‘I have 40 siblings and dumped my boyfriend fearing we shared a sperm donor dad’

‘I have 40 siblings and dumped my boyfriend fearing we shared a sperm donor dad’

Chrysta, 37, learned the truth about her conception in her early 20s and has since met 35 of at least 40 other siblings – and she suspects there could be another 60 out there. Now settled with a family of her own, she tells her fascinating story…

“It was when I discovered my siblings that I started to unpack the truth of my own conception. I’d grown up believing my mother and father were friends who decided to have a kid together.

In fact, my mum Debra had paid my dad Jeffrey to donate his sperm and be around as a father figure. And me and my sister Kaitlyn, now 32, weren’t his only children.

Jeffrey had donated sperm in Los Angeles for almost 10 years – he estimates 500 times. He was a strikingly good-looking, spiritual, artistic young man, which probably appealed to some parents.

He was recommended because his sperm seemed to take. Also, there was the sheer volume.

Chrysta Bilton was shocked to find out she was fathered by a sperm donor, with 40 siblings – and counting!

In 2007, Jeffrey – known as Donor 150 – went public with his story and my mother spotted it in the New York Times. My mum didn’t want me and Kaitlyn to discover the news but when she found out that the boy I was dating, Max*, was most likely my brother, she couldn’t keep it from us any longer. That’s when she sat us down and told us.

When you start dating a guy, you don’t immediately question whether you’re siblings. But once that discovery had been made, the flashbacks started coming and I remembered being at a party when someone said we looked like brother and sister.

I rang Max and ended things with him. It still remains undetermined whether we are siblings and I’ve left it ambiguous because that’s where it remains for me today.

But I’ve become close to one of his sisters, who’s in our siblings group [Jeffrey was confirmed as the father of her ex’s twin sisters]. They know all about Jeffrey but the other twin hasn’t joined the group.

Jeffrey did modelling work

We’re up to 40 siblings now. I’m the eldest and the youngest are in their early 20s. I suspect we have at least 100 siblings, simply because of the amount of time Jeffrey spent donating his sperm. They’re mostly sisters, a couple of brothers.

Mum wanted to pretend my father had only given me and Kaitlyn life. In her mind, she’d tried to make us into this nuclear family because she felt ashamed about the unconventional way in which she’d had us. She was gay and back in the 1980s, she didn’t know anyone else who was raising kids that way. She was a trailblazer.

When I learned about my siblings, I was in my mid-20s and it was too emotionally complex to deal with. But 10 years later, my mum got me to do a test from ancestry.com.

Suddenly, I was connected with this vast network of siblings. A few weeks later, a sibling called Jennifer took a DNA test. She’d grown up in New York and although our upbringings were vastly different, she’d been to the same painting school as me, the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.

Debra and Jeffrey with Chrysta in 1985

We had the same friends, the same obscure gardening and philosophy books. She’d had a very stable upbringing and was an only child who always wanted siblings. Seeing her enthusiasm made me realise that how I felt about this family was a choice.

My life was more stable now and I’d healed from a lot of the stuff I’d carried from childhood. Suddenly, I was more curious than upset by it all. I started opening my heart.

I’ve now met a big chunk of my siblings. They’re spread all over the United States, so it’s a feat to get us together. We have a digital Secret Santa event once a year. We use [the online messaging platform] Discord and divide the conversation by subject, organised by genealogy, cat pictures and children.

There are several siblings who are identical to my father and there are many other similarities – a lot of vegetarians, cat lovers, artistic siblings. But there’s just one Trump supporter!

Sisters Chrysta and Kaitlyn grew up unaware of their parents’ arrangement

One thing we all have in common is that we had at least one parent who desperately wanted us and would go to any length to have us. How lucky is that?

In my adolescence, when I realised my upbringing was quite unconventional, I developed a lot of shame and hid my home life. I was bullied for having a gay mother and for our financial circumstances when we were in a fancy private school – but I thought my mum was fabulous. I was very attracted to toxic personalities, abusive boyfriends and substances to deal with my anxiety. I wanted to have a different life.

Jeffrey and Chrysta with baby Kaitlyn

It was only meeting my husband, journalist Nick, from Leeds, that I became truthful about what I’d gone through.

I did a lot of reflecting when I had my own kids – Somerset, seven, and Emmerson, five. I grew up believing that nurture was everything, so to realise that so much is nature as well is pretty profound.

My parents are both very quirky, eccentric characters. Dad was in and out of our lives. There were periods when he’d disappear because he and my mother were fighting. He’s 65 now and I accept him for who he is and the limits that he has.

Mum is 73 and always has some cause that she’s championing – her favourite is her grandchildren. We’ve healed a lot of the stuff that happened in the past.

We’re living in an era with DNA testing, when so many families are discovering secrets. I hope sharing stories like this normalises it. It’s all about love. Even if the care-giver has their own demons or flaws, love carries us through.

Around the holidays, we usually get more new siblings coming forward. I’m definitely open to more. It’s sweet when you have a happy ending.”

Chrysta’s book A Normal Family (Octopus, £16.99) is out now


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