What Excites Us!
Episode 13 - Donor Conceived Reunion: An egg donor and her relationship with her biological daughter
This is a conversation with two women who tell a powerful and unique story of how the two of them came to know each other through the magic of science, genetics, and the internet. Marion was an egg donor while completing a master's degree, and Zoe is the result of one of her gifts to parents to be.
Cover photo of Zoe and Marion by Raquel Reis, web site is http://raquelreis.com
Music notes: Opening Theme - The Vendetta by Stefan Kartenberg (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/JeffSpeed68/58628
Coaching Ad - Harmony by PolyPlus (c) copyright 2021 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/polyplus/63962
Patreon Ad - Let me talk, Carol (instrumental) by Josh Woodward - Found on FMA The Free Music Archive
End Music - Mo’ Baby by ETRNLproducer from Pixabay
Hello, and welcome to What Excites Us, the show that discusses sex and sexuality throughout time and place, including the here and now. This episode is a little different than most and some may consider it outside of the purview. But I don't. And since it's my show, well, here we are. This is a truly powerful and dare I say it, even though it's cheesy, heartwarming conversation. With Zoey and Marian, two women brought together through the magic of genetics and science. Marian helped Zoey come into this world by donating her eggs. It was such a blessing to have this conversation and to be able to share it with you. Now they have had the most amazing possible outcome. And I'm hoping that this chat may help you or someone you love, make some hard decisions. I do recognize that for many folks, this will have no bearing on your life whatsoever. But it's still a wonderful story. So please stick around and give it a listen.
This episode of What Excites Us is brought to you by me I'm Gwyn Isaacs. And besides being your podcast host, I'm a certified sex coach and educator. And right now I have some openings for text based clients. I love coaching over email and text. It allows you to be open and vulnerable in ways that may feel too difficult in person, which lets us tackle the concerns you have at your own pace. Very few of us were taught how to have sex, most of us are feeling our way through the dark, hoping we get it right. I can help you build skills in the bedroom and navigate your intimate relationships. I have two ways you can sign up to start texting with me right away. When you go to earthlydesire.com/coaching You will find a weekly subscription for daily correspondence. And a way to schedule a live one hour text chat. Visit earthly desire.com to start on your path. Have more pleasure today. You deserve it.
Welcome Marian and Zoe, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourselves?
Sure, yep, I'm Marion. I'm a body based educator and coach and I formerly lived in Boston in the 1990s when I was studying music, and at that time, I was an egg donor, among other things. And recently, so we connected with me. And so I'm like so, so thrilled that our lives are, are connected now. So that's me.
Hi, I'm Zoey. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up there before moving to Maine for school, and more recently out to Reno, Nevada. And right when I got in touch with Marian, I was on a big cross country road trip living out of my Subaru Forester moving back to New England, from Reno. So our journey of getting to know each other coincided with my road trip. And we met for the first time, she was my last stop in New York, before I arrived home in Boston.
That is so cool. Zoey, when were you born?
Did you always know the story of your birth?
Yes, I grew up knowing that I was a donor conceived person. My parents were always very open about that and answered all my questions on the topic and shared the little amount of information they were given about Marian at the time, and I was too young to even remember the first conversation we had about it. So I had growing up, I had this image I created in my mind of this mysterious woman who had helped to bring me into this world. But I understood that her identity was confidential. And he accepted that as fact, up until a year ago, but yeah, I grew up knowing and I'm really happy. My parents were open and honest about the with me.
Sure. Yeah, of course. How did the confidentiality change? How did you find each other?
Well, I knew that there were DNA tests out there at home DNA test kits you could order, but I didn't know until the spring of 2020, that they also matched you up with other people in the database that shared your DNA. It wasn't until I read an article about a young woman who connected with some of her half siblings, who shared the same sperm donor, and they found each other through ancestry.com.
So at that point, this was Spring 2020. It had never even crossed my mind before then that I might have genetic, half siblings, either other donor offspring or biological offspring of Marian's. So suddenly, I realized that there was a way for me to possibly find out who these people were. At first, I felt that if I ordered one of these DNA tests and went searching for genetic family members that I would be betraying the family I already had. And this is something I grappled with for a while. And I talked about it with, with my parents and a cousin I'm close with and they all encouraged me to, to go ahead with it. They said, What an amazing opportunity, or possibility to find out that other part of yourself.
