts on his own accord.
It will be a while before my nephew parades around the house and commandeers bystanders to join him in his “make believe.” Even the few months until I get to meet him face to face seem too long. In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with wondering what characteristics and personality traits will reveal themselves over time. But regardless of how the mystery of this little person unfolds, I’ve fallen for him. In fact, I already had fallen for him, even before seeing his face. Picture or no picture, he’s been there, just waiting to show us who he already is.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Life Issues Forum February 14.