Guest Post From Ellen Glazer: Random Half-Sibling Meetings

By admin on January 25, 2014
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!
One of my favorite Saturday morning activities is listening to NPR’s show, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” It’s an hour of jokes, “fill in the blanks” and all sorts of quizzes about current events. I tune in each week to hear the “Stump the Listener” segment, which involves three stories of seemingly preposterous news events. Listeners have to determine which of these “It can’t possibly be  true” stories proves that the truth is stranger than fiction.  There have been many times when I’ve listened to all three convinced that all are wild figments of a producer’s imagination.

So why am I writing about Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on the DSR blog?  You guessed it: this weeks Stump the Listener involved donor sibs. For those who don’t already know the story, Mikayla and Emily are freshmen at Tulane University. They found each other when each was looking for a roommate with whom she had a lot in common. They met and found that in addition to shared interests, they looked remarkably alike. Both were born to lesbian mothers who had used a Colombian sperm donor. It was pretty easy for them to connect the dots, realize they were donor sibs and confirm this with their donor numbers.

So what does it mean that Emily and Mikayla’s story was on “Stump the Listener?”  For one thing, it seems that the forces behind “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” assume that it is pretty far fetched that two young women—one from San Francisco and the other, from San Diego—could meet up at college in New Orleans and discover they are donor siblings. Not so in the world of the DSR.  One need only travel around the DSR Facebook page or Yahoo group to know that while finding some genetic relatives is startlingly illusive, there are other examples of people encountering each other unexpectedly in every day life.

Mikayla and Emily’s story raises issues beyond that of the “outlandish” being real.  The articles that followed their discovery all emphasize the strength of their connection and their joyfulness at finding each other. Reading these accounts, I wondered how other donor offspring feel about Mikayla and Emily’s good fortune? I imagine that some wish that their parents were as open with them as these girls’ mothers seem to be.  And how might it feel to someone who is quietly searching for genetic connections to read Mikayla’s joyful declaration, “‘The thread may stretch or tangle. But it will never break. BEST. BIRTHDAY. PRESENT. EVER.”

Mikayla and Emily’s story raises questions for the future—theirs and all of ours.  As the world of donor conception expands, there will inevitably be others who unexpectedly find each other. How is this experience different for them than for those actively searching for donor kin?  There are also questions, already raised so effectively in Finding Our Families, of how donor kin will sort out, make sense of and navigate relationships with people with whom they share genetics but not a social history. For example, we know that Mikayla and Emily share the experience of having lesbian moms, being interested in theatre and choosing Tulane but there may be some substantial differences in their social histories. It looks from the photos like at least one of them went to Israel on Birthright (she is at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, wrapped, it seems, in a tallis or possibly an Israeli flag). Perhaps, for example, she has a strong Jewish identity and her sister is a Christian.  This is but one example of the kinds of differences that are more likely to exist in donor kinship than in those raised in the same family—or even, the same community.

I will be looking forward to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” next week but admittedly, I’ll be listening with a different perspective. Our world is changing. Things we thought far fetched or impossible are happening.  We have an opportunity to open our minds and take in new realities.

Ellen Glazer is the Co-author of  the book Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation