Alexis Hourselt


I wish I could say I knew something was off before my DNA surprise. In hindsight, many things make more sense. From the narrative I was told about my birth, to the timeline of my parents’ relationship, to the curly hair atop my head, I never once questioned why some details of my life didn’t add up. 

So when I received that fateful notification, “Your Ancestry DNA results are ready,” I had no idea I was about to uncover more than three decades of secrets.

I was born in the 80s and raised as a multi-ethnic child, with a white mother and a Mexican father. When I was eight years old, I learned that my parents weren’t married when I was born, which is why my dad wasn’t on my birth certificate. 

It was easily explained away–they took time to date after my mom’s pregnancy, and eventually married when I was nine months old. Two years later they had my younger sister. Twelve years after that, my baby sister was born. We all look relatively similar, aside from my darker complexion and curly hair. But mixed kids turn out differently, right? It never occurred to me that we had different parentage.

I grew up never quite fitting in with my Mexican side. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I blamed it on my ethnic origins. Again, it’s so easy to dismiss the signs.

Fast forward to 2021. I purchased my Ancestry test on Prime Day, curious to learn more about my indigenous roots. To connect to that background I never deeply identified with. To learn more about myself.

My test results were certainly filled with information, but not in the way I expected. I discovered that I am not Mexican at all. I am actually African American. And in the matches section, I saw a man who wasn’t the person who raised me. I had no idea who he was.

What followed were days, weeks, and months of shock and confusion. 

My parents revealed their secret to me shortly after my discovery. My mother was in a relationship with an abusive partner and went on to have me by herself. Two months later, she met my dad, who decided to raise me as his own. They chose to protect me and keep the truth about my biological father from me. 

In a twist, though, the person they believed to be my biological father is not. I will likely never know the full story of how I came to be. One of the things I think NPEs have to accept is that we will never have all of the answers. I work every day to make peace with that.

The man who is my biological father is kind, supportive, and completely welcoming. I’ve gone on to connect with two sisters, a brother, and tons of extended family. I attended a wedding and a family reunion. I recently became an Auntie. 

I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my raised parents, which was strained at times. I have compassion for the choices they made, even if I don’t agree with them. I’ve grown even closer to my raised sisters, who both supported me during the hardest time of my life.

As far as DNA surprises go, my outcome is almost as good as it gets.

That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been traumatic. For weeks after my MPE, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I went through a full identity crisis. I wondered how to connect to my newfound culture. 

I threw myself into extensive therapy almost immediately. Both DBT and EMDR have been instrumental in my healing. I joined Facebook groups and connected with organizations like Right to Know, which provided language when I didn’t know how to describe what was happening to me. 

In 2022, I started DNA Surprises Podcast to help raise awareness about these events and to offer support to people who feel alone. And in 2023, I’m co-hosting the very first DNA Surprise Retreat, a healing retreat for adults who have experienced a DNA surprise. Creating these spaces for our community has helped me heal just as much as it helps the people I am lucky enough to connect with. I am also excited to be a speaker at the Untangling Our Roots Summit in Louisville, Kentucky March 30-April 1, 2023 on a panel with fellow podcasters.

If you found Right to Know just like I did, in a frenzied internet search after experiencing a DNA surprise, you are in the right place. Whether you always suspected something wasn’t quite right or you were blindsided, there is a supportive community here to help you.

You are not alone.