Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kathleen's Story

Like many others faced with infertility, my parents turned to sperm donation to create their family. My conception through anonymous sperm donation occurred May 4, 1981 at St. Luke's in Houston, Texas. Following standard practice of the time, my parents recieved no information about the man - including medical heritage, heritage, or a donor number - beyond the fact that he was a student at Baylor College of Medicine. Therefore, my mother could not provide any other information about this man when she told me of my history at age eight. I initially did not care, though, and instead viewed my conception as special and magical. I felt very wanted and enjoyed the concept of an abstract family. However, eventually my fascination progressed to curiosity about the man who contributed to half of my genetic make-up. Among many other questions, I wanted to know whose face I saw reflected in my mirror given that I do not particularly resemble my maternal relatives and how we were similar. I requested my mother's medical records, only to be informed that they were destroyed years ago. By college, I experienced grief and loss in being intentionally denied access to own flesh and blood. I found it ironic that what leads many people to donor conception in the first place - the desire for a biological connection - had been severed between my biological father, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and me through anonymous sperm donation. With little information to go on and no records available, I turned to the old Baylor College of Medicine yearbooks. I naively believed that one man would jump out of the pages within a few hours and I would find my answers. However, I began to realize that I could resemble dozens of me. I gradually obtained contact information for all 600 men in the yearbooks, sent them letters, received 250 responses, and completed 16 DNA tests. Despite a 900-hour search, my biological father has yet to come forward. I now try to use my story to raise awareness about donor conception and advocate for needed changes within reproductive medicine.