So in July 2020, I ordered a DNA test kit from ancestry.com, and spit into a little plastic tube, packaged it up and mailed it to the lab in Utah. And six weeks later, I got my results in an email. And it took me a couple days before I worked up the courage to open the email. Because I knew with with a couple clicks, I might be staring at the names, or the faces of the donor half sibling that didn't know. So I opened up my results. And at the top of the page were two names that I didn't recognize, listed as close family members.
And based on the amount of DNA we shared, I knew that they were either half siblings, aunt and uncle or grandparents. And for some reason, I assumed they were half siblings, people my age. So I started typing their names into Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn, because ancestry just gave me their names no other information. And I was wasn't coming up with much until I decided to type both their names into Google at the same time, and up came and obituary, which turned out to be for Marian's mother. And I knew this was the person I'd matched with because her spouse's name was the other match. And I had also matched with a second cousin who listed her hometown as somewhere in New Zealand and Marion's mom was from New Zealand.
So some internet sleuthing later led me to Marian, because my parents at the time when they were matched with a donor, they were told that she shared similar physical characteristics to my mom, and that she was musical and had an advanced degree in science. That's all they were told. So I found Marian's LinkedIn profile and saw that she had a master's in engineering. She'd gone to Berklee College of Music, and had lived in Boston at the time of my conception. So everything added up. This was in September of 2020. At that time, I wasn't sure where to go from there. I mean, I was just completely in awe that within a couple hours of receiving my test results, I had a name and a face and all this other information about this person who just a couple of hours before I'd known nothing about so it took it took me a little while to process all that newfound information.
And I was initially nervous about reaching out to her, you know, I didn't know if she wanted to be found if she wanted to hear from me whether she'd even told her family that she had donated so I decided to wait before I reached out. And I'd also just moved across the country and trying to start a new job and buy a car so I was gonna wait until a calmer time in my life to reach out turns out Marion's sister, beat me to it.
In February of 2021, I got an email from Marian's sister saying, Hi, I was on my dad's ancestry.com account, and I saw your name. And we're wondering how you fit into the family and who you are, she seemed kind of confused as why my name is listed on her dad's ancestry site. And then she wrote back right away saying, Oh, I'm so sorry, I've figured out the connection. Please be in contact if you have any questions. At that point, I figured that she had made the connection about the egg donor. But I wasn't sure.
So I decided in order to preserve Marian's privacy, I would reach out to her first before responding to her sister. So I sent her a Facebook message is introducing myself and briefly explain how I'd found her and waited to hear back. But it turns out, Marian doesn't check your Facebook very often. And messages from someone you're not friends with don't send a notification.
So it wasn't until the beginning of April, three days after I had moved out of where I was living in Reno, Nevada, packed up my Subaru Forrester and set out on what would turn out to be a three month road trip around the west coast and then cross country back to New England. I woke up on the third day of my trip in the back of the Subaru and it was probably 25 degrees in the morning, and I checked my phone and there was a Facebook message from Marian.
And I was so excited to have heard back from her. I'd kind of assumed at that point that she either hadn't gotten it or else wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship. And so to get a warm response from her was so exciting, and just filled me with happiness and gratitude. And I'd been kind of struggling the first few days on the road, I felt super unprepared for the trip I was trying to undertake and to get that message from her totally lifted my spirits.
And so basically, from then on, we've been communicating. And I've also gotten to know her entire family, her siblings, her father and your nieces and nephews. And the route I had planned, took me through all of the places across the country where Marian family lived. Her niece in San Francisco another niece in South Dakota and the rest of her family in Michigan, those were all places that I had planned to go on my road trip before I I knew about any of her family members, it was a total coincidence.
