By admin on January 24, 2020

Guest Blog: by Lavon Peters

19 half-siblings and mothers
Photo above: 19 of the half-siblings in our group (and some moms), August 2018

My kids belong to one of the larger groups of half-sibs on the Donor Sibling Registry. You know the groups—the ones whose numbers make everyone say “OMG!” Our current count is 90* kids, but it changes frequently. A year and a half ago, we were at 68; I’m certain we’ll pass 100 this year. As you might imagine, navigating a group this large can be quite challenging!

Growing Pains

One of the downsides of a large half-sib group is simply keeping track of everyone. After we’d found about two dozen kids on the Donor Sibling Registry, I created a spreadsheet to keep everyone straight. But now, that spreadsheet doesn’t even fit on my computer screen. We have a few kids with the same names, so it can be hard to know who someone means when they’re talking about one of those kids. Sometimes, all the kids’ names swirl in my head and it takes me a few seconds to connect a name with a face.

Planning get-togethers has also gotten exponentially more difficult as our group has grown. Between trying to account for everyone’s schedule and budget, it’s almost impossible to find a time and place that works for everyone. And then there’s the issue of accommodating different interests and planning for individual kids’ dietary restrictions, allergies, and medical conditions. I want every get-together to be open to everyone, but that just isn’t possible with this size of group. It’s sad when one of the kids wants to attend a meet-up but can’t make it work.

As we’ve grown, I’ve also found it hard to make the same connections with new parents that I once made—and in fact, new kids’ parents rarely reach out anymore, since many of the kids who now find us do so through DNA, without their parents’ help (and sometimes without their knowledge). That lack of parent connection means I don’t know some of the newer kids as well as I know many of the earlier group, most of whom we found on the Donor Sibling Registry and connected with when the kids were under 18.

I’ve been reading Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which documents the evolution of human species from our earliest ancestors to modern Homo sapiens. In the book, the author asserts that “most people [cannot] intimately know … more than 150 human beings.” I’m definitely finding this to be true.

My experience seems to be true for the kids as well. We have a pretty big age range, but the older kids are fairly tight-knit—and I’m sure it’s intimidating for a new half-sib to jump into their Facebook or Snapchat groups. Likewise, a certain amount of fatigue has set in, and the excitement level isn’t as high for everyone as it once was when a new half-sib joins the group. As one of the adult kids told me, “Every additional member makes it harder to have meaningful relationships with everyone.” I feel for new kids in a group this large, who deserve the same welcome and excitement that everyone before them experienced.

So far, the younger kids aren’t as involved in the group. A mom of one of the younger kids shared that her son is “uncomfortable with the idea of being related to SO many strangers.” It remains to be seen whether the younger kids will flock together the way the older group did and whether the dynamics will be any different as newly discovered kids join that group.

Our donor echoes the feeling that it’s difficult to connect with everyone. The sperm banks told him his donations would go to only a limited number of families (which wasn’t true), and they promised him anonymity (which they can no longer guarantee, in the age of commercial DNA testing). He told me, “I don’t feel like I can meaningfully connect with everybody; it’s just too big and spread out and still semi-secret” (semi-secret because some of the kids have found us without their parents’ knowledge, and the donor’s own family didn’t know he had been a donor until very recently).

An Emotional Minefield

I can’t imagine what it feels like to be one in a group of 90 kids, especially for the half-sibs who are only now stumbling into our group. My own kids were the first from our donor to learn about and meet a half-sibling, so they’ve been able to mentally assimilate the numbers as we’ve grown. Still, they sometimes feel lost in the crowd. Others, who found us at a later age, feel like “just another number.”

Some of the parents in our group have asked, “When will it end?” I don’t have a good answer for them. I’m not sure it will EVER end. Our donor donated at more than one facility, and although he thought that each facility had a limit, we’ve already passed those numbers. The truth is, sperm banks can’t adhere to any “official” limits that they promise donors or parents, because they don’t have accurate records of how many children are born. Although our group seems huge at 90, there are plenty of groups on the Donor Sibling Registry that number between 100-200. In a donor-conceived group, there is ALWAYS the possibility of another half-sibling surfacing. This knowledge can be unsettling, at a minimum. It can also cause serious stress and anxiety.

