My childhood was as normal as normal could be. I grew up the oldest of three siblings in a loving, two-parent home in the suburbs, without a care in the world. My parents were regular, middle-class, blue-collar workers who loved their kids, enjoyed their friends and were always helping anyone in need. Yes, from the outside it all looked perfect–that is until I learned the family secret three weeks before my birthday.

I had fallen very ill and ended up in the hospital. Whatever was wrong with me required the testing of my parents and it was that requirement that blew the lid off a nearly 16-year-old secret. As I rested in my hospital bed, I heard my father and grandmother arguing with my mother, telling her that she needed to stop being prideful and call "him."  They never said his name but whoever this "him" was, he was a possible key to my getting better, but my mother wanted no parts of it.  After that day I never heard mention of "him" again, but I do remember a friend of my Aunt Karen coming to visit with her and my cousins when I started getting better. He was tall, handsome and had a bright smile. I assumed that he was my aunt's new boyfriend, so I never questioned why he was there or why after that day I never saw him again. 

I had been home a few weeks when the mysterious "him" invaded my life again. I came home early from school to hear my parents fussing about "him" showing up to my mother's job. My father was livid, and as I walked to their bedroom to tell them my usual line of "stop the fussing and start the loving," I heard my dad scream "No, I'm not talking to him. You tell your man why he can't see his own daughter," as he stormed out of the room and into my shocked face.  The moments following felt like a blur.

I've been told that my parents were having some rough times two years into their marriage.  During this time, my mother sought comfort in the arms of another man. The affair was brief, but she became pregnant and instead of terminating the pregnancy my parents decided to raise me together and move forward in their marriage. They never told the other man. Him. My real father.

Until I got sick, my biological father never even knew I existed. After the affair ended with my mother, he moved a state away for work and went on to raise a family of his own. When I told my mother I wanted to meet him, she flat out refused to give me his information. She accused me of betraying her and deserting the man who raised me as his own. While it was a tough pill for my dad to swallow, he told me how I could find "him" and with his blessing, I set out to meet the man who gave me life. Turns out, Aunt Karen's "new boyfriend" wasn't a boyfriend at all; he was my father, and that day in the hospital was the first time he had ever laid eyes on me.

Our first meeting was awkward to say the least. We were both hurt, angry and confused. Neither of us knew what to expect going forward or what this meant to the lives we were already living. I had an amazing father who was more than any girl could ask for and the last thing I wanted was to replace him. And my biological father, Charles, had a wife and four kids who were a bit unsure about this new addition to his life. What I did know is that I wanted a relationship with him and after a few very heated moments between my parents, Charles and myself, we all agreed that the best thing to do was take things slow and build one day at a time.

It took a while, but thirteen years later everything is back to normal. My mother and I have worked out our differences and she apologized to me for keeping the secret. My dad is still amazing. I have four more siblings to drive me up the wall and Charles has remained an involved and loving part of my life.  This entire experience has helped me see my parents–all of them–as humans and because of that, our bond has strengthened over time. It's also taught me that families come in many forms, but no matter how they come, the most important factor is that you are wanted and loved. And despite the rocky road it took to get here, I can say with certainty that I am loved.

~ As told to Danielle Pointdujour