Scrolling through my emails after work one night, one in particular caught my attention.
It was from a genealogy website, My Heritage, offering to send out free DNA test kits to help people find their family.
Growing up, my parents David and Jeanette were always open about the fact that I was adopted.
Though they didn’t know much about my mum, they assumed she’d been forced to give me up due to giving birth out of wedlock.
I was just two months old when they took me in.
Despite my close relationship with them, I often found myself wondering about my birth mother and what she’d be like. There wasn’t a part of me that blamed her for the decisions she’d made.
But I was desperate to know whether we shared anything in common.
Does she have the same hair or eyes as me? I’d wonder.
At 18, I wrote to the adoption agency to try and find her, but I never heard anything back.
Then two years later, in 1986, the law changed to allow New Zealand residents over 20 who’d been adopted to find their birth families, so I set about getting a copy of my birth certificate.
Incredibly, I was able to locate my biological mum, Yvonne, who’d moved to Australia soon after I was born.
Calling her, she was so happy to hear from me and agreed to come and meet.
Just a week later, I organised to fly her out to New Zealand.
Mum told me that her relationship with my birth father was short-lived and she’d since married and had two more kids, Damon and Yvette. But she admitted she’d always felt guilty about giving me up.
‘I tried to keep you, but I didn’t have support from my family,’ she said, revealing her own mother had adopted her sister out as a baby too.
But I assured her there was nothing to be sorry for.
‘I had a wonderful upbringing,’ I smiled.
Spending the next two weeks getting to know one another, I finally felt like I belonged.
She also revealed the name of my birth father – Bruce – who I tracked down right away.
When it came time to say goodbye at the airport, Mum and I broke down in tears.
‘I love you,’ she cried.
‘I love you too,’ I smiled.
Then, when I was 21, my adoptive parents gifted me a plane ticket to Sydney to meet my birth father in time for his 40th birthday party.
Sharing a long hug, I felt so thankful to have both my biological parents back in my life. Better still, I also learned I had three other siblings named Shane, Simone and Debbie, who welcomed me into the family with open arms.
While most adopted people had trouble finding their birth parents, I’d found a tribe!
I must be the luckiest woman on earth, I thought.
In time, Bruce eventually moved back to New Zealand where we’d regularly catch up for dinner.
One night, he casually mentioned he might have more kids from flings he’d had, but he couldn’t be sure.
I didn’t think much of it until the DNA test email arrived in May 2018. Filling out the application, I was fairly certain there were no more siblings to find, but I figured it was worth a shot.
When the results came six weeks later, I was shocked to learn that I shared a close DNA match with a man named Terry Smith, but the name didn’t ring any bells.
Calling Bruce, he didn’t recognise the name, so I sent a message to 15 people with the same name on Facebook who lived in New Zealand.
If you had a DNA test last year, we need to talk, I said.
Incredibly, the following day I received a reply from one of the men who’d never met his father.
I’ve been looking for my dad my whole life, he said, explaining he’d always felt like a piece of him was missing.
Discovering the name of his mother, I went back to Bruce, who confirmed he’d been with her 51 years earlier.
I think you’re my brother, I wrote to Terry excitedly.
Exchanging numbers, we spent hours on the phone that night filling in the gaps.
Amazingly, I learned that my secret brother lived just an hour away!
We organised to meet the following day with Bruce.
Holding each other close for a long time, it was an emotional reunion.
Born just eight months apart, Terry and I had lots in common, including our dry sense of humour and light blue eyes.
With seven kids between us, we swapped photos and stories of our own families.
‘I can’t believe we’ve been so close all these years,’ I beamed.
But the best part was seeing him bond with Bruce.
Sharing the same nose and a smile that reached to their eyes, there was no mistaking they were father and son.
Now, two years on from finding my brother, the three of us regularly catch up for coffee together.
Although I never imagined just how many relatives I’d find, I feel blessed to be part of one big happy family.
I spent decades searching for my father, so when I received the message form Susan I was over the moon.
Not only did I find my dad, but I found a sister I never even knew I had too.
It's filled a huge gap in my heart and has completely changed my life for the better.