One of the most healing things that we can do during our DNA surprise journeys is to write about them. In this week’s episode, I’m joined by author Michelle Tullier. Michelle talks about her journey of finding out the truth, her initial reaction to her discovery, and how she has processed the emotions and navigated her new relationships. She also discusses the importance of therapy and writing in her healing process, as well as her plans to publish a memoir about her experience.
Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle.
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Transcripts are AI-generated and may not reflect the final published episodes.
[00:00:00] Michelle: Hi, I’m Michelle Tullier. I’m 61 years old, and I am originally from the South, but now live in Maine on an island.
[00:00:08] Michelle: My story is that I found out the father I’d known for 54 years is not my biological father, and I had no reason to suspect that he was not. This was all new to me. I had done an ancestry DNA test just purely for fun. I think an ad crossed my… Inbox one day and I thought what the heck, you know, be kind of interesting.
[00:00:33] Michelle: I had grown up thinking that I was almost entirely of French heritage, and I’d really identified that with that since I was a child. So I thought it would be fun to see the ethnicity breakdown from the DNA test results and just, you know, learn a little more about that. And also, I’d always kind of wanted more family.
[00:00:51] Michelle: I was an only child came from a really tiny family. My father was an only child, I had nothing but a couple of sort of distant relations on his side and grandparents, of course, and my mother had one brother. Who had one only child. I always say that we never had to pull out the folding chairs to put around the Thanksgiving table because we just, you know, had a small group and, I didn’t really like being an only child.
[00:01:19] Michelle: I know. I’ve talked to a lot of others. We often feel the same way, which is it’s certainly their advantages to get lots of attention. Sometimes might be a little spoiled in a nice way. But, it can be a very lonely childhood, and so I think also when I did the ancestry test, I thought maybe I’ll, find some second cousins who are around that I could get to know or something like that.
[00:01:44] Alexis: And did anyone in your family know that you were taking the test before you took it? Sure.
[00:01:50] Michelle: They did not. My, my father that I’ve known all my life I was close with, but he was in his first year of dementia. It just didn’t come up. Just didn’t mention it to him. And my mother I was estranged from.
[00:02:03] Michelle: I now understand that she, why she was the way she was, She was a very difficult mother and now I understand she kept this secret of having had an affair and conceived me that way with a family friend, someone I knew as a child, and, she kept that secret all her life but it made for a very strained relationship, so, at the time that I got my results, I had not talked to her in a year, And before that, it had been like another year.
[00:02:33] Michelle: No one except my husband knew that I was doing it.
[00:02:36] Alexis: So, take us to when you get your results and you see some surprising information. What happened?
[00:02:43] Michelle: When I got the results for the first time, there wasn’t the major surprise that I now know, you know, that came about. I first did the test in 2014 and when the results came back, I thought that the ethnicity breakdown looked a little odd and, you know, there wasn’t nearly as much French as I thought there should be.
[00:03:07] Michelle: I knew I had quite a bit of Native American in me. From my mother’s side of the family, that wasn’t showing, and it showed me as nearly a quarter Irish, and there had never been any mention of Irish in my upbringing. And so that seemed odd, but I quickly did some research and learned that can be, you know, an ever evolving part of these home DNA tests, as you know, as they sort of refine the science there and get more samples, you know, and going through their labs that just gets better.
[00:03:38] Michelle: So I know that that changes all the time. So I didn’t think much of it. The people matches also seemed odd, but I actually odd is the wrong word, because I, again, I was not suspecting anything. So instead, they were just kind of disappointing. I quickly glance through, you know, screen after screen of names, not really recognizing any surnames, but I thought, well, you know, I grew up
[00:04:03] Michelle: In that small family environment where I knew of like five or six surnames in my orbit. So I thought, okay, these just must be they’re all third and fourth, they were marked as third, fourth. Or more distant cousins. So I didn’t really think much of it. And I thought someday when I’m not busy, which still that day hasn’t come, but someday I will come back in here and I’ll figure it all out.
