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Sunday Journal: DNA tests a family

Her name was Sadie and she was 5 years old when we met. I was unaware of her existence until the day her mother called and told me my son was the father of a young girl.

How can that be? I thought. Brendan had passed away three years earlier and he had a 5-year-old child? She explained that Sadie was born months after a relationship had ended with my son. She had left out who the father was on the birth certificate because she was ashamed of having a baby out of wedlock. This explanation did not make much sense but I knew she had a history of substance abuse and emotional problems, and I reasoned that she was not very stable. Brendan also suffered the same problems; he died from an overdose.

Skeptical yet hopeful I invited Sadie and her mother to my home. I fell in love immediately with this cute, friendly, intelligent and talkative child. I dreamed of all of the wonderful times we'd have together as a family. We would nurture and surround her with love.

But my husband, Jack, a police officer, was wary and took a step back. He needed proof that Sadie was our grandchild before he became emotionally involved, so all parties agreed on DNA testing, at our expense. I was amazed that collecting cells from the grandparents and grandchild would yield a 99 percent accurate result.

• • •

My experience as a mother was mostly spent in the black cloud of depression. I was diagnosed with major depression/anxiety disorder when my youngest was an infant. I could not cope with a newborn and two other children under the age of 3 so a friend graciously offered to take the baby to her home for a short while. The plan was for me to catch up on sleep and generally get prepared to welcome the new addition to our family. But after just two weeks with the baby my friend asked me to claim my daughter. I spent many years in and out of depression, wishing the time would fly by and my children would be adults and out of the house. Quality time was compromised as I turned inward, eventually labeling myself as the world's worst mother. But now, years later and with the help of the correct medication and a less-stressed life, I was feeling great. I would capture those lost years by being the perfect grandmother.

• • •

The DNA kit took a couple of weeks to arrive in the mail. In the interim, we introduced Sadie to extended family members and close friends who had mixed opinions about who she resembled. Some thought she looked like my kids when they were children and others could see no resemblance at all. I did not think that Sadie inherited my son's features but Brendan did not resemble his father either. He looked like my brother.

The test arrived and a close family friend and nurse administered it by swabbing our mouths. There would be a three-week wait for the results that would be revealed online. Those three weeks were torture. We decided not to see Sadie during that time because, in our hope for positive results, the bond between us would only grow stronger. Finally the news: We were not her grandparents. I had to go to work that day and cried and cried, at times not being able to catch my breath. I felt I had let Sadie down by not being able to continue in her life as a loving and steady presence.

A year later, my daughter, Tara, became pregnant with my first grandchild, Owen, and a year later Brendan, named after his uncle, entered the world. God had taken Sadie away for a reason but then he blessed me with two grandchildren. After they moved 1,000 miles away when the youngest was a year old I was initially saddened, of course, but we see them four times a year now. Given a second chance, I have healed and I cherish every minute I am able to spend with them.

Patti Murray, who recently moved to Florida, has had a drafting career using computer-aided design.

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Sunday Journal: DNA tests a family 02/27/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2010 12:21pm]
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