Rising Like the Phoenix: Mary's DNA Surprise

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Last month I published the first #DNASurprise story, written by Casey who discovered a family surprise after DNA testing. Another person, Mary, has bravely volunteered to share her story as well. 

If you'd like to see your #DNASurprise story shared here, reach out to me. And if you'd like to join a secret support group on Facebook for the DNA Surprise you've discovered about yourself or another person, email me or send me a DM through Facebook. Summarize your surprise and the email address you have associated with your Facebook account so I can make sure the group is a good fit before I add you. I now have one group dedicated to those who discovered misattributed parentage for themselves, and a second general group.  

Here is Mary's story. She deserves our acknowledgment for the strength it took for her to recount her heartaches and even greater respect for the ability to rise from them.


It took almost two years after my 23andMe results, but I can say this and mean it now:

I feel like the Phoenix rising from the fire.

My story is one of shock and disappointment in the family of my childhood, the uncovering of lies and truths, and the emergence and growth of new family and new relationships after DNA testing.

I was 51 and received a call from a maternal cousin. “So sorry…your mum is dead.” 

I had a very erratic relationship with my mother, and the last conversation I recall between us was regarding a conversation I had with a woman I had known all my life. We had gone to school together. I told my mother this woman had stopped to tell me we shared the same father. 

My mother wasn't very nice as I recounted this story to her.

In fact, she staunchly denied it and accused me of trying to cause trouble in the family.

We never spoke again, and that was seven years before her death. She had been ill for some time and hospitalized for a week prior to her death, but no one had reached out to tell me.

The next few weeks following her death, I was in shock. I reached out to my step father again after many years of not speaking. Two months after my mother’s death, we had a conversation. “Well, it was never a secret between me and your mum that xxxx was your father. If you had asked me directly I would have told you.” 

I'm not actually sure what my response was. He then said, “Oh, you really didn't know? I'm so sorry. I know where he is, I'll take you to see him now.” Again, I'm can’t recall my response to him. 

The time during and after this conversation was a blur.

I drove home in shock and cannot recall what I said to my family once I was back home. 

A few months later, I contacted the woman who told me we shared a father and asked her to meet me. She kindly agreed to test her DNA with the kit I had brought along, and six weeks later the results came in. They showed a 99% chance of her being my half-sister. Yet, I doubted it; I kept thinking that perhaps we were in the 1% that were related in some other way.

Twenty years before, I had taken a massive step and gone to see my mother’s first husband; he was the man named as my father on my birth certificate. If he wasn't my father, then maybe she wasn't my sister, I reasoned. 

Almost a year later, I was still trying to ignore what I knew. I just decided my mother wouldn't lie, and someone in the family would have told me before if it were true. It must have been all wrong, and the woman who said we shared a father was not actually my half-sister.

I had done a 23andMe test sometime during the year for health purposes, so I decided to buy this woman one for Christmas. 

Deep down, I think I was double-checking to see if the first test was wrong. 

It was not wrong. My biological father died a week before the woman’s results came in; the results arrived eleven hours before his funeral. I remember just staring at the screen and seeing a message come in from the woman I knew saying, “Hi, sis.” 

I was totally stunned.

My mind was spinning. There were so many pointers from the past. I felt a fool for not realising why my grandmother had once said to me, “Don't believe all you hear about your father, he wasn't a bad man.” This was strange to me at the time as my mother’s first husband was one of the most vile men I had ever met. 

The sister of the man listed on my birth certificate as my father, had said, “Are you the one that isn't my brother’s child?” Her brother told me to ignore her, that she was a crazy lady. The differences between me and whom I thought was my full sister were both physical and intellectual. 

My mother had always told me, “If you can’t trust your mother, who can you trust?”

I know now that it was hypocritical of her to say that, but I had believed her. She was my mother. It is hard to get over that type of betrayal.

There are still so many questions I have. I realized later the man who is my biological father had tried to approach me at my mother’s funeral. My Aunty drug him away, which confused me at the time and still does today. Why did she feel she needed to do that? 

Crazier still is that I played with my eldest two paternal half-sisters as a child, and we went to the same school. I was in the same class as my half-brother and two of my paternal-side cousins, and none of us knew I was related to them. My biological father and his children lived around the corner from me, two doors down from my Aunty.

As a child and well into adulthood, I thought the man I later learned was my biological father was a weird man. He used to wink and smile at me when he saw me. He often held conversations with my mother, and his wife used to say hello to my mother. I have a large number of paternal cousins and grew up knowing around half of them. 

It is mind blowing to think that I was with so many members of my family all along. 

After a while, an acceptance set in, and I was able to start seeing the positive side. The shock subsided, and I was able to accept the results of the DNA tests. I have begun to feel happy about what I now know about myself, my origins, and my family.

For instance, I am very, very happy the man listed on my birth certificate is not my biological father. I'm also ecstatic that the sister I thought was a full sister is only a half-sister. I always wanted brother…now I have three! My new family are completely different and most of them want me in their lives.

Today, I have a fantastic relationship with one of my paternal sisters, a paternal niece whom I'm close to, and a paternal cousin who is like my best friend. 

My life has changed, and the lies and deceit of the past cannot be erased. 

But now, I am complete. I have my identity. I look at in the mirror, and at my children and grandchildren, and can see who we truly look like. It feels good to know they will never grow up with a false identity, that they know from which family they descend.

I am whole for the first time. I know who I am. 

- Mary, guest blogger