Growing up, Breeanna "Bree" Speicher didn't tell many people her biological father was an anonymous sperm donor. She was too afraid of what people would think. But now the high schooler is about to share that and whole lot more with the world as star of MTV's new docu-drama Generation Cryo, which airs tonight in the 10 p.m. time slot that used to be taken up by Teen Mom.
Coming on the heels of the release of Dreamworks' Delivery Man, a movie about a (fictional) man who finds out he's the father of some 533 kids because of some donations he made to a sperm bank, the show is a more serious look at what it means to have a child thanks to donor sperm. With IVF and IUI rates climbing rapidly in the United States, the network has partnered with the Donor Sibling Registry, a site where kids born from donor sperm, egg, or embryo can meet up to find relatives, to bring the story of Bree and her half-siblings scattered 'round the country to the masses.
The Stir took time to chat with 17-year-old Bree about what it's like being a "sperm kid," as she jokingly calls herself and what it is parents really need to know before they decide to go the donor route.
On finding out her biological father was an anonymous sperm donor:
As a little kid, I grew up with both my moms and they had friends who were lesbians as well, so I grew up with three other kids. Two were boys from the same mom, and one was an older girl from a different mom. All of us were donor inseminated kids, so it was kind of the norm when I was growing up.
We all had different donors, but it was sort of just normal. There was never a time when I can think I was sat down and told that I was a donor inseminated kid, well, I don't know how to say it ... a sperm kid? [laughs] I don't know!
I grew up around other kids who were in the same situation, but I was young. It's not like we ever talked about it or anything.
On why she hid the truth for so long:
My biological mom, Debbie, always told me never to tell anyone, never to talk about it because I grew up in a Christian school and they weren't that open to the whole kids being raised by lesbians. It was kind of rough, so I just came to the understanding that that's just how it was: you don't talk about it. I felt like it was something to be ashamed about for awhile.
I remember I first told my best friend -- maybe in seventh or eighth grade -- for the first time. She was like, "Oh, cool dude, let's go get something to eat." That was her exact response!
Anybody else that I've ever told ... I've never experienced a negative response. People either think it's really cool or just kind of like "oh, awesome, you know, whatever."
On why she decided to sign on with MTV and the Donor Sibling Registry to star in Generation Cryo:
It was really an offer that I couldn't refuse because I wanted to my siblings, and this was the perfect opportunity.
And then on top of that, honestly, from beginning to end I genuinely believe in what we were trying to get across with this show. I think it's very educational. Of course there are going to be people who just don't understand, just people who are going to be rude about it or ignorant toward it, but I think that's something all of us can handle. we all have each other and we're there for each other. We can support each other. It's so worth it just to have those other kids who feel alone and feel different and don't know how to express themselves or go about just what they're feeling. I think this can really help a lot of people out there -- both kids and parents.
On the donor she's seeking (with permission from her moms):
My whole life I think I've kind of, not really idolized, but ... I've never known who the donor was, but I've always been very interested. He could be anybody, but you kind of make up things in your mind.
For awhile he didn't even seem human to me, as weird as that must sound. I felt like I was Dorothy trying to figure something out. I was going on this big journey, but I knew it was just going to be just a regular guy. It's not some crazy wizard who is going to give me all those powers or something. It's just a regular guy, but I'm still willing to go on that journey and figure it out for myself.
On what she thinks of the media focus on anonymous donors:
I think it's absolutely awesome any time that things that aren't the norm or aren't the usual get touched upon publicly. When people don't know a lot about a certain subject, then a lot of times they just deem it as weird or strange or gross just because you don't understand. I think it's awesome that it really is just educating the public.
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It would be awesome to see people -- even just a small amount of people -- with their minds a little bit more open and to be able to accept. I think that's the coolest part about the show. There are all these different families and everybody feels a different way and everybody is in a different predicament, but we all come together because of the fact that we are related. No one person and no one parent is right or wrong in the way that they're feeling. Everybody's dealing with it their own way. In that sense, it kind of just will open people's minds a lot more.
Hopefully the cryobanks -- it would be really really awesome if they kind of took a look at everything and started doing more to keep records. At the end of the day I never really will know how many half siblings I have; I just won't, you know? Because records aren't really kept very well.
Bree's message to parents considering the donor route:
Look at all the different resources you have, and go with your heart on it. I think that the main thing that parents have to remember is that regardless of how your child is coming to life or whatever -- if you have a kid that you adopt or you have a kid through donor insemination -- however they come to this world, you are their parent, period. That's your child; that's your baby. That's something very important to know coming into it. It doesn't make it any less your child at all.
On parents dealing with "donor kids" who want to seek out their donor:
All parents want to protect their children from anybody who may want to hurt them. I think the best possible thing you can do to protect your child is talk to them, let them know they are perfect they way they are. Let them know they are not alone and if they ever feel a certain way or feel alone in this world that they always will have their parents. That's something my parents have definitely done with me.
It's so important -- I feel like -- to be able to talk to your children and let them know that they're are loved and they are not alone in this world. Even if they are in a different upbringing, like I am and all of my half siblings are, let them know that.
I think especially at this point in my life, after meeting all my half-siblings, I'm not even very religious, but I am for sure blessed by whatever is out there. This is awesome, and I don't really like to think too much into things like that anyway -- it's not like I could change it. You've gotta work with what you got, but I truly do have such an ideal life -- I feel like. I have a great relationship with all my parents. Now I have a great relationship with all of my siblings and it's just awesome.
I'm super happy with the position I have in life and the cards that were dealt to me.
Generation Cryo's first episode airs tonight, Monday, on MTV at 10 p.m. ET. Next week, Donor Sibling Registry creator Wendy Kramer, whose own son was born of donor sperm, will release her book, Finding our Families: A First-of-a-Kind Book for Donor Conceived People and Their Families.
If you're considering using donor sperm (or egg or embryo), the Donor Sibling Registry has a list of resources to get you started. The site also has resources for parents and kids created by donation.
Did you use donor sperm/egg/embryo? How have you talked to your kids about it?
Image via MTV