Had a wonderful technology free week walking along the levadas high above the sea in the Madeiran sunshine, but lovely to return to so many (mostly) respectful and informative comments and conversations on my previous couple of blogs. Thank you everyone.
Three items have stood out for me in my massive in-box of email catch-up and all have to do with the way in which connections made between half-siblings have enriched the lives of not only the sibs concerned but their wider family as well. Only one, sadly, is from the UK. Mostly lacking donor numbers and, certainly in the case of heterosexual couple families anxious about family integrity, very few links seem to be being made in this country. There are some, mostly by informal means, although a few via the old UK Donor Link and now the Donor Conceived Register. But UK parents have still mostly to get their heads round the idea that including half-siblings and even the donor in the extended family circle, might be a good idea.
The first item I came across was actually on a Facebook group rather than in my email. It was a trailer for a film that parents of 16 year old donor conceived twins Stephen Lee and Susan Czark want to make about the connections that their family have made with eight or nine other families who share the same donor. Stephen, a professional film-maker features several of the families on the short film he has placed on the Kickstarter website in order to try and raise money to make the full documentary. I was so moved by this that I have become a backer (in a small way) for the project and urge you to do so as well. It is interesting that Stephen and Susan are the only heterosexual couple involved in the project, accurately reflecting not only the clientele of The Sperm Bank of California but also the ratio of single moms and lesbians to heterosexual couples on the DSR and the reluctance of other sex couples to want to seek out genetic connections. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/356175738/an-extended-family-a-documentary-about-family-re-i
The second story is that of Kansas resident Gloria Baker Feinstein, mum (or rather mom) to 25 year old Max conceived using Sperm Donor No.11 following many years of secondary infertility, her first child having been conceived without intention or help in 1980. Gloria was inspired to write her story after viewing the Generation Cryo series which is starting on MTV in the UK on April 9th at 9pm.
When Max (or Jeffrey as he was originally named) was born, Gloria felt that she did not recognise him. She had a great need to find out who Sperm Donor 11 was and particularly what he looked like and went to great lengths to try and find him, scouring college year books and even taking out advertisements in college alumni newspapers. Although she met many interesting men as a result of this and was impressed by the very caring nature of many sperm donors, she did not find Sperm Donor 11 and ended her quest exhausted and wondering just who it was she had been looking for. Her answer came in looking right at her little son…’He’d been right under my nose all the time’.
When Max was 16 Gloria registered with the DSR and discovered that there were five sibs listed there. Max has met three of them and formed a close relationship with one. He has no interest in trying to track down and meet Number 11. He respects completely the donor’s wishes for anonymity. He is clear that his father is the man who raised him and he and his sister Abbie never refer to each other as half-siblings, although they share the same percentage of similar genes as do those half-sibs raised in other families. Gloria meanwhile, developed a close relationship with some of the parents of the half-siblings and has enjoyed sharing stories of similarities and differences between their children.
Every few years Gloria contacts the sperm bank to see if the donor has updated his details. On a recent occasion she asked if anyone remained on the staff from the year she conceived who might be able to give an impression of the donor. No.11, as the number indicates, was one of the first donors at the bank, and it turned out that an older member of the staff did remember him and was able to give a description to Gloria. But she has known who he was for a long time now, even if she has never been able to discover his name.
Donor Conception for Life, edited by Katherine Fine and published by Karnac Books, will appear in the autumn. As well as chapters by Ken Daniels and me, it contains contributions by Diane Ehrensaft and others from the world of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic literature, plus a chapter by Katherine and a DC Network colleague about the Preparation for Donor Conception Parenthood workshops run by DCN. Something to look forward to.