Such incidents have become so common in the past few years that they’ve earned their own term: NPE, for non-parental event. The explosion of low-cost home DNA tests has prompted a wave of unexpected parentage discoveries, connecting donor-conceived people with their biological parents and siblings without much of a rule book to guide their interactions. (The word donor rankles some, as it obscures the transactional nature of the arrangement; some prefer vendor or provider.)
Therapists have begun to note patterns in the cycle of emotional processing. “Once the shock settles down, it looks a lot like grief,” says Eve Sturges, a marriage and family therapist who started an NPE podcast last year called Everything’s Relative after making her own NPE discovery.
A deceptively simple question underlies these experiences: What makes someone family?… And perhaps more importantly, should a sperm bank, or even a parent, decide that for someone else?