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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Birch

A Surprising Family Discovery

This is your new home now. We'll look after you forever and love you forever.”

That’s what the adoptive parents of Rothwell hairdresser Elisa Denyer told her when they brought her home after ten years of waiting to adopt a baby. For decades, she had no interest in contacting her biological parents, but after giving birth to her own child, her perspective changed.

Elisa discovered the journey to find her birth family could be delightfully surprising.

A Surprising Family Discovery
Adopted as a baby, Elisa Denyer now runs a hairdressing salon in Rothwell. She was in her late thirties when she realised her biological mother may have thought of her every year on the day she was born. Giving birth to her own son led Elisa on a journey with a surprising outcome.

Elisa clearly remembers the day her adoptive parents told her she was adopted – recalling she was more interested in a playdate with a friend than having a serious chat with her parents.

“They just blurted it out - ‘You’re adopted,’” Elisa explains.

They had found it challenging to choose an age when Elisa was old enough to understand what adoption meant but still young enough not to feel any resentment. Looking back, Elisa says her youth and resilience helped her process the news. She believes her adoptive parents chose the ideal time to tell her.

“It didn't affect who I was,” she says.

Knowing she was adopted has never bothered Elisa, although she admits to feeling confused when the parents of a primary school friend prevented their child from playing with Elisa when they heard she was adopted.

“That was the only thing that upset me,” she says. “And it wasn't because I was adopted - it was because I questioned what was so bad about being adopted.”

“It was weird - that was all,” she says. “I was talking to the lady who gave birth to me like she was just any person.”

Elisa decided to seek more information about her biological family after medical personnel repeatedly asked questions about her family’s medical history. She discovered her biological father on social media, living in the same town where she’d been born.

Although Elisa didn't intend to contact him, she was interested in seeing his appearance. She assumed he was oblivious to her existence, so she put the matter aside for another 10 years.

“I didn't want to open a can of worms and leave a family with information they didn't know, for no reason,” she says.

It was Elisa’s husband, Cam, who finally contacted Elisa’s biological father two years ago. Shocked to hear he had a child, Cam and Elisa reassured him they only sought medical information.

“I never thought of taking it any further,” Elisa says.

But giving birth to her baby boy changed her mind. She was curious about the origins of her son’s height and his looks.

Then, while celebrating her first-ever birthday as a mother, Elisa felt emotional, explaining she realised she’d never given her biological mum any thought on her birthday.

“Being a mum myself, you develop an understanding of what that mum might have gone through at the time,” Elisa says. “My birthday was a big day for her, whether happy or sad. She might never have thought about me, but if she did, that would be the day.”

With this in mind, Elisa contacted her biological mother via social media. Six months passed by without any reply.

As her adoptive parents’ only child, Elisa says: “I never really thought about the possibility of siblings.”

She was encouraged by a group of girlfriends to contact a lady she suspected might be her half-sister - her biological mum’s daughter.

The woman messaged back, “having a half-sister was very special” and asked if she could arrange for their biological mother to call Elisa.

“This was the can of worms I had not been opening,” Elisa says.

“I didn't want my biological mum to be upset or feel any guilt, but rather for her to know the amazing life I have had.”

When she did finally speak to her biological mother, Elisa says it wasn’t emotional at all.

“It was weird - that was all,” she says. “I was talking to the lady who gave birth to me like she was just any person.”

Since then, the two half-sisters, their husbands and their children have met up in Sydney, enjoying holidays together and maintaining contact. 

Elisa hopes that by sharing her experience, she may help future adoptive parents and adoptees prepare for the possible outcomes.

As adoption can be a sensitive topic, it is likely emotions may arise, and that may be confronting.

She says having a strong, supportive network is essential. Plus, it’s important to manage expectations and be mentally prepared for all possibilities, including scenarios like not finding relatives, finding deceased parents, or unresponsive family members.

“They (your biological family) may want you wholeheartedly in their life. That was my main concern. I didn't want that, but I had to deal with that possibility,” she says.

Thankful that finding her family hasn’t changed her relationship with her adoptive parents, she credits them, and especially her husband, for supporting and encouraging her throughout the journey.

“It has turned out well,” she says. “I now have this amazing relationship with my half-sister, and now my son has two awesome cousins of a similar age.”


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