This is us. Part I.

We all wonder where we come from, right? People say things all the time in reference to your genetics. “Oh you got that from your dad.” “You look just like your mom.” I wanted to know more.

Ancestry DNA was running a special sale in January. My husband wanted to see where his family came from. & I always wanted to know what percent Native American I had in me. I grew up with darker skin like my dad, and it was always rumored that we were a percent native.

Late March, my husband and I received our results from AncestryDNA. I had a huge melting pot of mostly expected descent. Zachary did too, although his was more centralized to one area of Europe. Oddly, however, there were no Native American flags in my DNA testing. I was bummed, but at least I had an answer.

Months went by and I hadn’t thought anything more about the AncestryDNA findings. During this time, Zachary created a fairly elaborate family tree. It linked back to a knight of King Charles, and even a family member in the Salem witch trials. Cool stuff.

On Memorial Day, Zachary smoked a brisket and invited my grandma over for dinner. This is a key moment that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if grandma hadn’t asked this little question: “Can I see the DNA results?”

I pulled up the results on the computer to show her. Nothing had changed (the more people who get tested in the world, the more accurate it becomes). Grandma checked it out, & I shut the computer a few minutes later. As I shut the computer, Zachary asked if I had any DNA matches.

I almost didn’t open the computer back up.

I didn’t even know this section of the website existed, so I clicked on the drop down menu and found my matches. A list popped up with 1st to 4th cousins- at least that’s what I thought it said.

The 1st cousins list intrigued me. I did not recognize their names. How could I have a first cousin that I didn’t know about? I quickly searched both names on Facebook and found one of them right away. One was named Griffin S. A fairly unique name, so no others popped up.

In the small bits of info I could see on Griffin- I found that he attended Kalamazoo college. This is just 45 minutes north of where I grew up. I thought, “wow, we have to be related, especially with the proximity.”

My grandma nudged me and said, “Haley- message him. See what he says.” So I do 🤷🏼‍♀️

The next day, Griffin messaged me back. I had the right person.

So my mind is trying to figure this out, right? My mother only has 2 sisters, and my dad (as far as I knew), only had half siblings. To be a first cousin, he would have to be the child of my moms sisters, or my dad would have to have a full sibling in existence.

So, unless my aunts had some kids I didn’t know about; I was pretty excited to think that my dad had a full sibling. How crazy is that?

I looked forward to telling my dad the next day when he got home from his business trip. I wasn’t sure how I was going to word it, but couldn’t wait to tell him he had a full sibling out there somewhere. I texted my mom and told her I think I found Dad’s nephew.

Before I talked to my dad, I received a surprising message from Griffin about his family tree. Or should I say ‘family stump’. Because this one stumped me.

So the plot thickens. This is essentially a mystery to me. I explain my thoughts to him.

So Griffin and I are pretty well convinced our family ties are by paternity. But how? Well the day goes by, and life gets busy. It got late and I got nervous to tell my dad that he may have a full sibling. So I kept my mouth shut and went to bed.

Shortly after 10:30PM, Zach shut his light off and my mom knocked on our door. She says, “Are you guys going to bed? We need to talk.”

“We need to talk” is never a good thing to hear.

I can tell Zach is annoyed and my heart skips a beat with nerves.

I imagined it was going to be something along the lines of, “Your aunt gave up a child.” Or “Your dad has a brother we have kept from you.”

Never did I expect the answer I actually received.

At this point in writing this, my memory of this experience is a bit of a blur. I was shaking through the majority of the news. But this is what I can tell you. My mom starts-

“Haley- with the technology of today, I don’t see how we can keep something like this from you. I want you to have full answers and I don’t want you to be angry with us.”

Honestly I’m just confused at this point.

“Your dad and I love you very much. We want you to know that. We love you so much and it was so hard to get you here.”

Long pause. Dad is red in the face.

“When your dad and I tried to get pregnant, it wasn’t working. We tried for a really long time. So we went to the doctor to get help.”

Long pause.

“I took Clomid to help with fertility and went to get an ultrasound every day to find out when it was the right time. And we tried. And we tried. And we tried. But it wasn’t happening for us. I had endometriosis, and your dad had a football injury in high school. He was hit in the testicles and this caused some serious trauma.”

I’m sitting there thinking- Where in the world is this going? Am I adopted or something?

“After many unsuccessful months, we asked the doctors what our options were.”

Um

“They told us we can 1) essentially adopt a child from Africa tomorrow, 2) be put on a waiting list for a child in the US for months, or 3) we can use a sperm donor.”

Hold the phone.

I essentially stopped breathing. I’m shivering uncontrollably.

“Your dad knew how much I wanted to have a child. And he very selflessly allowed me to use a sperm donor. We picked out a description of a donor that we could agree on.”

Omg. Dad. He has a tear glimmering down his cheek.

“He had brown hair, brown eyes, a marketing degree, and was 6 feet tall. He liked tennis and to ski.”

S.K.I.

Did she just say ski?

But Griffin

He said

“We got the ultrasound results that we needed and the insemination process was completed. The doctors told us to go home and have sex. They said that this makes couples feel better.”

Wait so I’m

“So we went home and had sex. And we got pregnant.”

So you

“With your investigation into your genetics, I’m realizing now that you may very well be the product of the donor.”

I can’t hold it in any longer. “So Griffin is more than likely my half brother.”

“Yes, he very well may be.”

“He, he said his biological father liked to ski.”

Mom leaves the room and goes to grab something.

My sister, Hannah, says, “I don’t need to see anything.”

My mom returns and unfolds a piece of paper that has been wrapped up in her jewelry box for 25 years.

Donor number 1707. Caucasian. AB+ blood type. French/German descent. 6 foot tall. 168 pounds. Medium build. Fair skin. Brown eyes. Straight, brown hair. A bachelors in marketing. Likes to play tennis, golf, and ski.

