Dear Barb—The Genes of History

Dear Barb:

I am in a bad situation and I need some advice.  My sister and I did our DNA testing to, hopefully, trace our ancestors.  Well, we got a big surprise.  It turns out we are only half siblings!  We don’t know what to do with this information.  My parents have been together since they were teenagers and I always thought they were happy.  My sister and I do not look alike, she is dark and I am fair, both my parents are fair as well.  I just thought my sister may have inherited her looks from someone back in the family.  Now we are both stuck with this information and don’t know what to do.  I would assume my mom must have been fooling around on my dad, or maybe my dad got someone pregnant and my parents raised the child.  My sister and I are both confused as to what is the best way to handle this, or maybe we should just let sleeping dogs lie, as the saying goes.  Although now we are both curious about the circumstances and who our real parents are.  We desperately need some help!! Thanks, Rebecca. 

Hi Rebecca:

Thanks for your letter.  There could be a lot of different scenarios at play here.  You need to take time to consider all the possibilities for this to have occurred.  Don’t automatically assume someone was fooling around.  It could be that your parents used a sperm donor for one, or both of you and they decided together that it would be better not to tell you girls.  Since your parents got together so young, they may have had a breakup and been with other people, then found themselves back together even though a pregnancy occurred.  You didn’t mention whether your parents are aware that you girls have done the DNA test, and, if they are, what was their reaction.  It comes down to respecting your parent’s privacy, as if you hadn’t done this test, this information would not have come out at this time.  Perhaps you should mention taking the test to your parents and see how they react, that may provide an opening for them to tell you how this came to be.  Also, I would suggest you and your sister make an appointment with a genetic counsellor for some guidance on how to handle this situation.  A genetic counselor may be able to provide more information as to whether this DNA is from your father or your mother’s side.  Basically, it is up to you how you want to deal with this, but keep in mind that you seem to have grown up in a happy loving family and you may not want to rock the boat.  Good Luck to both you and your sister.

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