The Donor Who Dared To Say Don't

You wouldn't sell or give away your kids, would you? So don't donate your sperm!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


How Do Donors Really Think?

The Millionth Muse.

Christmas just happened. What was that all about then?

Apparently, it's for the kids. And since, at the age of 23, this is the first year my sister has not bought me an advent calendar, and my personal Christmas run-up (as opposed to the commercial Christmas run-up which appears to begin in August) has not been punctuated by the promise of some cocoa-based snowman for breakfast, it seems the theory works. Never mind the barmitzvah, the year you realise you are sending cards to everyone in your filofax and not everyone in your class at school, is surely the time to admit you're a man.

Bit of a shame really, and it's set my mind wondering as to where the kids are in my life. I have some, but I do not know where they are.

On Christmas morning in my sister's spare room, lying in an extremely hard, silly single bed, I was woken by a selection box of crumpling, swearing, and banging of head on the side of the bath as aforementioned sibling attempted to wee on a paddle. Having waited until she was busting to "go" , she had left her unslept in, tangled bed and locked herself in the bathroom with a little blue box. Some time later she emerged in my doorway with the greeting "Merry Christmas, Uncle Paul."

My sister is having a baby, and I do not know another sentence that can make my brother-in-law, my mother, and my father find such unknown delight on their faces.

Christmas is for the kids. And if we were not all delirious enough this year, when the sprog has finally arrived and is playing with a large cardboard box (which five minutes earlier contained an extremely expensive, but sadly ignored Fisher Price entertainment centre) next December the 25th we'll be tripping over ourselves like idiots.

I am having a baby too.

I do not know when it is due, and I will not be with them on Christmas day.

I do not know who the mother is.

I am a sperm donor. Was a sperm donor.

Linda at the clinic called me up the other day; "We don't need you to come anymore." (I suppressed a laugh) "Perhaps you should pop in and I'll explain."

Typical, I can't even sell my own sperm. Obviously I've not been selling and will be found in the catalogue as a two for the price of one offer, line discontinued. Brings a whole new meaning to the January sales. I suppose my sperm is not attractive to the average couple, gagging for a threesome. Donor number 432; blue eyes, brown hair, 5ft 11", 23yrs old.

Trained as a drama student, gave up after six months to become a writer, history of alcoholism in the family, has tendency to demolish kettles.

Clearly, they were looking for someone with a degree in accountancy who knows all the words to Rule Britannia and traces his family tree at weekends.

Not so.

Linda informs me I've done my bit. Legally, one is only allowed to donate a maximum of ten prizes to the baby raffle.

TEN! I've had ten babies?

Well, technically no, but most of the parents (Parents! Who are these usurpers?!) have applied for another kid from the same carton and I have been popped in the deep freeze until such time as they can afford to have another spare bedroom decorated. And although forced into it I suppose there comes a time in one's life when one must stop being a wanker and get a proper job.

Ten kids.

I wonder what their names will be. I wonder if they'll look like me. I wonder if they'll become


I did not wonder any of these things as I was jizzing them into a plastic cup, but when it came to the crunch, it was a bit like being told you've won the lottery but cannot have the money.

I told my family on Christmas day, only one report of a disgusted party (older brother, sleeping with five different women at the moment and must have some sort of venereal disease by now).

Next Christmas the majority of my five-a-side football match will have been born and I shall wet the baby's head in a silent, Southern Comfort-type way. I don't know where it leaves me. Not in my sister's spare room, as that will undoubtedly be a nursery by then. I don't know were it leaves this article either. What can I say? Ten kids. It's something to think about.


Paul Martin is a writer and actor who has to do other jobs to pay the rent. He wrote in Mag 3 about kettles.

Friday, February 16, 2007


And Then There Were More...

Dad's happy to see this father and child reunion

The eyes have it: Brian Wollaston (right) with his biological child Daisy Gleeson and her father, Paul Gleeson.
Photo: Craig Abraham

Carol Nader
February 17, 2007
The Age: Melbourne, Australia

A potentially fraught search for a biological father has had the happiest of endings.

THEY could have passed each other in the street many times over many years, two strangers oblivious to their biological connection.

