Research and Reflections on Donor Conception

The topic I want to talk about today is coming out of my journey forward to become a mom through C@lifornia Conceptions (CC) and donor embryos... it's the question of, "How important is knowing our genetic history and connecting with others who share this history?"

I'm reading the book, "Finding Our Families," right now, which focuses more on children conceived with donor sperm and having one biological parent, but relates in many ways to all children conceived with donor gametes on male or female side or both. I wanted to read it because I wanted to reflect and find more information about using donor embryos and the experiences of the families and children in these situations. I also watched MTV's, "Generation Cryo."

The insights I've gained include:
  1. When you tell the child seems to make a huge difference. The earlier the better seems to be the general consensus, but sharing information in a developmentally appropriate way is key. I have heard many shares and conversations about this on SMC blogs and discussion pages, and I know there is a lot of learned wisdom and books to help with this.
  2. Different children will respond in different ways and some may want to talk about and be very interested in hearing as much information as possible, while others may not be that interested, at least not at first. The advice I've read is to follow the child's lead and try not to take any reactions personally.
  3. Related to not taking reactions personally, the FOF book specifically recommends working out our own feelings, issues, and questions because the kid will read these and may be limited by us in expressing their feelings or authentically expressing or receiving what they want in this area. This includes grieving for dreams that we weren't able to fulfill, like having a biological child.
  4. Finally, there are many people who have gone before me/us and paved the way to successfully search for donors and donor siblings and to build relationships with them, if we choose. I know some of you have connected and met with sibling groups and I appreciate even more, now, what you shared about these experiences.

My personal reflection includes focusing on my own experience of losing my mom at the age of four and feeling myself as though I were lacking pieces of my identity growing up. How I felt relieved in my 20's to get a box of her stuff, including several photo albums and possessions of hers, and experienced additional growth in my sense of identity and satisfaction in my 30's when I connected with her best friend growing up and in early adulthood and heard a lot of new stories and insights about my birth mom, as well as feedback about how alike or not alike she thought we were. I also met several other close friends of hers later at a reunion, which was wonderful.

I know that the way my father dealt (or more accurately didn't deal) with my birth mom's death affected me a LOT and affected my grieving process and my own identity. He made it seem shameful and like something that should not be talked about. I got the message that I'm lucky he remarried and I have a mom who is just like my mom because I was so young when they married (not true). I felt different within my family and felt a different relationship with my mom (step-mom) than my sister and brother but, because this was never acknowledged, I had to make sense of it in childlike ways that were not accurate, and I felt worse about myself because of it. This did not have to be the case if they would have talked about it more openly and made space for me to ask questions and talk about my feelings. I felt very emotionally isolated in my family. All this motivates me to do things much differently when I have a child. I know my situation was different in that I was five when my dad and mom (step-mom) married and my sister and brother were both from their marriage, but there are many similarities.

I am having thoughts that I really wish my child could know one biological parent. I feel sad that they can't even have a genetic connection with my family and know biologically related cousins and aunts and uncles, etc., though I know they will still have them and feel part of the family. I have no doubt I will love them as much as I would a biological child, and I'm excited about the opportunity to carry them and connect with them and contribute to their formation all throughout pregnancy. I have the skills and tools and commitment to communicate well with them about their origins, but I wish I could give them more.

At this point, I have a sense that I might become an advocate for donor-conceived children in some way (maybe all parents of donor-conceived children are) and help them to find any information they want to find, including pursuing finding their donors. I know this may be a controversial view. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that if someone donates eggs or sperm to create a child, whether they were capable of considering it at the time, they should come to understand the child's longing to know more about their genetic origins. Of course, if we found the donor(s) and they did not want to get to know the child, I would respect that, but I would hope they would answer questions over email or mail, including any health or medical information not initially provided or known.

The existence of the Donor Sibling Registry gives me great joy! I'm so grateful to these people for founding an developing it and will no doubt be part of it. The other great discovery I've made is that CC families have an online group and a secret FB group, and the women on there are so totally awesome and supportive. We can connect with one another using file numbers and can find out further male donor information because CC gives the first name of the donor and the bank. So, I know I can connect with donor siblings, both half and hopefully full, through these means.

All this reflection also led me to further research about using a donor egg and my brother's sperm. I know, that just sounds totally bizarre and brings up feelings around incestuous taboos, but it is actually genetically no different then using your sister's egg and donor sperm which many folks have done, and the places I contacted said that yes, this is definitely an option. Unfortunately, the price is nowhere near as affordable as CC at over 30 thousand. So even if I wanted to make that choice, I cannot afford it, which I feel disappointment about. I do feel good about considering this and researching all options so that when I explain my process to my child, I can say I did think about their feelings and explore all options I knew of.

I would love to hear any of your stories, reflections, or advice, if you're willing to share? Please let me know in comments if you would like to communicate over email. Thanks for reading and going through this experience with me. Overall, I'm really excited and grateful about the CC choice!


  1. Elsie and I are in contact with her diblings. There are 20 and counting right now. So far it has been a fabulous relationship. Some families have more contact then others. It has been great and I hope relieves a lot of her questions about the other half of her DNA if we do not get more info. The interesting thing that has been bubbling up in the group is some families want to try to find and contact the donor now and others are willing to wait until 18 as per the donor agreement.Since we all know each other, it will be interesting to see if one family opens the door if others will follow, what the donor's reaction will be etc.

    I will also say that my feeling on contacting the siblings swung around a lot. Before I was pregnant and gave birth, I was totally for it but when Elsie arrived... I became hesitant. I went to a 'talk' here about dondor concieved kids and asked the therapist who gave it, her opinion on contacting diblings and if the parent(s) should or wait for the kid. her opinion was why wait, contact and if we liked them, yea!... if not, I would have a little more info when Elsie got older and she wanted to dig further. As you can tell, we ended up liking each other and have not looked back.

    Finally, definitely start talking early. Elsie has never been phased by our family. In fact she is not phased by the idea she has 20 'brothers and sisters' and tells people if the subject comes up. I also watch MY responses to other people. I often get questions about her dad and my immediate response is 'She does not have a dad. I used a donor.' So she hears me say it too and sees I am comfortable with saying it. You hit the nail on the head when you said kids pick up on our issues and internalize them.

    1. Thank you, Obernon! I so appreciate your perspective and advice. If those folks want tips on how to search, the book I mentioned spend a lot of time outlining "how" to search. They might already know about the book and more. I love the term "diblings"! :) I think that knowing a dibling is almost as helpful as the donor in terms of genetic recognition and connection. I would have loved to have had a sibling from my birth mom, but having my sis and bro made a huge difference. Our relationship speaks to how the relationship defines the terminology in that they are full "sister" and "brother" to me, though we share half of our genetics.

  2. I agree with Oberon. Both of my boys were told their "story" on the night they were born. It has been repeated many times. Occasionally there are questions and they are answered. We have been in contact with siblings (donor siblings) since Eyes was about eight months old. We attended our first Dibling reunion when he was one, and just returned home from the most recent one yesterday. It is such a wonderful group of people, I feel so fortunate to have them in our life. This reunion was the first time that all of the kids (ages ranged from 5.5 years-1 year old) were aware (at least those old enough) that they are half siblings. The kids get along well, and all of us adults have become a support group.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing about this, Ali, and for sharing your experiences as you've gone along. You were definitely one of the people I was referring to when I said I appreciated even more hearing about this journey. What you describe is my dream, I think - adults becoming a support group and kids getting along and feeling like extended family. :)