One donor, 20 families: Should you connect with the other children your donor made?

donor siblingsBY SHANNON CIRCE

When picking out a donor, I’m pretty sure one thing most people don’t consider is the many (many many) other people in the world who are also picking the same donor. In that moment, or many moments you spend reading donor profiles, nothing else matters except for your growing family.

We picked a donor carefully. We paid the extra fee to have unlimited access to profiles, health histories, pictures, essays, everything and anything you could want to know. We came up with a list of our top five, and went back to look closer at those five.

One day, we found out that our top choice was sold out, at least for the next few months. Apparently, he made our list for a reason. He was popular and would be called back to donate more. Once the sperm was cleaned and prepared, he’d be available again. Yes, this was the world we were living in. Sold out. We moved on, because we weren’t going to put our family on hold for sold out sperm. We logged in again to the website, ready to explore the rest of our top five donors. There he was: the Donor of the Week. All of our careful preparation out the door, and “Donor of the Week” it was.

It’s better than it sounds. We made sure that our donor had characteristics of Michelle. She, being the scientist in the family, had a hard time with the fact that our children wouldn’t be biologically connected to her. Being able to carefully select a donor based on our criteria somehow made the process a bit easier. The donor we chose had dark hair, dark eyes, the same IQ and SAT scores as Michelle, and studied science in college. It seemed to us that no matter what, our children would somehow have some characteristics of both of us.

We became pretty attached to this donor. Even when the first few attempts to conceive didn’t work out, we kept using “Donor of the Week.” With Blake, it took four attempts, over six months, and many crazy tests to figure out how to work with my messed-up anatomy.

When Blake was born, Michelle logged in and registered his birth on the Donor Sibling Registry. I knew nothing about this, nor did I care. I was only concerned about our growing family, and everything that comes with being a first time mom to a newborn. Little did I know that registration on the DSR meant that other families using the same donor could contact us. I never, ever, considered the possibility or what that would mean. I picked a donor, not an extended family, right? Maybe not.

Since that time, we have been connected with quite a few families who have used “Donor of the Week.” (Whether or not he was donor of the week when they selected him, I’m sure we’ll never know). The DSR won’t give your information or names to other families, but will allow you to send an email, in case other families want to connect with you. Little by little, we have emailed, and now connected through Facebook, with quite a few families. We have a private Facebook group. We share photos, stories, our lives. For a while, it was a slow-growing group of only lesbian moms. We have become close, and have grown to love these other families and beautiful children.

Donor siblings. For now, that’s what we call them in our own conversations. Our boys know them as friends. Yes, know them. Well, some of them. We have now met two of these amazing families and a total of three of their donor siblings. We have traveled to them, and they have traveled to us. There is always talk of future trips, and how the kids will all grow up together.

For the most part, the meetings have been wonderful and positive. But these meetings are also complicated, and difficult to navigate. Our children may be similar, and we may even look for ways they are alike, but they are all so very different, too. Our families, our lives, our parenting styles, are all very different in so many ways. We all chose an anonymous donor, and yet now are brought together from so many different places and backgrounds, because of this unknown man. It’s quite easy to see why some families created by donors will never look for donor sibling families. It would be much easier, and less of a risk, to stay within our family “bubble.”

Michelle and I see this new “family” as an important connection to maintain, just in case the boys seek out their donor siblings in the future. Is this the right choice? I’m not sure. I don’t know if we’ll know for many years, or if we’ll ever know. We don’t, and we won’t, force it on them. Maybe they’ll care to know each other, and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll be good friends, and attend each other’s weddings. Or perhaps some will grow up so differently and won’t get along at all.

Twenty families. That’s the number we have been told have had successful pregnancies using our donor. He is now retired, so 20 should be it. Although we know many, we may never hear from over half of them.

We didn’t just pick “Donor of the Week.” We picked an ever-growing, ever-changing, extended family.

Shannon lives in Rochester, New York, with her wife, Michelle, and two sons, Blake and Terry. She has been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for the last two years. Shannon and family enjoy traveling, rescuing dogs and cats, and tracking down trains, boats, garbage trucks or whatever the latest toddler fascination may be.

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