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tv   My Very Extended Family  BBC News  August 28, 2019 3:30am-4:00am BST

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bolivia's president has welcomed what he called the small offer of financial aid, from the g7 group of world leaders, to help fight the fires in the amazon. brazil's president has said he won't accept aid unless the french president withdraws remarks jair bolsonaro has taken as insults. a succession of women have voiced anger and defiance in a manhattan courtroom, telling their stories of sexual abuse by the late financier, jeffrey epstein. one woman said he had shown the world what a depraved and cowardly human being he was by taking his own life. purdue pharma, the american pharmaceutical giant that makes the opioid oxycontin, is reported to be offering between $10 and $12 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits against it. purdue has already settled with the state of oklahoma over the opioid crisis and a judge has ordered a big payout from johnson and johnson.
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now on bbc news, my very extended family. two years ago, julia, a high school student from ohio, received an email out of the blue that changed her life forever. julia, who was conceived by sperm donor, discovered she had a half—sister. but that was only the beginning. in this remarkable film, julia goes on a journey to explore what family means. all right. let's go for a walk. i always knew that i was donor conceived. donor 1317 from california. i grew up in cleveland heights, ohio, with two moms, kathleen and betsy.
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i really don't miss having a dad because they both completed a different area of me growing up. this is the family. my sister, sarah and i, we have lived together for almost two decades. we fight over socks and we steal each other‘s headphones and i love sarah to pieces. it's so nice out. it's beautiful. i'm happy we're together. me, too. it was the beginning of my spring break of senior year. my mom got an e—mail that said, "hi, i think your daughter is my daughter's half—sister." so i facebook—searched and found
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a bunch of women who were the right age and ifound one who had a daughter who was around my age. i messaged carolyn and i said, "hi. "i think i'm your half sister. "1317 from california?" i was ready for either "i don't know who you are, you're crazy" or "yeah, i'm your half sister", and it was the second one. i really didn't think about that whole side of my family for a while until i was 18 and old enough. i thought maybe if i'm lucky, i'll find one or two. and ifound one or two! i think we're trying to feel around and figure out how we're family. it's completely uncharted territory.
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kathleen was very insistent on making sure that we used the sperm bank of california because we were allowed to have a known donor program from that. as far as i remember there were only two in the country at the time that we could find the donor. well, julia could find the donor when she turned 18. we had no rights to the donor and he had no rights to us. julia was the only person who could make contact. but keep in mind, whenjulia was born in 1999 injanuary, and she was conceived five months before google was founded. so there was no chance, in our minds, that any of the diblings would ever be part of the picture. it was not that we didn't want them, it just
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never crossed our minds. we just let her call the shots on that one. i think growing up i was a really closed—off person. i didn't know how to share my emotions, especially with my parents. kathleen is a therapist. she was a therapist, psychologist. she helped me to open up. betsy and i, we would ride bikes together and would go on walks together. i would help her cook. sarah, is there enough mayonnaise? how much more should i use? more, i think. yeah, that looks really dry. i was adopted and betsy gave birth tojulia but with a sperm donor. it created a special family. a beautiful blend
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in a not natural way. mom, how long do i do this for? that's good. i was ready to keep going. stop it. that's so cool! before my mom died, she left me this note. i was at college, my sophomore year, in the middle of my midterms and i got a call from betsy. she said, julia, you have to come home. after my mom died ifound this note that she'd left for me. so i kind of keep it there. it hasn't moved. it makes me happy. carolyn was the first sibling that i made contact with. so i guess she'sjust my introduction to the donor sibling world.
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i'm going to meet her again now. your haircut! when did that happen? a month ago. it looks good. when i was growing up i thought that maybe i had donor siblings but then your mom was the first person to contact me. that was the first time i realised that i have a donor sibling and it's you! i thought it was just 19 of us and then sam popped up. "sam is another one we didn't know about." there are 20 of us in total. do you know that for sure? yes. there are definitely 20 of us. i thought there were 19, though. that was my last count. i thought we had 19, too, and then sam popped up.
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mom has an excel spreadsheet. she does? does she still have it? it has everybody we have to date and their parents we've contacted. my mother is a single mom. —— my mother is a single mom. she was 36 years old when she had me. this is the sperm pipette, is that the word, that my mother used and here you can see it says 1317. she had these in herfreezer forfour orfive months before she decided that today is the day i'm gonna get pregnant. i think what i did learn or take from my mother's process is that i did want to have a
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partner raising a child. not that i am in any way unhappy about my childhood but i think that i would want, you know, have someone else to help me. i think that families is chosen, and i still think that. and so i don't know if i'm choosing the donor sibling family or what, but i think all of us really feel in it. when we were starting this process, firstly there were two sperm banks we were aware of, both in california, that had a known donor programme. we wanted to make sure that we looked like a family. i think we thought there would be enough barriers to us being acknowledged as a family, and having physical characteristics that were similar was helpful and that was why we chose a young man.
