An Unexpected Family: Connecting with Donor Siblings

Written By: Hillary Redwine

If someone had told me back when I was first considering having a child via egg donation that one day our extended family would include our child’s donor siblings, their older sister and their parents, the idea would have seemed surreal to me. Fast forward a few years, this is our reality, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

How we met

As my friend Carrie, the mom of my daughter’s twin half-siblings, often says, “Life is hard and surprising and wonderful.” I can’t think of a more eloquent way to describe our situation.

Carrie and I both experienced several years of infertility and had to let go of expectations regarding how we would grow our families. That’s the hard part.

Three years ago, we connected via the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). We learned that we had chosen the same egg donor to help us conceive our children with just an eight-month gap between them. That’s the surprising part.

Since then, we have spent time together on several occasions with our husbands and kids, who are beginning to understand their connection. And that, of course, is the wonderful part.

It’s their story

It helps that Carrie and I, along with our husbands, are on the same page about being open with our children regarding how they came into the world. Their conception and the fact that they have genetic half-siblings via the donor is part of their story, and they have a right to know.

“It’s heathier [for them to know],” Carrie says. “It’s not a secret, and it shouldn’t be a secret.”

Leveraging the DSR

When we were first getting to know each other, Carrie and I learned that we had taken a similar approach in how we selected our donor. We both wanted someone who would be willing to meet us and have ongoing contact through the DSR, as well as be willing to meet any future children so they can have the option of knowing their genetic relatives. It was so important, in fact, that we had these things stipulated in our donor agreements.

According to Katy Encalade, owner of Egg Donor Solutions, 60 to 70 percent of the agency’s intended parents today have the DSR written into their legal contracts.

“It’s something we definitely encourage for all our families,” Katy says. “The DSR provides an opportunity for contact while still maintaining anonymity. It’s a great way to share medical information and develop a personal connection if it’s desired. Even if intended parents don’t plan to have contact initially, we still recommend they sign up for the DSR because they may change their minds in the future.”

Similarities between donor siblings

With my daughter, Corinne, being our only child, I love that she gets to grow up knowing her donor siblings. It’s fascinating to watch her play side-by-side with Carrie’s twins, Zoe and Cooper, and see the similarities between them. When the kids were younger, we both thought that Corinne and Cooper looked the most alike. “I thought Cooper was the boy version of Corinne,” Carrie notes.

As they’ve gotten older, Corinne and Zoe now seem more similar in appearance. They are built the same (tall and lean), and as Carrie pointed out to me recently, they have the same walk. Personality-wise, Cooper and Corinne have the same sense of humor and frequently entertain us with their random silliness.

One of the most endearing things during our visits with Carrie’s family has been how her older daughter Willow, who is not genetically related to Corinne, takes on a big sister role with her – so much, in fact, that Corinne believes Willow is her sister too.

Our extended family

As I reflect on our journey to parenthood, a consistent theme is the unexpected blessings that have resulted from choosing egg donation. Not only do we have the child we believe we were meant to have, we’ve also gained a bonus family and incredible friends in Carrie and her husband, Jeremy.

As we were reminiscing recently, Carrie told me, “I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know you, Jared and Corinne and that you all are part of our extended family.”

I couldn’t agree more.

A person holding a baby

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Meeting for the first time. Pictured from left: Cooper, Willow, Zoe and Corinne.
A person standing in front of a brick wall

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Trip to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 2019. From left: Corinne, Cooper, Zoe and Willow
Parents night out: Hillary, Jared, Carrie and Jeremy