[00:04:28] Michelle: I’ll map out a family tree, contact some of these people that I’m matched with, and it’ll be fun, you know, figure out who all these people are. And so I closed it up and I didn’t look at it again until two years later in 2016.
[00:04:41] Michelle: I happened to go back in because I was working in a university, and that university’s football team was going to be playing a game in Ireland.
[00:04:52] Michelle: A US university was going to be playing a football game in Ireland, American football. And so I was going to the game, and my husband and I were going, we decided we’d tack on a few days, make a vacation out of it, neither of us had ever been to Ireland. And so I thought, well, I remember that Ancestry, you know, had that thing about me being a good bit Irish, so why don’t I go back in and look and see if it gives any more detailed information about, you know, where in Ireland, a county or something.
[00:05:21] Michelle: Or I thought, Maybe I’ll see some Irish sounding surnames in the DNA people matches and, you know, I imagine I’d be over there in a pub joking around with somebody that we’re cousins. So, so I just went in, I was at work just sitting there at my desk on a really busy workday. We had this major event we were planning in our department at the school and, so it was like three o’clock in the afternoon by the time I sat down to have my turkey sandwich at my desk. And I thought, well, I’ll go in and check Ancestry really quickly. And so I got back in and I had a very close Family match, they called it. And I thought, well, this is interesting. I know all my close family.
[00:06:08] Michelle: I saw it, and I am just, I just immediately knew what happened. Which is just, to me, that’s been one of the strangest things about this. I mean, the whole experience is strange to have this happen in one’s life, but The way I reacted, I think it was just a little weird.
[00:06:25] Alexis: When you say you instantly knew what happened? What was your thought?
[00:06:30] Michelle: The person I was matched with turns out is a half sibling, but I recognize the last name. I knew that name, like the back of my hand, they had been he and his brothers and sisters, but I sister and his parents had been close family friends when I was a child up until I was maybe around 12.
[00:06:49] Michelle: No one has we haven’t been able to really piece together exactly when our families kind of drifted apart. You know, so I just knew the name immediately. That’s not a particularly common name. So I just knew and what I mean I knew is that I knew that my mother. And the father of the family. So, of course, my, what I know now is my biological father I knew they were very close, you know, not only were the two couples good friends, but I just always had the sense that my mother and the father of that family just really hit it off.
[00:07:23] Michelle: I mean, obviously they were very close right if this happened, but um, you know, so I just as a child just innocently knew that they were just buddies. So, So, and this is the odd part is that I it’s like, I’ve always known, but never really was aware that I knew never had any reason to suspect this. And I know there’s a psychoanalytical term called the unthought known.
[00:07:52] Alexis: Yeah.
[00:07:53] Michelle: that explains this phenomenon. We make these observations when we’re little, we soak in the world around us, we experience things, people, they make an impression on us, and apparently those impressions don’t always translate to conscious thought.
[00:08:11] Michelle: We, we wouldn’t say, I know this is happening between my mother and this man, or I know this man is my father. That unthought known idea is just something. Oh, it, but we don’t think it.
[00:08:27] Alexis: Yeah. So can you give maybe, I know it’s kind of hard because you’re saying like, it’s not this like front of mind thought, right? But what are some examples in hindsight, can you think of where you’re like, ah, yeah, that makes sense now? Or yep, I did kind of know this.
[00:08:46] Michelle: I can actually give you a specific thing because it came to me the minute I was sitting there staring at my computer screen, seeing the DNA results, seeing this match. And it was something I had not thought of in, decades. Of myself standing next to the man who is my biological father. Both families were together at a cookout, like, you know, in the backyard. And his kids, his four children who are, you know, are now, I now know are my half siblings, were playing.
[00:09:21] Michelle: The parents were talking. And my biological father said, here, come stand by me. I was really shy as a child. I really shy and quiet and, you know, kind of the classic only child misfit like I did. I knew how to act around adults, but I just didn’t feel comfortable around children. So they’re all playing and being normal.
