It's much more than just a "donated cell".
A donor-conceived girl turns 18 and makes a profound statement with a new tattoo.
"[We] all had an amazing time swapping stories and playing our donor's recording from the cryobank. We are just all really grateful for your website and that it opened up so many doors to this loving extended family we all have now! We're the 610 kids ... 19 so far !"
Two half-brothers meet (and wrestle).
Lelani and Wendy meet: "57 years old and meeting my half-sister for the first time".
3 half siblings meet for the first time.
Twins (on either end) meet their 2 half siblings for the first time.
"Our journey started when I was 8 years old, I am now 19, and the number of siblings continues to grow! We live all over the country and see each other roughly twice a year. The DSR has truly given me best friends & family for life. Thank you thank you thank you!" -Kendall
Kendall with some of her half siblings, and the moms.
It's never too late to look for (and find) half siblings!
We have donor conceived people on the Donor Sibling Registry born all the way back to the 1940's. Here are two half sisters, both born in 1973 who connected in 2015.
I'm 43 and I just found out that I am donor conceived this past year. My sister is 42. This picture is from when we got to meet this past September.
From Laura, a 37 year old donor-conceived woman 2017
When I was an early teen, I had this fantasy that I had a secret identity, which would eventually be revealed to me later. I've never admitted this to anyone until now. It wasn't a grandiose secret identity - just mysterious and a total wildcard that would eventually make sense. I had no idea why this idea cropped up at the time because who I was and where I came from seemed so obvious (I wasn't told about my conception.). But how appropriate that was, in hindsight... I had real problems with my sense of identity until about 2 years ago (when my truth finally and shockingly emerged through technology) and had been inhibited in the public eye because of it. Asperger or introversion or family dynamics or just plain uniqueness were once the theories for this tendency, but there was obviously something else going on that made me feel like the odd woman out and made me want to retreat. There are so many things I've wanted to do but could never complete due to shaky confidence in who I was and what I had to offer. (For example, singing.)
This problem has been melting away quickly of late, and things are very clear now, like a light has been switched on. Secrets are felt viscerally, even when they aren't explicitly known, which is why they can be so toxic. And to fully build out who you are, you need to know where you came from. It's easy for those who don't know what this is like to take what they had for granted and tell you to get over it because "all that matters is who you choose to become." But there's a primal need in all of us to understand our roots first (at the parental level) - before that can happen - like a psychological foundation for individuation. I've had an incredibly fortunate and privileged life and loving parents, for which I've always been grateful, so this isn't me bellyaching in a spoiled way. It's just that some things can't be replaced by a nice lifestyle or all the love in the world. Humans are weird, with all our specific needs. Wish it could be simpler.
From a donor-conceived woman 2016
Genetic uncertainty has clouded my life since I was twelve years old, when I learned that my conception was facilitated by an anonymous sperm donor and artificial insemination. Though the shock dissolved in the following months, I’m reminded of this obscurity entwined in my DNA when I’m asked to fill out a medical history form at the doctor’s office and have to indicate that, genetically speaking, half of my family tree remains in shadow.
From Kelly, a donor-conceived woman on National Siblings Day 2016
So, since I'm being prompted to remark on my thoughts on National Sibling Day, here's this from a sibling-without-her-siblings: I'm currently drinking tea out of my Sisters By Heart mug that my best friend gave me a number of years ago. I'm grateful for her and a number of good, close friends that I may or may not see or talk to often. But that's it as far as what I can count on for siblings, even though I know I have half-siblings out there.
Will I one day know them? While I can maybe learn who my biological father is at some point, I can't ever count on finding them. I wish. I wish I wasn't forcibly blocked from them by an unregulated medical industry that believes it depends on anonymity and deception, along with a number of other unethical principles it abides by.
