Donor Dad: How a surprise connection changed a Tacoma woman’s idea of what family is

It was like a band-aid was ripped off, except instead of tearing off of Kyra Wien?s skin ? she felt it on a much deeper level. Wiens, then an eighth-grader, came home frustrated over a biology assignment. Her mother?s response: ?Oh. You?re not related to your Dad.?

It was like a band-aid was ripped off, except instead of tearing off of Kyra Wien’s skin – she felt it on a much deeper level. Wiens, then an eighth-grader, came home frustrated over a biology assignment. Her mother’s response: “Oh. You’re not related to your Dad.”

That’s how Kyra Wiens found out her Dad wasn’t her biological Dad. In fact, her parents didn’t know who the anonymous man was that made their family possible through a donation to a teaching hospital’s sperm donation program.

“We ended up not really talking about it,” said Wiens. “There was always this sense of something missing, or this loneliness, or this confusion.”

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It’s not easy listening to Wiens talk about that moment even twenty years later. Of course, it’s made easier knowing that she’s at peace – so are her parents, including the man she waited half a lifetime to meet.

THE SEARCH

Wiens may not have talked about her biological Dad with her parents, but she always wanted to find him.

She’s quick to point out, she always knew that her parents loved her – that said, there was a lot of time spent questioning who she was, where she came from, and whether she was complete without knowing the full picture.

Wiens requested her birth records from the hospital she was born at, and she registered with the Donor Sibling Registry – both were dead ends.

That’s where the story typically ends, but Wiens is part of a growing group of people conceived through sperm donation find their parents through DNA testing. In the 80s and 90s plenty of sperm donors remained anonymous, but a growing number of connections are being found through DNA testing like 23andMe.

In Wiens instance, she found a possible family member in January, 2018. They never responded, which is why when she opened her Facebook app several months later the message stopped her cold.

“I was wondering if your birth mom had an Albuquerque connection in the 80s for your conception? Forgive me for reaching out like this through FB – or if you are not interested in contact that is ok too.”

THE MEETING

Frank Jackson was standing in a parking lot before his son’s wedding when Wiens spotted him. It wasn’t long before they were hugging.

“It was instant,” said Wiens. “The moment I saw him I knew.”

“We both broke into tears,” said Jackson. “It was beautiful. It was beautiful to see another me.”

The meeting was months in the making. That first Facebook message led to e-mails and phone calls. What started with Jackson asking: “Will you like me? Will we meet?” evolved into Wiens meeting the entire family on the day her previously unknown half-brother would get married.

In a blog post, Wiens would later describe it as “a strange experience, walking in a room full of people you’ve never met and yet, and yet – you look like them and they look like you and there’s this indescribable pull.”

There was no shortage of introductions. She was introduced as “our sister,” and the nervousness you’d expect for such a huge moment melted away.

“It was beautiful to see the interaction at my son’s wedding,” said Jackson. “They all were sitting down and talking like it’d always been that way.”

THE HEALING

Wiens was one of the “lucky” ones. She not only found her biological Dad – she sometimes calls him ‘Donor Dad’ – but she found a guy who wanted to meet as much as she did.

It turns out, he was an administrator for the OBGYN department at the University of New Mexico hospital in the early 80s. His donation wasn’t for the $20 he’d get, but a reaction to seeing couples who couldn’t start their own families.

Wiens has talked about meeting Frank with her parents. The discussion they avoided for all those years, surprised her in some ways. She viewed her Dad, the son of a Prussian immigrant, as a stoic figure. When the two talked about her trip to meet ‘Donor Dad’ he was happy for her.

“He said to me, ‘You know, Kyra. Part of what we love about you is your uniqueness and all the things that make you, you.’” said Wiens, recalling the conversation. “’Part of what makes you, you are the genes you inherited from Frank – so I can’t love you, and appreciate you, without also appreciating this other person who allowed you to be who you are.’”

Wiens had already started viewing family differently by now. When she got married she welcomed two kids into her life from a previous marriage. Now she’s learning more about the parents that raised her, Frank’s family – and what it means.

“Our idea of family, what that means, it’s changing,” said Wiens. “I think for all of us, we’re doing this work trying to find out what family means. You can choose who you want to be influential in your life.”

Jackson and Wiens have plans to continue getting to know one another. Late last year he and his son flew to Arizona to watch Wiens compete in an Ironman competition.

Oddly, she feels like she knows her own parents better too. She said it’s a reminder that Jackson gave her parents a gift, but it’s also a reminder of how badly her parents wanted her too.