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Metro Detroit mother meets son's donor siblings

Women who use same sperm donor connect, build bonds between and their children

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Kenyea Jones, 44, always wanted to be a mother.

When her life didn't follow the traditional path of marriage, then children, she didn't let it stop her from fulfilling her motherhood dreams.

"I've always wanted to be a mom. I knew it was going to happen, but it didn't matter to me if it was through adoption or if I gave birth to a child," Jones said. "My career and school and life got in the way of (it) happening, you know, sooner, and (I) had reached a time where I thought, 'OK, now it's time.'"

Jones opted to use a sperm donor and became pregnant through in vitro fertilization.   She gave birth to her son, Presley, who is now 20 months old.

Jones, who lives in Commerce Township, is raising him on her own.

"People think it's brave," Jones said. "I don't think of it as me being brave, I just think of it as me wanting to have a child, and that's the process I decided to go through to have a child."

The sperm bank Jones used offers women who choose the same donor the opportunity to connect with each other online through a closed website.  Jones and five other mothers who used the same donor reached out to each other.

They traded information, stories and pictures about their children.   After several months of talking online, the group decided to meet for a weekend in Niagara Falls.

"We are going for a diblings reunion," Jones said.

Diblings are donor-conceived siblings.   Jones and five other mothers have had a total of seven children using the same sperm donor.  

"I want to make sure that he knows where he came from, the process, and the siblings that he has and so they can all become lifelong friends," Jones said.

Jones feels a special connection to the other moms because they have gone through the process and so they understand each other.

"It's almost like a sisterhood, like we're in a sorority, a special club, a special mom's club, the donor club," Jones said.  

Local 4 was there when the moms and their children met at a park in Niagara Falls.

Holly Brown and her partner Annette Jaszko are moms to 2-year-old Griffin Brown.  They both felt it important to meet the other families.

"I was intent on having a child. It was something that I always dreamed about.  I always dreamed about having a son," Brown said.

"Annette and I both agreed we had an obligation to get in touch with folks and make sure that Griffin had some connection with what people are calling diblings," Brown said.  "I sent an email to everyone that was open to communication."

"It was nice to know that there were regular folks doing the same thing we were doing, interested in raising a family, and the rest is history, really," Brown said.

Brown, who is from Rochester, New York, remembers the moment when she learned how many diblings Griffin could have.

"I said, 'Can you tell me how many other live births were from this donor?' It was kind of curious, I was scared to get the answer because, again, this is not part of how I imagined this was going to be, that there would be other live people, real people that we would be connecting with," Brown said. "And she said 'There are 17 other births.' Eighteen, you know, Griffin makes 18. And I was at work and I almost dropped the phone. I couldn't believe it."

Nathalie Vallee is from St. Catharines, Ontario.   She and her partner, Jennifer Havens, have two children from the same donor: 2-year-old Emmett and 5-month-old Maggie.  She admits that they were initially on the fence about meeting.

"It was so new; you knew there (are) other kids out there that have the same donor. But you kind of just want to not think about it. But then we kind of warmed up to the idea when we saw the pictures of the kids and the conversations, and it just kind of came about," Vallee said.

During the meeting, the moms said they were looking to see whether all the children were social because it had been something they had discussed before getting together.

"Griffin out of the box was a social kid. (He) smiled at 3 weeks old, and he's just an engaging young man," Brown said. "That's probably the biggest similarity so far."

"We just talk about how their personalities, watching them grow and develop and just trying to see if they have the same eyes, the same nose, the same type of personality, and just getting to learn more about them," Jones said. "So far, I've seen the hair color, the eyes. It's funny because they're all at that age they have a little 'no no no' stage, a little tantrum stage, and they all sound the same.  I was like, 'Oh, Presley does that, so I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.'"

"I thought it was cool just to see that they really looked alike," Vallee said.  "For me it was just nice to see their faces. To see, OK, that's true, that's- what feature of Emmett is actually from the donor."

Presley's family is thrilled to see him with his siblings at such a young age.  Most of the diblings are 3 or younger.

"When I see him playing with those other kids and he's running and jumping, it's like they're all friends. They're going to be all friends and hopefully as they grow, we can see them grow and they can communicate with each other," Dorothy Jones, Kenyea's mom said.

"I'm a little bit overwhelmed with the process, I'm sort of figuring out how it feels to me," Brown said. "We're telling our story and I think this is a really an important one to tell. I'm excited."

Many of the moms said they hope they can keep getting the families together over the years to keep building a bond between their children.

"I want Presley to know his story, the journey I went through and to let him know there was other moms out there with similar journeys and as a result he has siblings," Jones said.