[00:09:42] Michelle: And I’m, you know, being the sort of little odd. person who’s, wants to hang with the adults. My biological father, I remember knowing that he also was somewhat shy. I remember he was very friendly, very just, he had just a really positive kind of way about him, a nice sort of aura or demeanor but he was somewhat shy and quiet.
[00:10:05] Michelle: And so I remember him saying, here, let’s just kind of stand back here. I don’t know his exact words, but it was essentially like, here, come hang with me, you know, just stand here. We’ll be the quiet people kind of watching all these wacky people run around. I just remembered it like it was, that cliched old expression like it was yesterday and that just popped into my head the minute I saw the results and I, a feeling washed through my body.
[00:10:32] Michelle: That was this feeling of safety and comfort that I had at that moment. That again, I didn’t think of this for decades. But I know that’s how I felt at that moment. And I said to myself, I mean, I’m like, sort of utterly rational. I’m not this person who tends to be kind of emotional and very good about being in touch with my feelings.
[00:10:53] Michelle: And I, so, you know, the message in my head to myself was, Oh, come on, Michelle, you’re just They’re just sort of rewriting history to fit what you know now. But I am absolutely convinced I’m not doing that. I mean, this thought and those feelings just sort of entered my head and my body in that moment.
[00:11:13] Michelle: And I could not have conjured that up. I can remember it clearly as, you know, as if it had just happened.
[00:11:20] Alexis: Wow. So that kind of ties into something we sort of discussed prior to this interview,
[00:11:28] Alexis: Concept of shock versus a surprise, right? And obviously my podcast is called DNA Surprises. Um, So it sounds to me like you were maybe surprised, but you weren’t shocked. Is that accurate? Or would you say it’s the other way around?
[00:11:47] Michelle: that is correct. No, I would say it that way. I was certainly surprised. I mean, it did feel kind of numb. It felt like everything around me just sort of went into a blur or a fog. But it was more like. Well, this is not how I thought my day was going to go.
[00:12:04] Alexis: Yeah.
[00:12:04] Michelle: It was just, it was a normal day. It’s just going through the motions of an ordinary day, eating an ordinary lunch I’d brought in my ordinary little lunch bag stuck in the break room fridge, you know, and there, and there I sit, checking my personal email while I eat my lunch and, you know, so that was the surprise part, like, okay.
[00:12:25] Michelle: Didn’t plan on my day going this way.
[00:12:28] Michelle: It’s now been several years since that was 2016 and it’s now 2023 and I know it can take a lifetime to process something like this. Right. But, you know, so it’s been several years. I’ve had to be processing this as we all do and. What it has made me realize was how much of what I alluded to a moment ago about being a not very in touch with my emotions sort of person, how much that has factored into how I’ve reacted to this.
[00:13:04] Michelle: I was always somebody who just soldiered on, you know, worked really hard, plowed through any kind of problem. I handled it in a really like logical problem solving, let’s tackle this kind of way. And, you know, certainly that’s been good in a lot of ways, it’s been great professionally and, you know, sometimes it’s just a good way to be in life, but it’s certainly not a balanced way to be in life.
[00:13:30] Michelle: And in fact, that moment that I made the discovery, a few minutes later, I emailed my husband to tell him about this. I did not call him. I didn’t go running out of my office and driving home. I emailed him. And it wasn’t even the first thing I said. I
[00:13:49] Alexis: Oh, wow.
[00:13:50] Michelle: said something else about something we were dealing with.
[00:13:54] Michelle: He and I were dealing with just a sort of business matter that he had just emailed me about earlier in the afternoon. And I answered his question about that. And then I said, and oh, and by the way, I went back into my ancestry and found saw a result that leads me to believe that my father’s not my father.
[00:14:15] Michelle: And that was it. Like, that was my email. That was how, like, detached I was from my emotions. I finished my sandwich, got up from my desk and, you know, walked down the hall to see what was going on with the event preparations and got back to work. And then I’ve had sort of a backwards emotional journey.