One day, perhaps there will be justice for us. And, perhaps, one day, parents will actually tell my fellow donor-conceived people, including my half-siblings, of their true origins. Whether or not those DC people begin their own searches is up to them, but until then, there's almost not other explanation for why so few of us are actually looking for each other. Please, siblings...don't let me be the only one forever.
From one of the oldest Egg Donor Offspring on the DSR 2015
I was conceived by a donor egg in 1988. My mom says she does not remember any of the basic information about the egg donor (ethnicity, medical history, etc). I have called the clinic where I was conceived multiple times, left messages and never gotten a response back. The only information I have is the serial number of the petri dish I was made in, because the clinic gave my mom the petri dish as a souvenir. I am G**80.
I got that number tattooed on the back of my neck, I guess it was my way of trying to re-establish control and ownership of my own body after I had been told I had no legal rights (seeing as I was the product, and not one of the people involved) to my own genetic history and information.
I love my mom and her family, but it has always been extremely obvious that I do not share genetic material with them; aside from physical appearance, we have absolutely nothing in common in terms of shared interests, aptitudes, dislikes, taste or personal traits. We are polar opposites to a comical degree.
'Meeting My Brother' is a book for young children about donor conceived siblings meeting and becoming family. Written by DSR mom Jennifer Dukoff for her daughter Hannah.
Hannah and her half brother!
2014 survey responses from 305 donor-conceived people: We asked: What would you like other people considering using donor gametes or donated embryos to know that you have learned?
Half Siblings from Sperm & Egg Donation: A Huffington Post Blog Contribution
A poem by a donor-conceived woman: The Shadow Man
In the late 1990's, I found out that I might have hundreds of half-brothers and sisters, the offspring of an anonymous man who, half a century ago masturbated into a cup and made a gift of his sperm to a host of women, one of them, my mother. This film is the story of my search for this man, and as many of my siblings as I can find.
The film was nominated for an Intl Emmy, a Grierson in the UK and won the Donald Brittain award in Canada, among other awards. It was seen in 60 countries and may have had some influence on public policy on sperm "donor" anonymity. Some aspects of it seem dated, but I think it's still a pretty good film.
Connecting with half siblings should happen early:
Just imagine being 20 something and finding siblings on your own when DNA testing is even more wildly popular, or they find you. You then develop some kind of relationship. You find that many of these siblings had parents who encouraged these relationships, even from babyhood. You see the pictures, you hear the stories. Disney, camping, birthdays... A couple of them will be roomies in college, maid of honor in a sibling wedding, etc.
To me, this would be crushing. I would feel so cheated. Whether or not I had great neighbor pals, awesome cousins, or even siblings from the same home.
"The online resource boasts more than 51,000 members and claims to have helped unite more than 13,000 half-siblings and donors.
Kramer said the website has become an essential resource for children conceived through sperm donation around the world. The site is managed and operated with the help of membership fees."
"For Canadians, I think it's really important to be on the Donor Sibling Registry, as that's the one point of contact," Kramer said. "U.S. sperm banks ... claim on their websites that they ship to 40, 50, 60 countries around the world."
"Kramer said she's tried to get government agencies to pay attention."
"We've gone everywhere and asked for help. We've gone to senators, legislators, the National Institutes of Health. We've gone to the Surgeon General, U.S. Federal Drug Administration, everywhere. And nobody wants to help."
Donor Offspring Share Their College Essays
From our Research on Donor Offspring
Do you have advice to parents about connecting with half-siblings and/or donors?
- "Being an only child my whole life and knowing there might be some siblings out there was always in the back of my mind, but I never knew there was a chance to connect with anyone from my father's side of the DNA strand. Now that I have, it's a lot like having siblings without the sharing the bathroom and clothes aspect of actually living with them, and I love it. I talk to at least one sibling everyday, there's just too many to talk to all of them everyday. It's a good thing. I thought it was cool to meet and have more sisters. My mom didn't want more than two kids all by herself so this was her way of giving us more. It's sooo cool!"
