Original Air Date:
Friday, February 8, 2008
Profiles of 2 Sperm Donors:
One donor profile, 48QAH, was described as 6'4" with brown hair, green eyes and a pediatrician. Oprah had Dr. Matthew Niedner on the show where he described his history as a donor - several times a month over 4 or 5 years. Another profile, 2053, was described as 5'10" with light brown hair, blue eyes and a medical scientist. Dr. Todd Whitehurst was also present on the show and shared that he donated 3 times a week for 4 years to supplement his income while getting his PhD - donating was part of his weekly routine and earned him around $16,000 in 4 years.
Meeting Donor Children:
Matthew shared that he knew of 5 children that were conceive using his sperm, but that there could be as many as 9. Matthew doesn't look at these children as his - he has 1 child with his wife and views her as his only child. He approached sperm donation as others donate blood.
Todd has met 3 of his biological children though as many as 10 have been born. Todd has just started to get to know the children and sends them birthday and Christmas presents; he has even gotten Father's Day cards from some of them. He expressed that he loves them and feels like he is developing a bond with them.
Many Perspectives on Donating Sperm:
Mary has a 2 year old daughter from Matthew's donated sperm and is happy with her decision; she says she will explain the situation with her daughter when she gets older. Neither Matthew nor his wife are opposed to having a relationship with the children - he views it as "passive availability" and says he would be open when the initiation is from the child.
Cheryl has a 12 year old son from Todd's donated sperm and shared that the 2 of them had a relationship develop in the last year. She refers to Todd as her son's dad and is happy with the way it worked out for their family - they even take vacations together.
4 Adult Children of Sperm Donors:
Oprah welcomed 4 women to the show who had been conceived using sperm donation - Kathleen, Christina, Susan and Katrina.
Kathleen is 26 and has no information on her biological father. She does not have access to medical information or details about her heritage. She shared that sometimes her reflection feels like a stranger.
Christina, 22, was born to a white woman who used African-American sperm so that her children would "match" since her siblings fathers were both black. She expressed the struggle with so many things missing - his education, medical background, heritage and looks.
Susan, at 39, was conceived before the time of sperm banks and was not told of her beginnings until she was 27. She felt like she had been lied to and was shocked at the information.
19 year old Katrina has always known she was born from sperm donation, but it didn't make it easier on her. She shared that being born this way made her feel like a product from an industry with a de-humanizing view on her birth.
Each Donor Child Has a Different Experience:
Susan explained that being conceived in 1967 was in a very different time - her parents were told by the doctors to never speak of the event and act like it never happened. It wasn't until her parents divorced and she lost contact with her father that her mother told her the news. The "backdoor" procedure left absolutely no information for Susan to find.
Kathleen's donor father was anonymous and even though she is searching, she cannot find anything that can help her find him. She shared that it feels like a death to her.
Christina always knew of her birth and looked forward to turning 18 and getting the chance to meet him. She received a package from the sperm bank at 17 with contact information and was nervous to call him for the first time.
Christina's biological father, Phillip, was in the audience and shared that their first conversation lasted hours and that he was an open book. Phillip offered that he somewhat feels like her father because of a natural connection they have; Christina even calls him dad. Phillip is now divorced with 13 year old twins and explained that they are still adjusting to the situation.
Chris and Stacy's Story:
Stacy, who was born from sperm donation, started searching for her father's information on the internet but was surprised when she found Chris, her half brother. Both Stacy and Chris were raised as only children by single mothers, and though both always felt loved, they wondered about their "other" family.
When Stacy found Chris on the donor/sibling registry, she noticed commonalities from the start. She saw similar features in their faces and both even lived in France at one point and were fluent in the language. After 3 months of daily emails with Chris living in Africa in the Peace Corp, the 2 arranged to meet.
Oprah's camera's were present at their reunion near Seattle. When they met, they both had trouble looking away from each other - they were so in awe of how similar they looked. On the show, they shared that knowing one another has made the void better; they still do not have information about their sperm donor father.
Donor Sibling Registry:
Wendy Kramer and her son Ryan were on the show to tell their story of creating the Donor Sibling Registry. Wendy started by wanting to help her son find his biological father and extended family, and thought she could help others in their situation. She developed the site in 2000, and since over 4000 people have been matched.
Sperm Donation Criticism:
Matthew shared his concern that the industry of sperm donation is not properly regulated even after over 30 years. With 30,000 children a year being born with this method, Matthew expressed that there should be a system to enable consenting donors and children to contact each other. With donors getting paid and centers making money, Matthew questions who is regulating the donors and checking the credentials of the men. He compared blood banks which operate on a voluntary basis to avoid people who will lie about their history or health.