[00:14:34] Michelle: Then over these years, I’ve kind of spiraled in a way that’s like, you know, I had, I knew I had to reckon with it. I know, actually, I shouldn’t say that I did not know it. I guess it’s inevitable. Any reasonable person would know that I would have to reckon with this at some point, right? I would have
[00:14:53] Michelle: Deal with my emotions or how I feel about this.
[00:14:58] Michelle: And so that’s what I’ve had to do, but it sure didn’t come right away. So I think that’s also what enabled me to accept it. It was like, okay, it’s just another project in my life.
[00:15:09] Alexis: Mmm. Something else to tackle.
[00:15:11] Michelle: I get how fortunate I am that I know who my father was.
[00:15:15] Michelle: Unfortunately, he had died already. So I didn’t get to talk to him about it, but I know how fortunate I am that I know who he is, who he was, I’ve met his family or re met them when I know many people, you know, never find who their father or their parent is that they’ve discovered or they reject.
[00:15:36] Michelle: You know, getting the parent rejects them and doesn’t want to have a relationship or even talk to them. So I’ve been lucky that way.
[00:15:42] Alexis: First of all, I’m dying to know, what did your husband say in response to that email?
[00:15:47] Michelle: He called me like a normal person. He’s also a therapist, so
[00:15:54] Alexis: Oh, wow. Oh, that’s interesting.
[00:15:56] Michelle: So he’s a little better in touch with the, in the feelings department. So he called me like, are you kidding me? What is this?
[00:16:04] Alexis: Wow. Wow. Okay. So what happens next? You start, you identify the name. So you were able to figure it out. Okay. I know who this is. How did you get in touch with the family?
[00:16:15] Michelle: Yeah. So the one I was matched with the one person who turns out to be my half brother, one of three half brothers and Interestingly, he had just gone back into Ancestry around the time that I did, after not being in it a while. And he just happened to go back in and saw the match as well. So that was uncanny timing. And I messaged him in, you know, within the Ancestry site. And we were on the phone within a day or so and had an amazing conversation, him and his wife. He was really wonderful. They both were. And I knew they were such good people right away because they, they were so concerned about me. Like, I mean, obviously this happened to them as well. But in a different way, you know, see they’re on sort of the flip side of it, but still it’s something that happened to them you know, a change in who his father was.
[00:17:16] Michelle: He and his wife were just both concerned for me and how I was coping. And I just thought that was so wonderful. And then I went on to meet I ended up with, so four half siblings, three first cousins, And my biological father, though he was deceased, his sister was still alive. She was in her late 80s.
[00:17:35] Michelle: And I got to know her for about a year and a half until she died shortly after her 90th birthday. And she was incredible, loving and welcoming and just this wacky, cool woman.
[00:17:47] Alexis: What is your relationship like with them now?
[00:17:50] Michelle: know it sort of comes and goes. I mean, generally, it’s been positive. I know, you know, of course, each of them As you’d have in any situation like this, with a group of people, each has processed it in their own way or reacted in their own way, and I’m sure there are a couple of them you know, who kind of rather this hadn’t never happened but they’ve been, you know, they’ve been very nice to me, and I know they’ve done their absolute best to help me feel okay about this, because, you know, as you well know, No, those of us this happens to, it’s not like we, we caused it or asked for it to happen, right?
[00:18:20] Michelle: So it’s, that’s been another part of the journey is sort of the ups and downs of those relationships. First off, as an only child, I don’t know how to have siblings. I just don’t know. And, so, that’s kind of been hard but it’s the positive is I’ve been included in a lot of family events. My husband and my daughter and I, and she’s 25 now. And so she’s, you know, lived through this saga with me the past several years. And, we’ve been included in some family weddings of the younger generation.
[00:18:55] Michelle: And my aunt’s you know, we got to be at my aunt’s deathbed. She came, became sick very suddenly and, We got invited to, to come there in the last hours of her life, which was amazing. And at her funeral and, you know, just other things, drop by at the end of the day on Thanksgiving, that kind of thing.
