Connecting to Donors
BY GRACIE BONDS STAPLES - THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
In many ways, the little boy is the spitting image of Jake West. He has his dark blue eyes, dark blond hair. And at 2 1/2 years he even shares his love of music, and like West is very vocal and outgoing.
Up until recently, they’d communicated via email distributed through a third party at Xytex Cryo International Sperm Bank.
But under a new program called xyConnects, West’s offspring, conceived using his donated sperm, can connect directly to him if and when he chooses.
“I’m leaving it to them to decide how far they want to go with the relationship,” West said.
Xytex, based in Augusta, launched the program in July to give families and their children the opportunity to connect and communicate with the men whose donated sperm helped them conceive a child.
The service, believed by Xytex officials to be the only one of its type in the U.S., formalizes the process of connecting sperm donors with biological children through the use of internal correspondence, facilitating personal communications in a safe and controlled manner.
More importantly, it gives parents of donor-conceived children access to health and medical history.
“The sperm bank is the common denominator between the donor, the child and the parents of that child, meaning we are in the ideal spot to facilitate connections between those parties in a safe, controlled manner,” says Dr. Michael Tucker, Xytex CEO and renowned embryologist.
While Internet message boards and chat groups have helped some donors and their children find and form bonds with each other, the sperm bank is well-situated to formalize the process, Tucker said.
“We have the information in place to verify each party’s identity and create a safer experience,” he said. “Beyond security, it’s the right thing to do if all parties want to pursue it.”
West, 25, of Kennesaw began donating sperm to Xytex during his sophomore year at Kennesaw State University.
Denise Lane-Chamberlain and her partner Ashley Chamberlain are among 22 couples who have been able to conceive from those donations.
The Tucson, Ariz., couple said they were told about xyConnects a few months ago, and want to sign up because it seems like a good way to pave the way for their son if he should one day want to connect with his donor.
They sent West a greeting card six months after their son was born, thanking him for donating and telling him a little about their boy.
“We just wanted him to know how grateful we are, and what a great kid we have,” said Lane-Chamberlain, 35. “Since he was open to receiving photos, we included three photos for him.”
Although they have never met, the couple has kept West up- to-date on the child’s first two and half years through periodic emails, pictures and videos shared through a third-party at Xytex Cryo International.
Essentially xyConnect accepts and holds correspondence from the child or his or her family. Using the donor’s number, Xytex confirms the identity of the donor, the recipient of that donor’s sperm and the recorded birth. The company then notifies the donor of the correspondence. If the donor agrees, Xytex will share the correspondence with the donor. The exchange can simply stop there, or it can proceed however the donor and child wish. Donors can also decline to receive any correspondence.
“If a donor is open to receiving a letter from or seeing a picture, we’re happy to share it with him,” Tucker said. “Or if the donor and child want to exchange emails, talk or decide to meet in person, xyConnects can be the first step in making that happen.”
Donor-conceived children can start the process at any age, with parents facilitating it for those under the age of 18. Current and former Xytex donors may also express their interest in connecting with their children.
Once considered taboo, the use of donated sperm to conceive has grown in popularity in recent years. So, too, has open donations, Tucker said, due largely to the Internet, giving people the ability to do their own sleuthing.
“It’s almost impossible to keep things under wrap,” Tucker said. “It’s also very clear open donation is a much healthier approach to sperm donation. Having access to biological parents is key to maintaining one’s health. It scares a lot of people but to my mind knowledge is very much power.”
More than 200 of its donors have agreed to open identity, he said. To date, several dozen have been willing to connect with their offspring.
When they decided to conceive this way, the Chamberlains weren’t expecting a relationship with their donor.
“All we ever wanted was for our son to have the option of eventually contacting his donor if he wanted to,” said Lane-Chamberlain. “That said, the fact that Jake is open to the Xyconnects program makes us very happy. We don’t want to put any unrealistic expectations on him, but I think just to have some connection will be very good for our son as he gets older and starts to figure himself out.”
Both the Chamberlains and West said they’d be open to meeting someday.
“I’m flattered they used my donation but it’s their family,” West said. “I will be there if they need me.”
Feb 18, 2014 :: Amanda Mershon
We will have a website set up in March that will allow you to do just that :)
Jan 17, 2014 :: Astrid Klepsch
I used CGL 2516 and gave birth to a boy in 1995.He is now 18 and I am wondering if the donor would have any interest in connecting.
Nov 3, 2013 :: Kirsteen O'Donnell
This would be a great thing to do as i would like to send photos every so often of my twins to my donor.
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