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Linked by DNA: The Discovery of 75 Siblings

Updated On: February 29, 2024

This episode takes us through an extraordinary exploration of family, identity and the unforeseen connections DNA testing can reveal. Our guest, Brenna Siperco, shares her compelling story of curiosity, discovery, and the complex emotions surrounding donor-conceived relationships. This episode not only peels back the layers of Brenna’s personal journey but also delves into broader discussions on the implications of genetic testing and the ethics of donor conception.

Linked by DNA: The Discovery of 75 Siblings

Episode Highlights:

  • The Catalyst for Discovery: Brenna details her initial decision to undergo a 23andMe DNA test, driven by a lifelong curiosity about her biological origins and the possibility of having siblings she’s never met.
  • A Sibling Network Unveiled: The revelation that Brenna has discovered 75 siblings through DNA testing, surpassing her wildest expectations and leading to a mix of astonishment and excitement.
  • Emotional Encounters: Brenna recounts the profound experience of meeting her siblings for the first time, highlighting the surreal and immediate connections that challenge traditional notions of family and belonging.
  • Navigating Anonymity: The discussion shifts to the anonymity of the sperm donor, known only by a number, and Brenna’s nuanced views on privacy, respect, and curiosity about her biological father.
  • Voices from the Donor-Conceived Community: Brenna shares insights into the donor-conceived community’s perspectives, advocating for more transparency and regulation while respecting individual choices and circumstances.
  • Shared Traits and Interests: An exploration of the diverse ages, interests, and talents among Brenna’s siblings, revealing surprising similarities and the role genetics and environment play in shaping us.
  • Support Systems and Future Aspirations: The episode touches on the support Brenna received from her parents, the dynamic within the sibling group chat, and dreams of a grand family reunion.

Through Brenna’s story, “Family Twist” listeners are invited to reflect on the meaning of family in the modern era, the power of genetic connections, and the evolving landscape of reproductive technologies.

Closing Reflections:

Brenna Siperco’s journey into the heart of her genetic lineage offers a profound look at the unexpected paths our lives can take when curiosity meets science. Her story is a testament to the strength of newfound connections and the resilience of individuals navigating the complex web of donor conception. As we conclude this episode, we’re reminded of the endless possibilities that come with opening the door to our past and the future relationships we might find on the other side.

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Transcript

[00:00:00]

Kendall and Corey: Thanks for joining us again on season four of Family Twist. We've got Brenna Saperco with us today, welcome Brenna.

Brenna: Thank you.

Kendall and Corey: So just out of the, uh, out of the bat, I'm curious about why you decided to take a 23andMe DNA test.

Brenna: So I had known I came from a donor for really as long as I can remember and I was always curious about whether or not I had any siblings I figured I had some I never knew how many I was gonna have So I wanted to take the DNA test and find that out But also find out what else comes with it like, you know My origin and where I'm from and everything like that, but I didn't know it turned out to be so many.

Kendall and Corey: Hahahahaha so I remember the last article I read about you, I think it was 65. Have you found more?

Brenna: Yes, I believe there's 75 now

Kendall and Corey: Oh my goodness. Wow.

Brenna: Yeah, so it's increased a lot.

Kendall and Corey: It's amazing. How many of you met in person?

Brenna: Um, around 12 of us at one time. I just recently did a show with [00:01:00] Inside Edition, and a lot of us met up there too, like some I haven't met yet.

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Very cool. What's it like when you're laying eyes on a sibling for the first It's

Brenna: very interesting. It's weird seeing someone that's kind of similar to you, but you didn't grow up with, and then you're looking at them and you're seeing all the types of mannerisms that you have too, that are very similar, and it's kind of like, Mind boggling that like you haven't known these people your whole life, but you can relate to them so much.

Kendall and Corey: Yeah. Now you have a, a younger brother with your parents,

Brenna: Yes, I do

Kendall and Corey: But, but no, no sisters until you took the DNA test. So was that something you'd like, had always wanted to have a sister?

Brenna: I did always want to have a sister just because I love having my brother but having a sister is just something completely different you can relate to other things and they're more my age. So I'm very glad that I get to have that experience with them now

Kendall and Corey: What is the age range of your siblings?

Brenna: goes from 14 to 27, I believe. Yeah. So there's a big

Kendall and Corey: [00:02:00] Okay. Okay. Yeah, .Wow. Wow. That's wild. Oh, man. And does the 14-year-old, do they know the situation or?

Brenna: they took a test and then they're like in the group chats and everything there could be younger ones that, you know, just haven't been able to do that yet or, you know, don't want to. But as of right now, yeah, they just turned 14 too.

