Seek and Ye Shall Find
I was in my 20’s, living in a state far from where I grew up. I was single and working at a major university when I saw an ad for sperm donors. I called the number listed and set up an appointment.
At the appointment I filled out a long questionnaire and was required to leave a semen sample. At some point I was given a physical by a doctor, but I think this may have been on a subsequent visit. The man who was “in charge” of the donors showed me my sperm under a microscope. My count wasn’t so impressive, although adequate, but the motility of my sperm was above average. My blood type is not so common, and the man seemed pleased by that also.
I began weekly “donations.” I was paid $20 per donation, not a lot, but I was not doing it for the money. I would have donated for no money at all. I’m not 100% certain why I was doing it, but somehow I felt it was important to do this.
I continued donating even after changing jobs when it was very inconvenient to do so. I donated for over four years until I moved back to my home state. This was back in the early 1980s, and I was given no information and, as far as I know, did not have a donor number. It was assumed everything would be anonymous for all time.
Soon after I began dating the woman who eventually became my wife. I told her while dating about my history as a sperm donor. She did not seem bothered at all. When people are in love, nothing bothers them.
I often wondered about possible offspring. Were there any? Surely there must be. But how many? Were they healthy? Happy? Were their parents good to them? Who did they look like?
As my wife and I began raising a family, these questions intensified. I wondered if my donor children looked like the children I was raising. Did they act like my wife’s and my children?
When the oldest donor children would have been about 18, I decided to contact the doctor’s office. There had been two doctors working together when I was a donor, and they had separated their businesses. I explained the situation to a woman who referred me to the other doctor. She asked if I was making myself available to my donor children, which caught me by surprise. I had called to try to get information and honestly didn’t know how I felt about actually having contact with donor children. What would this mean for me? For my family? For them?
I thought about her question for only a moment and realized that yes, I did want contact. On some level I had always known this. Perhaps this was my subconscious motivation for reaching out at that time. I told her I wasn’t certain, but most likely would be willing to make myself available. She commended me and seemed impressed I would to do that. It didn’t seem impressive to me.
I then called the other office, as she suggested, and actually spoke to the man I had dealt with all those years before. He seemed to remember me, but gave me no information whatsoever, not even if I had any donor offspring. He did take my contact information when I offered to give it to him. No one ever contacted me.
More years went by. I heard about Donor Sibling Registry and signed up as a member. I found a young woman in Canada, and we seemed to be a match. We both submitted DNA tests and found out we were not related. I think we both were a little sad. Oddly, for unknown reasons, she and I stopped emailing after that.
When my wife’s and my oldest child was about 16, I felt she was old enough to be told that she might have additional siblings and explained how this would be. She took it well. Later she told me it bothered her a little that she was no longer the oldest child.
A couple of years later I told her younger brother, who also was unfazed. My youngest child apparently overheard something and learned about possible donor siblings at an even younger age, probably around 13 or 14.
I wanted them to know in advance in case they ever met a brother or sister. After that, we talked openly about this topic from time to time, which I think helped them become comfortable with the whole idea. This was no secret, just a part of life.
When 23 and Me and Ancestry.com came into being, I submitted DNA tests, hoping to find a match. Several years passed with no matches. I wondered if I would live long enough to meet one of my donor children.
Then it happened. A couple of months ago, some 18 years after I contacted the doctor’s office, I got an email from 23 and Me saying I had new matches. This was not unusual, as I was frequently finding fifth cousins. I checked the site and found a parent/child match. My feelings were that of overwhelming joy and anticipation. I was elated.
I immediately contacted this match, asking if he’d like to communicate with me. He responded favorably, but was perplexed. He had no idea he was donor conceived and couldn’t quite figure out who I was or how we were related.
I told him he should talk privately to his mother, but he kept asking me questions. Fearing he might think his mother had an affair, I assured him that was not the case even before he asked. He then asked me point blank if I had been a sperm donor.
I said I had been and told him when and where. He seemed to be taking this news fairly well, mentioning how he didn’t look at all like his dad. Having a different bio dad changed his perceived ethnicity and his entire identity.
As I wrote my new-found son several times that day, I felt happy, excited, overjoyed. My wife described me as giddy. At one point my eyes teared up as I wrote an email. I assured him I did not want to intrude in his life, did not want to take the place of his dad, and wanted nothing from him other than possible friendship.
I didn’t know what tone my emails should take. Should I be light and make a stab at humor? Or should I be deadly serious, as this was a serious subject. Ultimately, I did some of both, but mostly kept things as matter-of-fact as I could. I didn’t dare say I wanted to give him a big bear hug and look at his baby pictures.
He wanted to know about my medical history, where I lived, things like that. He was receptive to me, but I knew this was hard on him. I felt like I had shaken up his life and I had no idea what to do or say to make it easier for him.
My wife initially seemed pleased, for all of five minutes, then she became upset. I think she felt this new-found “son” would take away from our children in some way. She wanted to be supportive and happy, but had fears of the unknown that prevented her from being so. I hadn’t realized how hard this would be on her, perhaps on our children, too.
Late that night, after I stopped writing my new-found son, I thought to myself that I had not checked Ancestry.com lately. So I went to their website and became giddy all over again. Imagine my shock to find a match on this site that was predicted to be my son.
My first thought was that I had found another one. Then I thought perhaps it was the same person, that he had simply joined both sites, as I had done. After all, what are the odds of finding two different sons on the same day after looking so many years.
However, as I studied his information, I realized this was indeed a different person. So, I began the entire process again, reaching out and asking if he wanted contact with me. He did, and we also began writing to each other.
The parallels between these men were striking. He also had no idea he was donor conceived. I was somewhat shocked that neither set of parents thought it necessary to share this information with their children.
Another odd coincidence is that all three of us share variations of the same name. While it’s a common name, it still seemed unlikely.
I continue to write to both of them. The mother of one told him the truth, which helped him I believe. She did not want his siblings or any other family members to know, however. The mother of the other is deceased, and his dad denied knowing anything about it, which has made it harder for him to understand. He has asked for a second paternity test, which I have agreed to do. But I have no doubts. I have seen his pictures. He is definitely my son.
Two of my children, the ones I raised, have begun writing to them. My children all seem perfectly fine and welcoming of these new family members. I know now that I absolutely did the right thing when I told them the truth some 13 years ago. They knew this could happen, perhaps even expected it to. My wife is now positive about the situation and has become supportive.
Sadly, my “new” sons live far away. And they live nearly 1,000 miles from each other. I live on one coast, they both live on the other. But, as fate would have it, I was already planning a trip to their coast in a few months, a trip planned before I knew they existed. Both are agreeable to meeting me, and I am very excited, maybe even a little giddy.
I’ve played the scenarios in my head. Will we hug each other when we first meet? If so, how tightly? For how long? Or would they rather shake hands with this total stranger whose very existence has completely changed their identities. When they submitted the DNA tests, they weren’t looking for their biological fathers. Like many people, they were probably looking for their ancestors’ heritage and perhaps finding some unknown relatives.
And did they ever get their money’s worth.