[00:19:13] Michelle: And then, but there’s always that reminder that I will never fully be a part of them. We may all share genes, but there’s way too much lost time,
[00:19:24] Alexis: really hard to build those relationships.
[00:19:27] Alexis: Were you able to determine? What happened, was there anyone with any knowledge of what exactly started that relationship and if it was ongoing or, you know, those kinds of things.
[00:19:42] Michelle: I have pieced together something. So I did contact my mother after I got my results. And again, we had not spoken for a year. So it was quite a thing to be reconnecting with her over and we got together to discuss it. At first she started to try to deny it, but that, that lasted for, you know, maybe three seconds.
[00:20:06] Michelle: It just was clear that was not going to happen when I said I have the DNA results
[00:20:10] Michelle: She denied an ongoing affair. She said that she, Chose him to conceive me with as a transaction because she’d had two miscarriages with my father, her husband, and this was the, I was born in the 60s, but this was in the 50s when she first started trying and, she was told back then that it the pregnancies not being viable were my father’s fault, which I didn’t even know that was biologically a thing I didn’t know much about fertility and miscarriages and I’ve since learned that can be a thing, I guess just not as common and so that was her excuse was that she desperately wanted to be a mother and and so she asked This family friend, if he would.
[00:21:04] Michelle: But things didn’t add up and so I don’t believe that’s the truth. My mother, I, and I did not go back to her to ask more because then she resorted to really hateful toxic messages to me, texts and emails in the months that followed because she ended our conversation ordering me not to tell anyone and saying that it was not my business to tell.
[00:21:36] Michelle: And of course, I did tell people I didn’t blast it on social media, but obviously, I told my daughter who was had just started her freshman year of college at that time. And I didn’t want her to hear about this some years later, I didn’t want to keep secrets from her, told my closest friends, told a close family friend and my mother just flipped that I had done that, and just started unleashing these really hateful texts and messages to me, and to my daughter, which is the last straw, you know, that’s unacceptable, I can handle it, but don’t do that to your granddaughter.
[00:22:14] Michelle: So I didn’t go back to my mother to get any more of the story. And then she died several months later, and I fully believe she brought about her death. It was not officially a suicide, but She got sick with just a, you know, cold upper respiratory infection refused to get any help for it it turned into pneumonia, and by the time my stepfather, she had remarried quite a number of years back after divorcing my father when I was in my 20s.
[00:22:43] Michelle: She was rushed to the hospital and sepsis had set in and she was put into hospice care within about 24 hours and died within a day. So it was very sudden and so, you know, I think she just lost the will to live at that point with her secret out. But I know from others, from my own aunt, my mother’s brother’s wife that they had suspected an affair between my mother and my biological father since they were all very young in the seventies In the mid 1940s, and my grandmother, I remembered something my grandmother had said once she’s long gone but I remembered something she had said once about how she actually thought my mother was having an affair with my biological father.
[00:23:30] Michelle: And I just thought it was crazy. Yeah, I thought it was I was around maybe 19 or 20. And my grandmother and I were very close she talked to me like a friend and I thought that just didn’t make any sense because I thought we haven’t. I’ve seen that family in years and you know she’s mistaken.
[00:23:46] Michelle: So I just started patching together a lot. And yeah, just it’s pretty clear that they there was something between them for a very long time, potentially decades.
[00:23:57] Alexis: so she gave you a story about donor conception, right.
[00:24:02] Alexis: Without your raised, your birth certificate father’s knowledge, but essentially that’s what she, she told you, but you, yeah, it sounds like there was probably more going on there.
[00:24:12] Michelle: Also my father that I grew up with was gay. So there’s another
[00:24:16] Alexis: Oh, okay.
[00:24:18] Michelle: there’s another reason.
[00:24:19] Alexis: how did you figure that out?
[00:24:22] Michelle: I I didn’t really know for sure until I was. In my 20s and out of college and away from home. And I don’t know why I didn’t know earlier. Because I mean, really anyone who knew my father would have suspected that he was,
[00:24:39] Michelle: I just never really, I don’t know, I just didn’t give it much thought.
