This weekend The Style Network took a break from "Tia and Tamera" marathons and Kimora Lee Simmons interstitials to bring us the documentary "Sperm Donor: 74 Kids and More." The episode was a part of the "Style Exposed" series. The doc follows a man named Ben who supported himself in law school by donating sperm. He was able to make about $900 a month with the practice with the promise of anonymity. Sounds like a good deal, right?
Fast forward to Ben Seisler at age 33 and preparing to be married. He signs up for The Donor Sibling Registry to see whether he has any offspring. The serial donor is shocked to discover that he is the biological father of at least 74 kids. He assumed that there would be children out there but this number is more than he ever imagined.
Ben's conservative fiancee, Lauren, is not thrilled at the prospect of over 70 kids knocking at the door one-by-one looking for daddy. At least 15 children have reached out, hoping to make contact. Although he has no legal obligations to any of the children sired by his sperm, Ben aims to be available to any of the families who reach out. One woman, a successful single mother, decides that she would like her two young children fathered by Ben to meet him.
There are no ethical absolutes in this world. Ben wants to meet these children but is it perhaps more traumatizing to meet a father figure only once and never again than to never meet him at all. What if these children want ongoing relationships? How will he negotiate boundaries once he has his own children with Lauren? All of these questions and more make the idea of easy sperm and instant children a bit more challenging.
Until recently I scoffed at biological clocks. I actually wasn't even sure I wanted kids until about a year ago. When my other increasingly late 30-something friends would ask me about the evolutionary pressure to have kids I would say, "What's the big deal? If I can't get pregnant when I want to I'll just adopt. I can always figure out a way to have children. I can't always have my youth to pursue my career, however." And then my late thirties hit like a bad hangover.
Suddenly I'm looking at babies longingly and thinking up possible children's names. Yes, I have someone in my life but I'm neither married nor gung ho about the prospects of being someone's "baby mama." I feel as if biology is forcing me to make decisions that I'd rather postpone. But then maybe that's the point of life.. and evolution.
So if my sweetheart and I broke up and my biological clock keeps on gonging into high risk territory, what's a single mama wannabe to do? Enter the sperm bank. Many people do. Ben apparently entered many different times as he was attending law school.
Seeing Ben navigate the consequences of his sperm donor-ship was a little bit heart-breaking. The single mother assumes that her children are old enough to understand that Ben was just a rent-a-dad but they are not. When she tells her daughter than Ben will marry someone else the child innocently asks whether he will be breaking up with her Mommy.
Clearly the subject is extremely complicated for children. It is very complex for adults. Ben's girlfriend reflects fondly about the time when she was in denial and asked nothing about his sperm donor past.
There are no simple answers in this situation. It will be interesting to see how it develops. My heart goes out to Ben's fiancee Lauren who seems clingy and uncertain but steadfast in a challenging situation.
Hmmm. If I find myself single and wanting children perhaps I will just consider adoption.
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