Donor Conception

How to create a wider support network for your donor-conceived family

The Ribbon Box editorial team with California Cryobank  |   17 Oct 2023

Last year, when their eldest daughter was nearly five years old,  The Ribbon Box Founder Eloise and her husband were contacted (out of the blue) by a lesbian couple who used the same sperm donor as them, via their bank’s donor sibling registry. 

Based in the US, the couple asked if Eloise and her husband would like to join a private Facebook group with other parents of children from the same donor.  Within two minutes of joining, they were connected with the parents of their children’s donor-conceived siblings, all with different fertility issues from Eloise and her husband. 

How did the couple find out Eloise and her husband used the same donor?  How did they contact them? When Eloise was pregnant with her eldest, her husband signed them up to their sperm bank’s Sibling Registry. 

As one of the world’s largest donor sperm banks, California Cryobank has been making family-building dreams come true for over 40 years – with a comprehensive selection of stringently screened sperm donors with extensive quality control, a highly trained staff, and valuable post-conception services to offer a complete sperm banking experience. Their Sibling Registry is a secure database of reported births from patients using California Cryobank sperm donors, and is a key part of their post-conception offering. 

Read on to learn more about what the Sibling Registry is, what information it contains, whether it’s right for you and how to sign up. 

What is the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry?

The California Cryobank® Sibling Registry is a free, optional resource hub that donor-sperm recipients and donor-sperm conceived people (aged 18 and over) can sign up to use. It allows donor-conceived people to connect with other donor-sperm siblings who were conceived using the same California Cryobank donor.

Anyone who uses a California Cryobank donor can use the Sibling Registry and once you sign up, you’ll be able to access the hub and discover potential siblings from the same donor.

After you’ve signed up, you can decide how much information to share with donor-conceived siblings and families of donor-conceived people who used the same California Cryobank donor. Whether you want to remain anonymous, reach out to donor-conceived siblings or share your own information, the choice is yours.

To respect the privacy of families and donors, California Cryobank donors are not eligible to participate.

What is it like to find out that there are other children from the same donor?

Eloise says she and her husband experienced a flood of mixed emotions following the email.  “We were so happy; we had half-sibling contact details if our children needed it, we had their names and where they came from.  But we were also faced with the reality.  We knew this day would come but didn’t know when or how we’d feel about it.”

During Eloise’s pregnancy with their first child, Eloise’s husband signed them up to the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry.  The pair chose an ID Disclosure Donor because they wanted any future children to have access to the donor’s identifying information when they turn 18.

“We signed up [to the Sibling Registry] with the best intentions for our future children. It felt slightly uneasy for us but we knew it was something we wanted to do to give our children any information we had.”

For Eloise and her husband, like so many who use donor gametes, navigating the path of discovering donor-conceived siblings is accompanied by a vast array of emotions:

  • “Why can’t life be uncomplicated?”
  • “Why do we have to share genetics?”
  • “How amazing to have the opportunity to get to know so many people across the globe.”

Within the Facebook group, parents posted pictures of their children alongside the photo everyone had of the sperm donor, pointing out resemblances between the donor and their child.  Eloise says she and her husband started making comparisons, too.  Eloise admits it felt a bit weird to begin with, now they find it empowering to see half siblings and make connections so easily.

“Infertility lives on but in standard fertility treatment, there isn’t this layer of complication – this will stay with us throughout our lives and the lives of our children,” Eloise adds.

What information might someone share on the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry?

How much information you choose to share is up to you.  Some things you might want to share include:

  • How your donor-conceived children are growing
  • What they look like and what they like doing
  • Photos of your donor-conceived children
  • Your email address to communicate away from the California Cryobank system

Is the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry right for me?

If you’re considering using donor gametes in your fertility treatment, there are many questions you’ll consider.  One of which is whether you want families who have used the same donor as you to be able to find out about any children you have.  Similarly, you’ll need to ask yourself if you want any potential donor-conceived children of yours to be able to contact their donor-conceived half siblings.

Making these decisions can feel overwhelming, especially during fertility treatment which is why California Cryobank is with you every step of the way. They explain the process clearly and offer their expertise to support you in each decision.

In the future, it’s likely conversations will arise about your donor-conceived children’s origins and the research is overwhelmingly in favour of being honest from a young age (although each family is different in exactly when these conversations are had).  It’s not uncommon for children to ask about their biological parent(s) or if they have any other siblings, so it’s helpful to prepare for these conversations.

How do I sign up to the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry?

  • Visit the California Cryobank website
  • Head over to the Sibling Registry section
  • Fill out a brief questionnaire (name, donor number, physician’s name, approximate date of insemination)
  • Wait for verification from California Cryobank – to confirm you used a California Cryobank donor
  • Join the Sibling Registry

To find out more about California Cryobank’s® Sibling Registry, click here.

We were so happy; we had half-sibling contact details if our children needed it, we had their names and where they came from.  But we were also faced with the reality.  We knew this day would come but didn’t know when or how we’d feel about it.

At the age of five, Eloise’s eldest seems thrilled to discover she has more siblings, announcing to extended family and friends: “I’ve got some brothers and sisters in America!”

It’s important to note that signing up to the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry is completely optional so the Registry doesn’t offer a comprehensive list of potential donor siblings.  However, it provides a safe way for siblings and extended families to find each other and connect across the globe – through California Cryobank’s online portal.

“I definitely don’t regret that we signed up to the Sibling Registry,” says Eloise.  “We want to give our children everything we can share.”

How else can California Cryobank support your donor-conceived family?

California Cryobank sees the unique journey that families with donor-conceived children are on. They understand the importance of communication and connection, and offer end-to-end support throughout the entire process, around the Sibling Registry. 

They know that there will come a day when questions will be raised by children or information about their conception will be shared by their parents, so they’ve compiled comprehensive resources, tips and family stories about using donor sperm to provide support to families. These can be accessed through their online Learning Center. 

Their brand new book I Love Them And They Love Me was created to help donor-conceived little ones learn about their families. Dedicated to all the families California Cryobank has had the privilege of helping to create, you can read it here. 

Like so many choices to make when on a fertility journey, the decision to connect with other families who have used the same donor is completely personal. 

Know that by joining the Sibling Registry, California Cryobank will always be by your side. You’ll be able to chat, set up in-person meetings or simply read about your child’s related genetic network in their secure hub. 

If you’re still at the stage of choosing a donor, California Cryobank is giving The Ribbon Box readers special access to extended donor profile information with a free Level 3 Subscription ($250 value) with code: RIBBON24

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