So I was able to meet all of them on my cross country trip. And just having all these people I was getting to know, looking out for me while I was a solo female, living out of a Subaru. It was it gave me a lot of comfort and know that I had this newfound group of people who I started calling the third side of my family all looking out for me while I was on the road. So it was this incredible coinciding journey. The timing could not have been more perfect. You know, if I had initially reached out and in September, or if Marian had reached out right then in April, who knows if I would have gotten to meet any of her family members.
What an amazing story. Kismet is the word that comes to mind. I mean, it's truly beautiful. And I love that everyone on your third side of the family, which by the way is a great name for it, is on board and wants to be a part of your life. Marian, what did you feel when you saw that first message?
Yeah, well, back in February, my sister had called me up because my whole family has known that I was an egg donor actually referred to the potential offspring as marionettes. So she's like my gosh, I think I think we found a marionette or a marionette has found us. You know, it was very exciting. And then we thought well, we'll wait to hear back because I thought oh my gosh, what if she doesn't know and it's a bombshell in her life.
You know, not knowing any of the background and concerned for Zoey's well being but then we didn't hear from her kind of each of us didn't hear from the other because we didn't know. And then in April when I finally went on to Facebook And I saw the message what I felt was pure, radiant joy. And felt my solar plexus just like boom expanded and rang like a bell. It was a beautiful, beautiful feeling. I was so excited, and just so happy and wrote back right away, cuz I was like, Oh no, all these months had gone by.
And then I suggest that she contact Trini, my sister because I knew she would be like, thrilled over the moon. In fact, my whole family was ecstatic. So warm and welcoming, and just super excited. And yeah, so it was a very expansive, happy, joyful feeling. And then as we got to know each other through texts, and email exchanges, and then our first zoom call a couple weeks later, then zoom calls from on the road and knowing she was getting to know, peak members of my family, as time went on, it was really a huge build up to the two of us meeting, because there was so much that went on, up until then, as she traveled and sent photographs and just beautiful hearing about her trip as it unfolded.
And then in parallel, this unfolding story of meeting, I guess, our family. Yeah, and this so much joy and happiness and excitement, and gratitude. Also, for me, in those week her mother got in touch with me. And that was deeply moving for me to hear her gratitude, and learn a little bit about the story. It was hugely touching, you know, because when I was doing the egg donations, I was really aware, because I had friends going through it, even though mine was an anonymous donation, I had this deep sense of gratitude, and really making a huge contribution to other people's lives.
And so to get to actually meet and know, Zoey, and her family, has just been amazing. It's just added a beautiful, I would say a whole dimension to my life, deeply grateful.
When you were donating, had you decided that you weren't going to have children? And was that part of your thinking going into it?
I had been married not too long before I did the donations just a couple of years. So I definitely didn't think I was going to have kids, because I was in no hurry to remarry. And I've never, I've never had the ticking clock thing. And indeed, I turned out to not have kids, which allowed me in my work to really reach and work with a lot of different people. And I'm also just like, so thrilled to meet Zoey and have this really kind of very special and unique sort of can family connection,
Might there be other marionettes? Which, by the way, is also a fantastic term props to whoever came up with that.
I suspect the chances are good because I made four donations, and they harvested a total of 50 eggs. What they do for the egg donation thing is they stimulate, they have a very strong hormone follicle stimulating hormone that they use, it's an arduous process, it definitely kicks up also massive mood swings. So instead of producing four eggs over those four cycles, I produced about 50.
And I know actually from my conversations with Zoey's mom, I kind of got to see the other side. He learned about that, that they they measure the eggs, it's really science, it's just all reproductive technology, don't know if all of those eggs were fertilized, I don't really know the business model, like how many different families or people received eggs, you know, but I know that they could freeze freeze eggs and fertilized eggs for something like five years.
So I suspect that the chances are pretty good, that there are others out there. And I started actually pondering it about 20 years after I did the donations, you know, because at that point, they would be hitting adulthood. And there's a you know, a pretty broad range of years, you know, five or six years depending on whether or not they were frozen or not. So I've always been curious and actually it's it's come up in my family we've talked about it everyone was kind of intensely curious about the possibility and so to finally have Zoey reach out was amazing. And yeah, so awesome.
