With her children's ages spanning 22 years, LongTimeMother has 40 years experience in parenting - including home schooling and foster care.
There's nothing quite like a DNA test to shake a parent's confidence. For 35 years I had been my daughter's mother. We'd shared life's journey, including her declining health due to Multiple Sclerosis.
I was surprised when she first began expressing concerns about looking different to her sisters ~ and less like me than she believed they did. I reminded her that we shared the same high IQ and the same shoe size, but she pushed me for more.
I pointed out that she has hair like my sister and the petite build of some of my aunts, but she wasn't convinced. Over the years many people have commented how she looks like me, but she had a lingering doubt and grew increasingly skeptical.
Then one day, my daughter requested a DNA test to establish if I am really her mother.
Reasons for DNA Paternity Testing
I understand the demand (and the need) for DNA testing to establish paternity. Accidents happen, and when they do we have to live with them.
It makes sense to me that a man may question whether or not he is the father of a child conceived during a brief affair.
I appreciate that pregnancy is not always planned so the mother herself may have questions about exactly whose sperm successfully impregnated her.
To prove a man is the biological father of a child (with all the implications and responsibilities including being expected to contribute to the ongoing expenses of raising the child), DNA Paternity Testing makes perfectly good sense.
But there must be men who hope or believe they are the biological parent of a child and face the same emotional turmoil and fear that I experienced when waiting for my DNA Maternity test results.
Few things are more soul-destroying than the thought that you might have your status as a parent ripped away from you.
Would you undertake a DNA test with a family member?
DNA Testing Laboratories seem to assume that specimens provided by mothers will always be a match to the child. The forms that accompanied our DNA kit referred to the Mother and the Alleged Father.
I had to cross out the word 'father' and insert 'mother' because for this test, I was the Alleged Mother.
As unlikely as it may seem, there are recorded cases of babies going home with the wrong mothers - and happy families suddenly discovering years later that their natural born baby was raised by a different couple.
In the 70's when my daughter was born, all newborn babies were kept in the newborn's nursery - away from their mothers. My babies born in later years slept in cribs alongside my hospital bed where I could watch over them, but things were very different with my first born.
Crown Street Women's Hospital
To complicate the issue even more, my daughter was born in Crown Street Women's Hospital in Sydney. Sadly, Crown Street Women's has been exposed and investigated as being the main offender in 'stealing' babies from unmarried mothers in the decades leading up to the 1980s.
I was an unmarried mother in the 1970s.
Staff told me my baby was a girl, but she was taken from the labour ward without me being allowed to see her, despite me pleading for at least one look ... and I was banned from even glimpsing her through the nursery window.
I would go and read the name tags of the newborns displayed through the nursery window to proud new parents and grandparents, assuming that the little piece of me must be one of those in the back of the room with the cribs turned so the name tag was concealed.
Unlike many other young women who fell victim to the times, I managed to resist the pressure to sign the final papers that would result in her adoption. I stubbornly dug my heels in and insisted they return her to me ... but I think it was about Day Four before we were reunited.
So yes, there was a definite possibility that I might not be my daughter's biological mother. Anything could have happened in Crown Street Women's Hospital. My child may have already been given to another family. Perhaps I'd been handed some other single mother's newborn and raised her as my own.
I sat alongside my now-grown daughter as we looked at the DNA form and I reminded her that no matter what the test said, I am her mother. Always have been. Always will be. I told her she can't take that away from me.
Then I bravely swabbed the inside of my cheek and labelled myself 'Alleged Mother'.
Crown St Women's Hospital exposed
- A nation's shame: 'it was the most horrific thing I've ever seen'
Brian Hoolahan could do nothing but watch the joy of childbirth turn to horror for hundreds of young women. (LTM's note: I was not a teenager, so was not 'in residence' in the lead up to my baby's birth. But this was the hospital!)
Long Wait For DNA Test Results
A week can fly by. Some weeks, however, seem to take forever to pass. The ten days it took for our results to arrive felt impossible to fill.
Occasionally my daughter would encourage me to think about what I'd do if the DNA test proved we were not related. She didn't want me to be unprepared.
It is most unusual for me to say, 'I don't know what I'd do.'
It is also totally out of character for me to turn away from any unanswered question. Whether it be nature or nurture, my daughter shares my need to know. Perhaps it has been my influence throughout her childhood and adult life to always ask the tough questions and keep searching until you find an answer that best fits, instead of just accepting what others preach as fact.
But when she gently asked me, 'Don't you want to know? For you?' there was no answer more honest than 'No, I don't think I do.'
Agreeing to the DNA test was my gift to my daughter. I did it for her, not for me.
Identifying Your DNA
If My Daughter is Not My Child
Let's put this in perspective. My daughter is not trying to disown me.
The main drive behind her need to establish beyond doubt that I am her biological mother is directly linked to her relentless pursuit of an explanation for her devastating Multiple Sclerosis.
There are so many hypotheses about what causes MS and she is trying to piece together the puzzle that may lead her to a cure for her own condition ... and others suffering a similar fate.
