SEATTLE — Twenty years ago, Amy Gilchrist became an egg donor.
She was in law school at Seattle University and had a friend who was struggling with infertility.
So she decided to go through the egg donation process to give another woman a chance to have children.
"I thought, 'well heck, I'm viable, I have good genes and I want to help somebody to have children and a family,' so that's why I did it," Gilchrist said.
Due to privacy reasons, she did not know anything about the woman who received her eggs. And the egg recipient knew nothing about Gilchrist, except the description in a paper profile.
But for two decades, Gilchrist wondered about her biological children. For reasons she can't explain, she suspected twins were conceived.
When she stumbled upon the anonymous thank you card the egg recipient had given her after the donation, it sparked her journey to try to solve the almost two-decade-old mystery.
Gilchrist remembered she had signed a contract that she had a duty to disclose health information. Her mother had died of ovarian cancer and she felt she had to tell them.
"And at that point...I'll just say, hey, why not just ask them if they want to reach out and meet me?" Gilchrist said.
She called Reproductive Care at UW Medical Center where the director found the 20-year-old file and agreed to reach out to the recipient's family because of Gilchrist's medical history.
The recipient's family gave UW permission to share their information and Gilchrist immediately looked up the recipient's name on Facebook.
That's when she discovered her college roommate from Washington State University was friends with the woman who had received her eggs, Karen Rif.
"There are no words for it," Gilchrist said. "It's just astronomical."
Gilchrist's former roommate, Sunday Tollefson, had been friends with Rif for the last eight years and their children were friends.
"That was the moment where I realized that my one friend was the egg donor for my other friend who has adult children," Tollefson said.
Nabilah and Faudel Rif, 19-year-old fraternal twins, knew their dad was their biological father, but that Rif was not their biological mother.
That missing part of their identity started to bother them as they got older.
"So growing up, I never knew what the other half of me was...why I look this way, why I act a certain way," Nabilah said.
They had talked about starting the search to find their biological mother when they got the call from UW.
"I was like, 'This is not real,'" Nabilah said. "My whole entire life I never thought that this was gonna happen. I was in shock."
The three of them met for the first time in April at Din Tai Fung in Bellevue. It was an instant connection, where they not only marveled at the physical similarities but also their personalities.
"There's a lot of emotional things that me and my sister just had to live with and not understand until now," Faudel said.
Even though they just met, the three of them say it feels like they've known each other for a long time.
That's exactly how it felt when Gilchrist met Karen Rif a few weeks later, on Mother's Day weekend at their mutual friend's home.
"I think the word is lucky," Tollefson said. "I'm lucky. And I'm honored and privileged to be in this position to be able to introduce these two women who are my friends to one another."
Over the last few months, the four have spent time bonding and getting to know each other.
As they get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are looking forward to spending the holidays together as a new family.
"I had always wanted someone in my life that could add something to the kids, that was complementary to what I was bringing, and she has all of those complementary aspects and attributes that I was hoping would be brought for the kids," Karen Rif said.
In 2011, Washington state became the first to pass legislation that allows egg and sperm donors to opt-in to make their identity available to a donor-conceived child once they turn 18 if they request it.
While most donors and recipients choose anonymity, Gilchrist is thankful in this case, Karen, Nabilah and Faudel wanted a relationship as much as she did.
"My life feels so much more full after this," Gilchrist said. "I always refer to my life as my empty little life. Because you know, my parents are gone. And I have no kids of my own. And I'm not married, and I'm thinking what is going on with my life? Well, wow, it's fulfilled incredibly."