It’s that time of year when my list of gifts to buy is long. Our family celebrates Christmas, and my daughter’s birthday is at the end of December, so that’s a doubly whammy. I also like to add in a Saint Nicholas Day token of my affection, so add “something that will fit in her Size 8 toddler shoe” to that list. What to get? What to get?
I’d like to come up with experiences, items tied to tradition or sentiment, and/or something environmentally sustainable which speaks to my minimalist values. I look through her belongs to take inventory of what she has, what she could need, and I research the upcoming developmental stage she’ll enter. I text my mom friends to see if they have ideas.
In my perusing of our bookshelves, I come across a title called “Zak’s Safari”. I forgot about this one. I hadn’t taken it down to read to her yet because the writing is a bit advanced. It was given to my wife and me at our baby shower. It’s a story about donor-conceived kids of two-mom families. I put the book somewhere I’ll remember to read it, but it gets me to thinking: “Could I get my daughter something related to her donor-conceived origination?”
I grew up not knowing anyone who was biologically related to me (so I thought – story about that here). Both my wife and I were raised as only children and didn’t really want siblings (According to this article, we didn't know the importance of sibling!). So, when we decided to try to become parents using an anonymous sperm donor (and my egg), we didn’t think about biological connections outside of the donor’s medical record and his love of poodles (I couldn’t make that up if I tried).
Once our daughter was born, we were contractually obligated to tell the sperm bank of her birth. (Sperm banks regularly keep track of live births for a variety of reasons, one of which ensuring that there’s a limit to how many donor siblings are born outside of the same family to reduce the chances of accidental inbreeding of unknown biological siblings living in the same region, meeting in high school, dating, and procreating. It has happened!) It was at that time I received information on the bank's donor sibling registry as well as the international Donor Sibling Registry.
The Donor Sibling Registry was founded to assist individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg, or embryo donation who are seeking to make mutually desired contact with others with whom they share genetic ties. The sperm bank let us know that the organization exists, and provided paperwork should we want to register our daughter. We opted against registering her at that time. It felt like too much to consider as we embarked upon parenthood and I was recovering from childbirth.
Could I sign up my daughter for the Donor Sibling Registry as a gift? Hmmm…
I know of only one family who has registered their child. This doesn’t mean that the dozens of other families I know with donor-conceived kids haven’t also sought out the organization’s services; it just means that it’s not a topic at the top of everyone’s minds during parties, playdates, and casual texts. The family I know of has used the service to its full potential, complete with communications with more than a handful of donor siblings across the globe. What an expansion of both their chosen and biological family!
It seems that they are two main reasons families are a part of the Donor Sibling Registry:
- an interest in personal relationships; and
- an interest in or need for medical information
Going back to my wife’s and my upbringings: we didn’t yearn for the sibling we didn’t/didn’t know we have, and I wasn’t curious about my genetics until high school. So, we can’t fairly assume that our child will want to know. In turn, we can’t fairly assume that she won’t want to know. If she does want to know, when will she be emotionally ready?
I also didn’t have any medical issues as an adolescent that would have left my parents wondering about hereditary causes, or needing a donor match for an organ transplant, for example. I can see, though, wanting information on genetic-related diseases afflicting children conceived with the same sperm as my daughter. And the idea of my daughter potentially being able to help a donor sibling who needs something of hers sounds valiant.
But I am still not sure. And neither is my wife. Is it even our choice to make? (Here's a positive story of one family's experience with donor siblings.)
I’ll add “Donor Sibling Registry” to my Gift Ideas note on my iPhone to revisit next December. In the meantime, I saw a post on Memphis Mom Collective about the best toys…