Daisy Gleeson had wondered all her life who her biological father was. As it turns out, he was living in the next suburb.

The Age first told Daisy's story in June 2005. She was 17 and had grown up with the knowledge that a sperm donor helped conceive her. But she was curious: who was he? Since then, Daisy has had some closure. She has found him.

Daisy's parents, Paul and Andrea, had explained to her from the start that they needed another man's help to have her. Daisy, an intelligent child, easily digested the information. But at about the age of six, she burst into tears one day and blurted out: "Daddy's not my daddy!"

Mrs Gleeson explained that that wasn't true. Your daddy is the man who is raising you. That put the matter to rest, temporarily. By the time she entered her teens, her curiosity was piqued and with it came impatience. "Can't you ring the hospital now?" Daisy would say from her Warrandyte home. The long wait until her 18th birthday stretched out before her.

In the neighbouring suburb of Eltham, Brian Wollaston, the man she urgently wanted to meet, went about his own life, unaware of all the fuss.

Had his surname been Smith, Daisy may have been left to wonder forever. But in the end, it was his unusual surname that helped Daisy find him. That, and the impeccable record-keeping of the Royal Women's Hospital, which tracked him down.

Daisy, now 19, remembers the day she got the call. "I think I've found him," the counsellor said. Suddenly, he had become a real person. "It messed with my mind," she says. "It was all-consuming." Long before she started searching, counsellors were preparing her for the worst. The fear of rejection was in the back of her mind. Would he refuse to meet her?

Mr Wollaston got the letter from the hospital telling him someone was looking for him. He called the hospital. Daisy had prepared a list of questions that she wanted answered. What was his favourite football team? What food did he like? What was his favourite Italian motorbike? And was there a history of medical problems in his family?

The counsellor made several phone calls to Mr Wollaston, each time asking for something extra. He had been a sperm donor at a time when the law allowed him to remain anonymous. Would he be willing to let Daisy know his name?

And five phone calls later, the most tricky question - would he meet her?

"I was always going to," Mr Wollaston said this week during a gathering with Daisy and her parents at the Fairfield Boathouse. "I made the donation in a certain spirit, and I wasn't going to cut her off at the knees."

The relationship started tentatively. First, there were nervous emails. Then they swapped photos. At last, Daisy knew what he looked like.

Then came the first meeting. They decided on an Eltham cafe - neutral territory. Daisy had pictured him in her head a million times, even before she had seen the photos. She watched him crossing the street until he was standing in front of her. Then she gave him a big hug. They have since become, in Daisy's words, "unique friends".

Mr Wollaston decided to become a sperm donor when he had just had his own child and thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to help others? So he went to the clinic. It's not a romantic ritual and he "went through every well-thumbed magazine in the place". The result is 14 children conceived with his sperm, in addition to his own three children. His wife worries that one of their children might bring home a girlfriend or boyfriend that is related, a tiny possibility but still possible. "The ramifications of that are severe," he says.

Daisy is lucky she found him. Many young adults will never be able to trace their roots. For those wanting to find out their origins, they can apply to the Infertility Treatment Authority, which keeps registers for donors, children and their parents.

For Mr Gleeson, who had five children from a previous marriage, infertility was never a problem. He had had a vasectomy and when he and his wife decided they wanted a child, he considered reversing it. But the medical advice was that it probably would not have worked.

Mrs Gleeson says: "I've been just as curious as Daisy is, and I was hoping for a good ending to the story. And it seems to be a good ending."


Thursday, February 15, 2007


A Donor Who Dared (More Needed)

Jeffrey Harrison, once a highly requested sperm donor, with a biological daughter, Ryann M., in Los Angeles, and two of his dogs.

There is no established ritual for how an anonymous sperm donor should contact his genetic children. But for Jeffrey Harrison, Valentine’s Day seemed as good an occasion as any.

“It’s a short life,” he said, “and these children need to have some kind of resolution. I thought I could send a little valentine, kind of, to everyone, just saying hello.”

