Donor Sibling Registry
FAQ and Discussion of Transparency With Donors
Following are some frequently asked questions, with answers that
may be able to help guide you through what can be an exciting, but
sometimes confusing journey.
At the bottom of the page are some sample letters to guide you
through acquiring your donor information from a sperm bank or
For donor conceived persons, parents of the donor conceived,
and donors themselves, making these connections is uncharted
territory. Please know that these questions have been asked by
many members and as we fine tune the questions, hopefully we can
all figure out some answers together here on the DSR. I have
partnered with Liz Margolies, a licensed psychotherapist to answer
We just made a match with a half sibling/donor.
What do we do now?
First, take a deep breath. This moment is likely to bring up
feelings you had not anticipated when you first registered on the
website and, therefore, you may no longer be sure about what you
want to do next. Try to have no expectations of yourself for
action. Allow yourself or your child enough time to figure out
what you are seeking at this point. Are you interested in a simple
exchange of information? Are there questions you want to ask? Is
your desire to be "known" to the donor? Do you hope to meet in
person? My best advice is to follow the old carpenter’s adage:
"Measure twice, cut once."
It is perfectly normal to feel ambivalent, meaning that you may
experience two simultaneous and contradictory feelings. The strong
desire to find a half sibling or donor can exist alongside the
equally intense fear of the unknown changes this can bring about
in yourself, your child or your family structure. After having
hoped that a match would be found, you may now have a strong urge
to back out. The same holds true for the donor or half-sibling who
If you decide to move ahead with contact, go slowly. Email is a
good way to begin. You can offer some information about yourself
and see what kind of response you receive. If you ask questions,
frame them gently, allowing for the other person’s ambivalence
about contact and exposure. Allow yourself time after each
exchange to assess your comfort level and that of the half
sibling, parent or donor. This is a process and sometimes patience
is needed. Donors are often especially cautious because of the
possibility of multiple offspring. I recommend permitting donors
to take the lead in determining the speed and depth of the
And some more advise on contacting your donor:
All you can do is reach out to him, preferably in writing, so
that you don't put him on the spot. Tell him that you would like
to gradually initiate a relationship; you don't expect him to turn
his life upside down, you simply want to ease into some
communication, if he's amenable. Be thoughtful in your note: Let
him know how you feel, what you need and why this is so important
to you. Make it very clear also about the things you are not
looking for, i.e. money, great demands on his time, disruption of
his family, etc.
Before you send the letter, it's critical that you adjust your
expectations so that you aren't setting yourself up for failure.
You are opening a door, but that doesn't mean that he'll come
through it. As difficult as it may be, you have to remember that
he may not be in a position to react in a way that may satisfy
you. There could be any number of reasons that he is not prepared
to connect at this point in time. At the very least, you will have
opened up the possibility of communication, be it immediately or
when the donor feels ready.
What can I expect from my contact with the
other families I meet?
I think you can count on finding another family who is also
experiencing deep feelings but just as the circumstance
surrounding each child’s conception are unique, so are the
variations in family structure and reactions to the match. Try to
be transparent to who the new family is and what they are looking for
now. If you can’t be, perhaps this is not the time to make
Many of the donor-conceived children have lesbian or gay
parents. While the actual numbers are not known, these families
are more likely to share the facts of their conception with their
children and are, therefore, well represented among the members of
the DSR. Similarly, many single mothers by choice are interested
in expanding their families through the DSR. For some
heterosexual families, this may be their first exposure to
different kinds of families, adding an extra stress to the anxiety
and excitement of making a match. It is OK to be nervous or
unsure about the terms or language that the other family uses.
But, heterosexual families that are not open to contacting
lesbian, gay or single-parent families, due to religious or other
values, may want to think about that before making a match.
In addition to family structure, there is a large range of
expectations among DSR families. Some are interested solely in
information sharing with the parents of their child’s half
sibling. Other families desire a limited exchange of photos and
email, but not face-to-face contact. And some families are hoping
to develop an ongoing relationship that will become a friendship
or resemble extended family. It is best to be clear about the
level of connection you are seeking when you make a match and try
to express that early on to the family of your match. Understand,
too, that comfort and expectations often change over time.
When is the best time to tell my child that she
It is never too early to begin telling your child the
circumstances of her conception and birth. Small children love to
hear the story of their beginnings and often ask to have it
repeated. Don’t worry about having the right language or perfect
terminology. The way you tell this story should reflect the way
you always speak in your house, with the same tone, length and
level of seriousness. When the story of the donor-conception is
told from the beginning of your child’s life, the information
becomes embedded in the relationship between your child and you.
It is shared and it is a non-event, compared to the experience of
disclosing the information for the first time at a later date.
It may at first seem odd to be talking about issues of
fertility to a young child, but remember that children only absorb
the parts of the story that are meaningful to them at their
current age. They simply disregarded the information that is too
advanced for them. When told about their donors, young children
tend to ask very practical questions and usually show little
The story should grow with your child, increasing in detail as
she is able to understand more. In response, the questions you are
asked will also change as your child develops. Children vary
greatly in how important this information feels to them. Some
children show little interest for years and then have a period of
time where they are thinking about the donor or possible half
siblings all the time. There is not one way that all children
respond and even the same child reacts differently over time. So,
even if your child does not bring the subject up, you
should do so from time to time, reminding her that this will
always be an open topic for discussion between you.
HOW TO TELL PROJECT- 4 Booklets Written by a
parent of donor conceived young people and based on children’s
developmental stages, the booklets provide parents with a source
of emotional support and practical guidance in finding the right
time and the right language to ‘tell’ and continue conversations
with their children over the years.