- "Don't be nervous, we're not trying to replace you, we're trying to find us."
- "I don't think that children could forget about or have a lesser opinion of their parents after meeting their donor. Kids know that the people who are important in their lives are the people who have always loved them. I think that knowing a donor can only add to the number of loving adults in a child's life. The donor will never substitute anyone. I feel that by meeting my donor that I have added to the wonderful family that I already have. And the parents will always be there to support the child if meeting the donor was disappointing in some way."
- "There's nothing to be afraid of! Just because your child has expressed interest in discovering more about themselves doesn't mean they'll love you any less. In fact they will most likely be very grateful to you for supporting them in this desire."
Do offspring feel there's something missing from not being parented by a father/male figure?
- "Not having a father, especially as a boy, was tough at times. I definitely feel like I could have benefited from having a father figure and would have liked one but I had the benefit of Big Brothers which helped."
- "I've been curious as to what it would be like to have a father, but I do not feel like I have missed anything."
- "I was always envious of my friends who depended on their fathers. Though I didn't have a father, I think my relationship with my mom is stronger than others."
- "My mom was married when I was conceived but was widowed before I was born. It's been a life journey to discover how to be a man on my own. From big things like how to handle masculinity, how to behave toward girls, and attitudes about life, to practical things like how to shave or tie a tie. I couldn't be happier with my life or who I am, but yes, it's taken a lot to come into my own as a man."
- "When I was much younger, I was certainly confused about my nontraditional family. I was also just told that I 'just didn't have a dad' until about age 13 and was certainly curious, but I've never felt like there was something missing. Even after hearing from my donor and seeing his photo, I'm so obviously the product of solely my mother (internally and externally) that I've never needed to search for where some strange, inexplicable part of me came from. I have a far better relationship with my mom than many kids have with either parent, and I think much of that came from her being a single parent."
- "Girls are supposed to be close with their fathers. I see fathers walking their daughters down the aisle, fathers threatening potential boyfriends, father-daughter bonding times, and I can't help but feel like I missed that."
- "I have had four (female) parental figures since age eight, so I have always felt very supported and loved. There was a short period during my childhood when I wanted a father figure, but in general I have not felt something was missing."
- "I feel all my needs are met by my two moms. I would just like to know more about him and his family and would like for him to know that I exist."
What advice would you give to parents considering donor conception?
- "Be open about it from day one with the child and it will just seem normal to them. I'm a strong, successful, happy, loving man with a beautiful life and beautiful family. This doesn't define who I am any more than my hair color does. I do think a healthy family life is important (whether donor conceived or not) so that shouldn't be in doubt, but being donor conceived isn't a problem at all. I personally believe that children are best raised by a mother and father, but I'm an example of a child of a single (widowed) mom. I've had some challenges because of that, but I'm still thriving and very happy. As far as I'm concerned, I have a family that loves me just the same as anyone else."
- "Think about how this will affect your CHILD, not just you. You are making a choice for them. Try to have a father-figure or mother-figure for them to guide them or set an example of what their expectations of men and women should be. Come to terms with the fact that your kids may want to meet their donor one day and that you need to be supportive of their desire to do that. Otherwise consider other possibilities for having children."
- "Just be honest with your child from the get go. I've known my whole life and though it's been painful at times it has never been a really big issue for me. In fact I frequently "forget" for weeks or months."
- "I think it would be good for those considering donors to be able to talk to children who were concieved via sperm/egg donation and get their opinion on it. They may say they love their parents but they all admit when they meet their biological parents, they feel complete."
- "The matter of using a donor for conception goes much deeper than a matter of conceiving and genetics. People carry a great deal of meaning from their origins, family, and genetics, even though it may not seem logical to you when you want a child so badly. If you do plan to use a donor, please raise that child with honesty about their origins. Finding out as an adult is very painful and difficult, however, knowing your origins is a matter of dignity, and should be available to all."