What if my family's medical history had no relevance to her? What if my recollection of my baby's birth in that hospital cast no light at all on the circumstances of her delivery?
I understood why she needed to know, beyond question, if I am her mother. But did I want to know?
My mind filled with the fear that if she is not my child, then I am in exactly the same position that I'd fought so hard to avoid.
I'd be a mother wondering where my child is, what she looks like, if she's had a happy life ... and if she's alive at all.
What If The DNA Results Are Negative?
My wonderful, loving husband was as supportive as he could be as he watched me being tortured by the wait. He told me he'd back me and help me and love me no matter what happened, and then he gave me space.
He knew this part of my journey couldn't be shared. I was thrust back into reflection on my youth, years before the two of us had met. If I needed to talk, he was there. But I couldn't open my mouth and give life to the fears.
If the DNA testing showed no match with my daughter, I would throw myself into helping her find her biological mother. That part was easy. I formulated a clear plan and explained it to my family. 'This is what we'll do.'
But I couldn't turn my mind to what I would do if faced with the reality that another young woman carried my genes, and may or may not be searching for her own birth mother. Both my husband and daughter raised the issue, but my heart wouldn't go there.
I was simply too outraged by the thought that some other young mother just like me may have been bullied or coerced into giving up her baby to a 'better' family capable of providing the stability and security of two parents in a loving relationship.
If I had been given someone else's baby instead of my own, that mother believed her newborn was placed in the hands of a woman who could care and provide for a baby far more effectively than she could.
That woman wasn't me. I was unmarried at the time, and facing the same obstacles and struggles as she'd have faced if she'd kept her child. If the DNA shows my daughter is not my child, I thought, that woman is the greatest victim of all.
My heart bled for her.
The Judgement is ...
Two copies of the test results were sent. One directly to me (the alleged mother) and the other to my daughter.
I made her promise that when she received the results she'd phone me before opening the envelope. We had to learn the outcome together. As luck would have it, I received my copy of the results first.
Because of my daughter's fragile health, I phoned her and waited until she was settled and ready to hear the news. As I opened the envelope, I concentrated on what I knew I would have to say to her if the results disappointed me.
The first page contained contact numbers in the event that the recipient felt suicidal. That wasn't encouraging.
I turned to the second page, the actual DNA test results, and scanned letters and numbers that made little sense. Then I saw some bold type at the bottom.
"Sweetheart," I gasped, "it says ...."
If Your Child Asks For Proof of Parenting?
There's undoubtedly many children and adults around the world who question whether they were truly born to the parents who raised them.
Older generations of women who were forced to give up their children were actively discouraged from ever mentioning the existence of a child, and adoptive parents often pretended a new member of their family was a natural child.
If you are an adult who questions your true birth line, you have a right to seek answers. I can't predict how your parents would respond to the request for a DNA test, but I encourage you to be aware of the roller-coaster ride you'll all be on.
DNA Test Kits To Use In Your Home
How I Arranged DNA Maternity Testing
My earliest efforts to learn about DNA testing involved searching on the internet. Everything seemed geared towards Paternity testing. I found no mention of Maternity tests on the internet at that time.
I had so many unanswered questions and I didn't want to speak with a voice on the telephone, so I actually visited the address listed for one of the major testing laboratories. The next time I was in the city, I found the address, caught the lift up to their floor, and approached the receptionist. If she was unable to answer my questions to my satisfaction, I hoped she would ask a technician.
You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered the address was no more than an administrative base. They had packages containing forms, swabs, instructions for how to collect DNA using the swabs, and envelopes for posting. The woman at the desk insisted if I wanted to know any more, I should send an email via the website.
It would have been far more simple to have just ordered a DNA Paternity Testing Kit online to be posted to my home. The kit I was given by the Laboratory receptionist was their standard kit - and I changed the word 'father' to 'mother'.
Our results, therefore, said 'Probability of Maternity'.
The instructions included with the kit explained we had more complicated (and expensive) options if we wanted the results to be used in a law court. Instead of just sending our swabs, we would need to have our samples collected by an approved authority figure.
Had we found it necessary to challenge the hospital about switching babies, we'd have been re-tested with the more expensive option. In the first instance, however, we just wanted to know if my daughter was really my child.
A DNA Test Can Be A Gift For Your Child
If you are a parent whose child approaches you with a DNA test kit asking you to participate, know that I feel for you.
It took a few years before I actually agreed to the test, and it was me who arranged for the forms and kit, not my daughter.
I delivered them to her and helped complete the paperwork before we both swabbed inside our cheeks and posted the pack to the laboratory. I know she was surprised that I put myself on the line. I suspect she thought I'd resist forever.
But I didn't. I am absolutely committed to helping her unravel the mysteries of why she has MS and how she can overcome it, so the emotional turmoil and possible implications were a price I was prepared to pay if it can somehow help restore her health.
I knew my daughter wouldn't find peace until she knew the answer to that enormous question ... am I really her mother? Our DNA test was my gift to her.
The positive result we received was the universe's gift to me. :)
And for that, I am most grateful.
© 2014 LongTimeMother