When I began writing this column almost a year ago I said I would share things with you that I had never shared before. And this week is no exception. When I write I have no preconceived idea as to what I will say or how I will feel having done so. I simply start with a blank screen and write from the heart. My conclusions are often as much as a surprise to me as they they may be to you.
This week as I sit here in an hotel reception in the heart of Vietnam with the sounds of busy streets crammed with motorbikes and unfamiliar sights seeping through my luxurious surroundings, I am even more unsure as to why I have chosen now to go down a path I honestly never believed I would travel. Perhaps because, like it or not, it is still part of my journey and it is in my nature and my profession to seek answers to questions, no matter how uncomfortable. Whether it is wise to do so is another matter.
Regular readers and close friends will know I am adopted. They will also know my love for my parents (for those who raised me were indeed my parents) was complete. That I believe with all my being that nurture is stronger than nature. That I am who I am because of the two people who taught me the gift of love is the greatest gift of all. They also taught me that the young woman who gave me away at just ten days old did so out of love too.
Only twice have I been forced to question who she was. Firstly when I was pregnant and in hospital and I could not answer the many questions being asked about my medical history. And secondly when I was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that affects three times more people of African and Asian decent than white women. My specialist offered to do my DNA then. I refused. Mum was still alive and it seemed disloyal. I would never have done anything to hurt her even though she, much more so than my father, had always been more than willing to answer my questions. Not that I had many. I was always secure in who I was, who had made me, with or without a shared bloodline. And that was my mum and dad. I have never called them my adoptive parents. They were so much more than that.
It is twenty years since my father died and almost a year since mum died. Some of you may remember I shared my feelings just a few weeks afterwards of opening a birth certificate from another time, of seeing the name given to me by the woman who bore me. Her name was there and alongside it was a blank space where my birth father’s name should have been. She had been young and unmarried, just as mum had told me.
So as mum would say it’s time to stop going round the houses and get to the point. Yesterday I received my DNA and for the first time know my heritage. It is far from what I believed it would be. As a child with my straight dark hair and almond shaped eyes I was often told I looked Chinese. As an adult women in my hotel in Malaysia had welcomed me ‘home’. It seemed to fit with my lupus. Only it couldn’t be further from the truth.
DNA found, like so many, through the many websites offering the service, unsurprisingly shows fifty per cent as Northern England. It is the one third French I can’t quite get my head round. But I like circles. I believe we are all connected. And do you want to know the irony? My wonderful, amazing, intelligent and loving father, with whom I shared so much more than simply a biological connection could ever have given us, was born in Paris, the son of a travelling wool salesman who spent many years living abroad.
And that blows my mind and I wish my daddy was here to share that commonality between us. We knew without words we were bound together, that it was meant to be. Perhaps we just didn’t know why. But he isn’t, so I thought I would share it with you instead as I try and process all that it means.
The name Vivienne, chosen by my birth mother is French. It also means life. Is that why the woman who gave me life chose it for me it before she had to give me away at her parent’s insistence? It a beautiful name. I believe it was given for a reason. But why? You see the questions, rightly or wrongly are now flowing. Pandora’ s box has been opened. Should I slam it shut? At the age of 61, secure in who I am and who made me so, I just don’t feel I can.
DNA matches are already flooding in. I simply hope I will not regret it if I leave it ajar, just for now. To be continued. Peut-etre.