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he was german, scot and english. this is a questionnaire we got from the sperm bank about your donor. it was answered by him. describe your personality and character. "i am very easy to get along with and i am a pacifist." i think that's the line that got mommy. i remember you telling me about that. why do you want to be a sperm donor? "besides the money, which is definitely an incentive because i am strapped for cash, i think it would be a very rewarding experience. if i never have kids than i would would want to know i gave that opportunity to another couple. " which option did you choose? identity release. explain why did you choose that option. "it may be interesting to meet my unknown child to see what effects environmental and genetic have played a role in his or her development." "if we could pass a message to the recipients of your semen,
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"what would that message be?" "do well in school and believe in yourself. hold your head high and be considerate of others." he just seems like a really nice guy. and that's why we chose him. are you glad we picked him? imean, yeah. i love you. i love you, too. i love you so much. have a great trip. i want to hear all about it when you get home.
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i'm going to meet up with some of my siblings. george, mari and samantha. and samantha has never met any of us before, so i can't imagine what she must be feeling right now. but i'm ready to meet them. i've met george before. i open up when george is around just because he's so willing to talk. and we also just have such a connection. i like talking with him about all the experiences that we've shared in our lives, like talking about not celebrating father's day or what it's like to have a single mom, or two moms.
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what's up? great to see you. you, too. hello. i'm mari. nice to meet you. nice to meet you too. you see what i mean? they look so similar! the eyes. maybe it is your nose, actually. oh, my gosh. how old are you? 22. yeah. we're all the same age. one thing that changed my perspective on my family history a lot was talking to darren on the phone. growing up, i always pictured superman, like he was a cool dad. you would have to be if you donated but when i talked to him, but he seemed normal.
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but when i talked to him, he seemed normal. he seems kind of dorky and unsure of himself. it did not shatter anything for me, it wasjust ok, he'sjust a guy. and that kind of changed a lot of my brain. the first time i met him, ijoked where i said you know who you have enough offspring for two full football teams with referees and coaches?! i have small hands. i have huge hands. i think he's my brother. i never really what wondered about the fact that i might have these half siblings, diblings. i like calling them sisters and brothers because i'm trying to get used to the fact that they are my sisters and brothers. now it's really become a much bigger part of this sperm donor story to me than the father aspect of it. we have no guide for how to organise these relationships. three's so many things you want to know so fast.
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so i was a double donor conception which means a donor egg and a donor sperm was used. i felt very alien. i felt, like, 50 years ago, i wouldn't have been able to exist at all. i felt like i was kind of forced onto the earth a little bit, you know? it wasn't natural at all. i felt very alone. there was a period that i wasjust... i, i wished that i hadn't been born in this way, really at all, and i almost kind of blamed her, because i knew that she wanted a child so bad. the numbers for how many pregnancies you can allow, people don't report, is if the pregnancies are unsuccessful, so the sperm
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donors don't get a lot of information in return. so there is a problem with a lack of regulation around that or something. but, i mean, should they have 20—something kids? sperm donation is around to stay, so, i don't know, someday it might only be this. i don't know. we don't know the future of, like, any of that. it is so grody that other people's parents had to have sex. it's weird! science. i really want to get to know you better and i'm down to be a brother. i want to get to know you guys too. we're not brothers and sisters in name only, i kinda want to make it more than that. i really hadn't used the term brothers and sisters up until today, but meeting them and hearing samantha and george and julia say, like, you're my brother, like...
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and that's true. saying it that way really hits you. like, oh, yeah. you actually are my brother, you actually are my sister. my half—sister came up to me and gave me a hug today, and i was the first blood relative she's ever touched. and it's a thursday. just a random thursday. so, the whole experience is always just shocking and bewildering, but in a really beautiful way, in a really touching way. hugging george, it was like... i don't know, a strange sort of homecoming, you know? it was like someone i should have been hugging throughout my childhood but never did. i wish i could have told younger me about this day, and ijust wish i could go back and tell her, you will find them, you'll find those people that understand.
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it'll definitely keep me warm for a very long time, you know? so, how was that for her? samantha ? i mean, did she cry, was she just laughing? she didn't tell us that it was so monumental for her until later. and so when she told us that, we were all talking at the table. i was just like, what? like, that's the first time... thatjust blew my mind. i liked mari a lot. i didn't know anything about her going into that. what do you feel you learn about yourself when you do this? i learn that i love all my siblings, and they're so smart. theyjust bring up so many thought—provoking questions. where do you see that going? i feel so comfortable calling them all brother or sister.