[00:24:42] Michelle: And but then I knew for sure by the time I was in my twenties, it was never my father was always in the closet. It was never spoken about openly other than my mother blurted it out one time when I was an adult and was mad at her and. She knew that my father and I were very close. He was wonderful.
[00:25:00] Michelle: He was also alive about a year and a half after the discovery, and then just died very peacefully, natural causes he was a wonderful, loving, generous, just fabulous, very sweet father. And so we had a good relationship. It was always a little superficial.
[00:25:20] Michelle: And now, I know. Probably because he had, he kept his own secret, and so I guess he just never could really get fully close with anybody, even me. But we were close in other ways, it was just, it was a nice father daughter relationship. So my mother, one time during an argument, knew that, somehow that kind of came to light, and she was certainly very jealous of that relationship my father and I had, and she blurred it out.
[00:25:45] Michelle: that he was gay, as if that was going to make me not like him. , I don’t know what she was thinking. But it was just her way of sort of bashing him. And um, so I knew it. And my mother knew it apparently. She did tell me later, she knew it from the first year of marriage and she was 19 years old when they got married.
[00:26:04] Michelle: And it
[00:26:05] Michelle: The deep South, Louisiana. 1954. So neither of them was going to come out and be open about that back then.
[00:26:16] Alexis: okay. And did you ever tell your father the truth? I know you mentioned he had some dementia .
[00:26:24] Michelle: I did not. I decided not to because his dementia wasn’t extreme. He never got to the point where. He didn’t recognize me or other people.
[00:26:33] Michelle: He just had the short term memory issues and confusion. So I knew that if I did tell him, I would have to repeat it hundreds of times over, you know, days, months, years, because he wouldn’t remember. And obviously didn’t want to have to do that, but I also didn’t want to break his heart. My mother claimed that he did not know, that only my biological father knew.
[00:26:57] Michelle: And so my raising father, I just didn’t want to I didn’t see any reason to do that. But it was hard because I was around him so much, dealing with the coordination of his care in, in those final, that final year and a half of his life. And it felt like a real sense of betrayal to be with him, not just knowing what I knew, but because I was so focused at the time on getting to know my found family and researching my new lineage and history.
[00:27:31] Michelle: I just felt like I was immersed deep in this other world and this other family. And it made me sort of less interested in my raising dad, you know, I felt like I was just kind of going through the motions show up to visit him sit there as long as I could until it was a respectable time to leave and, coordinate when the nurses would call and have a question about something and I was just going through the motions and that did not feel good.
[00:27:59] Alexis: Yeah, you touched on the fact that you’ve sort of almost processed emotionally in reverse.
[00:28:10] Michelle: Right.
[00:28:11] Alexis: you gone through the anger, grief? Have you felt emotional about it since?
[00:28:18] Michelle: I certainly have. Absolutely. It would happen, it would sort of hit me at moments I wouldn’t expect, and sometimes prompted by, you know, maybe seeing something on social media that someone in my found family had posted, you know, perhaps it was, a family gathering, something, and I wasn’t included, and The rational side of me knows, well, of course, I wouldn’t be included.
[00:28:47] Michelle: I’m not going to be included in everything. And also, I had moved to Maine, my husband and I, and they’re all in the South. I’m sure there’s also times when they might have thought of inviting me to something, but they knew I didn’t want to travel. A thousand plus miles to get there. I’m not just down the street anymore.
[00:29:04] Michelle: So I knew rationally that it makes sense. I’m not going to be fully a part of their lives and always around, but just seeing those reminders of not being a part of them would just be like a knife in the gut. And I would just burst out crying for no particular reason. I mean, it seemed like no reason, you know, out of the blue, but clearly the reason was.
[00:29:29] Michelle: It was hitting me that
[00:29:31] Michelle: I felt between families, by this time, both of my mother and my raising father had died. No siblings. My, my one and only first cousin is wonderful. We were very close growing up. But we’re also both sort of only child, only children who just kind of do our own thing and rarely talk when we do, it’s wonderful.
