Ann Bell and her daughter Jennifer, 10 now know - by chance - who Jennifer's biological father is.
Ten years after conceiving a child together, they finally met.
Ann Bell was looking for the love of a good man when she logged onto an internet dating site.
This is where the story takes a somewhat bizarre turn. What she found instead, she believes, is her child's biological father.
When the Perth woman, originally from Scotland, and her former husband were trying to have a baby together, they needed a sperm donor. Their child, Jennifer, was born 10½ years ago. The marriage ended when Jennifer was a few months old. Ms Bell started dating. Curious about her daughter's roots and fascinated by the psychology of sperm donation, she got into the habit of asking the men she met if they had ever made such a chivalrous gift. She met a man on the internet early this year and asked him the bold question — had he ever been a sperm donor? He said yes.
The way Ms Bell tells the story, they chatted in cyberspace for a while. He lived outside Perth. Eventually, they met, a couple of times. They soon established that he was not for her. Nor her for him. But she wanted to know more about his sperm donor history.
They compared information she had been given in the donor profile. She didn't think it was possible that he was the one. Some things just didn't fit. His date of birth, for instance, was wrong (they later learned the clinic had recorded an incorrect date). But there were things that matched. His place of birth in another state was the same.
Months after their last meeting, Ms Bell, now happily ensconced with another man she met on the internet, could not stop wondering. She asked, by email, for him to contact the clinic. On a visit to Perth, the man went to the clinic, showed some identification and was given his donor code. That night he phoned — the code matched. "I couldn't even digest what had happened, the randomness of it. I was caught up in the bizarreness of life."
So thrown was she that she didn't tell her daughter until weeks later, when Jennifer was mulling over how much she'd like to have siblings. Actually, Ms Bell told her, she did. The donor, who does not want to be identified, has his own children. Jennifer, who had met him, laughed. She thought it was pretty cool. She is going to spend time with him.
Both Ms Bell and the donor, who also spoke to The Age, are confident the matching donor code is enough to confirm he is Jennifer's biological father. They don't feel the need for a paternity test to prove it.
The clinic where Jennifer was conceived, the Concept Fertility Centre in Perth, could not provide information on the case for privacy reasons. But Bruce Bellinge, a reproductive biologist at the clinic, said a matching code should be enough to confirm the biological connection. "If they're both dinky-di about the code, then that would be identifying enough," he said. "You're assuming that both donor and recipient have given each other the correct code."
Leonie Hewitt, from the Donor Conception Support Group, said the case highlighted the need for a national register of sperm donors. "What would happen if a donor and a half sibling met on the internet?" she said.
The nation's attorneys-general agreed in July to form a working party to investigate donor registers. Victoria already has a register.
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