Out in the Open

Mothers who used the same sperm donor are forming a family of 'diblings'

Uniting their children with their biological half brothers and sisters has given a global group of moms a new extended family.
Left to right: Srdjana Jaksic and her daughter Maya, Karen Nightingale with her sons Leo and Gavin (Courtesy of Srdjana Jaksic and Karen Nightingale)

Karen Nightingale's twin sons were conceived using a sperm donor. She'd wondered what they were missing out on without that paternal side to their extended family. 

"When I imagined my boys going to school and drawing their little family tree and it being really one-sided, that kind of broke my heart," Karen says. 

That other side sprouted new branches when a woman from England got in touch with Karen. 

"She said, I see that you have this child via this donor number, and I just want you to know that there are other moms out there who've connected with each other."

Mothers from across North America and beyond were finding each other and connecting in a Facebook group. They'd all used the same sperm donor to conceive children, making those children half siblings, biologically speaking.

Those moms have another term for it: "diblings," short for "donor siblings."

Srdjana Jaksic and her five-year-old daughter, Maya, belong to this big, new family, too.

"She'll be in school, and she'll talk about her diblings in Florida, her diblings in Boston," Srdjana says of her daughter. "She comes home some days, and she's drawn artwork specifically for one of the diblings to share with them."

Srdjana's interest in meeting the other moms was practical at first.

"To me, it was important to find people who had the same genetics as Maya so that if there was any need for any medical information or, God forbid, someone needed a bone marrow transplant, I would have somebody I could potentially reach out to," she says. 

"It eventually shifted from that initial reason why I wanted to connect with them, and it became more personal." 

Not everyone gets it. And not everyone likes the word "dibling" ‒ some sperm donor recipients find it trivializing.

But Karen, Srdjana and the other moms in their group like the unique word for the unique circumstance. They say they've found a loving and supportive network, and it has given their kids brothers and sisters they thought they'd never have. 

Recently, some of the "diblings" and their moms met in Toronto. 

"You can't help but look at those children and love them, because they're related to your kid," Karen says. "That's a powerful thing."

This story originally aired on September 17, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Modern Family".