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but also, we haven't had that connection for the first 18 years of our lives. so i really don't know. i don't know how much to connect with them, how much i want out of their relationship with me. and i feel like the best way to do it is to see what happens. it's such an interesting, deep connection. it's love, you know? i don't think i would have expected that. i thought... i don't know that i saw that coming. it's really sweet. i'm glad that you have it. it's great. me, too. we're going to meet darren tomorrow. this is when we were on vacation the week before your mom died. and she played the song she'd learned. she taught herself to play the ukulele in the last two months of her life and played the song
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for the whole family. # don't worry about a thing. # cause every little thing's. # going to be all right. # don't worry about a thing. # 'cause every little thing's. # gonna be all right... amazing! applause. she was so funny.
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my mom's about to meet my dad for the first time. i hope they like each other. i guess? um... it's about 11:20am and he's going to be here in about ten minutes. from when you were like ten years old, nine years old, you called him don. don was my nickname for him, because we didn't know who he was. right, we didn't know who he was. we didn't have a name. so you called him don and i thought that was the cutest name. i'm a bit anxious, i have to admit. but i'm channelling your mommy, to be grounded and clear. thinking what she might
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want to ask him. hello! welcome. hi! i'm betsy. betsy, nice to meet you. good to see you. first of all, i want to say thank you. because i have this amazing kid. she's really been a joy to raise. and watch. and i really appreciate it. i don't know if you consider it generosity, but i think it's the biggest gift you could have ever given anyone, so i really appreciate that. and what a great human you are. and thanks. thanks for picking me. thanks for giving me life. i thought that if i was in a young person's shoes that i would
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want to have the right to know my biological father. my life is really full of taking care of my kids. so i don't really think about all the donor offspring a whole lot. i'm busy. what i do think about, i think it's good. i helped give life. i mean, i guess i'm curious how you think about these kids. i honestly don't have a strong connection to them, socially. but even then, family is such a broad term. people — you always have to qualify it. there's a nuclear family, your extended family, your work family. it's a very big term. but that said, you know, i feel like they're part of my sort of broader genetic family. i'm just looking between you two talking to each other.
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and you're my biological mom, and you're my biological dad, and just... i don't know, it'sjust a very strange to hear you guys talk to each other. for the first time! yeah. i keep going, just, like... like, as you're talking to each other. from who i've met so far and from what i've heard about them, they are all very smart, talented, friendly, good—looking people. which i take full credit for. i see them as really remarkable young people. and i'm grateful for that. i feel a tiny bit of pride in that. i don't feel oppressed by the number at all. so if there were 50 instead of 20, i'm not sure i really feel that number on a day—to—day basis. if they lived at my house, i would feel it. i'm interested in knowing what happens to them. at the same time, if they want
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to keep to themselves and not share that, that's fine, too. every connection that i've made in the last two years, even, has shaped my idea of what family is. i have gained a lot of family. and that was, like, so much more than i would have ever thought. but i also never thought i could lose such a big part of my family. and kathleen's not replaceable, at all. i think i'm learning how to live still. and my family's definitely helping with that. my very extended family. hi, i'm emily. i'mjake. family is family.
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and love is love. hi, i'm lydia. i'm 23 years old. i'm the oldest dib. out of 2a diblings, i'm the only one going bald.
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hello, once again. in recent days are saying signed off with a bang rather than a whimper. storm working to word the shetland isles and following behind we see towards the west the change that somebody would have been waiting for, whether front introducing somebody would have been waiting for, whetherfront introducing cool fresh conditions but really wet weather for a fresh conditions but really wet weatherfor a time fresh conditions but really wet weather for a time and a fresh conditions but really wet weatherfor a time and a high on
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fresh conditions but really wet weather for a time and a high on the day of 23 or 2a, much closer to the seasonal norm. through the evening, the weather system continues towards the weather system continues towards the south and east and following is clear skies and leave brightness for the west and clear skies overnight and a decidedly chilly look and some spot, dropping two single figures and no more than 17 in the south. more rain to come for northern and western parts as we finish off.
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this is bbc news. welcome if you're watching here in the uk, on pbs in america or around the globe. my name's mike embley. our top stories: bolivia calls for co—operation to fight the wildfires raging through the amazon rainforest. but indigenous people across the region fear for the future. women who say they were sexually abused by the american financier jeffrey epstein tell a court they're angry he died in prison and avoided justice. another leading pharmaceutical company is saying it will pay out over the opioid scandal in the us with an offer of up to $12 billion. a new deadline for italy's political parties. they're to report to the president on wednesday


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