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Oh, boy. Wow. And within your sibling pod, do you guys know much about the donor father

Brenna: Um, we don't know who he is. We know his donor number, 2046. So, like, when you go to pick a donor, you can get an audio recording of them. And it comes with, like, packets of information about them. So, one of the nurses there in the audio recording compared him to some celebrity, but I look, I cannot remember what celebrity it was to save my life. But if I remember, I'll let you know. But they said he was tall, dark hair, he was charming, he was smart, all those things. But my mom liked him because he had a good health history, [00:03:00] which was really important to her.

Kendall and Corey: Yep. Sure. Absolutely. Well, you know, it's funny, we've been, finding out more about the fertility industry and the donor conceived community just through this podcast. And I know you've got some strong opinions about regulations and stuff too. What are your thoughts just in general on the donor conception community?

Brenna: Well, from what I've seen since my story has been out and so many people have been expressing their opinions, which, I love hearing other people's opinions, that's great, but a lot of people, I feel like, misunderstand the point of a donor and everything like that. Like, sure, you can go out and adopt, but some people want to be able to carry their child, and that's really the only way you're going to be able to do it, especially since a lot ofparents, they have two gay moms, so it's, It's quite impossible to do it any other way. I do agree in some circumstances it should be more regulated. Like I think 75 siblings is a lot, but at the same time we're not all condensed in one single area, like we're across the country and in [00:04:00] Canada. Other than that,I mean, I support it. There are definitely people out there who don't and you know, that's fine. But on my end, I think it's a great thing that people should take advantage of when they can.

Kendall and Corey: Oh, absolutely. we don't want to disparage clinics that are doing it the right way. It's just, we've heard from donor conceived folks and donors themselves that are just like, they weren't giving all the information or it was like some tricky sort of information as they were giving. I don't know if you're familiar with Donor Dylan on Instagram, but he's found dozens of his kids and like it was in a roundabout way. It was kind of weird that he was able to be found because he didn't, he marked that he wasn't, he didn't want to be found until he, you know, the kids were 18 and some of the mothers tracked him down. Now his story is good in that he's starting to form a relationship with some of his kids, but, you know, he's 32 years old and he's got, you know, dozens and dozens of children.

Brenna: that's

the It's

a lot different. Like, so when he was donating, it was like the 1990s and early 2000s, so [00:05:00] technology was not like what it is now. Like now it is so easy to find all the DNA things and social media. Like they weren't worried back then about, Oh, like these people are going to find me through these DNA sites, I guess. So there's a bunch of like loopholes, I guess, through the system now and everything. I know, I mean, me and my siblings have talked about it. if we were to find out who he was, we have no interest in going and talking to him because, you know, he wanted to stay private, so that's what we would do for him. I would feel like bad if I did. I don't want him thinking that we want like child support or anything like that. If anything, it would just to be like, say thank you.

Kendall and Corey: Right. Right. And maybe some health history there too. I mean, there's probably more details and stuff that your siblings would like to know just so they can be prepared.

Brenna: Mm hmm. Yeah. Cause things might not pop up till he's older. You never know.

Kendall and Corey: Yeah, I mean, I'm guessing between you and your 74 siblings everybody's probably done all the different available tests, so he probably has not done what [00:06:00] himself yet. Yeah. Yeah.

Brenna: probably not.

Kendall and Corey: Well, What did your parents think about you taking the DNA test and potentially finding siblings?

Brenna: They supported me through it. My mom was like, I made this decision, you can go about it however you want to do it and everything. Um, so they were happy about it. They knew that I was excited to do it and see who I could find. And they love when I go and meet them. Like my dad came to the Inside Edition and he met some of my siblings. Like they're very involved, They find it very interesting.

Kendall and Corey: Are there any twins or triplets in your sibling pod? Wow.

Brenna: a lot. There's at least seven sets of twins. I believe. And there's one set of triplets that I know of, so there's a decent amount.

Kendall and Corey: Very cool. Well, we know that you're still in school and you're very athletic. Have you found any similarities in studies or athleticism between your siblings and you?

Brenna: Oh, yeah, for sure. Like we we all love doing sports and working out. I remember at one of my meetups with them, I went to New [00:07:00] Jersey and we all went to the gym, like all 11 of us pulled up to Planet Fitness and started working out. It was so fun. But we're all very sporty or artsy. I'm an exercise science degree. I don't know if anyone else is, but a lot of them do like nursing, one of them is pre med, I think, some architecture. So, like, overall, our interests, like, are intertwined in some type of way.

Kendall and Corey: Really cool. Very cool. Have you had the opportunity to get together with any of them for a holiday?

Brenna: No, we have not done that. Which, that would be fun. That would be a good idea. But, unfortunately,

Kendall and Corey: are there some that are within driving distance of you?