While my sister said she didn’t need to see anything, I did.

That piece of paper is the key to so many questions. A tiny, 25 year old piece of paper.

My parents confirmed that my sister I’ve grown up knowing as my full sister, is more than likely the product of the sperm donor as well. They specifically requested to use the same donor after failure to conceive the second time.

We look damn near identical. It would be hard to deny that we are full blood siblings. Just last week, a friend of mine met my sister for the first time, and this is the text she sent me.

From this point to the end of the conversation with my parents, was some pretty heavy stuff. My dad was visibly upset. He essentially found out I wasn’t “his” after 25 years. My family never told anyone. Not a soul in our family. Infertility was not table talk in the 80s/90s.

My sister and I could see how afraid and upset my dad was. I hugged him first. And I told him he is still my dad, no matter what.

Dad was afraid this was going to change things. In the moment, I was convinced that it wouldn’t. It’s been almost a week now. There is no “going back” or “undoing this”.

My dad told us very blatantly that he doesn’t want my mom’s family to know. And honestly, I *kind of* get it. This puts my dad in a very tough position. Making a child together really “solidifies” a family. Although some may disagree with this idea, I can see how this could make him an “outcast” in our family. Until about 5 years ago, my mom’s family consisted entirely of blood family, their spouses, and their offspring. 5 years ago my cousin married a woman that had a child with another man. Our family had essentially remained the same my whole life, and it was different to welcome in a stranger to the family. Below is a picture of my family as I’ve always known it. We are small, but we are close. My moms parents, my mom’s two sisters, their spouses and their children. I grew up with 5 cousins and my sister. That’s it.

At this point, I see the word “family” differently. I grew up with such a small and blood centered family. Whether I was truly my dad’s offspring or not, he raised me like I was.

I am struggling with this news. I want to tell the world who I am. I want to know the family I have out there. But I cannot put my dad in the position of being looked at differently…by the family, by his friends..

The first person I told of this news, was, of course, Griffin. I was right about our relationship being paternal, but not in the way I expected.

I went to sleep worried about Griffin’s reaction to this news. I mean, hell, I just told him I’m his sister.

I woke up to these messages the next morning.

I was happy enough to receive such a welcomed response. However, I was not ready for that last message.

All I can think is oh my God. I have a brother and TWO sisters?!!!

I replied back.

After sending that message Thursday, a day went by. And then another. And another. Not gonna lie, I got a little worried that he ghosted me.

On Monday I finally heard back from him.

From this point forward, we have not been able to get in more than 1-2 messages at a time. With the time difference and his service availability, it has proven to be very difficult to communicate with such a big topic.

With long periods of time passing without chatting…naturally, I started comparing photos of my sister and I to our new found siblings. We have very similar features. I showed Griffin.

With how excited his mom sounded, I decided to friend request her. I wanted to do that as soon as Griffin told me her name days before, but I didn’t know how well she was going to take this information. After receiving that message from Griffin, I went for it.

She quickly accepted my friend request and messaged me right away. I was in the midst of working on my family tree on Ancestry and didn’t respond right away, and she thought she scared me off 😂

Lisa confirmed that we, indeed, have the same exact donor number. She also brought up a topic I’ve been working on.

Here are my matches in regards to “close family”. If Griffin is my half brother, who is M. Muhlbauer?

I was able to find Griffin easily on Facebook. However, M. Muhlbauer is one of maybe 50 with the same name. Many of them with profiles in foreign languages. & I had no idea what kind of age range to look for.

I pondered the idea for a while and eventually considered looking at my other DNA matches. I found another Muhlbauer under 2nd cousins. So I checked that name on Facebook (J. Muhlbauer). Surprisingly, there was only one.

Right away, I go to his friends list to look for any Muhlbauer family. There was an M. Muhlbauer.

Assuming this is the right person, I checked out his page. He is considerably older. Around my parents age. He has a wife and two children.

Remember how my donor description said he had a bachelors in marketing? Well this was one of his “profile pictures”.

My heart is freaking racing. I scroll through his pictures and really have no idea what to think.

I rush to find my mom and show her.

She is quick to point out that this man has blue eyes.

I felt a rush of disappointment and confusion.

Mom mentioned that maybe he is my uncle. Possibly my biological father’s brother.

After thinking about it for a few hours, I worked up the courage to message him. I messaged him on both Facebook and on Ancestry.

I’m sorry to disappoint y’all, but it’s been 3 days and there has been no response on either media platform. According to Ancestry, he logged on yesterday. Which means he more than likely saw my message.

If he was a sperm donor, don’t you think he’d stay away from websites like this? It would potentially destroy his anonymity.

So he’s likely not my dad. It looks like biological parents are flagged on ancestry, anyway. But, he has to be related very closely to my biological father.

And I’m dying to know what that relationship is.

Tonight I looked over my matches again. My first cousin, Joyce C., had 89 people in her family tree, and had logged in recently.

I checked out her match, and we had Griffin in common for our DNA. So that means she is related to me through my paternal side.

I messaged her and didn’t mention anything about my unknown paternity. I figured maybe I could get a response if I didn’t scare her off.

She actually replied back within a few hours.

Ding ding ding! Muhlbauer.

I email her and beat around the bush.

If I could be upfront with her, I would have asked her to send me her family tree from at least 2 generations in every direction and say that I’m trying to discover my biological father in your family tree.

I figured that would be overstepping it a bit much, so I worded it carefully. She responded this morning.

First off, hold the phone.

I never said anything about a sperm donor, only that I didn’t know who my biological father is. Someone clearly knows more than they are leading on.

Did I accidentally open a can of worms for their family?

To be continued.

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