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, Jayda, turns 18, she can contact the bank I used, and they will release contact information about her donor to her.

After I gave birth to Jayda, 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 14 years from now… I do still lament this news. How could I not?


4 thoughts on “Modern Family”

  1. I’ve thought about this: it may not work out, or it may not work out well, or it may not be an issue, but I’ve opened the possiblilty for my children (when they are born and grown) to find out the identity of their biofather. That’s the best I could do. I hope for the best.

  2. The possibility that my daughter could be "10th in line" (or further back!) was always in my mind when I chose an ID Release donor. However that's one of the things I can't control. What was most important to me was that I was giving her the opportunity to at least know his name.

    Thanks to the timing of my SMC plans, I was able to do more than that as well. By 2007 there were a couple of banks that offered adult photos of even their ID Release donors, and I chose one of them. So when she is a little older (she is 2) I can show these to her, and she'll know what he looks like well before she is 18. That also seems comforting to me, making it less clinical. (I can tell you the whole process got less clinical for me, the day I pulled those pics out of the FedEx envelope from Fairfax!)

    The other thing I have considered is that even if her donor is inundated with requests for contact when "the wave" hits (he is retired and very few vials are available–I'm on the waitlist and have recieved only two, so I expect the sibs to "cluster" within 2-4 years of my daughter's age), he may be more open to more meaningful contact in later years, when things die down a bit.

    However things turn out, I also feel I chose a truly wonderful donor for my little one. From his pictures, his survey and his audio interview, his personality radiates good character and kindness, and his responses (I think) reveal a sense of responsiblity to give any offspring some kind of understanding of who he is, when the time comes.

    At any rate I at least hope my daughter feels I did my best in choosing the man who is, whatever name I choose to use for him, her biological father.

  3. We're all pioneers and have to make our own paths for our families. But I would suggest that there could be real benefits from reaching out to the families of your child's siblings.

    Donor siblings could offer each other a unique level of support at the time when your child decides whether to meet the donor.

    If the donor backs out of the meeting process, or dies before your child reaches 18, relationships with siblings could be the only opportunity to "know" his or her father.

    Even if the health screening is thorough, there could be problems that the donor is unaware of. Being in touch with the siblings and their moms can give you a jump on those health problems, should they arise.

    The mothers of your child's siblings could be a powerful support network for YOU, as well as your child.

    These are all the things I'm hoping for as I build relationships with my child's siblings and their moms. Whatever choice you make, I hope things turn out well for you and your child, too.

  4. I too have no interest in joining the DSR, but if my daughter decides she wants to, I will not stop her. One of the reasons I decided on having another child was for her to have a full sibling. In the end it might be the only family she needs, but again it might not be. Even with open ID the donor has the right to change his mind about disclosing his identity. However, if my daughter is anything like me, she may not take that as a final answer. In the end I fully intend to let her know that in spite of my best efforts to give her the opportunity to know her other genetic half, that may not be the case. One thing that surprised me was the feeling of dread when I found the number of siblings she had. I knew this was likely the case, and I'm sure there are even more who have not registered, in fact given he had a 40 family max, there are potentially at least 39 other children. I don't regret my choice, but it will be interesting to see how this all turns out. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I sure wish it wish I had a crystal ball when it comes to knowing what impact my choice will have on my daughter.

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