When my wife, Heather, and I decided to have kids we spent a lot of time trying to imagine what they’d be like. Would they be tall or short? Light-hearted or serious? Root for the Giants or Dodgers? Of all the things we wondered, though, the one we were confident we knew the answer to was what eye color they would have. That’s because I have brown eyes, and since brown eyes are dominant over blue eyes, we figured that meant Heather was destined to be the only blue eyed member of our family. We were soon to find out, however, that determining a baby’s eye color is a lot more complicated than that.
Our first child, Madeline, surprised us by being born with blue eyes, but many people told us that her eyes would likely darken over the next few months as her eye pigment developed. I figured they were probably right, but as time went on Madeline’s eyes remained a beautiful sky-blue.
How we ended up with a blue eyed baby wasn’t really such a mystery when you look a little closer. A baby’s grandparents play a significant role in determining his or her eye color, and since my Dad has blue eyes, that meant that three of Madeline’s four grandparents were blue eyed. While brown eyes are dominant over blue, the fact that Madeline had a majority of blue eyed grandparents helped tip the genetic scales toward blue.
Despite all of that our next baby, Annabel, was destined to be my brown eyed girl. She was actually born with blue eyes (albeit ones with more of a blue-grey tint), but as was predicted to happen with her sister, Annabel’s eyes darkened as pigment developed.
Last year Heather became pregnant with our third child (a boy it would turn out), and we were very curious to see if he’d have blue eyes like Madeline or brown ones like Annabel. We figured it was more likely that he’d have brown eyes (we were still stuck on that “brown eyes are dominant” thing), but that doesn’t appear to be the case with our now three-month-old James. Interestingly, from the very beginning James’ eyes were bright blue like Madeline’s and not blue-grey like Annabel’s, and all signs point to them staying that way.
If you told Heather and me in the beginning that we’d end up with two out of three kids with blue eyes, we’d have been shocked, but that goes to show that eye color isn’t as easy to predict as some believe. The eye color of a baby’s grandparents has a lot to do with it, as does the unpredictable nature of genetics which never mixes a couple’s DNA in the same way twice. In the end we love all of our children’s eyes, and now wait to see what other eye-related traits we might have passed on to them like our dreaded near-sightedness!