Penelope and I are getting our ducks in a row to start trying for baby #2. (Yes, that’s news, but it’s not the earth-shattering news to which the title of this post refers.) A few weeks ago, we called our sperm bank to see if they still had units available for Hank’s donor, so that our kids could be biologically related. (Penelope gave birth to Hank; I will be doing the heavy lifting this time, Lord willin’ and the cricks don’t rise.) When we called the bank, they told us that, though the donor has been inactive for some time, they still have units available for families that already have conceived a baby by that donor… but a genetic “issue” had been reported in a recent birth, and so we would have to talk with the bank’s genetic counselor before placing our order. Of course, it was late on a Friday afternoon, and the counselor had already left for the day, and so Penelope and I were left to wonder and worry all weekend.
The following Monday, I finally spoke to the counselor, who had very little information because the problem had only just been reported to the bank the prior week, and she hadn’t had a chance to research it yet. She told me that a pair of twins had been born with a condition that might or might not be genetic, and it had been corrected by surgery so the twins were fine, and that the bank was trying to interview the mother and her doctors to get more information. She advised me to touch base with her again in a week.
Well, a week passed, and I left the counselor a message. She didn’t call back. The next two days, I e-mailed her. No response. Now, those who know me know I’m an instant-gratification kind of girl: I was not handling this delay. So, for the first time since Hank’s birth, I got curious about the here-to-fore hypothetical families that have also conceived using the same donor. Then, as we all do when curiosity strikes in this information age, I took to the interwebs to see what I could see. The genetic counselor did finally call me back, yesterday afternoon, but in the meantime, here’s what I’d already found out. (Yes, this is the earth-shattering part. Brace yourselves.)
Oh, my. It turns out that our boy is one of (at least) 23 babies born to this donor, between the ages of 3 years and just born, and that those 23 (twenty-three. Twenty!-effing-Three!) babies’ mamas are ORGANIZED. They even have a secret Facebook group. (I didn’t even know Facebook had “secret” groups, but they do: we can share and post things in this group, and it doesn’t show up on any feeds except that of the secret group.) Mere hours after my first tentative web forays, I was added to this secret group, and now I am absolutely swimming in information that is thrilling and fascinating, but for which I am not emotionally prepared. Did I mention that there are twenty-three half-siblings?
I say that the mamas are organized because all of the families that have registered are either lesbian couples with kids or single mothers. There may be other, unreported babies out there in more traditional families, and to me, that makes sense: I can only imagine if I were a father whose kids were conceived by donor sperm, I wouldn’t be that interested in the donor, and I would hope my kids weren’t, either. All of which means, of course, that there may easily be more than twenty-three siblings out there.
The bank’s policy is to retire donors when there are 25-30 family units with live births. (Not 25-30 kids; 25-30 family units. If all 30 families miraculously had twins or multiple babies with the same donor, there could be scores of half-siblings.) I theoretically knew that policy when we chose this bank and this donor, but, trust me, 25-30 families looks a lot different when one considers it in the abstract, when one is trying and hoping and praying to successfully join those 25-30 lucky family units, versus months later when one is raising an amazing little person, and suddenly one has to come to grips with the news that this precious, unique little guy has dozens of half-siblings out there, and most of them have his sculpted eyebrows and funny concave toenails.
Anyway, we’re still grappling with this, and I expect we will be for quite some time. Not just the sheer numbers, but other ramifications, too. How involved do we want to be with this group of moms and siblings, now, or do we want to pull back until Hank is of an age where he can make that decision himself? (To be honest, I’m not sure that’s even an option: now that I know these people exist, I can’t un-ring that bell.) If we stay connected with these families, how connected: will we want to meet them? How often? How would we afford that? They’re all over the country. There is so much to think about.
Oh, and yes, the mom with the twins with the genetic condition? She’s in the Facebook group. Her boys are fine–gorgeous, actually. They have Hank’s eyebrows.