Mr. Harrison had been thinking about getting in touch since reading in an article in The New York Times 15 months ago that two teenagers whose mothers had used his sperm to conceive were looking for him. The headline, “Hello, I’m Your Sister, Our Father Is Donor 150,” made him choke on his coffee, said Mr. Harrison, who made $400 a month donating sperm under that number twice-weekly during the late 1980s.

But California Cryobank, the sperm bank that had promised anonymity to its customers and to Mr. Harrison, proved unresponsive to his repeated requests for assistance. Besides, he had misgivings. What if the girls were disappointed by his humble circumstances?

Once one of the sperm bank’s most-requested donors, with a profile that described him as 6 foot and blue-eyed with interests in philosophy, music and drama, Mr. Harrison, 50, lives with his four dogs in a recreational vehicle near the Venice section of Los Angeles.

“I make a meager living,” Mr. Harrison said, taking care of dogs and doing other odd jobs.

Still, he said he thought he could explain to the girls why he had taken an unconventional life-path. Their grandfather was an Ivy League-educated retired financial executive, he would tell them; their grandmother was a former volunteer president for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Six weeks ago, Mr. Harrison logged on to the Donor Sibling Registry, the Web site devoted to facilitating connections between donor-conceived offspring, where the two girls, Danielle P. and JoEllen M. had initially found each other. Four more teenagers from his sperm samples had since surfaced, he saw on the logs.

How many could he handle, he wondered?

As Valentine’s Day approached, though, Mr. Harrison resolved to get in touch with them all.

Last Saturday night, Mr. Harrison e-mailed a picture of his birth certificate to Wendy Kramer, the founder of the sibling registry, to confirm his identity. Several dozen donors have contacted offspring on the registry, Ms. Kramer said, but none have been brave enough to come forward with such a large group of teenagers.

“You don’t know what to expect,” Ms. Kramer said. “How do we define this family, and what are we to each other?”

Danielle and JoEllen called Mr. Harrison together the next day. The moment that had preoccupied their fantasies for years began in a more prosaic fashion than they had anticipated. But they said they were not disappointed.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Holy moly,’ ” said Danielle, 17, who has spent several hours on the phone with Mr. Harrison in the last three days. “He’s sort of a free spirit, and I don’t care what career he has. I got to talk to his dogs.”

Mr. Harrison met a third daughter, Ryann M., in Los Angeles yesterday afternoon. His other newfound offspring, who live in Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, are busy marveling over their shared love of animals and the distinctive forehead evident in the pictures he has e-mailed.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Sorry chaps, but you're utterly redundant...(that's what feminists and scientists believe — and humanity can go to hell)

Author:Melanie Phillips - The Daily Mail

Her name was Frances Swiney, a feminist whose vision for the sisterhood and humanity was more than a trifle extreme.

She thought men were the waste products of the reproductive process and wanted them eliminated. Her ideal method was asexual reproduction — the creation of children without a man involved.

That way, she thought, women could look forward to the "gradual extinction of the distinctive male organism and the assimilation of the male to the female".

Until now, people like Mrs Swiney, who lived in the 19th century, were considered to be several apples short of a picnic. But now her vision of a female-only world is all but with us.

Sorry to tell you, men, but you are shortly to be declared redundant, superfluous to the requirements of the human race, written out of the reproductive script. Cheerio and please close the door behind you on your way out of history.

At least this is the prospect laid out before us by the latest lurch into the brave new world of medical research.

In the attempt to find a cure for male infertility, a Newcastle University biologist, Karim Nayernia, has succeeded in using artificially produced sperm to fertilise mouse eggs.

He removed stem cells from mouse embryos and coaxed them into developing into sperm, which was used to fertilise eggs transplanted into female mice, resulting in the birth of seven baby rodents.


Professor Nayernia believes his work offers hope to men whose lives are blighted by their inability to father children.

However, the rest of us might wonder whether he is sounding the death knell for fatherhood altogether — and, more to the point, threatening to undermine the very basis of what it is to be human.

The success of these experiments opens up a number of possibilities. One is to extract stem cells from an infertile man and use these to grow sperm in a laboratory. These could then be transplanted back into the man's testicles, enabling him to procreate in the normal way.

