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!

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."


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