I knew the holidays would bring more siblings.
But nothing compares to the feeling I get each time a new email buzzes on my phone from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage.
It’s that same feeling of excitement and fear of the unknown that you’d get from a first kiss. Can you remember that feeling? Your stomach does a somersault, the world around you fades away from view, and the only thing you see in front of you….
is an email.
I was on my way to get Japanese with my husband and my brother-in-law when I saw this email. I remember exactly where we were on the road.
This was my first genetic sibling match since I found Griffin in May 2018. All of my previous siblings were found because of my match to Griffin, the Donor Sibling Registry, and finding out my biological father has three legal children of his own. This match makes sibling number 12.
I login to 23andMe. His name is David. David was born in 2000, meaning he is 7 years younger than me.
The first thing I do is message him and pray that he will respond soon.
Within 40 minutes, I had a new text message from a number I didn’t recognize. I opened it without hesitation.
My lips curled into a smile at reading the words, “your brother.”
First things first…did he know that he was donor conceived?? Does he have any more siblings??
Thank goodness. He at least had an idea he could be donor conceived, so this is not TOO much of a shock. But…he has a brother. With a bunch of sibling matches. David and I are the only sibling matches on 23andMe. That means….the brother he was raised with, is not his full brother. Yikes. It’s painful to find out the man who raised you is not your biological father. To find out your sibling doesn’t share the same biological parents, adds salt to the wound.
We continued to chat. David confirmed his brother matched as a half-sibling. I told him that I found out I was donor conceived after matching with our brother Griffin on Ancestry, then mentioned how many of us there were. I sent him a list of all the current siblings names, ages, and whether they are willing to be contacted or not. I then remembered I should tell him that he’s an uncle.
Oops. Hopefully it wasn’t too soon for that.
We then realized our biological father and his brother have the same name. I guess that’s my husband’s middle name too, now that I think about it. That’s strange.
I sent David a link to this blog, hoping it would be an easier explanation than 3 miles of text messages. Finding our donor was a process.
At this point, I still didn’t know what David looked like. I tried to find him on Facebook, but he had a very common last name. So I asked where he lived to narrow it down.
Florida. Found him. I sent him a friend request.
He didn’t have very many pictures on Facebook. But you couldn’t deny we were related with a side-by-side.
We were both salutatorian in our high school class, too.
We continued to chat.
Sadly, some clinics do not give the option of using the same donor. David’s mothers clinic appeared to be one of them.
So David’s parents don’t know that he knows. He and his brother considered bringing it up on family vacation.
While I would probably say that’s a bad idea, no time is ever a good time to talk to your parents about being an illegitimate child. “Hey dad, I found out you’re not my biological father.”
David mentioned how different his dad was from himself, as well. This seems to be a running theme as a donor conceived adult. Our personalities and interests are not the result of nurture. Nature is a huge part of who we are.
Our conversation turned to more about ourselves and getting to know each other. Turns out he enjoys tennis- which is my sport of choice, and one of the donors listed “interests”.
He also struggled with migraines, which is highly hereditary. Nearly 50% of the donor’s offspring struggles with migraines. It will be interesting to see how many more siblings pop up with the same condition as time goes on.
Our conversation eventually died off. I mean…what more is there to talk about once you learn the basics about each other? We talked about our lives growing up, how we ended up where we are, what we are doing with our lives currently. I mentioned meeting up sometime, but he didn’t seem interested. I’m not offended. David is still young, and still processing this news. Maybe someday he will want to meet. Maybe not.
A few weeks after our conversation died, I decided to reach out. David mentioned he was going to talk to his parents over Christmas break…and I was curious if he followed through.
I know he didn’t forget.
You don’t forget that your dad is not your biological father.
But I don’t blame him for not bringing it up. It’s not an easy thing to do. Emotionally, it is hard. For all parties involved.
I wonder…maybe I would have done the same thing…had I found out on my own, instead of my mom revealing the truth.
Life would be easier without the elephant in the room. It would be easier to bear this weight alone, than tip-toeing around my fragile parents.
I can’t even express my excitement of finding this new sibling to my family. My dad would be upset. My sister doesn’t care. My mom literally whispers to me about anything regarding my paternal family…like it’s a dirty secret she must protect. I have a photo collage of myself, with all my siblings. Reminds me of the Brady bunch title sequence…with all the family members in squares. And I’m supposed to hide it away from the world.
I wished my brother, David, a happy birthday on January 12th.
We have not spoken since.
I wish there was a handbook on how to manage new sibling relationships. This is uncharted water. I am the result of assisted reproduction. I would not be here today without the intervention of so many humans.
From the person that placed the “get paid to help families!” advertisement that caught my biological father’s eye, to the doctor that inseminated my mother…and all the people between them- lab techs, FedEx drivers, porn magazine editors, secretaries, and so many more. Without at least 15 people in this world, I wouldn’t be here.
It’s easy to make a baby with science. But no one ever considered what these babies will be subjected to as adults.
There are no instructions for navigating the complicated relationships that result from being donor conceived.
I have the responsibility of protecting my dad’s fragile ego. The responsibility of keeping a relationship with my sister who ignores the truth. The responsibility of trying not to be angry with my mom for putting her husband’s feelings first, not mine. The responsibility of not telling my extended family the truth. The responsibility of telling any subsequent siblings I match with online that they are donor conceived (I am essentially the grim reaper collecting the souls of those broken through donor conception). The responsibility to never contact my biological father. The responsibility to tell my daughter that she has more aunts and uncles than she will ever remember.
I have the responsibility of keeping my true feelings to myself to keep my own family together.
Since my last blog, much has changed.
The first few months I found out about being donor conceived- or should I say stranger conceived- I was obsessed with the information. Staying up late doing research, tossing and turning all night with questions burning through my mind.
But, once I had the first few painful blogs out in the open, I dropped everything.
Like quitting an addiction cold turkey- I walked away from it all and quit thinking about it. Everything I’d been experiencing, from finding out my dad isn’t my biological father, that I have multiple new siblings, that I’ve been lied to my whole life, that I’m not allowed to tell my family the truth. I became so emotionally exhausted that I had to turn it off. It was the only possible way to give myself some air.
