Tag Archives: family

How our DNA tests connected a stranger to her mother

Author of Fiftypluskiwi with her daughter

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’.

Author of Fiftypluskiwi with her daughter
Author of Fiftypluskiwi (R) with daughter Louise (L)

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.

The monster myth and domestic abuse.

A face, yellow in colour with huge eyes

When I was a kid there was always a moment of fear before I looked under my bed. It was only fleeting, but it was there. Could there be a monster under my bed? My imagination conjured up images of a growling beast with large incisors protruding from the upper lip. This monster was ready to pounce.

It would take a heart of steel not to be disturbed by recent news of an Australian mother and her three young children senselessly and horrifically murdered – incinerated inside their car while going to school. An act carried out by the estranged husband and father.

I’m not sure why I feel so perturbed by this case. But I find myself with a stomach clenched.  Perhaps it’s because the perpetrator is, like me, a New Zealander, or perhaps it’s because my maiden name is the same as the perpetrator’s. Thankfully no relation, but here’s the thing, he could be. And he could be in yours. He could be walking around in each of our families.

The perpetrator has been labelled a ‘monster’, described as ‘evil in our midst’. But we need to drop the labels and see it for what it is. MONSTERS DON’T HURT PEOPLE, PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘monster’ or the word ‘evil’? Does a large, ugly, drooling, growling, horned creature, like my childhood monster, come to mind? Thinking only monsters abuse, hit, molest and rape silences victims and removes responsibility of those who know it is happening. If the perpetrator doesn’t fit the idea of a monster (and let’s face it, very few perpetrators do), there’s less of a chance victims will be believed when they break their silence.

Let’s ditch the monster myth and call out the perps for what they are. A person who commits any sort of violence or abuse is a human being. He could be partner, ex-partner, family member, flatmate, friend, or carer. Admitting that abusers are human doesn’t lessen their cruelty – on the contrary – it underlines it, says writer/speaker/advocate Thordis Elva

“They choose to be abusive in spite of their humanity. The sooner we understand this, the more lives we can save.”

Monsters don’t walk on this planet.  People who commit monstrous acts do. And sitting at the top of the perpetrator list is, MEN.  Human-being men. Yes, I know perpetrators of domestic abuse may be either men or women. However, violence by men is often the most serious and lethal type of family violence in New Zealand, the victims are predominantly women and children. www.whiteribbon.org.nz And have always been. And at the risk of sounding like climate change advocate, Greta Thunburg, I say to you men – husbands, partners, fathers, brothers, uncles, – HOW DARE YOU.

I guess you can say I am angry, and I am. This whole case has unsettled me. This could have been me, and it could have been my children. I well remember running down the road trying to escape an angry ex-husband trying to run me over to ‘teach me a lesson’. Did he look like a monster? Oh no, like this latest perpetrator, he was one of the good guys. Well respected in his work community, he was a ‘regular Mt Nice Guy.’ People liked him. There were no horns of evil protruding from his head. Nor did he look like the ‘monster’ from my childhood. He was just a regular person.

I was one of the lucky victims of domestic abuse … I escaped. This was over forty years ago, but the aftermath still lingers today, especially with my children. There were 133,022 ‘family harm’ investigations by NZ Police in 2018 (NZ Police, 2019), however, there is an estimated 76% to 87% of family or intimate partner violence not reported to Police. This is alarming.

Let’s get angry about this. Let’s talk about this. Remember, domestic abuse is not just about getting, ‘the bash’. If there is someone in your family that you need to ‘tip-toe’ around to keep the ‘peace’, this is also abuse. Tell someone. Talk to someone. Deep down, as women, we know when something feels not right. It’s a feeling in the heart. Listen to this. There is help available. Don’t let your life and that of your children be shrouded in fear.

Monsters don’t walk this earth harming our women and children. Ordinary people do. Human beings do. Family members do. Let me say it again, HOW DARE YOU!