Extended Family (Personal Essay by Bree)
Posted on 10/07/11
'I am an only child with five siblings' is what I said to my mom when in March 2006, I was informed that I have five biological brothers and sisters. I was eleven years old and hearing that fact blew my mind. How do I have brothers and sisters? Why wasn't I told about them until now? Who are they? Where are they? All these questions raced through my mind as my mom was telling me the details.
I was conceived with donor sperm. This means that an anonymous man, which we know only as 'Donor 66', who donated sperm to Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. My mother was then fertilized with this sperm and became pregnant with me. However, my mom and dad were not the only people to use this donor. Three other woman were also impregnated by the same sperm. This then led to six siblings who were biologically connected by the same father.
While I was on spring break staying with my grandparents in the mountains, my mom was sitting on the couch at the mercy of her strained back. We lived in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania at the time, in a town home after my parents divorced. My mother was subject to whatever was on the current channel, as I had hidden the remote, and she could not get up and look for it due to her back pain.
As a family, we've never liked 60 Minutes (a news program on CBS), and if it came on, we immediately changed the channel. Ironically that program was on television that night. My mom was about to get up, even with a sore back, and change the channel when a segment about 'donor siblings' came on. She was immediately struck when they panned over five kids in Colorado with similar features to me. The 60 Minutes commentator said, 'Donor number 66' and she leaped out of her chair to find out more on her computer.
After confirming I was the sister of Tyler, Erin, Rebecca, Justin, and McKenzie and telling me about my siblings, my mom's first order of business was to arrange a meeting. Coincidentally all of my siblings live less than an hour from each other, in or around the Denver area. This made it easier to organize a meeting. Our target was July, during the summer months, after my siblings and I were out of school. Unfortunately, we did not have the money to buy plane tickets from Pittsburgh to Denver. A family friend donated some of his frequent flyer miles so that we could fly to Denver and meet my siblings. Soon we were to set off on our journey with some unexpected company.
The 60 Minutes segment was titled 'Family Ties' and highlighted the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR).A woman named Wendy Kramer and her son Ryan started the DSR in 2000. This is a website where donors and/or donor siblings can connect. Two days before our flight, Wendy called and asked if we would allow M6, a French TV station, to chronicle our journey. They wanted to do a documentary covering issues surrounding donor conceived children, comparing legal differences between the United States and France. Finally in October, we embarked to meet these family strangers with a TV crew in tow.
At long last we were in my hometown of Denver, Colorado. I was accompanied by my mother, the French TV crew, and 13 stuffed animals I crammed into my carry on bag. I was excited to meet all my siblings, especially McKenzie, as she is the closest in age to me, and we have a lot in common. Luckily, I was able to meet McKenzie first. After school we surprised her, with a French TV crew trailing behind recording every moment. A few hours later we escaped the TV crew, and I met Rebecca and Tyler in Rebecca's dorm room at Colorado University at Boulder, where they went to college. I met Justin and Erin last at the 'family reunion' we had with all four families that night. When I met all my siblings, it was like we had always known each other. We all bonded immediately and felt like a family that had simply been separated for a while.
Tyler, McKenzie, Erin, and Becca were told of their donor sperm beginnings around the time they could talk. However, Justin and I were told about having a different biological father when our mothers learned of our half siblings on the DSR website. My mother and father had made a mutual decision based on various reasons not to tell me. This is why I was not told until I was eleven. Justin had a similar situation and was not told until he was fifteen. This decision did not effect my childhood, and I support the choice of not being told earlier in life.
Thanks to this amazing event in my life, I have gained an extended family. A void I didn't know was there, has been filled. My siblings have added love, caring, and support to my life, all that, 'sibling stuff' people normally take for granted. They are spectacular friends and people I look up to. They define many major events in my life. For instance, Tyler and Becca taught me how to snowboard, a sport I fell in love with and still enjoy to this day.
My extended family are more than the 'donor 66 clan'. Every year we have a family get together at Christmas. Ryan and Wendy Kramer are always included; they are and adopted part of our extended family. Without the Kramers we would not be a family today. This event has changed my life for the better, and I am grateful to fate that my mom watched 60 Minutes that pivotal moment. Yes, I am an only child with two brothers and three sisters.