Months passed and summer drew to a close.
On September 20th, a post in my DC Facebook group sparked the fire again. Someone had mentioned the Donor Sibling Registry. This is a website that holds a database with clinics, donor numbers, and self reported (or parent reported) offspring.
I remembered that I had never taken a deep look at the website to see if I could find my donor on there. My heart skipped a beat, thinking I could find more today.
Here’s a screenshot of what is on the website today.
I’m a girl- posted 9/21/18, this is me. I made a listing on the website after paying for a $100 annual membership. (Yeah, that fee is bullshit.)
The next listing down- boy born June 1996. I have a brother who is 22.
The next listing down- boy born October 2003. I have another brother who is 15.
These ages are different than Griffin. Holy crap. TWO more brothers? How many siblings do I even have at this point? I’ve lost count. Seriously.
The first thing I do is click the names hyperlinked in the listings. The Donor Sibling Registry does not give out contact information for these people. The DSR simply gives you a message box for a short message, and they say they will deliver the message to the registered email address. Seriously? What if these people don’t use these email addresses anymore?
Regardless of the idiotic interface, I send both listings an email.
I titled the messages with the most eye catching subject I could come up with.
Shockingly, I received a message back from the JJ (boy 2003) listing the next morning.
The message came through on my 35 minute lunch period while teaching 3rd graders. My heart was pounding so hard and butterflies so strong I lost interest in my lunch and skipped it altogether. I instead spent my 35 minutes responding to Facebook messages from my brothers mother. Her name is Jacquelyn.
We start chatting, and I accept her friend request on Facebook. While I’m stalking Jacque’s pictures looking for photos of my brother Ethan, another bomb drops and explodes on my lunch hour.
I have two more sisters.
And I have about 10 minutes until I need to pick up my kids from recess.
I neglect Jacque’s messages and Facebook stalk both Jacque and Lauren’s pages for photos of my siblings I just found…
My brother, Ethan (his mom in the top photo with him).
My sisters- Remy and Serena with their mom, Lauren.
One of the first things I noticed was how much alike my little sister looked like one of them as a baby. And how much I look like Serena now.
Remy or Serena on the left, my sister on the right.
Myself on the left, Serena on the right.
Jacque and I chat a little bit more, and she invites me to come meet her and Ethan in just 2 short weeks. My mind is reeling.
At this point I’m in shock again, and it’s time for me to pick up my kids from recess.
I send my sister a text.
The only person that could possibly understand the situation I’m experiencing, and she’s not interested.
Jacque told me I was welcome to bring my husband, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to come. He’s not been the most understanding about my situation. Why would he want to meet a 15 year old kid I’ve never known about until now?
I couldn’t even tell my dad I was going on this trip, for fear that I would hurt his feelings. Thankfully, he was going out of town that weekend, so he didn’t question where I was.
Two weeks later, I packed up the butterflies in my stomach and drove north to Interlochen. My husband decided to come, although he was apprehensive.
The weather was crappy, and we had to wait forever for our food at our pitstop in Grand Rapids. I really wanted Buffalo Wild Wings, but the wait was long. So we went to Panera. Still waited an hour to be served. This delay just increased my anxiousness and butterflies. All the way there I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was supposed to introduce myself.
How do you greet a brother you’ve never met before? Do you shake their hand like an acquaintance? Do you hug? Do you keep your distance?
We finally arrived to Interlochen at 10pm. It was pitch dark, and Jacque had rented an AirBnB. It was a little house on a two-track road in the middle of the woods. I felt like I was in the midst of a murder scene about to commence. I was so glad I had my husband with me at this point.
There were hardly any lights on the houses, so it was nearly impossible to tell what the house numbers were. We drove around for a good 10 minutes in the woods before deciding we had the right house.
Jacque and Ethan were not at the house yet. She had left the key under the mat for me.
I found the key and let ourselves in. I looked around, waiting for a murderer to pop out and attack.
Nothing. Just a cute little room with a gas fireplace, a wrap around couch, a kitchen table and chairs. There were two bedrooms. One with a double bed, one with two twins. Jacque had messaged me earlier and told us to take the double.
We grabbed our bags from the car. As soon as I dropped the bags on the floor, I heard a car pull up. Here come the nerves flooding back in.
Within 30 seconds, Jacque and Ethan walked in the door.
Jacque had the kindest voice, the sweetest air surrounding her.
Ethan followed. He was so tall. He bent down and hugged me. I think they shook my husbands hand. It feels like a blur.
I apologized for how late we were. But, they had just finished a late dinner, so it turns out it wasn’t a big deal. Oddly enough? They went to Buffalo Wild Wings, where I originally wanted to go. Lol. That felt like the first sign that things were going to be okay.
We nervously sat down on the wraparound couch. Zach on the one end, me next to him, Jacque around the curve of the couch, and then Ethan at the other end.
It’s hard to recall everything that happened in that conversation. The words spilled out of us so smoothly that we eventually realized it was almost 2 in the morning. But a few parts stuck out to me.
One of my favorite moments of the entire weekend was the moment I shared my secret- On September 15th, I found out I was pregnant. During our conversation, I had mentioned that I struggled with migraines my whole life, and recently found my cure- Marinol (synthetic THC). At that point, I told them I recently had to stop taking it, and Jacque guessed that it was because I was pregnant. I said yes, I actually am. I turned to Ethan and said, “And that means that YOU are an uncle!”
Ethan jumped off the couch with his hands on his head, pacing back and forth, “OMG, WHAT! That’s crazy! Holy crap, I’m an uncle?!!!!” He gave me a hug. At this point, I hadn’t even told my own parents or sister. I told my brother that I just met that I’m pregnant, and he was beyond ecstatic. That made me so happy.
Another moment that sticks out to me- Jacque had been contacted a few years back on the Donor Sibling Registry by another recipient parent- Lauren (the one she mentioned in our first messages together). Excitedly, she introduced Ethan to his first donor sisters on Christmas Day years ago. She showed him a picture of Serena & Remy and said, “Merry Christmas!”
Ethan starts laughing, remembering the day. He goes, “Yeah, and I said, ‘Who are they?? They’re hot!!!'” Jacque told him they were his sisters. At that point, he told me he threw his mom’s phone across the room.
