Monday, May 14, 2012

Seeking Donor-Conceived People in Washington DC for film

Susan Koster, a Washington DC reporter for Voice of America, is interested in speaking to people conceived through sperm donation. If you are donor-conceived, live within two hours of DC, and would be willing to appear in a TV feature story, please contact her directly at Thank you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Loaner Donor

A few days before my conception, the nurse from the St. Luke's clinic, Mary Ann, called to confirm my mother's insemination appointment. With my mom's green eyes and my dad's blue, my mom had asked for a donor with blue eyes to ensure that I would blend in with my parents genetically. Mary Ann forgot this request, and, when reminded during the confirmation call, told my mother that she would need to "borrow" a donor as none with blue eyes were available. As a young child, I joked about having a "loaner donor." Sort of funny and catchy... Fast forward a decade and a half. Before beginning my search, my mom and I contacted the physician who performed the insemination. He told us that there was a 99% chance my donor had been a Baylor College of Medicine student at the time of my conception. The remainder consisted of University of Texas medical students, Rice University students, or residents. With this information in mind, I focused my energy on the 99% by writing all of the male BCM students. (Well, all heard from me except the handful I could not locate and over a dozen who were sadly already deceased.) Was this my mistake? Maybe my "loaner donor" is actually in the 1%. That kind of makes sense, right, since the nurse stated she would have to borrow one? For all I know, perhaps my donor was not even from any of those schools. My initial - and ongoing - reasons for searching were to give my paternal family the option of coming forward instead of being forced into anonymity as was the practice and for me to not live with regrets later. I wanted to say I tried. I have never feared rejection from any of my paternal relatives and simply valued truth. I was conceived in 1981, at a time when anonymity was enforced by the clinic regardless of the preference of the donor and the procedure was only available to heterosexual couples. Recipients were told go home, make love, and assume conception occurred through this encounter. Donors were encouraged to forget their donations, and some even signed contracts promising to never search for their donor-conceived children. Sperm was sometimes mixed prior to insemination to ensure anonymity while medical records were scarce, possibly nonexistant by the time I began asking questions. By searching for my family, I felt that I was finally putting that decision back in my donor's hands (ok, bad word choice there) instead of the clinic's. Now the question has become when is it time to say the search is over and when to continue. There will always be more avenues to explore. With my new discovery of my Ashkenazi Jew heritage, I could write the men with Jewish sounding last names from Baylor. That system has several flaws. Given that I have heard from a few Rice donors but not any from UT, I considered - for half a minute, if that - xeroxing Rice University yearbooks to contact only the Jewish men. But if my donor isn't in this pool, all of my efforts in the world will not get me anywhere. Maybe this is the meaning of the loaner donor crack I used to make.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FAQs - Part 2

A few years ago, I blogged answers to questions most commonly asked of me. While my answers to those questions have not changed, the questions I am most frequently asked are now different. Increasingly, I am receiving more letters from donor-conceived people who come across my blog after hearing my story or by random google searches. Several now write me each week to ask where to begin a search for family. This FAQ post is intended to help those of you who may be too hesitant to write me directly. 1. Post your information on the Donor Sibling Registry, or DSR. If you were conceived anytime after the mid to late 1980s, you should have an assigned donor number from the clinic that will help you connect to your donor and your half-siblings. Your donor-conceived siblings will share the same donor number as you. You may also have helpful indepth non-identifying information about your donor including eye color, height, weight, heritage, education, and interests. The DSR enables you to post by clinic name and location, and therefore is beneficial even to those of us who are older and have no information to go on beyond the name of a school or a city. 2. Submit your DNA to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and/or 23andme. These are voluntary DNA databases that will connect you to both maternal and paternal relatives who have also submitted their DNA. Both databases provide information about your heritage. Some members are lucky enough to match to siblings, aunts, uncles, or first cousins; it is purely a matter of luck. These databases are incredible resources for those affected by adoption, donor conception, or any other issue (affairs or one night stands, as examples) that causes a complete disconnect between a child and biological relative. Each site has advantages and disadvantages. You are more likely to receive a closer match (for example, a 3rd cousin versus a 5th cousin) on 23andme than FTDNA. Through 23andme, you will also be tested to find your risk factor for developing various illnesses from mental health concerns to Alzheimer's to different types of cancer. The trade off is that many of your matches on 23andme (your relatives) may never release any information about themselves to you, including their names. Instead, you will oftentimes see a silhoutte with information about the degree of your relationship next to it and never receive a reply from them. All communication must initially take place through the site. In addition, there is an indefinite $9 monthly fee to continue to receive access to the updated database. In contrast, FTDNA members know in advance that all matches will receive their first and last names, any listed family surnames, countries of origin, and contact information. Most join FTDNA for the sole purpose of establishing relationships with newly found relatives. While your matches may be more distant, they will likely be eager to speak with you and to assist you in any way possible. All fees are paid upfront with no monthly cost. 3. If you were conceived through egg, sperm, or embryo donation and are above the age of 18, consider joining the online support group People Conceived by Artificial Insemination, or PCVAI. While this will probably not be helpful in locating family, it is a nonjudgmental, diverse group where you may safely discuss your thoughts and feelings.