All families are complex, and not everyone in a given family gets along. The same is true in donor families—sometimes even more so, since all the kids were raised in completely separate families. Socially, there is no common parent or grandparent guiding the kids’ upbringing. In our case, multiply that by 60, which is our number of separate families. The kids in our group have all been raised differently, with different values and belief systems. This can cause conflicts in a group as large as ours, sometimes between parents and sometimes among the kids.

The Upside

In case it sounds like being part of a large half-sibling group is a negative experience, let me share the positive side of it. Our group has actually faced very few of the emotional downsides. Everyone in our group respects everyone else’s differences and opinions, and all the parents and kids are supportive of one another. One of the adult kids shared that “if someone in the group is going through a tough situation, I feel a responsibility to reach out and support them, because that’s what family is for.”

The feeling of community in a group like ours is unlike anything else. Every kid has literally dozens of closely related relatives who care about them. The kids have a Snapchat group that is constantly active. They talk to each other about their relationships, they trade memes and jokes, they share travel tips and stories, and they sometimes even help one another with homework! Regardless of where they are or what time of day it is, these kids have someone to talk to—someone who truly cares.

This is important to many of the parents, especially those whose kids are “only” children. Long after we parents are gone, the kids in our group will still have family. A LOT of family. If someone isn’t getting along with their full siblings, or if someone has a disagreement with a half-sibling, there will always be someone else to provide emotional support. In a group of 90(+), they will never run out of someone to talk to.

Back when we were aware of about 15 half-sibs, I used to joke that if one of my kids ever needed a kidney, I knew where to look. But in all seriousness, having a connection to so many biological relatives has clear medical benefits. Some of the kids have the same health struggles and can compare treatment plans. And (God forbid!) if anyone ever does need a stem cell, bone marrow, or kidney transplant, they are almost certain to find a match among their half-sibs.

I know it’s important to many of the kids to have a connection to one another, and it’s very important to some of them to have a connection to the donor. Likewise, it’s important to our donor to be connected to the kids. He says he is “constantly amazed by the kids’ accomplishments and travels” and that he thinks about the kids “every day.”

We Are Family

For better or worse, my three kids each have two full siblings and 87 half-siblings (as well as a social dad, stepdad, and biological father). And, like it or not, the number of half-siblings will continue to grow. While it can be tricky to juggle such a large group, the rewards are worth it. The connectedness of a donor family is hard to describe, but it’s very real. As one of the (non-bio) parents in our group put it, “I don’t know the right wording for our relationships, but these kids feel like family to me. Love is the relation.”

*Our group was at 89 when I started writing this blog post, but we got a new 23andMe match in the meantime. [Update: as of May 6, 2020, our group is at 93 half-sibs.]


By admin on December 13, 2019

Are you a donor-conceived adult who has only recently discovered the truth of your conception? Perhaps your parents finally decided to tell you — or maybe you found out on your own (possibly through a DNA test). You’re probably feeling a variety of emotions, including uncertainty about how to talk to your parents in light of this new information. The following tips will help you navigate the discussion.

1. Talk to your parents.

Take some deep breaths, and try to relax. Many people have walked this path before you, and although the road can get a bit bumpy for a little while, they have all survived. Secrecy implies shame, and you have nothing to be ashamed of, so do not let the “secret” persist. Set aside time as soon as possible to discuss the situation with your parents. Talk with other close family members and friends who can provide good support.

2. Ask questions.

Ask your parents why they used a donor and what the experience was like for them. Ask them why they kept the secret. Most parents don’t tell because they’re afraid of how the truth will affect the family. Often, the non-biological parent is afraid of being looked at as not the “real” parent. You can assure your non-bio mom or dad that this news changes nothing in your relationship. Your parents will always be your parents. This knowledge doesn’t change that fact or diminish your love for the parents who loved and raised you.