Sounds like an appropriate reaction 😂
Before you think, “omg, that’s repulsive.” Turns out this is an actual phenomenon that occurs to genetically related humans that are not raised together. It’s called Genetic Sexual Attraction. Feel free to look it up on your own terms- but here’s a simple excerpt from good ole Wikipedia.
Without the Westermarck effect (see last paragraph above), it’s actually very likely that siblings will find other siblings attractive. This is one of many reasons why secret breeding of humans is quite…scary.
But back to the conversation with Jacque and Ethan.
The last piece of the conversation that stuck out to me- Ethan went on into full detail of his life before making it into Interlochen Center for the Arts (where we were visiting him for the weekend). To start from the beginning, I have to mention a trauma that Ethan and his mother endured.
Ethan was not an only child to his mother Jacque. Jacque wanted another child very much, and when she wanted to start trying again, she called the cryobank for donor 1707. Around the year 2007, they said he was no longer available. Jacque asked what it would take to get 1707 to donate again. The bank responded and said it would cost $3,000 to reach out to him, with no guarantees. WHAT.
Unbelievable. Although this was sad news for Jacque and Ethan, this gave me some important information. *A cut off date for potential siblings.*
Jacque ended up going through a medical trial to get pregnant again, and decided to use a different donor. With the luck of the gods, she finally got pregnant again. Her child’s name was Elliana.
If I had not mentioned this previously, Jacque had a wife. Ethan has his bio-mom Jacque, and non-bio mom, Kim. Kim had some not-so-stable tendencies, and definitely suffered from depression. When Ethan was 10, and Elliana was 2, Kim had the two over for Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, that was their last weekend together. Kim dosed Ethan with Xanax, and proceeded to drown Elliana in the bathtub. Kim then attempted to overdose herself.
Ethan woke up later and managed to get himself into the bathroom where Elliana laid lifeless. He called 911, and paramedics took all three to the hospital. Elliana was pronounced dead, while Ethan and Kim were treated for the overdose.
Kim is now in jail after a long fought battle with the state. They wanted to make this a death penalty case, but Jacque fought against it. She explained to me that death penalty cases require an appeal every year, and during that time, contact is made with the family. Jacque wanted all ties to be cut with her daughters murderer.
My little brother had endured so much at such a young age. He lost his sister. He lost a mother.
From that point on, Ethan described to me years of turmoil in his middle school years. Attending multiple schools, fighting students, smoking weed & cigarettes, drinking alcohol.
Where does one put all that pain? I can only imagine.
In 2017, Kim was given a life sentence and then some. This year Ethan was accepted into the school of his dreams, away from his life in Florida, and he is putting his life together.
I am proud of him. He is still a young man and has so much growing to do. And I feel privileged to be able to witness him grow from now on.
When I went to bed that first night, after talking for hours, I couldn’t help but smile. These people, my family, had been brought into my life for a reason. And I wished my sister had been there to experience it…so much. I wish she wanted a part of this.
The next day, I woke up before anyone else. I walked out to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of my brother sleeping on the couch. My heart smiled.
I got ready for the day, and everyone slowly came alive. Ethan was super excited to show me his schools campus. Jacque offered to drive and we got to see the city and campus of Interlochen in the daylight. It’s the ideal example of what “up north” Michigan looks like. Trees and greenery, truly everywhere.
First we went to breakfast at a cute French restaurant- hand picked by Ethan. That’s where we took our first picture together.
& Yes, he is indeed 15! Hard to believe I’m 10 years older than him.
After breakfast, we checked out some of the cute shops in Traverse City (the neighboring town of Interlochen). Ethan told us that we HAD to see this awesome little donut shop, and of course we couldn’t say no!
Sadly, I never did eat one. The little one growing in my belly was giving me a hard time when it came to food. I was living on tums and ginger ale most of the time.
After checking out the little shops, we toured the beautiful campus back in Interlochen.
I got to see his little dorm room, where he made his distain for his room mate obvious 😂 Jacque picked up his room and took his laundry.
Ethan ran into some friends and wanted to hang out with them for a while. I didn’t mind. So Zach, Jacque, and I headed back to the AirBnB for a while.
I was glad for the time we had alone with just Jacque. She gave us a real heart to heart on the murder of her daughter, and how she has seen Ethan’s healing from her perspective. She is truly an angel of a woman. I feel like I’ve known her forever, even after only spending a few short days with her and Ethan.
Later that evening, Zach and I picked up pizza for all of us to eat at home. Turns out there’s not too many restaurants in the little town of Interlochen.
I think pizza was perfect for us, however. We stayed in, lounged around, and I worked on finding us a movie on the TV. After looking for what seemed forever, Ethan & I dang near in unison agreed to watch Jurassic Park! That made me happy. Zach and Ethan had a few goofy bonding moments during the movie, and I loved that.
After the movie we were exhausted, and all headed off to bed.
The next morning had a heavy air to it. We had to leave soon, and I felt like we didn’t have enough time. Jacque invited us to come see Ethan perform in his play in December. I gladly agreed. Jacque extended an offer to my sister too, hoping that she would come. I told her I would let my sister know, but not to get her hopes up.
We went to breakfast that morning at the only restaurant in Interlochen- Buds. It was the cutest place. Reminded me of a little hunting lodge. It was warm with a fireplace, dark floors, and cedar plank booths. Afterward, we went to traverse city again, as I forgot to get my mom a tshirt. While we were in a shop, I saw a bunch of shirts that said “thing 1” “thing 2” “thing 3” etc. I joked about how all of us siblings should meet up someday and each wear one of those.
While walking down the sidewalk, Jacque asked when I was due. I told her May 25. She smiled and said that was the day before Elliana died.
There are no coincidences here. Just an angel smiling down on us.
I left Interlochen that day as a new person. I let strangers become my family.
As we started driving south, my husband turned to me and said, “I was pretty unsure about coming up here. But I’m really glad we did.”
Me too, babe. Me too.
Now, how many more siblings do I need to meet? I’m still counting.
The other day, my husband said to me- “Why do you keep looking for more? Why aren’t the answers you have enough?”
I guess that might seem insensitive to some, but I get it.
