Theirs is a new type of extended family
unit, one that stretches across continents and conventions into
uncharted human territory. "There aren't words to describe what
we are to each other," said Amy Andrews, Henry's mother, who
lives in Washington.
Some of the women say they feel sort of
like sisters. They feel the same familial bond to the children.
"I could take any of these kids in and just raise them as my
own," Ms. Andrews said.
The six families and seven kids are
spread out from Washington state to Washington, D.C. Six of them
were born within a half-year of each other and are now in
kindergarten; the seventh is a younger full sibling to No. 6.
The mothers found each other online when their children were
toddlers, after signing on to a website called
On DSR, people who want to find siblings
or donors can identify themselves by sperm bank and donor
number, and look for anyone else with the same identification.
The website has about 9,000 members and about 4,000 matches have
Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction
Act, enacted in 2004, called for a national registry, but none
has been established.
Since the mid-1980s, most sperm donors
have been identified by number. So if you can find someone who
shares that number, you can be reasonably sure they're related.
And, with the Internet and sites such as the DSR, finding a
mutual donor is easier than ever.
This group's first connection was made
between Ms. Andrews and Kathy Duke, who lives in Texas but is
originally from Burlington, Ont. For a short while they were the
only two. "Then all of a sudden people kept popping up," Ms.
Within a couple of weeks, there were
four children involved, then five, then six - and she wondered
how many others were out there. "I did get worried," Ms. Duke
admitted. "Then it stopped." The donor had retired.
For four years, the mothers have
exchanged e-mails every six months or so, updating each other on
their children's health, development and interests.
There are notable similarities. Many of
the children had trouble with their ears when they were young,
and mild asthma. After a doctor suggested to Ms. White that
Morgen have her adenoids removed, she asked the others and found
out that five of the other six children also had tonsil or
Two of the boys, Henry and Ethan,
resemble each other so strongly they can't tell themselves apart
in photos. "Ethan still points to a picture of Henry and says
that's him as a baby," Ms. Duke said.
In the summer of 2006, five of the six
families met in person for a three-day weekend. "It was a little
strange," Ms. White said, "like a family gathering with people
you've never met."
The only things the parents seemed to
have in common was that they were lesbian and they'd all chosen
the same donor.
Some of the women are rural, some urban.
Some are in relationships, some single. Ms. White is a
vegetarian, while another mother simply couldn't fathom why
anyone would choose not to eat meat. They range from agnostic to
Still, the weekend went smoothly. The
kids had a special energy together, said Ms. White: "It was like
they were all humming and vibrating at the same frequency."
The children aren't entirely clear about
who these "special friends" are, although they have all been
vaguely told about their conception. Ms. White created a book
for her daughter, Morgen, which explains a bit about how they
are related, saying that their mommies all needed help to have
them and that the same person provided it.
The man who spawned this clan remains
unknown. When they chose him, the women knew he had wavy hair
and blue eyes, was outgoing and athletic, and had two children
of his own.
The women have chosen what's known as an
"identity-release" donor, which means that when the children
turn 18, they will be informed of his name and last known
Some of the mothers said it felt much
more important to form this peer group than to seek out a
connection with the donor.
"I didn't want Walker to be the only one
out there," said Sara, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., and asked
to be identified only by her first name.
"I was adopted, and even though I had
the best parents in the world, I still had the urge to know who
my biological family was."
Ms. White said the donor is "the missing
player in all this."
"It's like he's a part of this circle
but he hasn't shown up yet," she said.