3. Explain very honestly how this news has affected you.

Tell your parents what you are feeling. You might be experiencing a wide variety of emotions, including anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief. Understand and explain that your feelings are valid and to be expected — and that working through these emotions might take some time. Have patience with yourself. If you’re upset, don’t feel guilty. This was your information to have, and it was kept from you.

4. Listen.

Your parents may have made the best decisions they could with the information they had at the time. Many parents were advised to lie to everyone, including their children. Find out what they know about the donor or any half-siblings. Gathering information about the other half of your genetic identity and relatives may help you better understand yourself. Many offspring report feeling a sense of relief as they reassemble the puzzle of their physical, emotional, & intellectual selves.

5. Be willing to forgive.

You may never fully understand or agree with your parents’ reasons for keeping this information from you. However, staying angry doesn’t help you move forward. Empathy and compassion will be extremely helpful in repairing any damaged relationships. Work through your emotions, with the help of a therapist if necessary. Understand that forgiveness is the only path to true healing. It’s important for your parents to know that you can forgive them for not telling you the truth, even if this might take some time.

6. Continue the conversation.

This is not a one-time conversation. Let your parents know that you will ask them to continue the conversation as you process this new information, tell family and friends, and incorporate it into your identity. Invite your parents to walk beside you as you explore your genetic roots and figure out what it means to you and your life to be donor-conceived. There is great opportunity for a stronger family bond if you can keep the lines of communication open. Let your parents love and support you.

7. Accept your new reality.

Feel good about the fact that your family will now have a basis in truth. Understand that any curiosities you have about your half-siblings and/or your unknown biological parent, your ancestry, and your medical history are normal and to be expected. It’s an innate human desire to want to know where we come from. You can’t change the past, but you can control how you move forward. This is your story to own and share as you see fit.

8. If you are curious…

If you do desire to know more about your donor family, give yourself permission to search for the information and the genetic relatives you’re curious about. Your curiosity is not a betrayal to your parents, particularly your non-biological parent, in any way. Adding new family members or ancestral information doesn’t take away from or diminish the importance of your family of origin. Let your parents know how important it is for you to have their support as you look to discover more about your ancestry, your medical background, and your genetic relatives. Join the Donor Sibling Registry for connection and support.

More DSR Resources

For more offspring (and parent) resources, visit the DSR Counseling page and our other Support pages. If you aren’t already a DSR member, please join today (https://www.donorsiblingregistry.com) to connect with your (or your child’s) genetic relatives.


By admin on December 03, 2019

Are you a parent of a donor-conceived adult who is only now finding out the truth of their conception, either because you put off telling them until now or because they’ve discovered the truth on their own? If so, you may be nervous about how to approach this delicate conversation with your child. The following tips will help you navigate the discussion.

8 Tips If You Are Planning to Tell Soon…

1. When is the best time to tell? Now.

This is not your secret to carry. There will never be a “perfect” time, so the sooner, the better. Make sure you’ve done the psychological work necessary to be emotionally capable to have this conversation, e.g., counseling or soul searching on your own. Take some deep breaths, and try to relax. Many people have walked this path before you, and they have all survived!

2. Tell a little about your story and how you came to use a donor.

You’re setting the tone. Try to keep the conversation light, and use some humor if you can. You need to be as grounded and as level-headed as possible for this conversation because it lays the groundwork for all future conversations.

3. Explain very honestly why you haven’t told before now.

Don’t be defensive, and don’t use your story as an excuse. “We forgot about it” isn’t a good excuse, either. Your child wants to hear the emotion behind why you didn’t tell. What were you or your spouse afraid of? This can help your child process through their own emotions, which might include anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief.

4. Let your child know that you made the best decisions you could with the information you had at the time.

Explain what you were told by your doctor, including anything you know about the donor. Tell your child how it has felt to carry this information as a secret. Tell them what you’ve recently come to learn about the importance of honesty. Tell them who else knows.