My husband grew up with a dad who divorced his mom at a young age. His dad paid child support and they had every other weekend together.
He wasn’t much of a dad. And he was a blood relative.
My dad, now my husband’s father-in-law, has been more of a dad to my husband than his own “dad” ever was.
With my husband growing up with a blood father that treated him like a bill to pay, it seems natural that he wouldn’t understand why I can’t accept the news of being donor conceived and move on. After all, I have such a wonderful dad that is not “blood”. I’m sure this brings out feelings of envy and sadness for him in regards to his own parent.
We are on two ends of the spectrum. He sees blood as meaning nothing. I’ve grown up seeing it as everything.
Now I’m questioning what blood even means.
I continued my research after finding K. Muhlbauer. Thanks to a Facebook group I’m now a part of, I found a resource I didn’t have previously.
There are multiple groups on Facebook for people like me. We call ourselves “donor conceived”, or “DC” for short. In one of the groups yesterday, a fellow DC asked how many siblings each of us has. Most group members said “5 siblings” or “15” or “26”.
…yes, you’re reading those numbers right.
I even found someone that has a son with 185 half siblings.
But anyway, while reading responses, I discover a new resource for identifying information: beenverified.com.
I’d never heard of beenverified.com. But I checked it out.
I had a few names to look for thanks to my DNA match on Ancestry, speaking to Joyce, and my detective work.
I decided I needed more information on T. Muhlbauer. So I looked him up on beenverifed.com.
Only a city and his age. No relatives listed. But look what listing popped up below him.
It was T. Muhlbauer Jr. He was listed in the obituary as the oldest T. Muhlbauer’s son, along with K. Muhlbauer.
Well look at that first name under the relatives list. M. K. Muhlbauer.
I had the biggest light bulb moment.
K. Muhlbauer’s first name is *not* K. IT IS M. He simply goes by his MIDDLE NAME. My mind is reeling.
K. Muhlbauer *is* the M. Muhlbauer I matched with on Ancestry! He used his legal name instead of his preferred name on the website.
That leaves only one person who can be my donor. My biological father: T. Muhlbauer Jr. I identified him on the obituary listing as the only other son of T. Muhlbauer.
Of course, T. Muhlbauer Jr. was the only person I couldn’t find on Facebook.
So here is where I asked my donor conceived group for help.
An admin offered to help me find more detailed information on my biological father. She has a paid subscription to the full background checks offered by beenverified.com and offered to run the check for free.
Very kind of her. By the next day, she messaged me a PDF of the background check. It included a list of 1st degree relatives. T. Muhlbauer Jr. has a wife. Her name is S. Muhlbauer.
My parents are close to his age. And my mom has a Facebook, while my dad doesn’t. What if his wife has a Facebook?
There she is. *Please please please have pictures with your husband.*
I scroll down a bit further. There he is.
Brown eyes. Yes.
There’s a kid.
There’s three. Three kids.
The daughter. She looks like my sister when she was little.
Same eyes, same nose, same cheeks.
Look at those ears.
Those are my ears.
Those are the same ears I got made fun of for as a kid.
A current picture of the daughter compared to young me is stunning. Same eyes, face shape, nose, but the ears. Omg.
From what I know about ears, I’ve found that defects are highly genetic.
So that’s where my ears came from.
But before I go any further, I back up.
I’ve found him.
Turns out, Joyce emailed me back at about the same time I was figuring this all out.
Here’s what she said-
The excitement and disappointment rolls into one and I don’t really feel anything at all.
I’m kind of numb.
So that’s it?
She knows who he is. He doesn’t want to talk to me, he’s handsome, and has a history of diseases.
It’s been a few days now and I’m trying to let this all sink in.
I went from having 1 sister to having 7 siblings in the matter of two weeks. I have two sets of twin siblings- one fraternal, one identical. 3 boys, 4 girls.
My baby sister, who I grew up with- Hannah.
Griffin’s family- including Abby and Tessa (fraternal twins).
My donor’s family. William, Matthew, and Emily (names according to their grandpa’s obituary).
…but my family, too, kind of? Maybe? Definitely?
I somewhat wish to write a letter directly to my donor. I have his address from the background check.
But what would that do? Probably just scare him off more than he probably is.
I wish to know him, his children- my half siblings- and his wife. But I know they do not want to know me.
It is painful to accept that someone who shares DNA with me, wants nothing to do with me. He is the reason my eyes are brown. The reason my hair did not take on all of my mothers curls. The reason my grandpa called me “flaps” (in reference to my big ears).
Regardless of what he doesn’t want me to know, I know my donor is smart. I found that he is an alum of Texas A&M. He works for a large company and appears to be successful, as Joyce mentioned.
Considering he is well educated, I’m sure he knows how to find me. Just based on the email Joyce sent me, I am sure she and T. went through my Facebook photos together. How else would she know what I look like and say, “I know where you got your beauty from.” She said she wasn’t good with Facebook in the past. She must have acquired some help.
This is a one way mirror.
He is looking through my window and has a view of my world, while I’m looking at the window and it only reflects myself.
And I mean that in the most literal AND metaphorical way, ever.
I am reflecting half of myself when I look in the mirror. The missing half is black. Empty. Distorted.
I hope someday that T.’s children will have the curiosity to test their DNA, and that T. will not stop them, knowing very well that it will link us.
Or I hope that T. tells his wife about the children he has in this world.
Of all people, I would be most worried about his wife. If I found out my husband fathered children with other women around the country, I would be so hurt.
But, if I found out my husband had actively turned these children away from a chance at being known and possibily loved, he’d have another thing coming.
Today was Father’s Day. What a confusing day for so many.
I am envious of the previous 24 fathers days I experienced. I took them for granted.
The last two and half weeks, I dreamt that today would be the day I get to tell the world. I saw it in my head as an announcement to my friends and family on Facebook: “Happy Father’s Day to the best dad ever. And by best dad ever, I gotta say he really is. And this is why….”
You get the picture.
But I didn’t post anything today. At all.
I always felt like my dad and I had a “different” relationship. Different than normal dad/daughter relationships.
But now it feels real.
With having 3 different Muhlbauer names on my matches, and an emailed response from Joyce of their relationship, I started a family tree.
