‘Any significant family history?’ the doctor asked, filling out his notes. The question jarred with me every time I heard it.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘I’m adopted.’
Growing up, my parents, Mandy, 63, and Rod, 68, had always been very open. They’d longed to start a family, but after nine years of trying and IVF, they’d decided to adopt.
In 1987, they got a call about a five-week-old baby called Jon – me. From the moment they visited me that night, I was their son. Taking me home the next day, they decided that I looked more like a Ryan, so they changed my name to Ryan Jon.
Big-hearted and loving, to me they were always my real family. In fact, we’d even joke about my adoption.
‘That’s proof I’m adopted,’ I’d laugh, if Mum ever did something silly.
But by my late 20s, I’d had a few health issues, including a dodgy shoulder that had needed surgery. Being asked about my family history got me thinking. Was there anything I needed to know?
Last year, as my 30th birthday approached, I decided it was time to find some answers. Telling Mum my plans in an emotional chat, she was very supportive. ‘I’m sure she’d be proud of you,’ she said tearfully.
Luckily, I had some clues to work with. I had a book, called Ryan’s Story where social workers had written down everything they knew. And I had a letter from my birth mum, Julie, too. Single when she’d found out about me, she’d felt unable to give me the life I deserved.
I want you to have every opportunity, she’d written. So she’d made the heart-wrenching decision to give me away.
My birth father was a US backpacker she’d worked with. Does he even know about me? I wondered.
Working in radio, I decided to use my platform to help. So, last year, on Mother’s Day, I uploaded a personal video to Facebook. I explained how it was a strange day for me and that I had a message for the birth mother I’d never met.
‘I’m thankful for everything,’ I told her.
What if my birth mother doesn’t want to be found? The last thing I wanted was to interrupt her life, or be a skeleton in her closet.
The response to the video was phenomenal. Lots of people suggested I try an Ancestry DNA test and send my results to CeCe Moore, a US expert in tracing biological families.
So I did. Taking the swab of saliva, I figured I’d at least discover something about my ethnic heritage. Sure enough, it turned out I was 60 per cent Irish, with some Italian too. But there were more revelations.
Remarkably, CeCe tracked down an address in London for my biological father. The news floored me, but I knew I had to get in touch. What on earth do I write? I wondered.
Mulling it over for a week, I put pen to paper. Knowing it could be a shock, I avoided using the words father and son.
Instead, I said I was looking for a man I might be related to, and explained the facts I had. Adding my email address, I posted the letter and waited. A week later, a message appeared in my inbox.
Warm and friendly, he’d realised who I was from the letter, but he’d had no idea I existed. A second DNA test confirmed the truth we already knew.
My birth dad wants to avoid the media spotlight, so I won’t say his name. But he welcomed me with open arms. In fact, his generosity blew me away.
I’m so sorry I’ve missed being part of your life. I’ll book you and your family flights over here, he said.
My family were over the moon for me. In December, I flew to London with Mum and my girlfriend Brigitte.
Standing outside his door, my heart pounded. After 30 years, this was it!
When it opened, we said hello and pulled each other into a hug. It was strangely underwhelming – in the best way.
This feels like two mates catching up, I realised. It was like we’d always known each other.
Over coffee, he told me he’d had a brief romance with my beautiful and caring birth mum. She’d even made him a mix-tape to listen to on his travels.
Sharing stories, we quickly realised how similar we were. We’d both started our careers in finance and we even had matching scars from shoulder surgery!
And there was more amazing news. That evening, I met my half-brothers, Cooper, 23, and Cole, 20.
Looking at their faces, I could see my younger, beardless, self in them. It was incredible.
Four months on, I’m hoping to meet up with them again soon.
It’s been a whirlwind, but I’m getting ready to start looking for my birth mum again. If she’s reading this,
I want her to know I’m happy and loved.
I’ll always be grateful to her for giving me life, and for giving me this life.
I was a little apprehensive, but supported Ryan’s bid to thank his birth mother. We had no idea we’d find his birth father!
London was an enriching experience for us all.
I am very proud of Ryan. His sensitive and emotional approach has touched the hearts of so many.