Personal stories

Donor child on her search for half-siblings: “I was curious about the people I share DNA with”

22-year-old Rikke Jespersen has eight donor half-siblings, all of whom were born with the help of the same sperm donor. Here she talks about her thoughts before and during her search for half-siblings.

April 04, 2022
5 min. read
Helle Tyllesen

How did you find out that you were donor-conceived and how did you react?

“I was 15 years old and in the middle of my teenage years. I remember it was a Friday afternoon and we were having a meal when my mother said: "I have something to tell you…”

This was to become somewhat of a landmark conversation. I was very upset and shaken. It felt like I had been living a lie my whole life. It meant a lot to me when I first heard the news. Now it doesn't matter. These days it feels more like we have expanded the family. My father is still my father. My parents always wanted to tell us children about our origins, but it was important to them that my brother, who is three years younger than me, and I were both old enough to understand such a message.”

When did the idea of searching for possible donor half siblings arise?

I started by doing some heavy searching on Google to get a better idea of what a donor is. My parents did explain it to me but I needed to read about it myself. I also found a Facebook page on which you could search for other donor children with the same donor number.

I knew that my donor was anonymous but I thought it might be fun to investigate if there were other donor siblings out there somewhere.”

I wanted to see how much I resemble other people with whom I share genes.

What were your motives for seeking out donor siblings?

“I dreamed of finding both donor and donor siblings, and I had no reservations. I also had no idea about the number of potential siblings. The more the merrier. And more fun. I thought, ‘We'll take it as it comes.’ I wanted to see how much we looked like him and ideally meet the man behind it all. And ask him why he decided to donate sperm. Was it for financial reasons or to help the childless? I have no problem with it no matter what, but it could be exciting to know.

I also wanted to see how much I resemble other people with whom I share genes. One and a half months after my parents told my brother and me, I posted a notice on the Facebook group calling for other donor children with the same donor number. It took just 24 hours. I then heard from a woman who was the mother of a boy and a girl from the same donor. I had expected to wait several months, maybe years, before anyone replied.”

What did you do after establishing contact?

“It turned out that they lived only 12 kilometres away, and my parents, brother, and I drove off to meet them. We actually just went to say a quick hello, but ended up staying there for a long time. It was really cosy. “Wow! You look so much like each other”, was said many times during our visit. I discovered that my half-sister and I had the same bed. We thought that was really funny. And this family had contact with two brothers in Stockholm who shared the same donor. So I had four half siblings all of a sudden. In such a process, one finds out how much social heritage plays a role. We are similar to each other physically, but much less in our behaviour and character.”

One finds out how much social heritage plays a role. We are similar to each other physically, but much less in our behaviour and character.

Rikke Jespersen is 22 years old and lives in Denmark. Recently, she was on a semester exchange programme in Reykjavik. She is studying engineering at Aarhus University. Rikke Jespersen's eight donor half-siblings are aged between 17 and 23.

How did you find your other donor half-siblings?

“A few years after I met the first four I was on a trip abroad and received a message from a woman who is the mother of a boy and a girl and used the same donor. We met them in the summer of 2019 together with the other four siblings. And so six became eight: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a sister and brother wrote that they were donor children from the same donor. We met them in Aarhus and went for a walk. When I think of all my half-siblings, there is something that is consistent in all of us: We all have the same characteristic eye area and pronounced eyebrows.”

How is your relationship today?

“I don’t have a close relationship with all of my donor half-siblings, and I am fine with that. I don’t need to be close to all of them, and neither do they necessarily. We don’t meet up for birthdays, Christmas, etc., but we like each other's posts and use social media to send congratulations on special occasions. The last two turned up during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we haven’t had the opportunity to have that much to do with each other either. I tried to get all of us together last summer, but it wasn’t possible.”

When you look back at the process now, what do you reflect on?

It was mostly about satisfying my own curiosity. And to know how everything was connected. I don’t have the same need to find more siblings now and have stopped searching. I already did this after I had made contact with the first four.

I would love to meet anyone should they contact me, but there are no demands or expectations from my side. If I can help to satisfy their curiosity, then I would very much like to do so. That was also what drove me. And it would also allow me to give something back.”

What are your wishes for your relationship?

“Nothing. It's about what people want for themselves. I don’t believe that my eight donor half-siblings are actively searching for more. A number of my siblings have lesbian mothers, so they have always known that they have come into the world with the help of a sperm donor. It came as a major shock to my brother and I, also because we look very much like our father.

It’s important to mention that one shouldn’t make it a bigger thing than it is. It is not only genetics that make us who we are. But also the people we associate with and our social heritage.

The main thing is that my father is, and always will, be my father. But I'm glad that I looked for my donor half-siblings. If I’d have waited, I think that I would still have unanswered questions and flighty thoughts.”

What have you found the answer to?

“How much I look like my father. In terms of both our physical features and personality. I needed confirmation of this. That there was enough of him in me, regardless of my background.”