Jillian Phillips


I cannot remember a time in my life that I did not know I was donor-conceived. I was raised by the most amazing single mother and never lacked anything but was constantly reminded I did not have a dad.

  • I was bullied in elementary and intermediate school for only having one parent.
  • I dreaded every school project that was a family tree.
  • My birth certificate says “father: unknown.”
  • Any questionnaire asking for parent information: “father: N/A”
  • Medical records: “father: N/A”

Despite being a straight-A student, active in my community, and a 3-sport athlete, I was repeatedly told that children raised by only one parent are less successful. Many people had the misconception that I needed a dad to make me whole.

All I knew about my biological father fit onto a one-sided sheet of paper. I reread it multiple times over the years trying to imagine what he looked like and what his life was like.

In 2020, I finally decided that I was tired of not knowing. I took a 23&Me test and matched with multiple relatives I did not recognize. Disappointed by the lack of close relatives, I logged off and ignored the results for another 6 months. On March 31, 2021, a distant cousin shared her family’s ancestry with me because she saw on my profile that I was looking for my paternal family. Based on information from that message and the DNA connection to a first cousin once removed, I was able to put the pieces together to find my biological father. It took a few hours, but I narrowed it down to one branch of a family tree and only one brother fit the description from the donor profile. After 20+ years of longing to know his name and see a picture, I finally found him. Not only did I find my biological father, but I found out that I had a 10-year-old brother too.

I’m one of the lucky ones – I reached out to my biological father, and he was pleased to be found. He introduced me to his son and his family, and we have made plans together almost every month since.

Finding him answered many of the questions I had. Despite not being raised by him, we share many of the same mannerisms. We have the same big cheeks and the same small dimple at the corner of our mouths when we smile. I likely get my many orthodontic issues from his side of the family – and they’ve all apologized for that (HA).  I see myself in him and his family more than I ever did with my maternal family. 

I didn’t know what to expect when I found him and was surprised by my feelings of grief. I have had to process grieving a family I didn’t know existed. I missed out on 25 years with them that I will never get back. I missed the first 10 years of my brother’s life. I also missed out on knowing some relatives completely because some passed away before I found them.  

On the other hand, no feeling quite compares with walking into a family gathering, being welcomed, and feeling wanted.

If I could change it, I only wish that I could know my biological family from the beginning – or at least much sooner. I’ve missed out on so much time with everyone, but I am thankful that they have been so welcoming, and I hope to continue getting to know my newfound biological family.