How our DNA tests connected a stranger to her mother
The year is 1975. A mother gives birth to a baby girl in Whanganui, New Zealand. Two weeks later, the baby is adopted out and moves 18,530 kilometres away to live in the Netherlands. Forty-six years later, she takes a DNA test.
When I gifted my daughter a DNA test kit for Christmas 2019, little did I know just how much this purchase would change the life of a stranger living on the other side of the world.
For some years, friends had been encouraging me to hop on the booming bandwagon of DNA testing. It would, they said, help me learn more about where my ancestors came from. They would enthuse about the discovery of biological relatives they never knew they had. And although I felt a tad curious about who belonged to our family tree, I was not interested enough to follow through with a DNA test. It was just a trend people latch onto, I thought.
But my adult daughter’s rather probing question, ‘are you sure you are my mother?’, and my lack of ideas for what to buy her for Christmas, set the DNA ball rolling. At first, I roared with laughter at her question. Of course, I was her birth mother. Every fibre of my being was part of her, and I told her so. But, although our banter was light-hearted, inwardly though, I sensed a probing curiosity hanging off her question. To her, the gap in similarities is vast. Colour and culture dangle between us. Our personality, beliefs, opinion, likes, and dislikes are a complex mix of differences. She thinks of me as a ‘straighty one-eighty’, and in my eyes, she is a colourful blend of ‘naughty nice’ and ‘nice naughty’.
So, to quell my daughter’s curiosity and satisfy my own inquisitiveness about my family tree, I ordered us both a DNA test kit. The kits arrived, and with much hilarity, we spat into our containers, sent them back, and duly waited for the big reveal. As predicted, the results show I am clearly my daughter’s biological mother, plus other information regaling our DNA story. And that was that. We moved on, put the DNA saga behind us. Or so we thought.
A few months later, my daughter receives a prompt from the DNA site advising she had a DNA match to explore. Evidently, she shared a genetic sequence to this match, indicating a possible first or second cousin relationship. My daughter is Maori through her father’s side of the family. Māori rely on orally passing down their ancestry or whakapapa from one generation to the next. To receive a DNA match from this side of the family was indeed surprising. My daughter contacted this supposed match, and one of the first questions asked by this person was, ‘Do you know who my birth parents are?’
To be honest, we were stumped. The DNA match clearly identified this woman as a family member. Unfortunately, we have little contact with this side of the family. I left the marriage over forty years ago so there was a natural hesitancy over probing into something that was not our business to explore. My daughters first attempt at solving the mystery proved fruitless. – no one knew anything about a baby being adopted out.
When you seek something hard enough, that same thing is seeking you. Months went by, and my daughter received another ’I really want to find my birth parent’ from her ‘stranger cousin’. And so, with a certain amount of scepticism, she sent another request to the family. This time, literally within minutes, biological mother, who was my children’s’ aunty, and daughter found each other. When you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it, says author Paulo Coelho. This was one of those ‘universe’ moments. I am unable to give any other explanation.
The aching for love and acceptance, that hollow ache in our soul, is a strand of yearning linking us all. Our DNA results were undoubtedly the vehicle of connection to mother and daughter but, in my eyes, it was the passion behind this longing, the power within the hollow ache between a mother and daughter, that fueled the vehicle.
What started as a light-hearted decision to do a DNA test, set the ball rolling towards what has become a beautiful story to add to my daughter’s family history.