Stranger conceived. Part IV.

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.

No response.

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 πŸ˜‚

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 πŸ˜‚ 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.

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