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Wendy Kramer and the Donor Sibling Registry Part 1
Episode 792nd January 2024 • Family Twist • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:36:36

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Join us as we welcome Wendy Kramer, the visionary co-founder of the Donor Sibling Registry. Wendy shares her poignant journey into the world of donor conception, offering unique insights into a realm many of us know little about. Her story is not just about creating a family but also about the complexities and unexpected challenges that come with donor conception.

Wendy Kramer and the Donor Sibling Registry Part 1

Summary of Episode Highlights:

  • The Inception of the Donor Sibling Registry: Wendy discusses how personal experiences led to the creation of this groundbreaking resource for donor-conceived individuals and their families.
  • Understanding Donor Conception: Delve into the initial steps and decisions involved in donor conception, as Wendy narrates her personal experience.
  • Conversations on Origin and Identity: The episode highlights crucial conversations between Wendy and her son about his origins, emphasizing the importance of honesty in donor-conceived families.
  • The Emotional Landscape of Donor Families: Explore the varied emotions and challenges that families face in navigating donor conception.
  • The Impact of DNA Testing and Social Media: Wendy talks about how advancements like DNA testing and social media platforms have revolutionized the way donor-conceived individuals connect with their biological relatives.
  • Ethical Issues in Donor Conception: Wendy sheds light on the lack of proper education and counseling in the sperm and egg donation process.

Our conversation with Wendy Kramer brings to light the nuanced and often hidden world of donor conception. Her insights challenge us to rethink our understanding of family and identity. If this episode has resonated with you or sparked your curiosity, please rate, follow, and review Family Twist. Your feedback is invaluable to us.

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Transcripts

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Thanks so much for having me.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: I think

you don't know until you know, right? So once it becomes a part of your life, then I think you just become an expert.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Right. So let's see. The short version is, I was married and my ex husband had some infertility issues. So in late 1989, we went to a clinic in Denver and, I used an anonymous donor and my son was born in May of 1990 and the year after that, my [00:01:00] ex husband and I split up and from that point, I was raising my son as an only parent. And when he was two years old, he came home from preschool and said, so did my dad die or what?

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: okay,

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: I guess we're having this conversation now. And we had a very short, but very important conversation because it was the cornerstone conversation of, you know, to make a human being, you know, I wanted a baby and you have to have an egg from a mommy and a sperm from a daddy. We didn't have the sperm. I went to a nice doctor. It was like, a two year old forty second conversation. And then he asked me something about choo choo trains, and then we were on to different things, you know, but then as he grew up,

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: important stuff, and then he just became very curious by the time he was six years old, he was looking at me saying, I want to know who my biological father is. And at that point, I'm [00:02:00] thinking, Oh my God, what have I done? What do I do? Of course, you're curious, but nobody educated me because the clinics and the sperm banks and the egg clinics, nobody properly educates and counsels donors or prospective parents. So basically at that point, we had to wait for social media to be invented. And we waited, uh, till the year 2000 and Yahoo Groups came to be. That was like the first, you know, kind of a social media thing. And we started a little group thinking, well, maybe there are people that want to make mutual consent contact with each other, half siblings or donors, um, parents. And so we created the vehicle by which all these people could find each other and make connections that the sperm banks and the egg clinics were not allowing.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: In my case, my ex husband and I went, we sat with the lady at the desk and we said, we want to match him, my ex husband, and she's at the desk going, well, I have 510 if you want the green eyes, if you want the Irish background, we're going to have to go to 509 and I could see my ex husband's leg was shaking nervously. He was not comfortable with the process. And I basically just said to her, this is what he looks like, find somebody that matches. And literally the next week I was pregnant with who knows what. I had no idea what the sperm was, where it came from. I knew absolutely nothing until my son was 3 years old and he's got this like really blonde hair and I'm wondering, like, what about his biological father, it's half of who he is, and I know nothing. And it was at that point that the clinic was like, oh, you didn't get the donor profile? No, [00:04:00] nobody gave me anything. And so when my son was three, then it was like, Oh. many of the missing pieces came into play into who my son was and the way his brain worked and his physical features like so much is genetic and from there, I could put at least some of the pieces together.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: No, that's so that's you're absolutely right. And I mean, because their whole goal there is to keep these people apart and to put as much anonymity as they can get in there, even when it's fake and if they're being deceptive, they pretend that anonymity is the best for everybody involved when we know through dozens of research studies and papers that we've published, yeah. Plus 23 years [00:05:00] of, You know, 88, 000 people and anecdotal stories. Anonymity is not in anybody's best interests and nor is it possible anymore.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Well, so when my son was 14, this is before Ancestry, before 23andMe, there was one little company called Family Tree DNA, and they came to us and said, you know, our new commercial DNA services might be helpful to your community. People could find out like countries of origin, things like that. So they asked my son if he wanted to do it. He was 14. He was like, sure, maybe I'll find out a little bit more about my ancestry that I don't know about. So he swabbed his cheek and nine months later, he matched with two people, very distant relatives, both with the same last name, who had traced their common relative to the [00:06:00] 1600s, same last name, and they said, if your son is as related as we are to each other, which he is, you have that common ancestor, they all had the same last name, and it was at that point we went, Oh, my God, I think we know the last name of your donor. And it took us a few days to put it together, and my son was the very first donor conceived person to figure out who his biological father was through a dNA test.