Brenna: Yes, there's around five others that live in Maryland where I live. So my oldest sister, 27, Fabi, she lives in Baltimore and I live like 15 minutes from Baltimore. Then the rest are like 40, 45 minutes. So we're all pretty close in that aspect.

Kendall and Corey: How often do you get to see Fabi?

Brenna: Um, it's hard because she [00:08:00] works a good job and so she's really busy a lot and I'm like two hours away because I'm in school. So, not that often, but we try to see each other as much as we can, plan things out.

Kendall and Corey: Cool. What are some of the surprising things that you've discovered since you took the test and found all of these siblings? Aside from the surprise of having seventy five, seventy four other siblings.

Brenna: Let's see, um, probably that a lot of their stories are different in the way that they came to be donor conceived or the way that they found out about it. Like, I found out about it because my mom eventually told me, but I, it was quite, no, well, kind of. So I was in the car with my cousin and I was upset because I was like, I don't know who my dad is. And then she was like, don't you come from a sperm donor? When I was with my grandparents, I wasn't even with my

Kendall and Corey: Oh boy.

Brenna: do I like, can you answer that for me? I don't

Kendall and Corey: Oh boy.

Brenna: But a lot of them have known a [00:09:00] lot, even like from when they were babies were meeting with each other and knew each other, which was really cool that from like that infant standpoint, they got to grow up together, not like together,

Kendall and Corey: Sure. Right.

Brenna: you know,

Kendall and Corey: That's really cool. I hadn't really thought about the fact that, with technology and the DNA test that a lot of kids could be really young if their parents are interested in having them meet siblings, it'd be pretty easy to do.

Brenna: I don't even know how they all got to know each other that young.

Kendall and Corey: Yeah.

Brenna: That's actually a pretty good question. I should ask,

Kendall and Corey: That's

Brenna: but it's like like the parents met up or did something like that, but that and some people find out in different ways. Some people never knew they were donor conceived until they took a DNA test. And that was quite a shock to them and very hard for them because they're like, well, I have been lied to, like, I don't know how to feel about that. And so it's hard for them in that aspect, but we try and support them, you know, the best we can.

Kendall and Corey: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that that's one of the other sides of it is that, it's hard [00:10:00] to understand everything, especially when the people that are closest to you, you feel like haven't been completely forthcoming or truthful with you. If you can't trust your parents, I mean, who can you trust? Right. Yeah. Yeah. But it's awesome that you're there to kind of help them through this. Cause yeah, it definitely could be a very traumatic experience for sure.

Brenna: yeah, whenever, like, someone gets added to the group chat, and they're like, Whoa, like, that's a lot of people, we're like, it's okay, like, take your time, like, If you wanna leave and then come back once, you know, it's processed in your head, And you're ready to talk to everybody, then that's fine, don't feel, rushed and obligated like we completely understand. We've all been through this before. There's you can take your

Kendall and Corey: For sure. Yeah, absolutely. How active is the chat?

Brenna: I mean we talk every day. Someone will send like a TikTok or we'll talk about like what they're up to. Like one of my brothers got deployed so his time frame is a little different so I'll wake up and he'll be texting and I'm [00:11:00] like Isn't it like 3 in the morning for you right now or something? Like, go to bed. Um, but no, it's very interesting to see, like, everyone's different personalities all at once, like, responding to

Kendall and Corey: Yeah, that's really cool. Yeah. Um, let's go back a second. I'm just curious of like what the reaction of your grandparents were while you're driving with your cousin and your cousin kind of blurts that out.

Brenna: Okay. I don't even remember, because I was really young. But, I think they kind of just told her to be quiet, I would imagine, or something like that, honestly. Um, I was probably in elementary school, so it's kind of like a blurred thing. I just mainly remember like, Oh, who's my dad? Don't you come from a sperm donor? And then that was kind of like it. The rest is

Kendall and Corey: Sure. And I guess that your mom had to immediately kind of explain the situation.

Brenna: Yeah. Yeah.

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Oh boy.

Brenna: Because I always wondered, I was always asking, I'm like, you know, who's [00:12:00] my dad? Because I'm like, I see all these other, like, parents with a dad. I'm like, aren't I supposed to have one? But I didn't get that solid answer, I guess, until they could actually explain it to me and I could understand. Otherwise, I feel like I would just be so

Kendall and Corey: Right. Yeah. I bet. Yeah.Have you guys talked about maybe doing like a like a big group vacation or like try to do a reunion where you can get? Everybody together.

Brenna: We have talked about going to, I think, Gatlinburg, and we want to rent out, like, one of those big cabins, because I feel like if all of us there split the price, it would be very affordable in that aspect. So we're talking about something like that, getting a big house somewhere, it's just, with so many people and so many different work schedules and school schedules and family schedules, it's very hard to narrow it down to when everybody can do it. Mm hmm.