That at least — despite the awesome safety issues to be overcome — would retain the man's genetic connection with any child he produced, as well as allowing him to father that baby through a normal sexual union.

But other possibilities are far more problematic.

It would become possible, for example, to use stem cells not from the infertile man at all, but from embryos which are routinely produced in IVF clinics, but are then discarded as surplus to requirements.

This would mean there would be no genetic connection whatever between "father" and child.

Moreover, such a process could mean the eggs being fertilised might not even come from the mother of the child being produced. Instead, spare eggs donated by another woman could be fertilised by the artificial sperm.

As a result, there might be no genetic connection with either parent.

This could mean courtship and sexual love would be replaced by the mating dance of test tubes.

How would a child feel about the fact that one or both of his parents was merely a cluster of randomly selected cells grown artificially in a laboratory?

How would he feel, indeed, to know that his parent was a discarded human embryo?

The truth is that having a mother and father is essential to our sense of identity.

That's why family disintegration is so harmful to children and why the stampede to produce and bring up children without a biological father around — through artificial insemination by donor, IVF or sperm banks — spells disaster for the future.

Test-tube mating could deliver a terminal blow to the pulverised nuclear family True, we have already under-mined sexual reproduction and genetic transmission through IVF.

But at least the mother in such cases has a powerful biological connection to the baby.

Fatherhood, however, is altogether trickier.

Since human babies take years to become independent, they need prolonged care. It is difficult to furnish this while simultaneously providing subsistence and protection.

That's why the human male is essential, to protect and nurture the mother and child.

But the male needs a certain amount of cultural coaxing to stick around. And essential to that bargain between the sexes is his certainty that he is the father of the child.


While there is no such question mark over motherhood because women bear the baby, fathering, by contrast, is a socially constructed institution.

Men have a fragile sense of their role in the human drama. At some deep level, they dread that they are merely an add-on to a female genetic inheritance.

As we can see from the epidemic of fatherlessness, it doesn't take much for them to say "I'm off!" if they feel pushed away.

And pushed away they have certainly been. No one bats an eyelid when a woman has a baby without a father on board.

Male breadwinning is regarded as an unforgiveable anachronism. Masculine characteristics such as stoicism or emotional restraint are scorned or vilified.

And now, men find that their active involvement in the reproductive process might be by-passed altogether.

Currently, it is against British law to create a baby without the need for a man — even if a child can be brought up without one.

But considering how all our taboos are being systematically smashed in the interests of fulfilling every desire, can anyone doubt that, if the technological problems can be overcome, medical ethics and the law will be adjusted to suit?

Clearly, these developments have the potential to undermine parenthood and our very understanding of kinship and human identity itself.

As so often, the aims are noble — to remedy the suffering of childlessness. But medical research, which invariably takes the amoral view that the end justifies the means, brushes aside the fact that the damage such advances may do to our society might hugely outweigh any benefits they may bring.


Already, the use of discarded embryos has helped brut-alise our society by commodifying and cannibalising early human life.

And most outlandishly of all, some even claim it is theoretically possible to produce sperm from female cells and eggs from male ones.

This seems frankly absurd. There is no form of higher animal life that has not depended on sexual reproduction. But now that scientists are modern gods, who knows what unnatural developments might become possible?

Such a world, where procreation was through asexual reproduction, was the vision of those early feminists, such as Mrs Swiney.

But in their book The Ethics Of Human Cloning, the American thinkers James Q. Wilson and Leon Kass wrote: "Only sexual animals can seek and find complementary others with whom to pursue a goal that transcends their own existence."

In other words, sexual reproduction produces the sense of generosity and concern for others on which our human society is built.

The authors also observed that asexual reproduction was found only in the lowest forms of life: bacteria, algae, fungi and some lower invertebrates.

Would it not be an irony if, through their egregious hubris, the effect of the most brilliant scientific minds in the most advanced age known to mankind was to reduce the human race to the status of primordial slime?

Thursday, February 01, 2007


When I Look In the Mirror...

Elizabeth has very kindly allowed me to reprint the following post from her blog:

I think she portrays quite perfectly
both the subliminal and overt identity questioning which donor-conceived people experience when they have been kept in the dark about their origins.

