Women usually purchase enough vials of sperm for six months’ worth of attempts. Earlier, other women may have purchased this same donor’s sperm, and additional vials may be purchased by a third or a fourth woman, or even more. When Abby chose donor 180, the line that read “other children” did not factor into her decision. She was preoccupied with trying to figure out her likes and dislikes on the donor profiles in order to narrow her options to a few suitable donors. Information about other offspring was extraneous. She only thought, “Gee, donor 180 has a good track record and I hope I’m as lucky.” It did not occur to her that this meant her future child would have genetic half siblings somewhere.
This thread of information on the donor profile means that there is a possibility of having genetic kin without the presence of the genetic father. Even though Abby, as was the case with the majority of other women, would have liked her child to someday be able to contact donor number 180, she discovered another way to find paternal kin: nothing prevents donor-assisted families from locating other mothers and children who share the same donor’s ID number.
Some women in this study (as w^ell as a large number who are presently listed on national Internet registries) wanted to meet other children who shared the same donor father. They viewed meeting genetic half siblings and the other mothers as providing paternal kin ties and additional social identity.24 Although the majority of women in this study reported that they did not deliberately pursue strategies whereby they would share donors with other women, oftentimes they wanted to meet the children sired by the same anonymous donor, and their mothers.25 The management at Gorina’s sperm bank agreed to an unusual request because it had no bureaucratic regulations to the contrary:
After you pass your first trimester, you can ask for a more in-depth profile of the father. And they sent it and the one thing in it that really caught my eye, that
I hadn’t expected to find out, is they tell you how many other children he has successfully sired. Which means that my son has at least six—he was the seventh— half brothers or sisters out there. And I was like—whoa, if I were my son, that’s who I would want to meet. I would want to know my half brothers and sisters, and there are these six other kids running around who may look like Andy. So I called the bank and asked about getting in contact with those families.
Did you feel like you had any relationship with those other mothers?
I felt I would like to, even if it was only at some point to let our children meet each other if that’s what they wanted. Privacy is absolutely utmost, but. . . No one had ever asked them that before and they were quite taken aback at the request and finally came back to me and said, “If you want to give us a letter, wc will keep it in your file, and if any of them”—they said, “We won’t send it to them, but if any of them also sent in such a request, we would send this letter.”
Corina left a letter addressed to the other mothers in her donor’s file. She hoped that they would search on their children’s behalf, looking for genetic ties to other blood relations. These genetic ties would create a family of horizontal lineage wherein half siblings provide the links that children’s genetically unrelated mothers foster.26 Since Corina left that letter, donor registries have sprung up on the Internet, giving her another way of finding women who share the same donor number.
The gametes from an individual donor may produce several children with different women who are unknown to one another (and to the anonymous donor), which challenges the traditional boundaries of genetic kin and how families are usually created. These half siblings whose mothers choose to meet or who are old enough to do so on their own are forging families in ways unforeseen. This one – generational paternal side of the family, presently without other generations (e. g., uncles, aunts), could one day have multiple generations. But these donor – assisted families will be disconnected from the original donor source. Meanwhile, the anonymous donor may have his own family, with paternal relatives who exist separately yet share the genes of children he sired.