When I was 27, my mom revealed to me that my dad was not actually my biological father. Minor detail. As it turns out, my paraplegic father could not have kids. I had never questioned it, because really—who wants to know how they were conceived? And it's even more of a "nope" when you don’t remember your parents being a couple.
As it turned out, I had been conceived via sperm donor. Learning that your dad is not your dad when you're 27 is overwhelming and weird—almost as weird as thinking about this mysterious, anonymous donor who helped give you life but is no longer in your life. I had to sit with that information for a while and let it slowly absorb into my reality. I never really thought about the fact that there could be others just like me out there in the world, let alone just a city or two away.
Every once in a while, I would try to imagine what this donor’s ethnicity was or what health issues might be in his history. It sounds morbid, but multiple degrees in public health created an increased curiosity and concern about my health history and thus the donor’s. I had also been dealing with some minor health issues, which was what had led me to ask my mom enough questions that she couldn’t keep the secret any longer.
It was this desire to know more about my health history that led me to 23andMe in October of 2013. While this was not really the "early days" of the company, it was definitely on the earlier end of it being commonplace. I don’t remember much about doing the test or getting the results; all I remember is that it wasn’t a huge reveal of information I didn’t already know. I could easily see where my mom’s Mexican ancestry showed up as a combination of southern European and Native American. The rest was Eastern European from what I remember, but I really didn’t pay much attention. I don’t remember any close relatives showing up at that point. The little bit of health information didn’t have any glaring issues or anything worth investigating further. I closed the site and don’t remember ever going back to it with the exception of participating in a few research studies (as a former academic, I can’t turn my back on research studies).
I remember getting emails that I just deleted along with every other email list and newsletter message I received with the exception of those research studies. But that is all I remember doing with 23andMe for the next four years. Even looking back in my inbox, I still have my initial emails about my test in 2013, an email about a research study in 2016 and nothing again until the email that I got after the infamous Pandora’s click.