Brown-eyed girl

When I was 15, I found out by chance that I was donor conceived. There were a couple of letters in a drawer that I didn't know I shouldn't be looking in. They were from a clinic in Harley Street and were addressed to my mother. One was dated a year or so before I was born, and said that the clinic would be happy to help my mother again, and would 'try to ensure that the same donor is used'. The other was dated about seven months before I was born, and talked about 'the second success'.

I tackled my mother about this, and she gave me a cock-and-bull story about blood tests. I didn't have the courage to pursue the matter, so I gave up. A few months later I tried again, and didn't give up. She broke down in tears, and told me that they had never intended us to find out, but that my 'father' had been unable to have children, so they'd gone for 'artificial insemination by donor' as it was known in those days. Apparently they'd matched the donor with my 'father's' hair and eye colour, and that was that.

Then the lies began. The man listed as my father on my birth certificate, isn't. No-one knew, or even guessed, the truth. The little lies my mother told helped the deception. My brother had big hands like Dad. My sister had blue eyes like Great-Granny Alice (on my 'father's' side. The correct term these days is 'social father'.) What I have only just realised is that these lies even extend to what colour eyes I think I have. Mark and I have a long-running joke/argument: he says I've got green eyes, I say they're brown. When I look in the mirror, I do see that the nearest they get to brown is hazel. Maybe. But the reason I think they're brown is that my mother always said I had brown eyes like Dad. So all along, in school essays entitled 'Myself' or letters to penpals or anything, I have said I have brown eyes. But I don't!

I did always worry as a child that I was adopted, and even quizzed my mother about it on several occasions. 'You would tell us if we were adopted, wouldn't you?' 'Oh, yes.' My mother even told a story of a boy who killed himself on discovering, at the age of 18, that he was adopted. Strange choice of anecdote in the circumstances.

I did also feel a bit like a changeling. For example, I had my nose in a book from an early age. My mother had done well at school, but wasn't a reader; I never saw my 'dad' open a book except for a car repair manual. He left school at 16 with no qualifications. (He said he'd failed them on purpose so that Grandma couldn't force him to become a doctor. Hmmm.) But he apparently produced three children who were in all the top sets at school...

The irony is that I spent several years as a teenager (OK, I was a weird teenager) researching my family tree. My mother and I went into the wilds of Leicestershire looking at obscure parish records to see how far back we could get. As I found out, these random Leicestershire labourers were nothing to do with me.

Now there is a great big gap in the children's baby books for their grandfather. I've registered with UK DonorLink (a voluntary agency where donors and donor conceived adults can register their DNA) but realistically, there is a minute chance that I will ever find the donor. He did the deed for money as a medical student and has probably wiped the memory from his mind. I did, however, find my half-sister; meeting her has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Funnily enough, for years I perpetuated the lie with my own children. How on earth do you broach the subject with tinies? But at some point I realised that I was repeating, albeit in a minor way, my parents' own deception. We'd covered the facts of life in a basic way when Gregoria was about 4, because she asked. So I just told her at some point that the daddy who brought me up wasn't my real daddy because he coudn't make seeds, so my mummy got the seed from someone else and unfortunately we don't know who that is. Now that is as normal to her as anything else. She knows I'm sad about it, and that's OK too.

I am passionately opposed to donor conception, because it deprives children of a basic human right: to know, and be brought up by, their mother and father. It is completely different from adoption, because in that case the child already exists and needs to be cared for. Donor conception exists for the convenience of people who want to be parents. Wanting a baby is a natural desire, but is not to be achieved by unethical means. Why can't infertile people adopt a baby? 'Because it wouldn't be ours.' Why do they privilege the genetic link on the one hand and deny it on the other?

I could go on and on, but for the sake of my home educating readership, won't. Please excuse me venting. This is part of my journey of self-acceptance. (When I was exploring Catholicism and finding out about Catholic opposition to various artificial means of conception, including this one, I worried that perhaps it meant that I didn't have a soul!) For many years this was my guilty secret. Now it's part of who I am.


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