All That Really Matters Is That We Are All Made From Stars

by Stacey Jaros

"We are made of starstuff." - Carl Sagan
"We are all made of stars." - Moby

"Born for bliss, born for this. Every human life begins with a kiss." - U2

Not so fast, Bono. That may be technically true but sometimes life requires a more circuitous route.

Due to fertility difficulties my biological father is an anonymous donor, a fact about which I was unaware until I was in my mid 20's. My mom and dad were married and raised me together. I never felt anything other than loved, wanted, and fully part of my immediate family.

Learning this secret was truly shocking at first. However, after a short time of reflection I understood my dad was my dad. He was a good, even great, though not perfect, dad. Knowing the truth of my creation changed nothing about that.

One consequence of learning that news is that it made me more compassionate towards other people. Virtually anyone walking down the street could be a relation. I imagine it is a little bit how an adoptive person feels.

Since I learned the truth I have attempted to make it as public as possible. I wanted everyone close to me to be aware because I didn't want to foster secrecy around something that is simply a matter of fact. I bring it up in conversation when it seems appropriate. I never obscure the truth of it.

I understand some people whose biological parents are unknown to them desire to meet them. That desire hasn't developed in me. I had a dad. He passed in 1996, and I miss him terribly, but he was my Dad. I do not see a need to replace him.

There are two things though about which I am curious. I've often wondered what my genetic background is. It would likely be most compelling in the event I was to have children, which is unlikely now at my age. But it could also be important for my future health. I've also wondered what my cultural heritage is.

By legend, both sides of my Mom's family are a mish-mosh of Northern European, and a healthy sprinkling of Native American. It would be great to know how much truth is in those stories.  I watch shows like "Who Do You Think You Are" (a celebrity genealogy television series) and I'm completely rapt with the personal stories the subjects learn about themselves. It makes me a little sad I have no way of knowing half my biological story.

Out of curiosity my Mom, my husband, and I did genetic testing with 23 and Me. Since I do not carry a Y chromosome I knew I wouldn't be able to learn anything about my paternal side. The results were still valuable in learning my Mom's side though.

We all received our full genetic results this week. It was able to identify my mom as such so we acknowledged that relationship on the site, thereby opening up deeper information of our connection. That link also opened up information about my paternal side. Given the Y chromosome limitation, I was not anticipating paternal information. But there it was, my genetic story split in two: that which is from my mom, and that which was given to me by my paternal father.

In addition to identifying my mom, 23 and Me identified hundreds of individuals with whom I share genetic material. Most people it found are rather distant cousins but my mom and I did have fun digging around a bit with the ones that are common to both of us. We found some likely candidates who my be as close as second cousins.

Not only did it identify potential distant relatives, the site identified someone with whom I share a large percentage of genetic information. A person they predict to be a half-sister. I am having trouble processing this new information. It never occurred to me I would find a paternal relation.

The potential match has an anonymous profile, as do I. If she matched me I can only imagine I appeared in her matches as well. I wonder how much of a shock it is to her. I wonder a lot of things, actually.

I am going to contact her in the next few days, as soon as I figure out what to say. My instinct is to make a joke of it, " So, funny story. It turns out we share a father. Probably." But I'm sure I'll come up with something more appropriate eventually.

So, in the spirit of laying it all out on the table, there is my story. So far.