I am a donor-conceived adult. I was conceived in Northeast Ohio in May 1984 and born on January 31, 1985. I was conceived from frozen sperm from anonymous donor #2035 from Xytex Corporation in Augusta, Georgia. In February 2008 I learned my "donor number" from my mother's medical records, and after a phone call to Xytex I was provided with his "profile", a single sheet of minimal non-identifying information. It was this knowledge that led me to create Cryokid.
My mother was a "Single Mother By Choice" long before there was such a term. She was 30 and felt her biological clock was ticking and was not in a stable relationship. So with the support of friends and family she sought to use an anonymous donor to conceive me. When I was 4 she married and I was legally adopted by my step-dad at age 10. Therefore, I am actually both a donor-conceived person AND an adoptee. I have twin [half] sisters who are both my parents biological children. I also have a half-sister, born November 1985 in Florida, conceived from the same donor. She is a very talented street artist and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Views on Donor Conception
Being the child of a SMC, I knew that my biological father was a sperm donor almost immediately. Actually, I fail to remember ever even being told of my conception, however as I grew older I knew the term "artificial insemination" (an archaic term that today usually only refers to livestock - and sadly better records are kept on livestock than on human beings!!). As a young child about 10, I recall a memory of thinking that someday in the future there would be a way to take my DNA and trace it to my biological father. Little did I know what technology the 21st century would bring and how close we are to that point!!
In March 2003, a simple twist of fate, I caught several minutes of the original airing of an Oprah episode discussing donor conception that featured the Donor Sibling Registry(back then merely a Yahoo message group, no database!). Within hours I was on the family computer, discovering for the first time that there were other children (and adults) like me. While I had wondered about my biological father most of my life, I usually saw myself as a "freak of nature" and never realized that there were such things as donor numbers, or that I might be able to learn information about my biological father (or even meet him!), and most of all, that I could have siblings out there! Soon after posting on the Oprah message boards, I was found by Bill Cordray, an adult offspring who moderated the group PCVAI. I was invited to join and for the first time in my life I knowingly spoke to other donor-conceived people. I also became extremely involved in the DSR message boards and had my first taste of how nasty people treat anyone who's opinions differ from their own. I was saved yet again, this time from the DSR message boards, by some like-minded offspring, former donors, and adoptees and became one of the founding members of the organization that today is known as TangledWebs.
I oppose donor conception as I see it as the intentional and premeditated destruction of biological ties and kinship. However, I understand that there is always going to be donor conception, at least until there is a more attractive alternative. As a more public point-of-view I advocate for legislation that regulates the infertility industry (including but not limited to payment of donors, number of offspring per donor, and psychological counseling for donors and patients), requires that all records of donors and inseminations be kept indefinitely, that donor anonymity be banned worldwide and and that children conceived from "donated" gametes can have access to their biological father's identity upon reaching the age of majority, including retroactively opening donor records from previously anonymous donors.
Background and Education
I was always very interested and exceptional at science, wanting to be an astronaut and/or a meteorologist as a small child, and eventually settling on wanting to be a doctor in high school. One of the very few, brief, conversations I remember having with my mother before I began searching in earnest, was one afternoon during my Junior year of high school. I was in the process of applying for colleges and I had decided on entering a pre-medicine program. My mother comes into what at the time was our playroom, and says to me, "With your interest in biology, I wonder if your donor might have been a medical student?". And that was it. The conversation was over. I often wonder if my interests scared my mother (whose only course in college that she received barely a passing grade in was General Biology).To her it must have been a reminder of the fact that I did have a father out there and that there were things about me that were obviously from him.There was also this pressure from my family to live up to some undefined and invisible expectation, and that was to become a medical doctor. And heaven only knows I wanted to please.So pre-med it was.
However, through all of that my one passion was always genetics.Obviously the circumstances of my conception and my lack of identity propelled me into being interested in this field. But what was not expected was how precocious my understanding was. Turns out I understood complex inheritance patterns, statistics, and concepts without so much as a formal genetics education!! By the time I took genetics in college (with my academic advisor, whom I had a very almost parent-child relationship with), I got to correcting the professor while he was teaching and getting into arguments over research claims. While completing my senior thesis (actually at a lab at the Cleveland Clinic), my mandatory weekly lab meetings with my advisor consisted of Sheetz coffee runs and him telling me I knew more than he did so why bother discussing it!!