A few days ago I made one for my mothers side of the family. I mostly focused on her maiden name and traced it back to the first person to immigrate to the states. AncestryDNA has a pretty big database, and can help you a lot if you have the name of a single deceased person. Once I input my grandfathers name, DOB & DOD, hints started popping up. Other users’ Ancestry trees pop up and it starts feeding yours. Public records of birth, death, and marriage are out there. I even found a copy of my aunts marriage license and a high school photo of my uncle.
Before I knew it, I was 6 generations deep and found that my 5th great grandma was cousins with Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens, author of Huckleberry fin & other classics). On my grandmothers side, I found where we are related to Gene Autry (American singer and actor. He was the original singer of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer).
That shit was wild. After learning the ins and outs of how to make a tree and how much the website helps you with hints, I made a tree for the Muhlbauers.
I started drawing it out. Based on her email, Joyce is the aunt of both M. and J. So I left blank spaces for their parents.
My detective work starts here.
I decided to google J. Muhlbauers name. I figured he was decently young, & appeared to enjoy sports. Maybe he played sports in high school and his name was shared in the paper.
When I was young, I would google my name and it would pop up for my tennis stats and awards I had earned that were published in the newspaper.
I thought maybe I could get lucky.
I got a hit, but it was a hit for an obituary.
J. Muhlbauer was picked up on this obituary, because obituaries list the names of people “left behind”.
This was a huge find.
With the obituary, I now had the name of J’s dad, J’s grandpa, his aunts and uncles. The family tree grew in minutes. I then got a “hint” on a few of these family members since they were deceased. I started filling in family members left and right.
Some of them had photo “hints”. It was neat putting a face with a name. The tricky part about creating a blind family tree is that living people are anonymous. AncestryDNA will not give me names of anyone living.
Obituaries, however, do.
My puzzle pieces were coming together.
Once I had J’s dad in place, Ancestry started building the branches. I found J’s grandpa, and that allowed me to fill in his sons (J’s aunts and uncles). I was able to appropriately place Joyce as his aunt according to ancestry records and her claimed relationship. Multiple uncles were deceased, including T. Muhlbauer. He died last year. Multiple obituaries helped me build and confirm this tree.
With knowledge that my ancestry match M. Muhlbauer is not my father (he would pop up as such on my DNA matches, according to the DNA Detectives FB page), the most likely relationship based on centimorgans (a type of measurement of DNA) is 1) half sibling or 2) uncle. Less common, but possible- 3) grandparent or 4) double cousin. If you don’t know what a double cousin is- no worries. I didn’t either. It’s when two siblings from one family marry two siblings from another family. When these people have kids, it creates a double cousin relationship. These cousins will have DNA similar to that of half siblings.
While working out this connection, I emailed Joyce back with my potential guesses.
To figure out if M. Muhlbauer is my half sibling or uncle, I had to find more. Joyce emailed me back the next day.
M. Muhlbauer’s dad died at age 80. That was a huge hint. I have the age of death for all of J. Muhlbauer’s uncles that have died. This pointed to T. Muhlbauer on the tree I created.
So now, I at least had a name to work with. He was 80 when he died last year. Could someone this old be my biological father?
First off- I needed to figure out T. Muhlbauer’s age at donation, if he ever donated. & IF he was my father, he is definitely dead. This almost gave me a feeling of relief. If my biological father is dead, then I won’t be itching to meet him…
I decided to do research on sperm banks and their commercialization to figure out if someone this old could be my biological father.
Well my sperm bank (Fairfax Cryobank), opened in 1984. IF T. Muhlbauer donated the very first year the bank was open, he would have been 47 years old (He died in 2017 at age 80, 80 minus 33 years is 47). With all things considered, IF the sperm bank followed their rules, he could not be my father. Donors are supposed to be 18-39 years old.
IF I can assume the bank followed procedure, T. Muhlbauer would not be my donor. Therefore, his son, M. Muhlbauer, could not be my half sibling. So that only leaves one option: M. Muhlbauer is my uncle. And THAT means his brother is my biological father. We’re getting somewhere.
So now I need to find the siblings of M. Muhlbauer. These people are likely all living…which makes finding them complicated. Ancestry won’t help you find living people for your tree.
So, I went back to T. Muhlbauer’s obituary. It listed two sons- K. Muhlbauer, and T. Muhlbauer Jr.
M. Muhlbauer was not listed as his son. But Joyce told me he was.
I know from personal experience that obituaries only list names of people who the family “recognize” as family.
Assuming the obituary on T. Muhlbauer is correct, and Joyce is being honest, that leaves K. Muhlbauer and T. Muhlbauer Jr as my potential biological fathers….regardless of whether the family recognizes M. Muhlbauer as one of his sons.
I turned to Facebook again. I found K. Muhlbauer.
He has brown eyes. And what looks to be a family. His profile was pretty locked down, so I couldn’t see much. But he also works in marketing.
I could not find T. Muhlbauer Jr.
I have not heard back from Joyce yet.
To be continued.
We all wonder where we come from, right? People say things all the time in reference to your genetics. “Oh you got that from your dad.” “You look just like your mom.” I wanted to know more.
Ancestry DNA was running a special sale in January. My husband wanted to see where his family came from. & I always wanted to know what percent Native American I had in me. I grew up with darker skin like my dad, and it was always rumored that we were a percent native.
Late March, my husband and I received our results from AncestryDNA. I had a huge melting pot of mostly expected descent. Zachary did too, although his was more centralized to one area of Europe. Oddly, however, there were no Native American flags in my DNA testing. I was bummed, but at least I had an answer.
Months went by and I hadn’t thought anything more about the AncestryDNA findings. During this time, Zachary created a fairly elaborate family tree. It linked back to a knight of King Charles, and even a family member in the Salem witch trials. Cool stuff.
On Memorial Day, Zachary smoked a brisket and invited my grandma over for dinner. This is a key moment that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if grandma hadn’t asked this little question: “Can I see the DNA results?”
I pulled up the results on the computer to show her. Nothing had changed (the more people who get tested in the world, the more accurate it becomes). Grandma checked it out, & I shut the computer a few minutes later. As I shut the computer, Zachary asked if I had any DNA matches.
