My 23andMe Story: Part 1

by Angela Richardson-Mook, Alcea Co-Founder and Executive Director

Fathers Day 2021 is an interesting one for me. Anxiously navigating life as a vaccinated individual at the tail end of a devastating global pandemic, coupled with finding out a mere few months ago that my biological father was not my biological father at all, and my therapist has gotten overtime pay courtesy of me.

My mission

I have always been open about the fact I am adopted and have never shied away from publicly discussing my resulting struggles. From feelings of insecurity to questioning my place of belonging, my road to acceptance has been long and arduous. My interest in alternative family building directly correlates to the complex emotions of being adopted and the hard work spent reconciling what they meant for my life. Additionally, my calling to surrogacy and firmly held views regarding the ethics of anonymous egg donation, donor children rights, and transparent “origin stories” are most certainly shaped, in part, by my journey to find my biological family.

My story

When I was 18, I found and sent a letter to my biological mother. I conveyed that no obligatory response was needed. Still, I wanted her to know I was intelligent and creative, and most importantly, I was grateful for her. It was important to me she knew I thought about her often. I concluded by telling her I was like no one else in my family, and I would love to know if anyone in hers shared my interests, struggles, and physical characteristics.

She did respond, and soon after, I met my siblings, mother, father, and extended family. As she smiled a smile I had seen in my own mirror for a lifetime, she proudly conveyed that after a difficult start in life, she went back to school in her 30’s, completed her GED, undergraduate degree, and was finishing her master’s degree in social work. I will never forget those moments, and sadly, my biological mother passed away almost a decade ago. The man introduced to me as my biological father also died about two years ago.

Fast forward to this winter, still sheltering in place, hoping our lives would be entrenched in some sense of normalcy soon, my son gifted me a 23andme DNA test. Hoping to learn more about my indigenous roots, I anxiously waited for the emailed results. Upon their arrival, there was no Native American heritage and no recognizable family names. Instead, I found out my biological father was not my biological father at all, and I am French and Dutch, without one sprinkle of Native American.

With social media connecting our lives in ways we never dreamed possible, it took me only a few days to find my father. He graciously accepted my communication, devastated my mother was not honest with him, and was frustrated he had not been given a chance to know me. We have spoken several times and plan to meet for the first time in the next few weeks.

Coming to terms

For a large part of my adult life, I have been working on accepting my circumstances, immersing myself in education regarding my relationship with my adoptive parents, and coming to terms with how the choices of others are not in my control. With the complexity of my youth long in the rearview mirror, I am grateful to have been given this chance. I am thankful the father that raised me is still here after a battle with COVID and a heart attack. And I am grateful for modern science, and my son pushing me to the DNA test.

This year, Fathers Day feels whole and healthy.

Every day we are lucky to connect with families built-in creative ways. No matter if you are an uncle filling in as dad, a step-parent, a single mom doing the work of both parents, a gay dad, a new dad, or a hopeful dad, today we celebrate the fatherlike influences in our lives — whether with us or passed on.