So now that you've met in person are there traits that you can see that you both share,
We definitely have the same eyes. That's the first thing I noticed when I saw a photo of Marian same kind of unique green blue color, set a little bit further apart. And we're both somewhat ambidextrous. And yeah, I have no one on my dad's side of the family that's left handed. So now I know where that comes from. And I think we have similar temperament, I would say.
Definitely. We both are somewhat introverted. nature lovers dislike bonding. And like when we've gotten together we've done hikes and swimming up it like, Lake Minnewaska, which is a spectacular place. Yeah, I think there's a real gentleness and an easy goingness, which for me, I've always, I'm kind of like my dad. He has that kind of same temperament as well. But I definitely think temperamentally, there's a lot of similar creativity, maybe expressed in different ways. I'm a musician's Zoey's atotally amazing photographer and videographer. So definitely the creative.
It's really such a great story. Would you walk us through the donation process in a little more detail?
Sure. When I decided to do it, I went through a number of a series of interviews, and there were various I would call them psychiatric evaluations, I get that. Also questions, really questions that it wasn't actually possible to assess? Like, would you be willing to ever donate bone or blood or an organ if needed? And that's kind of a big question. So and it was like, I guess so. I've never been contacted by the fertility clinic for any of that. I knew it was anonymous, anonymous donation going into it.
As I mentioned earlier, the part of the process involves the physical process, stimulating the ovaries to produce a much larger number of follicles. And the other drug that I took a smaller needle into the thigh was to postpone ovulation. And then I would go in and they would do ultrasounds and measure the growth of the follicles. And then when and they kept postponing the ovulation because they wanted to harvest as many what they called valuable eggs as possible. And the harvesting process, they went in with a needle and like aspirated each one individually. So there definitely was some physical discomfort after that this was a major commitment, as opposed as opposed to sperm donors will have a much easier time of it. I also had to be extremely careful.
I did have a partner at the time, and I was like, dude, oh, ironically, he was a sperm donor at the same clinic. That's another story. But um, I had to be very careful, because I was ridiculously fertile. So just had to abstain. And then they did the harvesting, which I was put under anesthesia. So as I said, you know, it's a real commitment on my part. And I experienced mood swings as the because the hormones they gave me were just really powerful. So I have a lot of sympathy for women who are not only donors, but women who are doing their own in vitro fertilization process, because I kind of went through the same thing. But I was very fortunate that I had friends and professors at Berkeley who were in the recipient role, and they were so grateful for what I was doing. And I really, I took that in, and they also helped me I had people helping me with those shots. It was quite an experience.
How long was this entire process? How many surgeries did you have?
It was over, it was about over a year, because I gave body brakes. I think I did it about once every three or four months. And then we would pause and wait and over time. The number of eggs actually diminished? Not not hugely, but I could tell that my body was kind of getting used to it. I think it's I don't really know. But definitely it did like In the end. I just kind of knew I was like, Okay, time to stop body's had enough of this.
So you were put under four times. Yes. Yes. Do you think it affected your menopause and perimenopause all time?
Well I'm guessing that it must have, you know, because women go into menopause when their eggs are gone. So 48 to 50 eggs, that's four years of eggs. So I must have gone in a little bit earlier. But I'm very fortunate. I had a very benign transition. My cycles just kind of decreased in frequency, no symptoms whatsoever. I'm so grateful that I had a very healthy transition into menopause. And I actually feel super vibrant and alive and as a sexual woman too. And that's sort of what's drawn me I think into this work of working with people around their bodies and, you know, body based learning which includes sexuality.
Thank goodness, you had an easy menopause. But this whole story is really, really fascinating. So we, how do you feel about knowing you may have more half siblings out there?
It's an intriguing thought. And I periodically will log into my ancestry account and see if anybody new has popped up. And if they do, and they're willing to reach out, I would be more than happy to, to get to know them and hopefully, welcome them in to the relationship that Marian and I have and I have with her family. So only time only time will tell if if they come forward. But it's it's an exciting thought to know that I might have half siblings out there.