I almost didn’t open the computer back up.
I didn’t even know this section of the website existed, so I clicked on the drop down menu and found my matches. A list popped up with 1st to 4th cousins- at least that’s what I thought it said.
The 1st cousins list intrigued me. I did not recognize their names. How could I have a first cousin that I didn’t know about? I quickly searched both names on Facebook and found one of them right away. One was named Griffin S. A fairly unique name, so no others popped up.
In the small bits of info I could see on Griffin- I found that he attended Kalamazoo college. This is just 45 minutes north of where I grew up. I thought, “wow, we have to be related, especially with the proximity.”
My grandma nudged me and said, “Haley- message him. See what he says.” So I do 🤷🏼♀️
The next day, Griffin messaged me back. I had the right person.
So my mind is trying to figure this out, right? My mother only has 2 sisters, and my dad (as far as I knew), only had half siblings. To be a first cousin, he would have to be the child of my moms sisters, or my dad would have to have a full sibling in existence.
So, unless my aunts had some kids I didn’t know about; I was pretty excited to think that my dad had a full sibling. How crazy is that?
I looked forward to telling my dad the next day when he got home from his business trip. I wasn’t sure how I was going to word it, but couldn’t wait to tell him he had a full sibling out there somewhere. I texted my mom and told her I think I found Dad’s nephew.
Before I talked to my dad, I received a surprising message from Griffin about his family tree. Or should I say ‘family stump’. Because this one stumped me.
So the plot thickens. This is essentially a mystery to me. I explain my thoughts to him.
So Griffin and I are pretty well convinced our family ties are by paternity. But how? Well the day goes by, and life gets busy. It got late and I got nervous to tell my dad that he may have a full sibling. So I kept my mouth shut and went to bed.
Shortly after 10:30PM, Zach shut his light off and my mom knocked on our door. She says, “Are you guys going to bed? We need to talk.”
“We need to talk” is never a good thing to hear.
I can tell Zach is annoyed and my heart skips a beat with nerves.
I imagined it was going to be something along the lines of, “Your aunt gave up a child.” Or “Your dad has a brother we have kept from you.”
Never did I expect the answer I actually received.
At this point in writing this, my memory of this experience is a bit of a blur. I was shaking through the majority of the news. But this is what I can tell you. My mom starts-
“Haley- with the technology of today, I don’t see how we can keep something like this from you. I want you to have full answers and I don’t want you to be angry with us.”
Honestly I’m just confused at this point.
“Your dad and I love you very much. We want you to know that. We love you so much and it was so hard to get you here.”
Long pause. Dad is red in the face.
“When your dad and I tried to get pregnant, it wasn’t working. We tried for a really long time. So we went to the doctor to get help.”
“I took Clomid to help with fertility and went to get an ultrasound every day to find out when it was the right time. And we tried. And we tried. And we tried. But it wasn’t happening for us. I had endometriosis, and your dad had a football injury in high school. He was hit in the testicles and this caused some serious trauma.”
I’m sitting there thinking- Where in the world is this going? Am I adopted or something?
“After many unsuccessful months, we asked the doctors what our options were.”
“They told us we can 1) essentially adopt a child from Africa tomorrow, 2) be put on a waiting list for a child in the US for months, or 3) we can use a sperm donor.”
Hold the phone.
I essentially stopped breathing. I’m shivering uncontrollably.
“Your dad knew how much I wanted to have a child. And he very selflessly allowed me to use a sperm donor. We picked out a description of a donor that we could agree on.”
Omg. Dad. He has a tear glimmering down his cheek.
“He had brown hair, brown eyes, a marketing degree, and was 6 feet tall. He liked tennis and to ski.”
Did she just say ski?
“We got the ultrasound results that we needed and the insemination process was completed. The doctors told us to go home and have sex. They said that this makes couples feel better.”
Wait so I’m
“So we went home and had sex. And we got pregnant.”
“With your investigation into your genetics, I’m realizing now that you may very well be the product of the donor.”
I can’t hold it in any longer. “So Griffin is more than likely my half brother.”
“Yes, he very well may be.”
“He, he said his biological father liked to ski.”
Mom leaves the room and goes to grab something.
My sister, Hannah, says, “I don’t need to see anything.”
My mom returns and unfolds a piece of paper that has been wrapped up in her jewelry box for 25 years.
Donor number 1707. Caucasian. AB+ blood type. French/German descent. 6 foot tall. 168 pounds. Medium build. Fair skin. Brown eyes. Straight, brown hair. A bachelors in marketing. Likes to play tennis, golf, and ski.
While my sister said she didn’t need to see anything, I did.
That piece of paper is the key to so many questions. A tiny, 25 year old piece of paper.
My parents confirmed that my sister I’ve grown up knowing as my full sister, is more than likely the product of the sperm donor as well. They specifically requested to use the same donor after failure to conceive the second time.
We look damn near identical. It would be hard to deny that we are full blood siblings. Just last week, a friend of mine met my sister for the first time, and this is the text she sent me.
From this point to the end of the conversation with my parents, was some pretty heavy stuff. My dad was visibly upset. He essentially found out I wasn’t “his” after 25 years. My family never told anyone. Not a soul in our family. Infertility was not table talk in the 80s/90s.
My sister and I could see how afraid and upset my dad was. I hugged him first. And I told him he is still my dad, no matter what.
Dad was afraid this was going to change things. In the moment, I was convinced that it wouldn’t. It’s been almost a week now. There is no “going back” or “undoing this”.
My dad told us very blatantly that he doesn’t want my mom’s family to know. And honestly, I *kind of* get it. This puts my dad in a very tough position. Making a child together really “solidifies” a family. Although some may disagree with this idea, I can see how this could make him an “outcast” in our family. Until about 5 years ago, my mom’s family consisted entirely of blood family, their spouses, and their offspring. 5 years ago my cousin married a woman that had a child with another man. Our family had essentially remained the same my whole life, and it was different to welcome in a stranger to the family. Below is a picture of my family as I’ve always known it. We are small, but we are close. My moms parents, my mom’s two sisters, their spouses and their children. I grew up with 5 cousins and my sister. That’s it.