There are separate booklets for parents of children at
different stages. Issues covered:
* Anxieties about ‘telling’
* Facing fears and overcoming them
* The best age to start ‘telling’
* Language to use for babies, little kids, bigger kids,
teenagers and adults
* How children’s development affects what they understand and
how they respond
* Talking with the school and family and friends
* Telling if a known donor has been used
* Telling following the ending of anonymity for donors
The four booklets are now available to download free from this
Why should I tell my child he is donor
Some parents are reluctant to tell their children that they
were conceived with the aid of donor gametes (eggs or sperm). They
view this information as "private" or "confidential". According to
the research, married couples are more likely to feel this way
than either single women or lesbians who use donor sperm. In some
cases, heterosexual couples have not shared the information with
any close friends or family.
Parents who believe their children deserve to know their
genetic origins tend to frame the issue in terms of "honesty"
versus "secrecy". They value openness in the family and believe
that secrets are dangerous and uncontrollable. For example, in
cases where there are some other people who do know the
circumstances of a child’s conception, there is always the risk of
unplanned disclosure by someone besides the parent.
I believe that children need to be told about the circumstances
of their conception for two primary reasons; they have a right to
know their genetic origins and it is damaging to family
relationships when important information is both withheld and/or
revealed too late. It can damage trust between family members.
Some children who had not yet been told that they were
donor-conceived reported that they already felt different within
their families, based on either physical characteristics or
personality. They lacked facts to substantiate their strong
feelings. Even without being told, children often pick up hidden
clues from the family. In the studies that have been completed
with donor-conceived children, many reported a powerful sense that
some valuable information was being withheld from them.
The ability for parents to find half siblings through this
registry raises new issues about disclosure. Parents who have
always told their children that they were donor-conceived have to
now decide when and how to tell their children about the new
relatives that have been found.
Is it too late to tell our child? We haven’t
told her yet.
It is never too late to be honest with your child.
If you have waited this long, I recommend that you now allow
yourself ample time to carefully consider what you will say. It is
a good idea to get professional help in preparing for the
disclosure and determining how best to phrase your ideas in
language that is tailored to your child’s current age and
The talk you have with your daughter should have several
components. First, you need to convey the facts you want
your child to know about the circumstance of her conception. This
part may include some science about sperm and egg, and almost
always stresses how much you wanted a child like her. Second, you
may want to explain why you did not tell her previously. Did you
believe it was best for the family? Were you protecting her
father? Third, it is a good idea to let her know why you chose to
tell her this now. Does she now seem old enough to know?
Did you change your mind about disclosure? Is there something
about to happen in the near future that makes this telling
essential now? Finally, allow room for your child to express
her feelings about this news. She will probably have many
contradictory feelings and it can be extremely hard to hear them
Remember, disclosure is not a one-time act. The meaning of the
news will change over time for your child. The first few weeks
will bring many changes and then, as she makes important
transitional steps in her life, she will keep reassessing the
meaning of being donor-conceived. The only thing you can count on
remaining constant is your willingness to be there with her and
listen to her feelings as she expresses them.
My child just found out he is donor-conceived.
How can I best support him?
The new disclosure has multi-layered meanings for your child.
He will likely experience complicated and even contradictory
feelings as he tries to assimilate the new information. Give him
plenty of time and a willingness to hear what he has to say.
Expect confusing feelings at first and don’t mistake today’s
expression for the long-lasting impact of disclosure. Certainly,
how you handle this next phase will have an enormous impact on the
duration and outcome of the disclosure in your family.
First, your child needs to adjust to the fact that he was
living under false assumptions about his biological origins.
Everything he understood about his genetic continuity has to be
rewritten. This is not easy work for your child. The best way you
can help him through this is by allowing him to feel his entire
range of feelings, including anger, confusion, liberation and
shock. Offering some information about how you came to choose
donor insemination will help him as he struggles to rewrite his
Second, your son must make sense of the fact that this
information was kept from him for so long. He is likely to focus
his feelings about this onto you. He may feel deceived,
mistrustful of you, extremely angry and accusatory. In a family
with a mother and a father, you can expect that a child will have
altered feelings about BOTH parents. Again, you can best help him
through this by a combination of explaining why you originally
decided not to tell him about his genetic origins and,
more importantly, allowing him to express these feelings without
becoming defensive or distant.
This could undoubtedly be a hard storm, but the key to
weathering it is to stay connected, remain open to what your child
needs to say or ask and, ultimately, show him through your
consistent behavior that your are the same mother and father who
have always loved him and always will. Staying connected is not
limited to talking. If your child won’t speak about the subject,
be open to alternative forms of contact that he may prefer, like
email or Instant Messenger.
I want to tell my child that she is
donor-conceived, but my husband/wife doesn’t want me to. What
should I do?
It is very difficult to feel torn between the needs of
different members of your family. You love them both and want to
do what is best for each of them, even when those needs seem to be
at odds. Up until this point, you family has "protected the
privacy" of the donor and "maintained the secret" from your child.
The difference in opinion you and your husband now have can be a
source of conflict in your marriage.
In some families, spouses place a different importance on the
facts of conception. Most women, however, have not disclosed in
order to protect their husbands. Male infertility brings with it a
social stigma and, in many cases, shame. Fathers often fear that
their children will feel differently about them once they learn
that there is no genetic connection between them. I recommend that
you speak with your husband lovingly and respectfully about his
feelings and concerns. Until these issues are addressed
sufficiently, your husband is less likely to change his mind about
The two of you have to weigh his strong feelings against the
potential problems you will encounter from withholding the
information from your daughter. Should you decide to ever tell her
she is donor-conceived or should she find out through someone
else, there is a great likelihood that she will be angry at having
the information withheld until now. This feeling will be directed
towards both parents, not just her father. Your ongoing
conversations with your husband will include your child’s needs as
Excerpt from DonorSiblingRegistry.com website downloaded
September 3, 2009