All my life I grew up with one brother.
I was shopping in Windsor one day when I spontaneously checked my phone. I noticed I had a Facebook messenger notification from a woman I didn’t know.
The woman’s name was Tracy. She said she matched with me on AncestryDNA as half-siblings and asked me if I was donor-conceived. My mind was blown.
A couple of months ago, I snatched a half-off deal on AncestryDNA. Because my family used an anonymous sperm donor, I didn’t know my ethnicities or anything about my paternal side. When people would ask “what are you?” it always made me feel left out because that was a question that I couldn’t quite answer. Wanting those answers, I decided to figure it out on my own and ordered a DNA kit. Yes, I knew it was possible that I would find siblings, but I also accepted that there was a chance I wouldn’t. I was more focused on my ethnicities at the time, and didn’t think much of the possibility of finding siblings.
I eagerly awaited for my DNA results, which take 6-8 weeks to come in, that would tell me my ethnicities, match me to relatives who have also tested through the database, and tell me the likely degree of relation to those relatives that I match with when Tracy had messaged me.
I couldn’t believe it. As I scrolled through Tracy’s Facebook, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we had the same father as I studied her face. She was someone who also donor-conceived, she understood what it was like to be asked about your family and to not know all the answers to those questions. Another person who not only understood the emptiness of not knowing anything about the other half of their DNA but someone who also shared half of my DNA. My hands shook while I responded to Tracy “yes, I am donor-conceived.” I rushed to the AncestryDNA app and opened up my DNA matches. My results were in and my list of “close family” DNA matches was extensive. These were not relatives from my mom’s side.
I received another notification from Tracy. My jaw dropped, and I burst into tears. I slowly sat down on a bench in the middle of this clothing store, staring at my phone in disbelief. Suddenly, the semi-formal I was shopping for didn’t matter anymore. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. “There’s about 32 of us. I can add you to our giant group chat.” I had 32 people to meet, remember, and a huge life change to process. 32 people had the same biological father as me. I was very lucky, too. Not all donor-conceived individuals are willing to meet their half siblings, yet I had 32 who were open to talking to me. So, there I cried, in the middle of Windsor.
Tracy added me to the group chat and my phone blew up. I finally saw the faces and heard the stories of all these siblings that I never knew existed, some who resembled me. I had brothers from another mother…sibs from another crib…literally. They were so welcoming. Almost all of us are involved in outdoor recreation, and are artistic in some way, perhaps this is a trait that came from our dad’s side? They were from a variety of states and the age range was 11-25. Some had wild stories for finding they were donor-conceived: through fights, after years of questioning their biological parents, through DNA testing. Others had known about their biological origins since birth.
To blow my mind, I learned that two siblings went to the same high school district as me. Which led me to wonder, were there more siblings that I didn’t know about that went to the same high school as me? Is anyone I grew up with unknowingly a half-sibling? Do any of them go to my university? I have no idea how many more half-siblings we have, as the sperm donation industry is widely unregulated. My new answer to “hey, you look like so-and-so, are you related to them?” is “I don’t know, maybe.”
I am now in a wonderful group chat with my biological siblings and have awesome people and places to visit. I can say quite confidently that DNA testing was one of my best purchases I have ever made.
Since February, four more siblings have been found, equaling a total of 37 siblings so far, to this date, and I’m sure as DNA testing popularizes, we have yet to find more. I’m related to a hell of a lot of people. My kids will have too many cousins to even remember. But hey, we got some damn good genes.
Although we do not know exactly how many donor-conceived people exist due to the lack of regulation of the industry, my story is not uncommon. I am determined to help the voices of other donor-conceived people be heard and spread awareness of this family dynamic.