(This post is part of my at-least-year-long series 40 New Things at 40.)
There are some things that still make me feel like I am living in the future. The fact that I can spit into a test tube and some scientist in a lab can use it to examine my DNA is one of those things. Last year, I got my test kit from 23 and Me, one of a few different options in the DNA testing market now. Full disclosure: I chose them because my husband gained a perfectly delightful cousin through DNA testing, whose story was so compelling that 23 and Me turned it into a promotional video (which was filmed on our wedding day, but cousin Jordan still managed to make it to the reception). I wondered if my own DNA results would reveal anything surprising about my ancestry.
When the results came back a few weeks later, I’ll admit to being a little disappointed. I am the whitest white bread imaginable. My DNA tested 100% European, mostly British and Irish, with at least enough French to make my francophile heart happy. I was kind of hoping for some trace of diversity, some African or Native American or Asian somewhere in my family’s history. (Of course I do have roots in Africa, like every human does, just tens of thousands of years ago.) My ancestors came mostly from England, at least as far back as family historians have been able to trace, and ended up in Kentucky in the 18th century. Generations upon generations of both sides of my family were born, lived, and died in Kentucky. Now here I am, several states removed from my ancestral homeland. It somehow makes me feel like a pioneer and a traitor at the same time. I get a little sad thinking that any family tree project my descendants do would show that I was the last of my line born in Kentucky.
Of course, the real source of the sadness is that I don’t have any descendants, and there’s a very real possibility that I never will. With my 41st birthday rapidly approaching, and nothing but a few negative pregnancy tests in my first year of marriage, I may just be a genetic dead end. The most moving part of the whole DNA test results for me was reading about maternal haplogroups. “You descend from a long line of women that can be traced back to eastern Africa over 150,000 years ago,” the 23 and Me website told me. I thought about all those women, all the different ways they lived and worked and raised their babies and died. Generation after generation after generation, they kept having babies, who grew up and had babies, who grew up and had babies… Until now, when maybe it stops with me. All those mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers, I feel like I’m letting them all down. I want to be one of them, the ones who carry life inside them and bring it into the world. I’ve prayed countless times to be one of them. But I’m not. What on earth am I supposed to do with that?