Four states, 12 siblings, one sperm donor and a special bond
Christine in Renton was 42 years old when she decided to use a sperm donor to have a baby on her own. That was nearly 10 years ago.
“I knew it was now or never and so I thought, ‘I’ll give it one shot,'” Christine said. “That’s about all I had money for. I was fortunate it worked on the first try.”
In 2007, Leslie in Long Island was also researching sperm banks.
“I was ready to have a baby, I was 38 years old. I’m not married. I do have a female partner. We just went for it,” Leslie said. “I used the California Cryobank. I was very lucky at that age I got pregnant on the second try.”
Christine had heard about a donor sibling registry, so she went online to see if there were any other kids out there fathered by the donor she used.
“I thought it would be years before I might hear from someone,” Christine said. “When I went to the website. It was $100 to sign up for [my daughter’s] lifetime. I figured I’ll just post something up there and in a few years I’ll hear from someone. I think it might have been a week, maybe two, and then I heard from the other family in New York.
“I got back in touch with them and she said, ‘Oh, I’m in contact with some other families in California and we’re going to meet them in just a couple months if you want to come,'” she said. “I figured, I guess I’ll do that! Bought some plane tickets, my daughter was 18 months old when we went down there, and we got to meet several of the families for the first time.”
The woman who organized this meeting was Leslie.
“I must have been naive or something but I never imagined other people would use the same donor as me. After I went through the process, I was looking at their website and it said ‘sibling registry.’ I’m like, ‘What’s that?’ I clicked on it and it said ‘connect with other families who use your donor.’ And I said, ‘No way!’ I couldn’t even believe it. I was the one who really contacted everyone and got everyone together.”
Now there are eight families, with a total of 12 children, all fathered by the same donor. Every year they meet in California, where a few of the families live. The rest of the crew flies in from Colorado, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin to hang out together.
“Last year was the first year we told [our daughter] that all the friends that we’ve been meeting every year are her siblings,” Leslie said. “She never knew, she thought they were my friends. My daughter is pretty intelligent and she kept saying to me, ‘They live so far away, how do you know them?’ I did lie to her a few times and said we went to college together and so and so was friends with so and so and we became friends with them. I felt it was important for her to meet them at an early age so it wasn’t awkward. I videotaped it when I told her that Christine’s daughter was her half-sister and she cried. I said, ‘How does it feel?’ And she said, ‘Really good.’ She was crying, she was so happy.”
All of the families agreed to tell their kids around the same time.
“She’d asked questions before so when I told her she wasn’t really surprised,” Christine said. “But then she was really happy to know that she actually has half-siblings out there because she is an only child.”
“I wanted her to know that there were other families out there like us and that she does have other siblings, because she is like an only child,” said Leslie, whose partner has an adult son from another relationship. “With FaceTime and all the communication today, she sees them and talks to them all the time.”
“I feel a special bond with them,” Christine said. “I sent them all a Mother’s Day card this year. It’s not something I do every year but for some reason this year I felt compelled to do that. I just said in the card to each of them, ‘We may have made a lot of different choices in our lives, but we made one that was the same. Now I get to share a share a special bond with some amazing moms and their families.'”
The donor still remains anonymous, but if he decides he wants to reach out to the families he can using the same registry they used to find each other.
As far as how many other children could be out there, in my research I found there aren’t any laws that put a cap on how many families can use a single sperm donor. But I called the California Cryobank, which is where these families found their donor, and was told they try and stick with 25 to 30 families per donor.