[00:29:52] Michelle: And we’re there for each other. But, you know, I didn’t have anybody in my old family to turn to and. You know, not fully in the new family, so it just started hitting me.
[00:30:05] Alexis: And what have you done to process? I mean, I know you said your husband is a therapist, but I’m curious. I’m sure that’s helpful to have some of that kind of expertise you know, right in the house with you. But what have you done to help yourself navigate this?
[00:30:21] Michelle: yeah, I mean, sure. It is handy. He doesn’t force it on me. And I probably could do a better job of. Taking suggestions he has or, listening to him. He’s pretty good about keeping the husband hat on and not the therapist at and instead I’ve had a great therapist. I had when we still lived in Atlanta.
[00:30:42] Michelle: I had 1 when this 1st happened. So I had somebody to, start to process this with. And then now since moving to Maine, I have an amazing therapist who is doing some really deep work with me and have been with her, gosh, I think, about two or more years now, and that’s helping a lot. And then a lot of writing I’ve done I recently completed an eight week therapeutic writing workshop that was really helpful, and I’ve been writing a book.
[00:31:14] Michelle: I’ve written a lot over the years. It’s always been my way that I kind of communicate with the world and process things for myself. My prior books were all related to my work and my profession. not creative works. But I had, you know, real history of writing books and published by major publishers.
[00:31:35] Michelle: So I I’m not totally new to the world of writing and publishing, but when this happened, I almost immediately started writing about it.
[00:31:43] Michelle: So I’m writing a memoir called No Finer Place and it’s early in the process. It’s not at all out yet or near publication. I’m actually going to be submitting queries to agents in the near future and, you know, trying to seek a traditional publisher. Cause I think I, cause I really want to. Share the story to try to help others and not just in the sense of a DNA surprise story. I mean, I know that I know all of us in our DNA surprise community have a real thirst for every book. We can get our hands on right
[00:32:14] Alexis: Sure. Yeah.
[00:32:15] Michelle: about you know, whether it’s the little short self published ones are the ones that are, you know, New York Times bestsellers through major publishers.
[00:32:23] Michelle: We all have this real desire to read about the other stories and we get. Some hope and, you know, sense of connection through them. I also think though what it has really morphed into is not just a DNA surprise book and story, but one of identity and what happens when you don’t know where you belong, when you don’t have that strong sense of belonging to one set of people, places, and things.
[00:32:52] Michelle: How do you figure out who you are? And that’s what this story really is about. Is trying to just figure out who I am when I don’t have one solid set of sort of grounding of family to pull from.
[00:33:09] Alexis: Yeah that untethered feeling, I think is one that so many people can relate to not only in the DNA surprise world, but yeah, any sort of massive changes to identity can cause that feeling.
[00:33:24] Michelle: that’s right. It’s kind of interesting because this happened to me when I was 54. Now I’m 61. And I’ve had this like panic of, I should have myself figured out by now. I should know who I am. Like, when is that ever going to happen? I mean, I know I still have quite a bit of life left in me, but hey, you know, I’m not 2021 anymore.
[00:33:48] Michelle: I have these sort of two parallel parts to the book, which is one is the whole you know, getting to know the new family and the new lineage and then the other is this road trip. Tracing my raising father’s steps through Louisiana you know, from the Cajun country, Baton Rouge, and the New Orleans up to the Bible Belt of the north of Louisiana and the little towns he grew up in and so.
[00:34:12] Michelle: When I was processing this D n A experience, I thought, okay, well, it’s like I gotta pick a side . I have to figure out if I can really dig in deep to each of the two families, each of the two sides of me. The two fathers. I’ll know where I belong. I’ll know who I am. And what I’ve come to realize, and I guess it’s a pretty obvious point, but I was just a slow learner here, was that it’s not about picking a side , it’s about just.
[00:34:44] Michelle: Sort of being comfortable with being this the term liminal, you know, kind of ever changing, not fixed and rooted, just this liminal being who’s in the middle, the messy, murky middle
[00:34:58] Michelle: and that’s actually can be kind of nice.
