A woman who recently discovered that she was adopted unofficially has been describing how DNA testing has helped her find her biological mother.
Dolores Quinlan explained to Philip Boucher-Hayes on RTÉ’s Liveline how a public health nurse found her as a baby living in a house where there had been no pregnant woman and the discovery was reported to officials.
She said the authorities tried to track down the doctor who had delivered her and who had also organised the adoption, but he had died.
"Nothing was done. I was left in that same house," she said.
No official adoption took place and the 51-year-old said she only found out in the last two years that she was adopted, which "was quite a shock".
Dolores said she really feels for the people who are about to receive letters or phone calls notifying them that they were adopted because of the position she was in.
She explained that her mother died two years ago and about three weeks later she was visiting her father to check on how he was doing.
She had been talking earlier to friends about where they were all born and she said she had always known that she was born in a private nursing home. However, when she asked her father the name of the home he said he did not know and also did not know where it was in Dublin.
Dolores said she thought this was very unusual and so she asked "out of the blue" if she was adopted. Her father nodded his head in response. She described the revelation as "pure shock".
Dolores’ father told her that he had always wanted to tell her that she was adopted but her mother had asked him not to tell her as she would have been sworn to secrecy.
When she asked her father the name of the adoption agency, he said there was no agency involved. It appears that a relative knew the couple wanted a baby and knew of a doctor and made the connection.
Her father said they went to a meeting in the doctor’s house but he does not remember what was discussed at the time.
The couple then went to another house and the baby was "handed over". Dolores said she doesn’t know who handed her over to her adopted parents. She said she was around ten days old when she was given to them.
Dolores said she has some more information now because there is paperwork from when the nurse discovered her in the house. However, as it is a "false" adoption there is no traceability and she could not find out who her birth mother was.
She did a DNA test and tried to find relatives that way. She had a match with a second-cousin through a DNA testing company and with the help of a friend, who is a genealogist, she was able to trace her biological mother.
As a result, she actually met her biological mother recently for the first time. Dolores said she had been so moved by how her biological mother’s husband has been "so generous" in welcoming her.
Dolores said her mother was very well and she was able to see similarities between her own personality and her mother’s.
She said she is "still in shock". She described how she and her mother chatted for hours "like old friends", saying it was "surreal" and "absolutely incredible".
Dolores believes she is so lucky that her biological mother is still alive. Having discovered the story of her origins and her biological mother, Dolores said she "feels complete".
She said she always felt there was something missing, as she was quite different from her family in many ways, including personality, but having met her biological mother she said "it’s absolutely incredible, the personality similarities".
While expressing her joy at meeting her biological mother, Dolores acknowledged that they are "very early in the process".
Dolores, who is a psychotherapist, explained that because of her job she has self-care, supervision and great support but she wonders how other people cope with the revelation of finding out late in life that they were adopted as it "really turns your life upside down".
"It’s an identity crisis, everything that was normal in your life is no longer normal," she said.
Dolores said people need a lot of support in dealing with this situation and speaking to people going through the same thing was hugely helpful.
Dolores said the DNA websites are full of people searching for distant relatives, as well as adoptees looking for biological parents. She said if it was not for a DNA website, she would not have found her mother.