Father Figure: The Children of Donor 401
Piecing It Together
When Carla Schouten, a nurse-practitioner in San Jose, California, decided she wouldn't use her last vial, she couldn't sell it back to Fairfax Cryobank because she had stored it at the laboratory where she worked, rather than at the bank. So she signed on to DonorSiblingRegistry.com to see if she could give it away. When she discovered the section devoted to messages by others who'd used Donor 401, her reaction was similar to Kimberly's. Schouten was disoriented by seeing the photographs mothers had posted of their children, who looked so much like her son. "Until then all I had seen in my child was my side of the family," says Schouten. "Now I could imagine the other side."
On the site Schouten also noticed the e-mail address of Leann Mischel, a business professor in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, who had one son using 401's sperm and wanted another, related child. "I left my information, and she soon contacted me," recalls Schouten. (Though Mischel used Schouten's vial, she ended up getting pregnant with another donor's sperm.)
The publicity from the morning show eventually caught the attention of even more parents with 401's progeny. A total of 19 got in touch with one another, including single women and lesbian and heterosexual couples.
The group members admit to having a complicated, unresolved outlook on the biological father of their children. They agree they don't wish him to be an active parent to their kids, and they respect his privacy. At the same time, most think their children may someday be curious about him. "If my child wants to know who his biological father is, I will understand that," says Mischel. Louisa Weix, a lawyer in San Francisco, puts the decision in her twin daughters' hands. "I hope that they won't need to search, though," she says. Ken, in New York, doesn't anticipate identity issues arising for his brood. "They know more about themselves than most adopted children do," he notes.