Danielle Teuscher, a single mother-of-one, found the likely grandmother of her donor-conceived daughter - quite by accident - through a 23andMe test and contacted the potential relative.
The woman said she didn't know what Danielle was talking about - but in short order, Northwest Cryobank, where she'd gotten the donor sperm, sent her a letter threatening to sue her for $20,000 if she tried to contact the donor again.
Worse yet, the cryobank said that Danielle could no longer access the donor sperm she had purchased with the hopes of eventually having more children who would be blood siblings to her five-year-old daughter, Zoe.
Danielle is one of many who has found hope of familial connections through at-home DNA tests, only to have those chances dashed and be left in legal and a ethical gray area between sperm banks and genetic testing technology.
Zoe Teuscher (left), five, was conceived with donor sperm her mother, Danielle (right) bought from Northwest Cryobank. A 23andMe of Zoe's saliva turned up a probable grandmother and tried to contact her. Weeks later, the cryobank was threatening to sue Danielle
Danielle, a professional nanny who lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon and adores children, has always known she wanted to be a mother. But her former husband has type 1 diabetes, which left him infertile.
Plus, the two didn't want to pass his genetic risks for the disease to their future children.
Danielle posted in Northwest Cryobank's forum to match people in search for donor sperm - like herself - with those who no longer needed their samples and were willing to resell them. It's a 'much less' expensive option, Danielle says.
After a lot of 'work' and negotiation, she found a family willing to sell what was left of the sample they'd originally purchased from Northwest.
Danielle had done extensive research, reading countless forums for donor-conceived children and their families, and what decisions had had the best outcomes for the children.
'It was important to me that all my children be conceived from the same sample. They'll have someone that they can relate to fully, and can relate to for health reasons,' she told Daily Mail Online.
'I didn't want to use a different donor [for future children] in case some day one donor wanted to meet their child and the other's didn't for some reason.'
After she found a match, Danielle's transaction with the other family was between them. Northwest sent her an online contract and a bill for the transfer fee. But that was it.
'There's no phone call [from the bank], there's no in-take counseling,' Danielle says.
It was just a few clicks, and the donor sample was Danielle's. She admits, she didn't read the fine print of the contract, but 'I also never contacted the donor himself or asked for any contact,' she says.
Fast-forward five years: Danielle is open with her donor-conceived daughter, Zoe, age five, about where she came from, even reading to her from 'little books' that put her original story into 'simple language.'
But no matter how openly Zoe and Danielle talk, 'half of her identity is a mystery to us,' Danielle says.
'I feel like it's my responsibility, since I chose the donor route, to provide her with as much [information] as possible.'
Again, she consulted the donor-siblings communities online.
Zoe was a healthy, happy baby - as far as her mother could tell, but half of her DNA was a 'mystery' to Danielle
Danielle was 25 when her daughter was born, but already she had done her research and decided she wanted to use the same sperm donor for all her children so they'd have siblings who could 'fully understand them'
'The consensus from the donor-conceived people is that genetic connection is really important to their identity,' Danielle says.
'I listened to other people like my daughter to inform my decisions.'
Among other donor-conceived people, 23andMe has been an affordable, accessible and popular way to find out more about their genetic identities, so Danielle ordered a health and ancestry kit and sent her daughter's saliva off for testing.
Danielle's exchange with the possible relative through 23andMe was brief, but life-altering
'I never thought I would find any match, and that wasn't my intention behind doing it, but I thought if I did find a connection then that's great,' Danielle says.
'I've heard so many positive stories of connecting with family members from donor kids