At this point, I see the word “family” differently. I grew up with such a small and blood centered family. Whether I was truly my dad’s offspring or not, he raised me like I was.
I am struggling with this news. I want to tell the world who I am. I want to know the family I have out there. But I cannot put my dad in the position of being looked at differently…by the family, by his friends..
The first person I told of this news, was, of course, Griffin. I was right about our relationship being paternal, but not in the way I expected.
I went to sleep worried about Griffin’s reaction to this news. I mean, hell, I just told him I’m his sister.
I woke up to these messages the next morning.
I was happy enough to receive such a welcomed response. However, I was not ready for that last message.
All I can think is oh my God. I have a brother and TWO sisters?!!!
I replied back.
After sending that message Thursday, a day went by. And then another. And another. Not gonna lie, I got a little worried that he ghosted me.
On Monday I finally heard back from him.
From this point forward, we have not been able to get in more than 1-2 messages at a time. With the time difference and his service availability, it has proven to be very difficult to communicate with such a big topic.
With long periods of time passing without chatting…naturally, I started comparing photos of my sister and I to our new found siblings. We have very similar features. I showed Griffin.
With how excited his mom sounded, I decided to friend request her. I wanted to do that as soon as Griffin told me her name days before, but I didn’t know how well she was going to take this information. After receiving that message from Griffin, I went for it.
She quickly accepted my friend request and messaged me right away. I was in the midst of working on my family tree on Ancestry and didn’t respond right away, and she thought she scared me off 😂
Lisa confirmed that we, indeed, have the same exact donor number. She also brought up a topic I’ve been working on.
Here are my matches in regards to “close family”. If Griffin is my half brother, who is M. Muhlbauer?
I was able to find Griffin easily on Facebook. However, M. Muhlbauer is one of maybe 50 with the same name. Many of them with profiles in foreign languages. & I had no idea what kind of age range to look for.
I pondered the idea for a while and eventually considered looking at my other DNA matches. I found another Muhlbauer under 2nd cousins. So I checked that name on Facebook (J. Muhlbauer). Surprisingly, there was only one.
Right away, I go to his friends list to look for any Muhlbauer family. There was an M. Muhlbauer.
Assuming this is the right person, I checked out his page. He is considerably older. Around my parents age. He has a wife and two children.
Remember how my donor description said he had a bachelors in marketing? Well this was one of his “profile pictures”.
My heart is freaking racing. I scroll through his pictures and really have no idea what to think.
I rush to find my mom and show her.
She is quick to point out that this man has blue eyes.
I felt a rush of disappointment and confusion.
Mom mentioned that maybe he is my uncle. Possibly my biological father’s brother.
After thinking about it for a few hours, I worked up the courage to message him. I messaged him on both Facebook and on Ancestry.
I’m sorry to disappoint y’all, but it’s been 3 days and there has been no response on either media platform. According to Ancestry, he logged on yesterday. Which means he more than likely saw my message.
If he was a sperm donor, don’t you think he’d stay away from websites like this? It would potentially destroy his anonymity.
So he’s likely not my dad. It looks like biological parents are flagged on ancestry, anyway. But, he has to be related very closely to my biological father.
And I’m dying to know what that relationship is.
Tonight I looked over my matches again. My first cousin, Joyce C., had 89 people in her family tree, and had logged in recently.
I checked out her match, and we had Griffin in common for our DNA. So that means she is related to me through my paternal side.
I messaged her and didn’t mention anything about my unknown paternity. I figured maybe I could get a response if I didn’t scare her off.
She actually replied back within a few hours.
Ding ding ding! Muhlbauer.
I email her and beat around the bush.
If I could be upfront with her, I would have asked her to send me her family tree from at least 2 generations in every direction and say that I’m trying to discover my biological father in your family tree.
I figured that would be overstepping it a bit much, so I worded it carefully. She responded this morning.
First off, hold the phone.
I never said anything about a sperm donor, only that I didn’t know who my biological father is. Someone clearly knows more than they are leading on.
Did I accidentally open a can of worms for their family?
To be continued.
Some girls do, and some girls don’t. But I’ve dreamt of my wedding day since I was a little girl.
I’ve saved wedding photos since the day I had my first smart phone (say, 2008). The day my husband proposed, I started gathering up those photos. This is a screen shot of the album. I still have it in my phone.
I had this visual dream of what my wedding day would be like. And it looked something like that. Magical. Outside. Rustic.
My wedding day was planned from start to finish a month or so before the big day. I’d walked around the areas we would be standing, picturing everything set up just right. I’d meet my husband for a first look, and 30 minutes later, I would meet him at the end of the aisle- on an island in the river that flows through my hometown. We wouldn’t be nervous.
This plan, however, required a sunny day. 3 days before the wedding, the forecast predicted a perfect day.
We did our rehearsal walk-through on the island I picked for the ceremony on the night before the wedding. Everything I’d pictured was coming together. I was so excited for this perfect and romantic set up to finally happen. The walk across this bridge to my soon-to-be husband was going to be the best feeling in the world.
The night of the rehearsal dinner, the forecast changed. Every hour, the next day had an increased chance of rain. At midnight, it said 50%. In my mind, 50% meant that it still might not rain. But…what if it did? My dress, hair, and makeup would be ruined. And that, would just be a disaster. My mind swirled with thoughts, trying to come up with another plan. But there was only one [sane] solution. And that was to cancel the outdoor ceremony, and have the wedding inside a church. I didn’t want to have my wedding inside. To me, it might as well have been the end of the world. Every beautiful photo I’d been dreaming of…ruined with the poor lighting inside the church.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I tossed and turned and a slow flow of tears stained my pillow. At 6am, I checked the forecast again. It was over a 65% chance of rain now, and I had to call it.
At 6am, I was very depressed. This was my wedding day. The heavens wanted me to have rain on my dream outdoor wedding day.
The day before, our backup church called to get a final answer on whether we needed them or not. I told them no. Today was my wedding day. And it was going to rain. The church had every right to tell me they could not open the church for me now. What if I really messed up, and I had NOWHERE to have my wedding?
Thankfully, my mother was able to get ahold of the church early that morning, and they agreed to open it for us.
