When Ang and I decided to have kids, we landed quickly at the decision to purchase anonymous donor sperm through a sperm bank.
The process, while definitely more clinical than most people’s procreation-related activities, is actually surprisingly nuanced and personal. We searched hundreds of donor profiles, narrowing the field by race and hair color (Ang is Hawaiian, we wanted the children to look like her too) before zeroing in on those finer details of dental history and GPA). It’s funny how arbitrary some of the donor profile info is and fairly hilarious how we reacted to it. (Eagle Scout health nut with aspirations to business school was DQ’d for crappy handwriting on his survey. Short math major with bad eyesight held on until the final round because he liked dogs and was “all about family.”) We debated chess playing vs. height, skin tone vs. affinity for the outdoors, and at one point tried to deduce if someone was a good person despite or because of the fact that he admitted in his profile that he was doing this because he needed the money.
When we settled on a donor, we knew he had a good health history, Mexican heritage, olive skin, brown eyes, and black hair. We knew the samples were good because there were other reported pregnancies from the cryobank. Our sperm bank offers something called a “sibling registry” where families with children from the same donor can consent to have their contact information given to each other. When we got pregnant, I dutifully reported our pregnancy to the bank (pregnancies are monitored carefully to maintain safe numbers of same-donor children in the population) and signed us up for the registry, a small act that ultimately opened a door for us and our children that has changed the whole way we see our family.
A few months into my pregnancy, we were contacted by a single mom from Maine who reported that her 5 month old daughter was conceived with our same donor.
We were excited for the contact and overjoyed and grateful for the sweet photos she immediately sent along of her gorgeous daughter. It was the first visual clue of what the twins might look like. Seeing M’s stunning face was thrilling and a relief all at once—the donor must have some good genes! Shortly after this, M’s mom invited us to join a closed Facebook group for all the known families of our donor. As it turns out, our twins had six known donor siblings! A baby boy and his toddler sister in Florida, a toddler girl in Boston, M. in Maine, a pre-school boy in Colorado, and another young boy just down the road from us in Washington State! The parents—single moms, lesbian couples, a straight couple– were sharing photos, updates, support and health information freely and lovingly on the group site, just as a large extended family might do.
When C. and B. were born, the “donor sibs” and their parents were some of our proudest supporters, especially during the early days in the NICU. As all of our children grew, we shared milestones, funny stories, and comparisons on temperament and cowlicks. Last August some of us were able to meet up in Boston for the first of what we hope will be many donor sib play dates and trips. We know that not all families who conceive via donor may choose to share that with others or seek connection with donor siblings, but for us this connection offers a special extension of family and identity that we deeply value.
We have always been open about using a donor to conceive and B. and C. will grow up to know that a man who wanted to help people have kids helped us make them. The relationship we have gained with the donor families and children helps make that otherwise vague story more human, connected and grounded. In the past six months, three new donor sibs have been born, baby O. last fall and twin girls, K. and K. just last week. We’re not sure, but these may be the final siblings as our donor is no longer active. That makes us an extended family of 11 beautiful children in eight diverse, loving families.
It may not be “traditional”, but our donor family is spilling over with love.