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Donor Sibling(s)

When Molly and I set out to choose a sperm donor, one of the most basic requirements we had was an open-donor/identity-release donor, which allows the child to request contact with the donor once the child is at least 18 years old. I know that if I learned a donor had been involved in my conception, then I would at least want the option to contact him so we didn’t want to take that option away from our kids.

After four failed natural IUI attempts using a donor from The Sperm Bank of California (SBOC), when we went to buy more, none were available for our original donor. SBOC didn’t have any other suitable identity-release donors for us so we went on the search for a new donor. We ended up finding a good match through California Cryobank (CC) that was also an open-donor, and after three tries with this second donor, we finally got pregnant with our twins. After the twins were born, I registered their births on CC’s Sibling Registry, which allows you to see other children born using the same donor (only if the families voluntarily register with the sibling registry). To my surprise, two kids were already registered for our donor! So I put my email up on the sibling registry saying Molly and I were interested in connecting with other families with children using the same donor, wondering if anyone would contact us.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from a couple with a baby just a few months older than our twins, who happen to be queer*, live very near a town I used to live in, and with whom we actually have mutual friends. Really? What are the chances?

I not-so-secretly really hope to meet this other family someday. I dream of our kids meeting each other before they can even talk and grow up knowing they have a special “sister-friend” (or “donor-sibling” or whatever we all mutually agree to call them). I have some anxiety about how we’re going to explain my trans status to our kids, and all I really know at this point is that we’re going to do it at our earliest opportunity. But I do think that our kids having a special connection to a similar-aged kid with two mommies* will help facilitate and open those dialogues about different ways to make a family and what that all means.

Personally I feel like if a donor was involved in my conception and my parents knew I had donor sibling, I would rather grow up with that knowledge as my own understanding of the world developed, rather than be introduced to them as an older child (or even grow up with them but then find out as an older child that they were my donor sibling). But, of course, nothing has been decided yet and it all involves much further private conversations with the other family about what we envision for our kids and their relationships with each other. Respect, openness, and honesty are all values Molly and I hope to instill deeply in our girls, and ultimately that means us coming to mutual agreements with the other families about the best way and what type of relationship to foster among the donor siblings.

While I suspect our kids will develop their own relationship with the donor (whether that’s just an emotional relationship without ever meeting him, or if they eventually decide to contact him and interact with him sometime in the far future), and hopefully they’ll have some kind of relationship with their donor siblings, I’ve also tried to examine my own relationship with the sperm donor. On paper he appears to be a healthy, artistic Christian with similar physical features to me and, coincidentally, the same blood type. Yes, we purposely chose someone with physical features and interests that matched me, when possible, and matched Molly when not possible. I don’t know if it is “normal” or maybe I should say “typical” for a partner to feel this way, but in some odd way the donor has a very special place in my heart. Maybe it was his sweet answers in his Donor Essays that got me or maybe it’s just that without him, we wouldn’t have our little girls. I know it’s not like he chose our particular family to help out, and it’s not like he did more than take a few minutes in a closed room somewhere to give his sample for $100 or whatever, and maybe he’s really a jerk, I don’t know. Still, even though the girls are my kids, there is still part of him in them. I imagine that fact bothers a lot of partners when a donor is used, but for me I feel the exact opposite. I’m thankful and appreciative and in some weird way I feel like there’s this person out there that’s part family. I do believe that not being open about the reality of using a donor is intimately entwined in the potential for shame about having a transsexual father. I think if we can teach our kids to be thankful for how the donor helped our family come into being, there will be less room for being ashamed for having a transdad.

*I’m using the terms queer and two mommies loosely here because I do not explicitly know how this couple identifies, only that their same-sex relationship drove the need for a donor. My intentions are pure, and no offense or misidentification is intended.

5 responses to “Donor Sibling(s)

  1. As a trans-man, I started talking to our eldest son (now 5) around age 2 1/2 or 3 about my transition. We’ve had tons of conversations about it and he has asked some really great questions. As I’ve tried to navigate those talks as well as my feelings that around the need for a donor in my family situation (really hard sometimes for me), the blog that 2 of our best friends keep has been really helpful. They are a lesbian couple but they think about donor issues more broadly. If it is helpful, they can be found at http://firsttimesecondtime.com/

  2. Thank you for writing this, Ethan. It’s so helpful to read things like this as my partner and I are discussing what our family will look like. The whole issue around open/closed donation has been a hard topic for us lately, but this may help us reframe that and look at it again…

  3. Very good to read about your feelings toward the donor you used and his role in your life and that of your kids. Do you have an idea of when you’ll start to talk to them about their history? What if they want to meet the donor before their 18th, is that possible? I had a good amount of exposure to families involved with open adoptions before we started planning for our own family, and that has influenced my ideas about donor relationships a lot. It feels difficult for me to think about “sharing” my family with someone else in that way, but of course it’s necessary and being up front and open about as much as possible is important to me. In the end, it’s a lot more about the child’s than anyone else’s feelings.

  4. JEV just pointed me to this post and it’s lovely. I’m really impressed that the first steps towards donor-sibling contact felt comfortable for you so soon. It took us a little while (about 3-4 years to start making initial steps). Our kids are now 5 & 2, and we’re in contact with a few other families via our donor. The two families we feel closest to it turned out we already knew pre-kid (neither very closely, but still…), and had no idea they’d chosen the same donor. It sometimes turns out to be a very small world out there.

    My wife gave birth to our first, and we had some difficult stuff happen around donor information when she was a really tiny baby that contributed to my feeling pretty threatened by the existence of donor-siblings for a while. That faded as my place in her life felt more secure, but it still took a while to feel safe reaching out. But so far, with occasional in-person contact with two families, and e-mail contact with a few more, it feels right. At 5, our daughter knows that “so-and-so has the same donor as you and your brother.”

    Anyhow, thanks for the thoughtful post, and thanks to JEV for pointing me here.

  5. Pingback: “She has your eyes…” | Daddyhood Transcribed

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