Who's my father, asks Pearl Lowe's daughter Daisy? after 15 years of believing father is some other person
08 July 2007
In the second part of her brutally honest story, Pearl Lowe reveals her battle to prove a rock star fathered her daughter Daisy and how she agonised over telling her.
It was my old friend Gavin Rossdale who first suggested that my daughter Daisy undergo a paternity test. There had always been a slight doubt over her parentage.
Back in 1988 I was living with Bronner Handwerger, a New Yorker I had met when travelling. It was a tempestuous relationship and there had been a night when, seeking solace after yet another terrible row, I went to see Gavin.
We were very close at that time and we had ended up in bed.
When I realised I was pregnant with Daisy I mentioned it to Gavin but we had only been together for a single night, we had been careful, and in any case the dates didn't add up: Daisy was due on February 14, 1989 ? Gavin and I had been together the previous April. Bronner had to be the father.
In fact Daisy was born on January 27, but she bore such a striking resemblance to Bronner during her early years that any question over her paternity seemed redundant.
Gavin and I remained friends and he went on to have huge success with his band, Bush. In September 2002, he married American singer Gwen Stefani.
In May 2003, he called and said he needed to meet me. The following day he explained to my partner Danny Goffey, drummer in the band Supergrass, and I that a paternity test had been at the back of his mind for some time.
Because he and Gwen planned to start a family, he felt it was time to get his house in order. He could not have been sweeter about the whole thing.
"If it turns out that she is mine, then I think we need to look at getting her some counselling," he said.
"She's just a child and this could be very disruptive for her."
"But at least you two get on," Danny replied.
Later that evening Danny, Gavin and I went to see Radiohead at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Gavin put a protective arm around me.
"I'm glad you agreed to this," he said. "Do not worry ? it's going to be fine."
We decided we would not tell Daisy, then 14, what was going on unless Gavin turned out to be her father. As far as she was aware she was going to have a mouth swab for a routine check.
I rang Gavin the next day to find out when he was free to take the test. There was no answer, so I left a message. At first I wasn't concerned that I hadn't heard back from him, but as the weeks passed without any response,I knew that something was wrong.
I was extremely frustrated, not least because Daisy had been talking about going to an American university after she finished school so that she could get to know her "father".
Bronner and I had separated when Daisy was one and I severed ties with him altogether after an incident in 1991. During a visit to Bronner's flat, Daisy had wet herself while sitting on his knee. Rather than laugh it off, he took his hand to her.
So when Daisy mentioned her desire to get to know him, I kept quiet.
"You don't mind, do you, Mummy?"
"Why did you ask that?"
"Because you never talk about him."
"Why all this sudden interest in your father? Don't you look on Danny as your Dad?"
"Of course. I love Danny, but I'd like to get to know my real father," she said. Shortly afterwards she tracked down Bronner via the internet. He was practising as a "holistic doctor" and had just brought out a book.
She emailed him, explaining who she was, and to her surprise he got in touch with her immediately. He said he'd love to meet in London.
Cannily, Daisy suggested that he come when I was away but the meeting did not go well. Bronner didn't know how to deal with or act around a 14-year-old girl, and Daisy, in turn, was disappointed by the reunion.
For so many years he had been a fantasy figure to her, and she had imagined him to be something he wasn't. "I don't even look like him," she sobbed when I found out about the meeting. "He's small, blond and he's got a long nose."
After her initial upset she didn't mention Bronner again. It was as though she had banished all thoughts of him from her mind.
However, I was getting increasingly bothered by the fact that Gavin still hadn't been in touch. I always considered him to be one of my best friends, and yet now he was giving me the silent treatment and I couldn't understand why.
To this day I haven't worked out why Gavin refused to take the test when he'd initiated the whole thing but I can only assume he decided it was too disruptive to his new life.
I had almost given up hope of ever hearing from him when, out of the blue, Danny and I received an invitation to a Christmas party at his and Gwen's home in Primrose Hill, North London.
Angry as I was with Gavin, I thought it churlish to decline and had hoped we might resolve the paternity issue. Unfortunately, Gavin and I never got a chance to speak.
"Did you find that as awkward as I did?" I asked Danny on the way home.
"Did I ever?" he said. "I don't really understand why they bothered to invite us."
I was still fighting my drug addictions at this time but, although I fell off the wagon sometimes, I was beginning to get my life back together. My lace company was doing well, the children seemed to be thriving, and my relationship with Danny was stronger than ever.
The only cloud was the issue of Daisy's paternity.
