Sibling Surprise

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Sibling Surprise

Photo | Courtesy of Rachel Mayes

Photo | Courtesy of Rachel Mayes

Photo | Courtesy of Rachel Mayes

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When thinking of family, it is typical to think of a family of four to five. Junior Rachel Mayes, however, thinks of her 18 siblings. Their father, Michael Rubino, was a sperm donor. Rubino and his wife tried to have children of their own, but could not, so they decided to help other couples who were having similar issues.

“It was an honorable thing for him to do,” Mayes said.

Unlike many other people conceived by sperm donors, Mayes grew up knowing her father was a donor, and it became normal for her. Her grandfather and brother filled the role of male figures in her life, and her mother remarried four years ago.

“I always knew, but when I was younger, I never knew what it meant,” Mayes said. “When I was [in sixth grade], my mom explained it to me. It was never a secret. Once we found my biological father, everything kind of fell into place.”

Like his sister, Nathan Mayes was conceived using Rubino’s sperm. Growing up, Rachel Mayes assumed she and her brother were the only two children of their mystery donor. A few weeks before his 2016 Christmas break, Nathan Mayes emailed their father through the cryobank in California. He got a letter back almost immediately.

“When I read his letter, it was almost like I was reading my own thoughts,” Nathan Mayes said. “In some ways, we could not be more different, but in other ways, he is the piece of a puzzle that I didn’t realize I’d been missing.”

After learning her brother got in contact with Rubino, Rachel Mayes decided to do the same and found out she had more siblings than she originally thought.

“We talked on the phone for hours, which was great and kind of emotional,” Mayes said. “Then he goes, ‘Oh, yeah! You have 16 other siblings!’”

Not long after getting in contact with each other, Rubino arranged for Nathan and Rachel Mayes to visit him in Los Angeles, Calif. during Christmas break. Nathan went to meet him without Rachel.

“I was too nervous to meet him over Christmas break,” Rachel Mayes said. “We arranged for him to fly down to Arkansas for Nathan’s graduation so I could meet him, too.”

In the summer of 2017, the producers of the show “Inside Edition” got involved and wanted to cover the story of Rubino and his family. Most of the siblings flew to California to be featured in the episode, and they all got to meet each other.

“It was great meeting my siblings and my dad,” Rachel Mayes said. “Everyone comes from a different culture, but we’re all different in the same way.”

Rachel Mayes and her family visit her father in California often, and the siblings keep in touch through a Snapchat group they call “The Rubino Bunch.”

“I’m glad he was able to help people like my mom that couldn’t have children,” Rachel Mayes said. “If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

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