Although this was a relief, I was still so down. I felt like there was a brick on each of my shoulders. But I had to go on with my day. So, I showered. I got dressed. My bridesmaids started to arrive at my home.
As I was getting ready, I looked down at some point, & noticed my “bride” shirt had a stain on it. My mood continued to decline. I attempted to wash out the stain, but with little luck.
My final bridesmaid showed up, and we piled into one car. Everyone was a little stressed out because we were running late already. As for me, all I could think about was how everything wasn’t going as planned, and that I hadn’t even practiced the wedding in the church.
As our vehicle started to back up, we heard a big crunch and halted to an abrupt stop. One of my bridesmaids had parked her rental car in the blind spot of my driveway. We smashed her car.
At this point, I got out of the car, went into the house, and sat on the chair in my doorway. We’re having the wedding in a church that we haven’t practiced in, my shirt is ruined, and we just had a car accident. I was having a panic attack. This is not how this day was supposed to go. How could I have this much bad luck before 8am?
Now let’s fast forward to getting ready at the salon. After my hair was finished, I realized my hair piece, veil, and foundation were still at home. I couldn’t finish getting ready without those. GREAT.
Luckily, we were able to arrange for those items to get to the salon before we had to leave, with very little time to spare.
When we did leave, it was pouring. Part of me was relieved that it was raining, because I knew I made the right call. The other part of me wanted to cuss harder than a sailor. Why does it have to rain on my wedding day?
My bridesmaids & I put our dresses on at my home. I’d planned to have a first look with my bridesmaids in the field behind my house after I had on my full look. Instead, because of the rain, the only place we could do it was my living room. The first look photos have my living room television in them. Not exactly what I’d imagined.
At this point, our party bus had arrived. It was time to head to the church. I had no idea what to expect. Did someone have time to pick up an aisle runner to cover up the red carpet? Did the unity painting supplies get set up? What happened to the pictures that were supposed to be hung in the aisle? How am I supposed to know where to go when we get there? What if guests see me before they’re supposed to?
The bridesmaids told Zach to go hide in a room while I entered the church. I had to walk through the church to get to my dressing room. Several guests sitting in the pews saw me.
The room that I was supposed to wait in before the ceremony started was…undesirable. Only a brown curtain separated me from the other room. Oh that brown curtain….
All I could think about was that I was supposed to be sitting in the party bus until my dad came to get me, and walk me down that bridge. Not sitting in this room. & then, a huge crack of thunder reminded me why I wasn’t walking down that bridge.
I was ready, and it was time. 2 o’clock struck, and our guests were waiting.
The cermony music started playing, and all my bridesmaids slowly disappeared out of the room. My dad then started to walk me out of the room, and my heavy veil dragged behind me.
The small U shape we made walking out of that room didn’t give me enough room to straighten out my veil. I was frantically trying to fix it…but the music kept playing and I had to keep walking. I just let it go and tried not to panic.
I was so nervous and freaked out from the whole day- that I ended up having very little memory of the majority of the ceremony. From the last turn I made to walk down the aisle, to the end of it, I don’t remember a thing. I had 200 faces looking at me, and I saw none of them. I don’t remember seeing my husband-to-be’s face until he was standing across from me.
Fun little note here: Right before I walked down the aisle, apparently my aunt tried to straighten out my veil as I turned the last corner. When she did that, the sequins on my veil caught on her dress. She was attached to me as I was starting my walk down the aisle. I was told she had to rip it off of her dress to keep from following me down the aisle. I was completely unaware of this until the reception later that night. Lol!
At the end of the aisle, I met hands with Zach. It kind of felt like a play. It didn’t seem real at all. I was stressed, and nervous. He was too, and I could tell from his hands and the look on his face. The ceremony felt like it was forever long, even though neither of us remember a word that the pastor said, or a word that WE said (of course, other than I do, and I pronounce you husband and wife).
When it was over, we kissed, and I pushed my huge veil around with my foot, and hoped that it would be alright as I walked down the aisle. Three steps away from the podium, I felt a tug on my head. My veil had fallen off behind me.
What do you do in a moment like that? I looked to my left, and saw my best friend holding my hand. We were married. I’d waited my whole life for this moment. And then I thought of the crowd in front of me, witnessing this day. I realized from their perspective, that this day was everything we’d ever dreamed of.
And they were right, it was the day we’ve been dreaming of. I literally laughed, and in my mind, said screw it. I pulled Zach forward and put my 15 pound bouquet in the air. We were married!
This is the moment I remember the most vividly from that entire day. Not until that moment, did I truly let go of everything that happened that day. The mishaps, and change of plans that stressed me out… I let it go.
There were little things that happened after the ceremony that didn’t go as planned either…not taking photos in my dream location because of the rain, forgetting our customized cake forks at home, not being able to eat because my dress was so tight when I sat down, and the pop machine going out at the reception. My husband also managed to misplace his wallet and phone during the day.
But when the night was over, we walked through a tunnel of sparklers and drove away, hand in hand…laughing. Zach & I hadn’t really had the chance to be alone and talk that day, and we talked about everything that happened on our drive to our hotel. We just laughed. We even stopped at Taco Bell since I hadn’t had the chance to eat. Yes, we got Taco Bell in our wedding attire. We couldn’t help but giggle about that too.
When we arrived to our hotel (after driving around town *from my aunts house, to his best mans house, to my house* trying to locate Zach’s phone and wallet), I was standing in the parking lot with a huge dress train in one hand, and my bouquet in the other. My dress was still soaked from traveling in the rain all day.
Our wedding day was over, and I looked down and let my dress drop. Walking toward the entrance of the hotel, I was thinking, what a day. But what a day it really was.
Not only did I marry my best friend, but I learned a lesson.
Have you heard that really cheesy quote, “It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”?
Well, all those unexpected things that happened- all the way from that fender bender at 8am, forgetting half of my cosmetics, guests seeing me before the ceremony, to the rain that poured all day-
I let them all go, three steps down the aisle with my husband.
I stopped waiting for the storm to pass,
put down my umbrella,
& I danced in the rain
(with my husband) 💕
Maybe it wasn’t exactly the day I planned. But I ended up with the one thing I really wanted. & in it’s own way, it was a perfect day. See for yourself ❤️