We were stunned,

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Well, when it's Y DNA, it goes from male to male to male to male, virtually unchanged. So when you're tracing your Y DNA through paternal lines, it's not really that hard because it's a very clear lineage.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Exactly, exactly. Well, since then, at the beginning of COVID as a project, I went back to see how far I could go with that one lineage that they got to the 1600s, and I went all the way back to BC.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: it was crazy. I kept going male to male to male to male, and I would find his father, and then I would find his father, and his father, and because they were like, I don't know, one guy was like the king of Gaul, like there were kings and dukes and things like that where there were actual records.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: So,

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that is really cool.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Now, did you have any interest in genealogy before you got pregnant?

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: All right, so he was the first to find his biological father. How did that happen and what happened from there?

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: hmm.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: important stuff. Yeah.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: ha. Absolutely.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Wow. Ooh.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: that's

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Wendy, can you share the moment that Ryan and his father first saw each other and locked eyes.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Ha ha ha. Ha

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Sure. Now, is the donor [00:18:00] father, is he open to meeting his other children?

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Wow. So I would imagine for, you know, for some folks, once they'd had that weekend and met their biological father and grandparents, that might be sort of the end of that journey, but you and Ryan have gone on to help a lot of other people. Can you talk a little bit about how that happened?

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Very cool.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Right. The more people we talk to, it's just shocking, what we hear about this industry. And it does sound like things are starting to slowly move in the right direction as far as legislation goes, but how involved are you in that and making change? [00:23:00]

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Ugh.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Do you know whether Lance knows whether his sperm is still being distributed or?

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: right.

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yeah,

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: like why would you let a donor donate five years when you're telling him you'll have no more than ten kids

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Yeah. No, we've done the research on donors. Why did you donate? And the number one reason is the money, a close second is to help families. And usually it's those two together. It's also number three, which was very close. and I can't remember the exact words we use, but something like, if one of me is awesome, many of me would be awesomer, know, like, Yeah, spreading my seed. and again, I think it's a guy thing back from caveman times or something, you know, just wanting to get yourself out there everywhere. So was number three reason. so it's up there.

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Well, when you were in college, did you ever see the advertisement? So the advertisements are like, come make 1, 400 a month for doing what you would do for free anyway.

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yeah. It's, I mean,

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: right. Yep. Yeah. exactly. boy.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Yep.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Mm-Hmm.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Well, I mean, if Oprah can talk about it and things haven't changed, then I don't know who can.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Sure. Absolutely. Yeah, no judgment there.

Just to go back to something, you said earlier. It kind of cracks me up that two year old Ryan came home and said is my dad dead or like that's where his brain went to the worst possible.

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kendall_austin_stulce___corey_stulce-32_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: Yeah.

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or or what's the, or Bambi, where the mother died or something, you know what I mean? Like, so he knew in his mind. that that would be one

possibility, you

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: and then after that, because he learned at such a young age, basically before he would ever remember, then it was never a big deal for him. He's like, my name's Ryan Kramer, I play piano, I'm good at math, I'm a donor baby and I live in Nederland, Colorado. You know, it was just like a part of who he was and his identity and even when he was about six or seven, it was such a part of his identity that he would meet new people, like new adults, and he'd stick his hand out to shake their hand, and he'd say, Hi, I'm Ryan and I'm a donor baby. And the adults like, would be all embarrassed and not know where to look. And Ryan was just like [00:33:00] that was his identity at that point, and I just let him, I wanted him to be proud of every part of himself, including that part. And at that moment in time, at six or seven, he was integrating that into his identity and you know, at some point, obviously he doesn't do that anymore, but it was a necessary step for him to just integrate that into his identity. He did that and then it was never a big deal. There's a small, but very vocal group of angry donor conceived people who I think never had the proper parental support, so with disclosure and then afterwards, or being curious, and they just haven't processed through the anger yet,

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wendy_kramer-3vycqixmm_raw-audio_wendy-kramer---donorsiblingregistry_2023-oct-21-0330pm_family_twist podcas: and I didn't want that for my son.

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