Markus K. didn't set out in life to father 24 children. He set out to be a priest -- but that dream came to an end in 1994, when someone reported to his seminary that he was gay, and they threw him out. He told Munich's Abenzeitung, "My life hit bottom."
But it was then, he told Irene Kiebner, that he saw an bulletin board note from a lesbian seeking a sperm donor. In Germany, the standards of the medical association that oversees anonymous sperm donors only allow for donees to be heterosexual women who are either married or in long-term partnerships, so the lesbian was turned away. (K. mentions, as an aside, that she was a bit odd and wore an amulet containing menstrual blood from her first period. He doesn't mention if that was a factor in the sperm bank's decision.) He gave the woman his sperm but she didn't become pregnant.
K. told the paper that he didn't try again until 2003, when he saw an advertisement from a lesbian couple seeking a donor. "If a woman wants a child and can't have one, that just hurts. I imagine it's a pain as deperate as that of loving someone who doesn't love you back. No one should have to feel that sadness, I think. If I can help so much by giving so little, then I just do it."
He said he met the couple in 2003 before agreeing to donate, but that they successfully conceived a boy after only two tries. The women's midwife eventually became the mother of K.'s fourth child, as word spread in "the scene" that K.'s help was "uncomplicated" and the women conceived quickly. This might be, as K. makes reference to, that many private sperm donors -- even for lesbians -- "donate" in exchange for sex with the donees, as referenced in a 2012 article in Der Spiegel about a Dutch man, Ed Houben, who had fathered 82 children by the time of publication, some with lesbians.
K. told the newspaper, "I couldn't sleep any woman, even for a good cause." But in the private sperm donor registry on which he is listed, "Then one also lists whether sex is desired." In K.'s case, the women come to his house, where he provides them with a fresh sample and they take it and a medical syringe with the needle removed into the next room.
In Germany, a recent court ruling has gutted the framework of anonymity in which many sperm donors have operated. A regional court ruled that a child's desire to know her biological father trumped his desire for anonymity, and left some legal question as to whether such children are entitled to inheritance rights. But K. and the women to whom he donated are open about their children's paternity. "I think it's a child's right to know its biological parents," he said.
But, he and the mothers have come up with a way to make sure that both mothers have parental rights: K. told the German paper that he is listed as the birth father on each child's birth certificate, and then gives the child up for adoption to its co-mother after eight weeks, allowing both mothers to be legal parents to their children. He sees many of his offspring on a regular basis.
But, with two more children on the way, K. is thinking he might soon retire as a sperm donor. "If the two babies, who are already on the way, are born, I'll have 12 girls and 12 boys. That's balanced, a good tally. I've promised five other women children. Then I'll stop, it'll be enough."
["Baby Girl Holding Parental Hands" on Shutterstock]