Kayla Galloway is an assignment editor at FOX40 News. This is her story of learning about family members she never knew after taking a DNA test.
Growing up, I thought I knew who I was — I was the only child of an incredibly strong, single mother. I wore my fatherlessness almost like a badge. I was proud to be different. I didn’t fit into the mold of a traditional family and I was okay with that.
People would ask me growing up, “Where’s your dad?” I’d say I didn’t have one. My answer didn’t usually make sense to people. No one understood how a child couldn’t have a father, biologically speaking.
I was born using an anonymous sperm donor. The donor was a figurehead to me throughout the majority of my life. Almost like an abstract figment of my imagination. I don’t think I truly understood his existence until I took an online DNA test earlier this year.
I submitted my DNA for testing through 23andMe almost on a whim. I didn’t think much of it at first. I didn’t know what I’d find and I wasn’t really sure if I cared to know more about my genetic history. I don’t think I truly expected to learn anything — a naϊve expectation I suppose. I was always content with who I was and the unconventional family I was raised in. I grew up in a family of women — a mother, an aunt and a grandmother. I never felt I was deprived without a father. If anything, I felt unique.
I’ve always been slightly curious about who the donor was. but never to the extent that I felt lost or empty. Half of my DNA was always a mystery. Donor-conceived children are often assumed to be flawed or screwed up — like a life without a father is a life filled with hardship and unanswered questions. The headlines often get it wrong. The public doesn’t usually hear about the positives of anonymous sperm donor-conceived children, only the ones who’ve spent a life searching for the father they never had.
As a child, I wanted to know what he looked liked and if he was anything like me. Did he have blue eyes and blonde hair? Did he have any musical talent? Was he an extroverted introvert, like I was. I wondered if things about me that didn’t match with my mother would match up to him.
During those weeks of waiting after I’d sent my DNA off to 23andMe, I wondered a bit more about what my results might show. Curiosity started to creep in just a little bit. I’m a pessimist, so naturally I didn’t want to find out my donor was a murderer or that he’d died of cancer at 25-years-old, leaving me with uncertainty about my health. Depressing thoughts, but entirely feasible as far as I was concerned. I was unprepared for what I’d find. I didn’t entirely think through what I had done by submitting my DNA for testing. I didn’t know what I was in for.
I discovered I had a half-brother. I was absolutely stunned the moment I found out. The word ‘brother’ felt entirely foreign to me. I didn’t know how to react or if I even cared. Most people don’t discover they have a sibling 24 years into their life. People usually grow up with their siblings and go through life knowing they share their DNA with someone else. I found my half-brother over the internet. Insanity, I thought. It felt totally and completely unreal — but it was real. It was my life.
Growing up I always had this whimsical idea of who the donor might be. As a kid, I told myself he was Brad Pitt. That probably says something about who was the most popular male celebrity in the early 2000s. As I got older and navigated college, I’d meet people who reminded me of myself. That’s when I truly started to consider the possibility of other people in the world being related to me without my knowledge. It was daunting but also exciting — the mystery of it all.
I always knew half-siblings were a possibility, but I wasn’t really sure that I cared to know. My life was good the way it was — why change it, I thought. People have asked me why I took a DNA test. I don’t have an answer. I don’t know why I took the test. I’m happy I did. I ended up taking another DNA test through Ancestry.com. I knew Ancestry had a bigger pool of users, so I wondered if I would find more new family members I didn’t know existed.
Earlier this summer, I found two more half-siblings through Ancestry. I wasn’t so shocked the second time around. All of us live in different parts of the U.S. That was amazing to me. To know a donor played a role in each of our lives, four kids, ranging from ages 15-26, scattered around the country, felt like magic, almost unbelievable.
The news has been overwhelming. Everyday my thoughts change — certain days I’m happy to have taken a DNA test, other days I regret it. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions — one that’s probably never going to end, considering I could have an endless amount of siblings. I’ve wondered what I’m supposed to do with all this information and also what it means to be a sister. I know how to be an only child. I’ve been one my entire life. I’m learning what it means to be sister for the first time — at age 24. It’s strange and surreal. It’s also comforting to know there are other people I share something with.
Not only do we share DNA, but we share a story — one that classmates, friends or coworkers will never understand.
Sure, there are a lot of children with single mothers, but not nearly as many who don’t know who their ‘dad’ is, let alone a sperm donor. I’ve never wanted a dad and a donor will never be a dad. But my newfound half-siblings can be more than just people connected to me by DNA. I have a chance to expand my family, all thanks to a DNA test.
My ancestry is still filled with unknowns. It has always been. A DNA test helped me learn a little more about myself and that’s comforting.