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Well, you know, your story is obviously out in the public and stuff now, you mentionedbeing on TV and having other interviews, but how do you tell somebody new in your life, a friend what your situation is and how many [00:13:00] siblings you have? Yeah.

Brenna: Hmmm. It varies, I think it depends on the situation,like, for example, I'm coaching a volleyball team, and we were like, say your name and give a fun fact, and a lot of them were saying how many siblings they had. And then when it got back to me, they were like, well, what's your fun fact? And I'm like, I got y'all beat on the siblings. I got 70, but, so it's like, in that aspect, I suppose, like, kind of blurt it because it catches people by surprise. It's interesting to see people's reactions to it when they're like, oh, I'm like

Kendall and Corey: Yeah. Yeah. I'm sure there's like a million questions that pop up when you do

Brenna: Yeah,

Kendall and Corey: Yeah.

Brenna: they're like how is that possible on comments on posts people say like your dad was a rolling stone I'm like Yeah,

Kendall and Corey: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Has anybody been able to sort of like guesstimate like how many [00:14:00] potential siblings there could be out there? Okay. Hmm. Hmm.

Brenna: we get around, I would say like two every couple months, if that, maybe more. I would say there's definitely a lot more than we think. Cause we hit like 60 and we were like, wow, like that's a lot. There can't be any more than more. Just keep showing up so I have no clue like it could just keep on like they could just keep on rolling in Or it could be a steady stop for a long time and then more might come But I guess we won't know until we just stop hearing from

Kendall and Corey: hmm. Right. Is there a, since you guys only have his donor number, are you able to determine, like, is he still being distributed? Mm hmm.

Brenna: that's a good question. I don't Think he is I think we can look for him on the donor registry or something like that. And I remember we did that and we saw his donor number. But, if he is still donating, pfft, he needs to take a [00:15:00]

Kendall and Corey: Yeah.

Brenna: back. But, he already has enough. Like, he's got enough money from it all and everything. But, I don't know. That's a good question. I'd have to look

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Have you guys talked about if, if potentially a half sibling comes up that's from him, that's one of his actual kids that he raised? Oh.

Brenna: Yeah, that, pfft, I don't even know how I would feel about that. Like, if they did a DNA test and they don't know about us, Like if he never told them and then they're just like who are all of these people and he's like I have something to tell you. Um, that would be interesting. I mean, I would want to talk to them. I mean, they're one of my half siblings, so. But, if he lets them do his DNA test, or if he's told them not to, or I don't know what's going on. But, it'd be definitely something interesting to

Kendall and Corey: Absolutely. Yeah. Wow.

Brenna: Mhm.

Kendall and Corey: Well, you just made me think about that when I tell people my story, [00:16:00] uh, sometimes, you know, you, I get things out of order, right? And sometimes I mention, you know, having all these parents and people look at me kinda like, how is that po? I'm like, oh, because I was adopted, you know, because I'll sometimes talk about. having two moms, you know, and people automatically assume like that I'm talking about lesbian mothers who raised me together. I'm like, no, no, no, no, no, wait, wait. I'm talking about my adoptive mother and then my adoptive stepmother and, you know, all those things. So It's interesting how, um, you have to have time when you're telling those stories because

Brenna: you do. It can't be a quick

Kendall and Corey: it's like, wait, wait, sorry, I'm, I'm getting things out of order. Let me stop being confusing. And even trying to put the family tree together sometimes is, I remember when we first found all my siblings and even Corey was like, this is confusing. Can we write this down? You know, it's like. And I only have six, which is, you know, different, but, oh, yeah,

Brenna: mean, [00:17:00] that's still a lot for siblings, too, though, so. Seven is

Kendall and Corey: half. Yeah. Ha ha. Half. But yeah. Yeah, it's has everybody's been like mapping out a family tree. Wow.

Brenna: um, not really. We, I mean, we can go on 23 meat and it'll show our family tree. Just nothing on his side. So other than that.

Kendall and Corey: Hmm. Very cool. Wow. Well, I, it definitely seems like you're handling this quite well, , you know. Yeah. You'll have to definitely keep us in the loop if you and your siblings do end up like doing a big reunion or something like that because it would be fun to hear about, um, you know, get together with, you know, 20, of you. Wow. Wow.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Well, uh, you know, good luck on your finals and thanks for sharing your story.

Brenna: Yes, of course. Thanks for talking to

Kendall and Corey: Yeah. Of course. Yeah. Awesome. Glad we finally got to. Yeah, for sure. Make it happen. Yeah. Let me. Awesome. Maryland is so beautiful too.

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