One night in April 2004 we were having supper when I mentioned I wanted to go on a diet. "Why don't you go on Bronner's diet?" Daisy volunteered. "The blood group diet. It's in that book he gave me ? Eat Right For Your Type or something.
"He says certain blood groups can't eat various foods. You're an O like me, so you should eat lots of meat."
I followed the diet for a month but didn't lose a pound. I assumed the diet didn't work but when I had a blood test during a visit to my doctor, I discovered I was blood group A.
We were in the car a week later when Daisy asked how my diet was going. "I've binned it," I said.
"Because I put on weight, and in any case I was following the wrong eating plan. My blood group is A."
"But you can't be an A," Daisy shouted from the back of the car.
"I can be and I am," I laughed, slightly taken aback by her outburst.
"You can't be because I'm an O. I've done enough biology in school to know that one of my parents has to be an O for me to be one, and Bronner isn't ? he of all people should know.
"So either your doctor is wrong, or you're not my mother... or he isn't my dad!"
She was sobbing uncontrollably. Danny pulled over.
"If Dad isn't my father, who is?" she screamed.
"It could be Gavin," I whispered. "Gavin?"
"Yes, Gavin." "But he's my godfather!" "We need to get to the bottom of it and do a test." "When? I want to know who my father is. This is my life!"
I told Gavin I felt I had no choice but to pursue the matter of Daisy's paternity through my lawyers. He was not happy. Rather than agree to the test, he told me he never wanted to see me again and hung up.
Two weeks later I received a letter from him implying that I was trying to ruin his life and pointedly accusing me of messing up my own.
I was angry and hurt. All I wanted to do was discover my child's heritage. I owed it to her and I owed it to Bronner and Gavin too ? even if it now seemed he would rather be kept in the dark.
After two months of wrangling between our respective lawyers, Gavin finally agreed to the test. My lawyer rang six weeks later to tell me the news. I wasn't that surprised.
Although she hadn't said as much, I knew deep in her heart Daisy was longing for Gavin to be her father. There had always been a connection between them ? he had come to her school sports days, parent-teacher meetings and watched her act in plays.
He came to her birthday parties when he was in town and always bought her a present ? he had played a major role in her life.
"Are you sure?" Daisy beamed when I told her the result.
"Certain," I said.
Later that day I emailed Gavin. There was no response. When Daisy eventually succeeded in speaking to him, Gavin appeared more concerned with venting his anger about my behaviour than engaging with his daughter.
All this was very hard on Daisy. She spent most days in tears but it is a testimony to her maturity and strength of character that after she overcame her initial hurt she got on with her life.
One evening while all this was going on, I went to a party in the countryside with Danny. Afterwards, back at the B&B where we were staying, Danny flicked on the television. The Jonathan Ross show was on.
"Oh, good," Danny said. "I like this programme."
"And now," boomed Jonathan, "Please give a warm welcome to my next guest, the very lovely Gwen Stefani."
"Great. That's bloody all I need right now," I thought, trying to grab the remote control from Danny so I could switch channels. Danny thought this was hysterical: "Come on, babe, try to see the funny side. You come to the country to take your mind off things, and there's Gwen on the TV. You've got to admit it's quite amusing."
Meanwhile, Daisy persevered with Gavin, determined to forge some kind of relationship, and things did get better. From time to time, he would ask her round to his house. I wrote to Bronner to explain the situation (that he was not the father).
He was understandably angry but also acknowledged the fact that since the day he had left us I had never asked him for anything.
It had never been my intention to ask Gavin for maintenance for Daisy ? after all, Danny had taken care of her for nearly ten years. However my solicitor suggested I consider getting Gavin to help with Daisy's future.
After the paternity test I was loath to contact him again, but I could see my solicitor had a point so negotiations began. It took more than a year, and a day in court, to agree a reasonable settlement.
I was sad about losing Gavin from my life. There was a time when he had been my rock. I'd look at Daisy and see so much of him in her: the way she walked, talked, her height and frame.
Painful though this whole episode was, it brought Daisy and me closer together. I couldn't have loved my child more than I did already, but now I was no longer hiding something from her a barrier had come down.
We spent a lot of time together talking things through, making sense of it all, and I was astounded by her level-headedness.
Since leaving school Daisy has become a successful model. When she isn't working she spends as much time as she can with Danny and me, her two younger brothers and sister in the country.
My life may not be as rock 'n' roll as it once was, and sometimes I do miss the buzz of that world, but nothing gives me greater pleasure than being with my children. Some stories do have happy endings.