- "I would say please, please, please be honest with your child about their origins from day 1. It is the right and best thing to do. My parents never told anybody that they'd used a sperm donor but the truth still came out eventually. I can't tell you how big a shock it was to discover at the age of 25 that the man I think of my dad isn't my biological father."
- "I would tell them if it is at all possible to please use a known or willing to be known donor. I wish so much that I could meet and know my biodad, or at least have a photo of him."
- "I would advise them not to hesitate to use donor conception, and that a family can be just like any other. I would advise them to be open with their child about their origins from a very early age - so early that they have no memory of being told and it is just a simple fact of life. I would encourage them to communicate to their children how special and wanted they are. I would also suggest that they have at least minimal medical, family, and ancestry information in case the child wanted it in the future. Photographs would also be nice. I would encourage them not to be threatened or worried about providing information to the child as they get older. They should understand that not everyone wants a relationship with biologic parents, but that information about one's origins is essential to identity."
Experiences of Donor Offspring:
2017: From the author of a new article on donor conceived people: "Please find attached a recently published article dealing with the perspectives of donor-conceived individuals on the importance of access to identifying donor information prior to the legal age of maturity in Ireland. It has been published in the Irish Journal of Legal Studies, an Irish peer-reviewed law journal, and may also be accessed at the following link: http://ijls.ie/2017/05/18/the-
2017: Netherlands Databank for Donor Conceived People. "...at the end of the first 5 years, 786 people were registered with Fiom’s KID-DNA Databank (figure). About two thirds of the people registered are donor-conceived children; others are donors (30%) and mothers (7%). During this five-year period, 129 people were matched to another registered person, whose kinship was confirmed." Postema, D., & Maas, A.J.B.M. (2016). Vijf jaar Fiom KID-DNA Databank: Ervaringen met het matchen van spermadonoren en donorkinderen. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd; 160: D137
"I'm not looking for a new Dad. I have a Dad," she said. "He's the best Dad I could ever ask for. I'm just looking for a part of myself and I'm sure there are lots of people out there doing the same."
2017: Clarin (Argentina's largest newspaper): An interview with Ryan Kramer. "Hay que abrir toda la información a los niños sobre cómo fueron concebidos" English Translation: "You have to open up all the information to the children about how they were conceived"
- 2016 Vice.com: What It’s Like to Find Your 17 Sperm Donor Siblings on the Internet
- 2016 Teen Vogue Article: This Is What Happened When I Discovered I Have 22 Siblings
- 2014 The Guardian: My dad was a sperm donor. My lack of identity reflects this. "Donor-conceived" is a clumsy term, because, in relation to me, the man in the clinic was not a donor. He gave something to my mother, but nothing – less than nothing – to me. He is, or was, my father, but by co-operating with my artificial conception, he deprived me forever of the possibility of knowing him. I do not know his name, what he looks like, what his personality is, what his voice sounds like. I do not know my paternal grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins.
- 2009 Queensland University of Technology: A Critical Analysis of Sperm Donation Practices Joanna Rose's PhD thesis presents a critical analysis of donor conception practices from a child-centred perspective. It examines the personal and social effects of intentionally disrupting the unity of biological and social relatedness. Important implications are drawn from this analysis, which challenge the deliberate fracturing of kinship for the offspring. Comparisons are drawn with adoption experience and the stolen generations regarding kinship loss to help to guide and inform future policies, laws and responses to this practice and other types of reproductive technology developments.
- 2007 Behind Closed Doors: Moving Beyond Secrecy and Shame: When the Children Grow Up A chapter written by Karen, a donor-conceived woman and mother.
- 2001 Queensland University of Technology Applied Ethics Seminar Series: From a ‘bundle of joy’ to a person with sorrow: Disenfranchised grief for the donor-conceived adult This paper examines of the notion of disenfranchised grief for donor-conceived adults.
More photos of Half Siblings
Hannah and Radar, half siblings only three weeks apart in age!