Ryan and Anna, Two Half Siblings Meet
I was sitting at my desk one day this past February when I saw the posting for donor #1058 come through the Donor Sibling Registry's website. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately called Ryan in to the room. He recognized the tone in my voice right away. The posting was written by a 13 year old girl. Uh oh. We had been through two half-sibling near-misses already. The first time was when the mother of Ryan's two half sisters contacted us, only to tell us a day later that she and her husband had not told their daughters that they were donor conceived, and most probably never would. This was devastating to Ryan, to know that he had two half sisters out there who might never have the chance to know that he exists. The second near miss was a girl 6 months younger than Ryan who was searching online. She was told of the methodology of her conception (to a single mom who 2 years later then married) but was forbidden to search for her biological family. Shortly after connecting with her, and advising her to tell her mom that she had found a half brother, she told her mother and was then immediately forbidden to have any continued contact with Ryan.
The whole reason we had established the Donor Sibling Registry was so that Ryan could hopefully find and meet a half sibling. After years of waiting and watching so many others connect on the site it actually looked like he might be the 2,910th person on the DSR to match. Would the third time be the charm for Ryan? We now had a 13 year old posting on the DSR under #1058. As DSR Director I first had to check, as I would with any posting of someone under 18, that she did indeed have her parent's permission to post on the site. As I was typing my message, I received this from Anna's mother:
My daughter, Anna just responded to a posting by you regarding donor number 1058. This is the first time we have explored the registry and are very anxious to find out if your son is indeed a match.
My husband and I allowed Anna to register herself last night, with our supervision. She is 13 years old, and was born on May 22nd, 1993. Our donor was a Mechanical Engineering student. He was born in 1967. He has one brother who is a pilot. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
As you can imagine, we are looking forward to a response and hope to hear from you soon.'
Ann Marie (Anna's Mom)
Robert ( Anna's Dad)
And another message from Anna herself simultaneously:
'On the posting page you and I are in a pale yellow box, both with donor number 1058. Does this mean that there is a match?'
Immediately a huge relief for Ryan and me that this young girl did indeed have (both!) her parent's permission and that they all seemed excited to have matched with Ryan. Strangely, we soon learned that Anna shared the same birthday with Ryan. As I was serving a three year old Ryan his Superman birthday cake, Anna was being born 2000 miles away.
I immediately emailed Ann Marie and gave her my work number. Within 30 minutes (she waited for Bob to come home from work) she called me at my office to confirm and connect. Ryan had already gone back to school so was unable to connect on the phone for this first time. We were giddy. And in shock. I told her that even though were essentially strangers, that we shared something so precious. We quickly shared a little about each of our kids, and Anna asked to speak with me so that she could ask questions about the other half siblings that we knew about.
Later that evening Ryan and Anna connected on My Space and via instant messaging. Over the next few weeks Ann Marie and I had several phone calls and eventually we all had a group phone call. We talked about the possibility of meeting and we all wanted that to happen ASAP. ABC's Primetime had expressed interest in updating a story that they had done more than four years ago on Ryan and the beginnings of the DSR, and they thought that Ryan and Anna's meeting would be a perfect update.
Meeting for a Primetime news story was becoming a reality. 6 weeks after Anna found Ryan we were making plans to fly to NY to meet in Central Park and spend two days getting to know each other in NYC.
We were all extremely excited. Ryan bought Anna a University of Colorado sweatshirt. The morning of the meeting each family had a camera crew to walk with towards Central Park. They had set a meeting place, but because of disorganization, our two families basically bumped into each other walking along the park road. It was tremendous. We all hugged, and the smiles on Anna's and Ryan's faces were telling. It was like they sensed &quot;home&quot; in each other. There was an undeniable bond and recognition of the familiar in one another. The parents were scouring the faces of the kids, looking for similarities. It was very emotional for us, and amazing to meet this young girl who had bits and pieces of my son in her. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for Anna's parents, that they had been honest with Anna and honoured her curiosity and need to search for and connect with Ryan. While Anna's mom and I had a more obvious bond, I felt extreme gratitude for Anna's dad. I was so impressed that he had put any possible fears or concerns about Anna finding biological family to the side, instead honoring his daughter's needs to connect to that invisible and unknown part of herself.
We spend the first hour or so asking each other questions, taking pictures and comparing notes. Ryan and Anna's smiles seemed permanently adhered to their faces. There was a sense of peace about the both of them.
We spend the next 48 hours getting to know each other and marveling at the similarities (and differences) in Ryan and Anna. It was clear to us, that even though we had just met, that we were connecting as family. Strange to be getting to know family for the first time. We were laying the groundwork for a connection that could last their lifetimes. We made it clear that Ryan and Anna would be defining the relationship and that there was no pressure for it to look any certain way. We also made sure the kids knew that their relationship at 13 and 16 would certainly change and develop as they years went on. For now, the parents would most likely make the logistical planning, but this would only be based on the desires of both Anna and Ryan.
Anna wore her CU sweatshirt with pride, despite the 75 degree weather.
It was interesting that both she and Ryan referred to each other as 'brother' and 'sister'. The parents had been using 'half brother' 'half cousins'. Anna just looked at me and said, 'No. Just cousins'..