Daddy's been a busy boy
Globe and Mail, 13 November 2007
Liza White still recalls the day she first saw Henry's photo. The toddler looked just like her daughter, Morgen.
"I remember crying and looking at his face and saying, 'Oh my God! It's Morgen, it's a boy version of Morgen!' "
Henry lived on the other side of the United States and had a mother Ms. White had never met. But he was Morgen's half-sibling.
White, a single mother by choice who lives in Seattle, used a sperm
donor to conceive her daughter, now five years old. Although Morgen is
technically an only child, she actually has six half-siblings - all
born thanks to the same sperm donor, Northwest Andrology and Cryobank
Inc.'s donor No. 893.
Theirs is a new type of extended family
unit, one that stretches across continents and conventions into
uncharted human territory. "There aren't words to describe what we are
to each other," said Amy Andrews, Henry's mother, who lives in
Some of the women say they feel sort of like
sisters. They feel the same familial bond to the children. "I could
take any of these kids in and just raise them as my own," Ms. Andrews
The six families and seven kids are spread out from
Washington state to Washington, D.C. Six of them were born within a
half-year of each other and are now in kindergarten; the seventh is a
younger full sibling to No. 6. The mothers found each other online when
their children were toddlers, after signing on to a website called
On DSR, people who want to find
siblings or donors can identify themselves by sperm bank and donor
number, and look for anyone else with the same identification. The
website has about 9,000 members and about 4,000 matches have been made.
Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act, enacted in 2004, called for a national registry, but none has been established.
the mid-1980s, most sperm donors have been identified by number. So if
you can find someone who shares that number, you can be reasonably sure
they're related. And, with the Internet and sites such as the DSR,
finding a mutual donor is easier than ever.
This group's first
connection was made between Ms. Andrews and Kathy Duke, who lives in
Texas but is originally from Burlington, Ont. For a short while they
were the only two. "Then all of a sudden people kept popping up," Ms.
Within a couple of weeks, there were four
children involved, then five, then six - and she wondered how many
others were out there. "I did get worried," Ms. Duke admitted. "Then it
stopped." The donor had retired.
For four years, the mothers
have exchanged e-mails every six months or so, updating each other on
their children's health, development and interests.
notable similarities. Many of the children had trouble with their ears
when they were young, and mild asthma. After a doctor suggested to Ms.
White that Morgen have her adenoids removed, she asked the others and
found out that five of the other six children also had tonsil or
Two of the boys, Henry and Ethan, resemble
each other so strongly they can't tell themselves apart in photos.
"Ethan still points to a picture of Henry and says that's him as a
baby," Ms. Duke said.
In the summer of 2006, five of the six
families met in person for a three-day weekend. "It was a little
strange," Ms. White said, "like a family gathering with people you've
The only things the parents seemed to have in common was that they were lesbian and they'd all chosen the same donor.
of the women are rural, some urban. Some are in relationships, some
single. Ms. White is a vegetarian, while another mother simply couldn't
fathom why anyone would choose not to eat meat. They range from
agnostic to deeply religious.
Still, the weekend went smoothly.
The kids had a special energy together, said Ms. White: "It was like
they were all humming and vibrating at the same frequency."
children aren't entirely clear about who these "special friends" are,
although they have all been vaguely told about their conception. Ms.
White created a book for her daughter, Morgen, which explains a bit
about how they are related, saying that their mommies all needed help
to have them and that the same person provided it.
The man who
spawned this clan remains unknown. When they chose him, the women knew
he had wavy hair and blue eyes, was outgoing and athletic, and had two
children of his own.
The women have chosen what's known as an
"identity-release" donor, which means that when the children turn 18,
they will be informed of his name and last known contact details.
Some of the mothers said it felt much more important to form this peer group than to seek out a connection with the donor.
didn't want Walker to be the only one out there," said Sara, who lives
in Kansas City, Mo., and asked to be identified only by her first name.
"I was adopted, and even though I had the best parents in the world, I still had the urge to know who my biological family was."
Ms. White said the donor is "the missing player in all this."
"It's like he's a part of this circle but he hasn't shown up yet," she said.