After leaving pre-med and focusing on genetics I spent 2 years working in biomedical research labs (with the intention of moving into the PhD program after completing the intro courses), but eventually realized that I was not happy working all alone in a mouse room all day with 5,000+ rodents!! I have now since completed my Masters degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on academic health sciences libraries and I currently work as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC. It is the perfect combination of my love for science and research and my love for teaching.
Genetics and DNA Tests
Today I still keep my love for genetics and research alive helping donor-conceived adults locate their genetic kin through DNA tests and traditional genealogy and paper research. I determined the algorithms used to analyze CODIS (STR) marker DNA tests and was able to identify a half-sister through comparing two previously done DNA tests. I now help others to understand their DNA test results and run preliminary tests for individuals.
In 2010, after cracking the algorithms for DNA tests, Damian Adams and I began a project to create a free online database for donor-conceived adults to upload previously done CODIS marker DNA tests (paternity and/or siblingship tests), with which they would be compared against the rest of the database and potential half-siblings could be identified for further analysis. However, our simulations discovered one big problem. Instead of a high degree of false negatives as we had expected, turns out we were finding a high number of false positives among individuals who could not possibly be related!!
After scraping the project in the spring of 2011, I ordered the Family Finder test through Family Tree DNA. I then created a project using FTDNA tests (Family Finder and Y-STR) that will be a central location for donor-conceived adults and former donors to reunite based solely on DNA.
Donor Conceived DNA Project at FTDNA
While my search began in 2003 when I discovered the online donor conception community, I had so little information that it was practically useless. I had no donor number, I didn't even have a sperm bank at the time. All I knew was the name of my mom's OBGYN, the man who inseminated her in the small town I was raised in.
Later that year, in 2003, I confessed to my mother about seeing the Oprah episode, and nonchalantly began asking her questions (not disclosing how much I had learned already from the online community). It was then that I learned that she had asked her doctor for a donor who "had brown hair, blue eyes, and was about 5'8". She also recalled that the sperm bank was large and did lots of screening and was located in Georgia. It didn't take me long to determine that it must have been Xytex.
I eventually contacted Xytex and was informed that they did not keep transactions so they had no idea what donor they had sent to my mother's doctor, and that in 1984 there were no donors who fit my mother's very brief description. They gave me a sheet of donors from 1983 and 1984, but later realized that not all the donors were even listed on those sheets.
In 2005 I met a girl who was also conceived from Xytex. And she had been reunited with her biological father in 2001!! I was terribly jealous and felt crushed to learn that since then Xytex refused to contact donors after the threat of a lawsuit several years before. After returning from studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia, I decided to go forward with a DNA test with this girl and her biological father. It came back negative. Unfortunately my mother learned of this DNA test from a newspaper reporter with very bad ethics, and that began an up-hill battle between us over my search. We're currently in the "agree to disagree" opinion, though I really think she's finally reached a point that she knows she cannot stop me and might as well not fight me every step of the way. It is still definitely something of a sore spot, and I keep our communication on the topic minimal.
Over the next several years I did several more DNA tests, two more with former Xytex donors, and one with a potential half-sister. All came back negative.
In February 2008 I finally gained access to my donor number. For the first time in my life I had a small sense of half my identity and had somewhere to start.
Since then I have been using a variety of traditional research techniques, genealogy, and DNA tests to gain further information about my biological father and my family. In late 2010 I identified a man I suspected to be my biological father based on a few bits of non-identifying information. Since testing with FTDNA I have connected with a half-dozen close cousins of my biological father's, confirmed the identity of my biological father, and been welcomed with open arms into his [extended] family. I hope to soon go forward to make contact with my biological father, but after 26 years of life and searching for 8 years it feels almost anti-climatic. There is definitely a fear of rejection, and also a fear of hurting my parents - these things have likely kept me from going forward with contact before now. But knowing I have the answers to my questions about half of my identity makes me content for the time-being.
To be continued...
About This Blog:
Confessions of a Cryokid was created in March 2008, shortly after I learned my donor number and some non-identifying information about my biological father. I originally developed this blog as a means to try and find my biological father and any half-siblings by advertising my donor's information as much as possible. I also used it as a way to speak publicly about my views on donor conception. The blog soon became a hub for people seeking resources and information about the POV of donor-conceived persons. Eventually I moved away from the more personal rants that characterized my early posts and decided to focus on advocacy and advice. A much newer focus has been on basic searching techniques and genetics/DNA tests as it relates to donor-conceived individuals.