[00:35:00] Michelle: It’s a very, it’s kind of a very liberating feeling to, to take the pressure off oneself and not, Feel like you have to be this perfectly formed being, you know, the cake has baked in the oven and it’s done. It’s not that, that we’re always changing. We’re always learning, changing, taking in information from our environment.
[00:35:25] Michelle: And sure, we’ve got these constant parts of ourselves, these sort of fixed aspects of ourselves that are always there a constant thread through our lives, but it’s not like we’re working toward. Knowing exactly who we are and having a clear identity and then one day it’s said and that’s it.
[00:35:43] Michelle: It’s just, and so it was, it’s been nice to realize I can kind of take that pressure off myself and just simply be, and if it, and if being means I straddle worlds, two families where I live in Maine is a small island town Where we straddle a fence between the, you know, the longtime multi, you know, multi generational back residents who are, you know, lobstering and fishing families and then the folks like us who’ve moved from cities and other places.
[00:36:16] Michelle: and don’t have the history here. And we love both sides. We have great friends and, you know, straddle both sides. And I was the same way growing up. Yeah, I could be with the Latin nerds and the band and the artists and the jocks and the cheerleaders. And I just was a floater. that’s what I’ve come to realize is that’s who I am.
[00:36:34] Michelle: I’m just always going to kind of be a floater and that’s actually a really nice way to be. You get the best of all worlds.
[00:36:42] Alexis: Yes. I love that perspective. What advice do you have for a parent who is keeping a d n a surprise from their child?
[00:36:53] Michelle: What a question. That’s a hard question to answer because. As much as I have had anger toward my mother for keeping the surprise and sadness over what I’ve lost. I can understand why she didn’t tell me, or why she and my biological father didn’t tell me. I mean, I could see that it’s one of those things where there’s never a good day for it, right?
[00:37:16] Michelle: You know, when you’re going to disrupt two families lives. But, I full well know there’s the issues of medical history, there’s the that are important to know, there’s the, and then there is just that Lost time that we can never come back. So gosh, the advice probably would be to Consider doing what may be very uncomfortable for them for the sake of their child, you know They did choose if they chose me.
[00:37:47] Michelle: I know sometimes there’s other circumstances that bring about the baby, but if they chose to bring this child into the world then they do owe something to them, and keeping secrets is not usually the best way to treat them, so I think it would be, extend yourself into an uncomfortable place if it’s for the good of the child, the teenager, or the adult to know,
[00:38:19] Alexis: Yeah.
[00:38:21] Michelle: you know, if parents can do it with adopted kids.
[00:38:23] Michelle: Thank you. Kids often at a young age then they should consider trying to do it in cases of other Circumstances that have brought about a child.
[00:38:37] Alexis: And what advice do you have for someone who just discovered a DNA surprise or NPE?
[00:38:45] Michelle: I would advise a couple of things one is to be kind to yourself and respect whatever way you choose to React and handle it, you know, obviously we each process these things in our own way and I think it’s too easy to get caught up in what’s how am I supposed to react or what is the right way To do this so that would be one thing and the other is community I had no idea about the many facebook groups the podcast the you know retreats and the books and, you know, just journals and all kinds of people and organizations and groups that are so supportive, started finding them, but not that soon.
[00:39:38] Michelle: I was, I really was pretty much on my own. And so it makes such a difference. In the way that any supportive community can feeling less alone, getting practical resources. And within that, of course, would be seeing a mental health professional. I won’t say everyone should because I can’t claim that, but I cannot imagine a single person getting through this without the benefit of some professional counseling or psychotherapy.
[00:40:05] Michelle: It really makes a difference.
[00:40:07] Alexis: Michelle, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your story.
[00:40:13] Alexis: Best of luck shopping your book around. I cannot wait to read it. Please keep us posted when it comes out and I’ll be sure to share out the link as soon as it’s published.
[00:40:24] Michelle: Wonderful. I so appreciate this opportunity. It’s been fun. Thank you.