I can only imagine. I'm a hobby genealogist. And I'm always checking into my ancestry because I just love the possibility of connection. And that's just cousins. It's really hard to wrap my head around either of your stories. Well, my head yeah, but not the full grasp of the huge wash of emotions for both of you.
Yes. And for my family, too. Yeah, it was amazing for my nieces to meet a new cousin on that trip. So we took cross country and then my dad, oh my gosh, my dad was so excited to meet Zoey. And Zoey, I was really touched by a text you shared one time that, you know, he's, he's your granddad. And I'm like, well he is! Yeah, I know that my whole family feels a lot of joy around it. And Zoey showed me some of the Reddit sites. And I guess I don't know, there's Facebook groups of people who've been donor conceived. I never thought about that. But looking at the Reddit chats, and how people were supporting each other and getting information. And then there was one comment by a woman who was an egg donor, and I perked up. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I've never met another a donor. What would that be? Like?
Would you like to?
I think I would. Yeah. And I would also be thrilled if there were others. I'm glad I'm grateful that right now we were having the opportunity to get to know each other and adjust to the idea, not the idea, the reality of our connection. So no hurry for any additional ones. But that would be a beautiful thing, I'm sure.
Wow. Yeah, this is just a little bit mind blowing. I'm a little embarrassed that I don't have more and better questions. So can you tell us what you feel is important to share?
Oh, when I started this process, when I decided to order the DNA test kit, I tried to go into it without having any expectations of whether I would even find anyone or whether they would want to have a relationship. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. So and I was also reading on the Reddit group and Facebook pages, reading about other people's experiences with finding either their donors or half siblings. And there's some people, they were able to develop a relationship. But others, the donors either didn't respond or said, I don't want anything to do with you. So I was trying to prepare myself also for that outcome.
So I never imagined that Marian's entire family would be just ready to welcome me and as one of them. That thought had never even crossed my mind. And so I was just in awe when they all started reaching out to me, they all wanted to get to know me and we're all expressing just how much joy this was bringing to all of them. And I think our our story might be kind of on the extreme end of a of a positive outcome. But I'm glad we're we're getting the chance to speak with you and share it with a broader audience and maybe encourage more people to to seek out and discover that part of themselves. Because it's, I have felt more whole now that I've met Marian and her family it was before it was a part of myself that was missing. And now it's I feel like I kind of understand myself and my place in this world more, more so than I had six months ago.
Oh that's just so beautiful. Was it overwhelming when the whole family started reaching out to you?
It was a little bit and initially when Marian sister said, hey, my daughter lives in San Francisco, and she knew I was going to be going through there on my road trip and said, she's more than happy to meet with you while you're there. My initial reaction was, Well, I think I would rather meet Marian first before any very standard family members, because she's the one who went through the donation process and is my most direct genetic connection. But then I decided, You know what, I'm out here on the West Coast, who knows when I'll ever be back. And what an amazing opportunity to get to meet a genetic cousin. I ended up staying with her for for a whole weekend. And she just couldn't have been nicer and showed me family photos. And he was just the best ambassador for welcoming me into the family. So then, I ended up deciding to meet the whole clan, another 15 people when I went through Michigan, yeah. Wow, that's a lot. It is we we broke it into two my two separate visits. So it wasn't the whole clan at once. But yeah, if it felt very natural being with all of them, and a really fun, jovial group of people, and they all just welcomed me in. So now I've got three sides of my family, which most people can't say that.
Gwyn Isaacs 31:38 [AD]
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Marion Do you have maternal feelings towards Zoey? Or how do you find yourself relating to her?
Well, it's interesting because I I don't have I had protective feelings. You know, when we were contemplating Zoey, being introduced to my whole family, I felt a little protective. I was like, stretch it out. Don't meet everyone at once, we're a big boisterous clan, loving and welcoming, but a lot. And so I did feel some protectiveness, and just her being on the road like that, you know, protectiveness for her well being and safety. But in terms of because there's no real concise word to describe our relationship. It's such a new relationship in terms of what's available to humans. And so what pops to mind is I feel almost like a fairy godmother or maybe an aunt, an aunt or maybe a sort of a older sister rather than parental.
Yeah, so it sounds like an elder feeling but not parental per se. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.
