Dear Donor: Part 1
Letters from donor conceived individuals to their biological fathers or other genetic family members in search of information and human connection.
I just saw our match. I’ve been looking for my biological father for the past three years, and I hope this result is real. I also hope that you’re comfortable with me writing you. I will respect any boundaries or preferences that you might have, due to my considerate and kind nature.
There would be no familial conflicts for me now, as my dad who raised me has passed away and my mother has late-stage Alzheimer’s. I’m not interested in anything other than to understand where I came from and, if you were interested, to have a relationship not of a parental nature (since I don’t need that at this stage and already have had loving parents). Money is not of interest.
I want to reassure you that I have no intention of disrupting your or your family’s life. This news would also be a significant change for them, and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel threatened by my existence in any way. I will follow your lead and pace.
If you prefer keeping your distance, I will respect that. But it would really help me to know of my origins by having some questions answered at the very least. This is important to me both for medical history and identity-formation reasons.
Even if you respond to say you aren’t interested in connecting, that would be better than no response at all. But I want you to be comfortable and don’t want to rush you. Hoping to hear back if and when you’re ready.
I’m Margaret, 26, born and raised in Maine. I moved to Midland, TX in 2015. I haven’t had any reason to suspect whatsoever that my mom used a sperm donor, as she was married to my dad, who’d had three kids in a prior marriage. I did 23andMe for one of its research studies and was curious to see what I was on my dad’s side. And I guess I’m Jewish? 50%, actually. But my dad is definitely not Jewish. In fact, Maine does not have many Jewish people. My mom is being very, very, evasive. I’ve told her that I would never judge and that it wouldn’t change anything with my relationships toward them, but she just doesn’t acknowledge my texts or just jokes about it. My grandmother says she doesn’t know what my mom did then. Asking my dad would be a bad idea, since he might not know and I’d rather not open up that can of worms with him. He’s a very simple-minded man and his health isn’t very good. My husband and I are planning on kids in the near future. I’d love to know if I’m not actually predisposed to the things he has, and just want to know what my true paternal history is.
Would you be willing to do a paternity test? The uncertainty is driving me crazy more than the possibility that you’re my biological father instead of the one I was raised with. And you’re a theater director?! There is literally nobody else in my family with any artistic flair. It would fit. I mostly sang, but theater is one of the few things about Midland that I enjoy. I try to participate at least once a year. Anyway, there are some places online that aren’t too expensive, and they’d mail a kit to separate states.
Hope this message doesn’t weird you out. Take all the time you need to respond!
Dear Dr. Voke*,
I hope this letter finds you well.
My name is Jonathan. I took an Ancestry DNA test late last year to learn more about my family’s roots and I received my results back in early January. I learned that I was 100% Eastern European Jewish (not surprising) but also that my father was not my biological one (quite surprising). While my DNA matched with my cousins on my mother’s side, it did not match with any of my cousins on my father’s side.
After asking my mother about these DNA results (my father passed away in 2005), she informed me that there was a distinct possibility that I was not biologically my father’s child. This was shocking news to me, and I learned that my parents used fertility services in the mid 1970s to find an anonymous gamete donor who matched their criteria. My mother remembers that they were told at the time that the doctors used a mixed sample and that the sperm donor was a medical student. The clinic they used has long since shuttered or been absorbed, records were apparently never kept, and the doctors who were in charge have retired or died.
All available DNA and physical evidence that I have today points to me being the offspring of my mother and an anonymous gamete donor. I find myself suddenly related genetically to all sorts of people I’ve never heard of nor met. When faced with this new information, I began to do my own research using public information and data about matches from Ancestry. Within a day of finding out all of this new news about my past, I had tracked down the anonymous donor.
I’m reaching out to you because I believe that you were that anonymous sperm donor.
I know that anonymous donors in the past had no way to predict that their offspring would eventually be able to track them down. How could somebody helping a family struggling to conceive by providing them with genetic material ever imagine that technology would catch up and reveal their identity? I aim to respect your privacy to the extent that you wish and to assure you that I only seek information.
I would appreciate confirmation of your participation as a sperm donor at [University hospital] in the 1975-1976 time frame. I’d also appreciate a brief medical history and to know if there are any genetic diseases that run in your family so that I can reach out to my PCP and others to give them an accurate picture of my familial health. As a doctor, I hope that you can appreciate this desire of mine to get information.
I’d love to hear and see and explore whatever you’re willing to share or are interested in knowing. Even if it’s just an acknowledgement, please respond to this message so I know you’ve received it.
Dear Mr. Williams*,
I hope this email finds you healthy. My name is Jennifer*. This may be a bit out of the blue; I am contacting you because I am looking to identify my genetic ancestry. I am hopeful that you can help. Please understand for 41 years, and especially the past 22, I have had no paternal biological identity. My desire to find the missing parts of my identity became even more important to me after becoming a mother myself. My son just turned 11 years old last month.
I am hoping you may be able to answer an important question for me. Did you donate sperm to the physicians affiliated with Longwood OBGYN, Boston, Massachusetts? I am more than willing to share with you how I came upon contacting you via DNA and research.
If you did donate, please understand I am so very thankful and feel blessed. The Longwood OBGYN Group and its affiliates were vital in providing my parents a much-desired child. I know my birth father, having Cystic Fibrosis, and my mother were absolutely delighted to have been given an opportunity to become parents.They would most certainly express their gratitude to whomever gave them that gift.
If I do locate my biological donor, I am most hoping for confirmation and a medical history. Being 41 years old, always having wondered who I look like has been an internal struggle for me. (I do not resemble much of my mother…lol). I do realize whoever this man is, he must be extremely special, as I feel I am to be here.
I certainly hope you understand my desire to reach out and obtain validation. I do respect you very much. I am hopeful that you would be willing to respond to me, as not providing a response would be difficult for me. There are many ways to reach me. Please use which ever method you feel most comfortable with.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the letter writer and recipient.
Some letters have been edited for length and to remove personal details and/or identifying information. Read part two here.