Modern Family

Years ago, when I made the decision to become a Single Mother by Choice (SMC) and began perusing the profiles of dozens of potential sperm donors, I was clear about one thing: I planned to use an open donor. Like most people, I’d heard plenty of stories about adopted kids who yearned for details about their biological parents, and I wanted to make sure that if my child ever felt like one of those kids, she’d have the information she needed. An open donor is a sperm donor who is open to meeting the children whom his sperm produced, and when my daughter turns 18, she can contact the bank I used, and they will release contact information about her donor to her.

After I gave birth, there was an onslaught of media attention directed towards the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). As the DSR website states, “the focus of the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) is to assist individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg, or embryo donation who are seeking to make mutually desired contact with others with whom they share genetic ties.” For most of the members, this means connecting half-siblings (children of the same donor), and some SMCs swear by this site. As a result of this website, Yahoo groups have been created for parents of half-siblings, people travel cross-country for yearly reunions, intense relationships are fostered between half-sibs, and some say their half-siblings share a strong bond and interact with each other much like cousins do. I, for one, have never had any interest in joining the DSR. While my family is quite small, I believe it’s enough for me and Jayda, and our lives are so rich with wonderful friendships that I don’t think Jayda will ever feel like she’s lacking love or companionship. Why would she ever need to know her half-siblings? Of course, if at some point when Jayda is older, she disagrees with me, and wants to find her biological half-sisters and brothers, I’ll be happy to share the DSR’s URL with her; but for now, I see no point in becoming a member and posting on this site.

Last weekend, I was at the home of a SMC friend who is a member of the DSR, and she told me she’d be happy to share her password with me if I ever wanted to peruse the site; I took it. And the other day, I hesitantly logged on and searched for the bank I used, as well as my donor’s number. I then discovered postings from parents of seventeen kids whom Jayda’s donor had sired…most of who were within a year of Jayda’s age! I later found out that my donor is retired (his sperm is no longer available because he’s reached his maximum number of allowed births), but that didn’t make me feel much better. I’m overwhelmed; the postings I found mean that Jayda has more than 17 half-siblings, since not everyone (me for example!) joins the DSR.

But what disturbs me is not the fact that all of these children exist…but that all of these children will have the option of contacting the donor when they turn 18. And what if they do? What if dozens of these kids get to the guy before Jayda makes her potential call? Will he still have time for her? Or any interest in meeting her? Will he be able to give her what she needs (assuming she even needs his attention)? I know I did the best I could do, and if I could do things differently, I wouldn’t; I selected what seemed like an amazing donor (and Jayda is, indeed, an amazing kid)—and I made sure that Jayda would be able to meet him if she ever desired—but clearly, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. And while I know I can’t worry about things that may or may not happen  years from now…I do still lament this news. How could I not?

7 thoughts on “Modern Family”

  1. Funny, immediately after I conceived I joined the Sibling Registry. I found out that my son had a half-sister who was born 2-yrs before he was to be born. I joined because I had an uncle who had a heart attack and was about to be placed on a heart donor list when he passed away. I also know how important knowing family history can be when determining a person’s chances of developing an illness later in life, as I have recently been diagnosed with type II diabetes.
    Since my donor was not “open” to meeting any children I wanted another way to be able to reach out to my child’s siblings should a medical need come about.
    When my son was born he had some complications, not enough to warrant tracking down a potential sibling but that reminded me why I joined the registry.
    Ironically, during my search I learned my son’s half-sister was born and living in NJ. My son and I lived in California but have since moved to NJ to be closer to my parents and family. I took the time to look up the unique username of the mother of his half-sister. I reach out through a social media website and have since learned that she and her little girl live 10 minutes from my son and I. After looking at photos and watching videos, I can see the slight resemblance. I also learned that the little girl was born with some issues as well. It was nice to talk about our situations and it has given me the strength I need for my son’s upcoming surgery.
    All I can say is being open and registering does not mean you must get in contact… just that you can if a need or want arises.

  2. I’m one of the SMCs you referred to who’s a member of the DSR and in touch with many half sib families via facebook. We have a private group page where 13 families are in touch and we have 22 children between us… not shocking or disturbing to me as my research prior to conceiving told me that’s to be expected. We’ve even met a few families in person. I’m happy to be in touch with these other families and think it’s a benefit for my 3 year old twins. I think it’s better to have my twins grow up knowing their half sibs as a normal part of their lives vs. some big revelation when they’re older. Even though our donor is open ID, I’m not going to promise my twins that they’ll meet him someday as that wasn’t the promise by our Cryobank just that they’ll release his name to us and last known contact info. I won’t set my twins’ expectation that they’ll have a relationship with their donor, or they’ll have a typical father-child relationship. He’s a nice man who helped mommy make a baby. I did my best to choose a kind donor (gathered by reading his essays, audio interview and personality test… he even answered the question of why he’s an open ID donor “I think everyone has a right to know where they came from”). Yes, having so many offspring contact the donor can be overwhelming (thankfully open ID donors tend to have less than anonymous donors) but since we are in touch with so many half sibs, I’m sure when the time comes, we as a group will make a decision how to handle it. ie. if the donor is open to meeting us in person, perhaps we organize a group meeting. Perhaps we communicate with him as a group via a facebook group page. Who knows. I have no regrets of becoming an SMC via an open ID donor and giving my twins the gift of knowing and growing up with their half sibs via facebook, occasional meetings etc. and perhaps contacting or if we’re lucky, meeting the donor someday.

  3. Ive felt the exact same way about my anonymous donor. My two sons will be a part of a potentially large sibling group. And what about running into a sibling someday??? It seems to bother the most around my eldests birthday. I’m like you I have no desire to meet/build relationships with the others, but will share the information if asked later in life. I think my family unit is perfect the way it is…:0) sometimes things are best left unknown.

  4. Finding/choosing/working it out with a directed donor is a much bigger deal than an anonymous or identity release donor, but I have been so happy with that choice. Done hastily, or without enough communication, or understanding, it can cause big problems, but it’s been so great for my child. I wish people talked more about this option.

  5. You raise a very important issue and something for SMCs via donor sperm to ponder. Of course, who knows if the donor will even be around – anything can happen – but yes, to have 17 donor kids contacting him – eek. Overwhelming.

  6. I feel shocked by the Cryobank industry’s lack of regulation and its woeful self-monitoring – but it is a for-profit industry in this America. In my opinion, supporting the DSR is an important way of watch-dogging the industry and protecting our kids, as donor-conceived persons. Most importantly, having access to sibling groups is helpful for medical reasons. Cryogenic rarely share medical updates proactively. Think about calling your bank once a year for updates including updates to the donor’s profile, which can happen if he comes our of retirement for any reason (including a family’s request for donor-siblings) or if he realizes he needs to share something.

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