I think those DNA at home DNA test kits only became available in 2013. So this is very new. There's there isn't a vocabulary yet to describe our relationship. I've seen most of the online groups refer to donor or sperm offspring as just donor conceived people and the offspring refer to their donors sometimes is their biological mother father, but I would agree with the older sister feeling to our relationship and fairy godmother is a good way to put it. But when I'm just talking with other people who know the story, I just refer to Marion as Marion. And to people who are explaining the story for the first time I refer to her as my egg donor.
Yeah, it's a little more concise to describe me. Because when I started telling people, the main word people would say was Wow. And some people are like, You mean, she's your biological daughter? And I'm like technically, yes. And, and but that doesn't ring true. There is there is something about, yeah, there's not really a word that emotionally other than what I already shared, like an older sister or Fairy Godmother kind of thing. It's such a new technology. I mean, egg donation itself only started, I think, in the 80s. So there's a small number of people, but growing. Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how the language catches up.
Right. And it's fascinating that when you went into this, there was no concept of the people would be able to reach you, or find you, or vice versa. Right.
The internet was not really a thing. And certainly there was the I don't think that genome had even been sequenced, when I donated the eggs. So the technology to find me actually did not exist.
We live in the future. I mean, this is right out of a past science fiction reality. It's beautiful. But it's nothing that I would have conceived of 30 or 40 years ago.
Hmm. I'm a spiritual person. And so it's kind of awe inspiring to me, that souls in a way can sort of make these very special and specific arrangements for how to be on the planet.
Yes, I absolutely concur. When you did meet in person, did you have any of that pinging that? Knowing that's undescribable that the anti woo people will find annoying and possibly come after me for?
I had a sense of knowing Oh, yeah, we decided to do this.
And it felt very natural.
And before we met, for the first time, we, we'd already been communicating for about four months at that point.
Yeah. With you getting to meet my whole family on the way.
Right, Marian was the grand finale. It's also been
It's also been beautiful to for me to meet Zoe's parents and brother, you know, and I feel like, Oh, I'm a part of this family. And it also felt very natural, and lovely. I just feel a ton of gratitude. I feel very blessed.
We only live three hours apart now. So it's easier to to get together on weekends. So going forward, I think we'll have many more opportunities for making memories together. And you're getting to know my parents more. But it was you were here three weeks ago, right? You came up to visit my family. And we went for a walk in the woods, near where my parents live. And Marian and my mom were discussing the process they went through 26 years ago, when they were having to sync their cycles and getting or giving themselves injections at the same time, these two women going through the same process, but they had no idea who was on the other side of it. And they never thought they would. And here we were having that conversation. I just had this moment where I thought this is really amazing that this conversation is even taking place.
Yeah, what a really amazing blending of families. I mean, it seems like the best that anyone could hope for.
I believe so. It's incredible. Yeah, I'm, I feel really deeply emotional. Just remembering that conversation in the woods. And yeah, I feel so blessed. Like it's amazing. What an amazing outcome. So grateful, Zoe, that you're in my life. You and your family.
We are too.
Ah, okay. I'm gonna cry a little bit.
Thank you for the opportunity for us to get to talk about this with you and share about it. Yeah, I'm having some tears. It's very, very tender.
Yes, thank you, Gwen. This is my my first podcast.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me so we can share it with the world. I hope that it helps some people make some decisions or not. And while of course not everybody's story will be as beautiful as this one. It's just, it's such a great thing. So really, thank you so much. I'm really glad you chose me to come on and do this.
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And don't forget about my Patreon, you have to enter the whole URL in your browser to find it. And that's patreon.com/whatexcitesus. What Excites Us is produced, edited and hosted by me Gwyn Isaacs, all the music used is under the Creative Commons Attribution license. This week it includes The Vendetta by Steven Kartenberg. Let Me Talk, Carol by Josh Woodward. Harmony by PolyPlus. And this is Mo Baby by Eternal Producer. Visit tickle.life for lots of great content about sex and sexuality. And thanks them for hosting my show. If you're so inclined. Thank you for listening. And don't forget that you are loved and I appreciate bye