5. Most Important: Apologize. Own it.

This was their information to know, and you kept it from them. Keep apologizing. This can allow them to move freely through their emotions without getting stuck in anger. Do not ask them to keep the “secret,” because secrecy implies shame. The shame of infertility should not be passed along to your child as the shame of donor conception.

6. Be ready to continue the conversation.

This is not a one-time conversation. It’s very important that your child knows that this is a welcomed, ongoing conversation and that you will be there by their side as they process this new information, tell family and friends, and incorporate it into their identity. Gently broach the topic regularly if your child doesn’t, so they know you’re there to help them understand what this new information means to them and their life.

7. Telling is just the first step.

Make sure your child knows that any curiosities they have about their half-siblings and/or their unknown biological parent, their ancestry, and their medical history are normal and to be expected. If you are not fully comfortable with this, it’s important that you understand why, so that you can continue to evolve in this area. Be honest as you communicate to your child about it.

8. If your child is curious…

If your child desires to know more about their origins, offer to walk side by side with them to find the information and genetic relatives they feel it’s important to know about. Make sure they understand that their curiosity is not a betrayal to you in any way. This is especially important for the non-biological parent. It’s important for your child to know that many people have also walked this path before them. You can point them to the Donor Sibling Registry for support.

8 Tips If Your Child Just Found Out on Their Own…

1. Apologize. Own it.

This was your child’s information to know, and you kept it from them. Keep apologizing. This can allow them to move freely through their emotions without getting stuck in anger. Do not ask them to keep the “secret,” because secrecy implies shame. The shame of infertility should not be passed along to your child as the shame of donor conception.

2. Tell a little about your story and how you came to use a donor.

Try to keep the conversation light, and use some humor if you can. You need to be as grounded and as level-headed as possible as you lay the groundwork for every future conversation.

3. Explain very honestly why you didn’t tell.

Don’t be defensive, and don’t use your story as an excuse. “We forgot about it” isn’t a good excuse, either. Your child wants to hear the emotion behind why you didn’t tell. What were you or your spouse afraid of? This can help your child process through their own emotions, which might include anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief.

4. Let your child know that you made the best decisions you could with the information you had at the time.

Explain what you were told by your doctor, including anything you know about the donor. Tell your child how it has felt to carry this information as a secret. Tell them what you’ve recently come to learn about the importance of honesty. Tell them who else knows.

5. Be ready to continue the conversation.

This is not a one-time conversation. It’s very important that your child knows that this is a welcomed, ongoing conversation and that you will be there by their side as they process this new information, tell family and friends, and incorporate it into their identity.

6. Make sure your child knows that any curiosities they have about their unknown donor family are normal and to be expected.

Make sure your child knows that you honor and support their desire to know their unknown genetic relatives. If you are not fully comfortable with this, it’s important that you understand why, so that you can continue to evolve in this area. Be honest as you communicate to your child about it.

7. If your child is curious…

If your child desires to know more about their ancestry, medical background, and close genetic relatives, offer to walk side by side with them to find the information and people they feel it’s important to know about. It’s crucial that they don’t think of their curiosity as a betrayal to you in any way. This is especially important for the non-biological parent. It’s important for your child to know that many people have walked this path before them. You can point them to the Donor Sibling Registry for support.

8. Keep the conversation going. Keep apologizing for not telling your child sooner and for them having to find out in such a shocking manner.

Take some deep breaths, and try to relax. Many people have walked this path before you, and they have all survived! Feel good about the fact that your family will now have a basis in truth. Gently broach the topic regularly if your child doesn’t, so they know you’re there to continue to help them understand what this new information means to them and their life.

More DSR Resources

For more parent and offspring resources, visit the DSR Counseling page and our other Support pages. If you aren’t already a DSR member, please join today (https://www.donorsiblingregistry.com) to connect with your or your child’s genetic relatives.