In Seattle's Belltown is an unusual family: Aaron Long, a formerly anonymous sperm donor who estimates he might have fathered 67 children; his girlfriend, formerly in a same-sex marriage, who gave birth to a now-13-year-old daughter using Long's sperm; and a 21-year-old who also is one of his children.
“I LOVE MY SPERM DONOR,” read the headline in the Brit tabloid The Daily Mail.
The subhead went on, “Lesbian mom reveals how her children’s DNA test led her to man of her dreams.”
The couple living in a Belltown co-op are taking such headlines in stride. For sure, Aaron Long and Jessica Share have an unique relationship, and unique living arrangements.
Well, why not embrace all the attention?
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“We’re really enjoying the process,” says Long. “The attention is fun.”
That attention is focused on how Long and Share connected and became a couple, some 12 years after Share gave birth to a daughter using Long’s donated sperm. And other offspring have connected with Long for the same reason, making him a “new” father many times over.
“I’ve always been curious what the children looked like, how they turned out, whether they’d be similar or not,” says Long. “People do like to have connections.”
He’s connected with 10 of his progeny, some just with chatting with the mother.
“I think people want more family in their lives and even though my children from sperm donation are strangers, the fact of the DNA connection has given us a welcome excuse to open our hearts to each other,” says Long.
For the benefit of his fellow co-op members, Long even put together a slide show outlining how his life had led up to all this. One slide was titled, “You’re probably wondering what’s going on with my sperm.”
By his back-of-the-envelope estimation, Long has fathered as many as 67 children. Two of those children share his Belltown home.
The new attention all started with a piece that Long wrote for The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column that ran Sept. 28. He got paid $450.
Long, 52, has a master’s degree in creative writing. He now works as an executive assistant and other capacities at the Low Income Housing Institute in Seattle.
But 25 years ago, having returned home to State College, Pennsylvania, after teaching English abroad, he was without prospects, living with his mother and driving a cab. That’s when he saw an ad from a sperm bank that, as he puts it, paid “$40 a pop.”
He figures that he went to the sperm bank twice a week, for a year, hence his estimate of 67 progeny, given what he found on the internet were the odds from each, you know, pop. The offspring ranged in ages because, according to Fairfax Cryobank, to which he sold his sperm, “Pregnancies have been reported for cases in which the sperm has been stored for 20 years prior to thawing and insemination.”
Fast-forward to a couple of years ago, when out of curiosity and “an urge to know” his offspring, Long ordered a kit from 23andMe, a genetic-testing firm commonly used by people interested in genealogy, including sperm donors as well as children looking for their biological parents.
It turned out that Bryce Gallo, 22, of Northport, N.Y., also had joined 23andMe, and his test results reported he was a 47.5 percent DNA match with Long. A child gets 50 percent of their genes from the mom, and 50 percent from the dad, so that match meant Long was the dad.
“I hope my existence is not a shock to you …,” Long wrote the young man, who now is in the Air Force.
He wrote back, “Dad, I cannot express how excited I am to be hearing from you … I am one of six of your children that I’m aware of and in contact with.”
The connections had begun.
After that, Long connected with daughter Madi Saunders, 21, of Richmond, Virginia.
Then he connected with Share, who works in marketing, and her daughter (and his), Alice, 13.
Share, 42, is the mom in that Daily Mail headline. She had been married to a woman while living in the Midwest. The couple had picked Long from a list with the sperm bank based on not much more than the fact that he listed his professions as writer, musician and taxi driver.
Knowing only those minimal details, Share says she and her partner had a romanticized idea of what he was like.
“Because he was a taxi driver and a writer and a musician,” she says, “you could imagine him collecting stories in his cab to write a book. He wasn’t some guy who’d settle for an office job.”
Share gave birth to Alice. Then Share’s wife got pregnant, also using Long’s sperm. A year-and-a-half after Alice was born, she had a sister.
Things happen in all relationships. Share’s wife broke off the marriage, “said she did not want to talk about it.” She cut off all contact, and took the child she had carried. Alice stayed with Share.
About a year later, at age 11, Alice asked for a DNA testing kit.
The result came back, “Aaron Long, 50 percent.” A match. For five months, Share and Long messaged each other on Facebook and exchanged pictures. The relationship grew.
Then Long decided to host a giant party at his place, inviting Madi, Bryce, Alice, Share and various friends.
Long and Share then went out on a date.
“I found him to be thoughtful, extremely kind, extremely patient. A sweet guy,” says Share.
Share and Alice, who is home-schooled, moved into Long’s co-op in the summer of 2017. Alice even joined a Girl Scout troop with one of Long’s other kids, a girl who is the same age and lives in Sumner with her mom.
Share would write about it for BBC in a story that ran Jan. 3, headlined, “I met my boyfriend 12 years after giving birth to his child.”
“They did it without consulting us,” says Long.
By then, the couple had signed on for a documentary that’s been started and is looking for investors, titled “Forty Dollars A Pop.” And, the couple has a “shopping agreement” with a Philadelphia studio that is now pitching their story as a reality series to cable networks.
“The response was so positive and supportive,” says Share. People, she says, “didn’t poke at us an oddity.”
These days, also living at the co-op is Madi, the 21-year-old from Virginia. She’s taking a year off from college and working at a downtown Seattle restaurant. The children have a laid back attitude about the publicity.
“I’m into the media right now. I guess it’s fun,” says Madi.
These days, the couple now keep a whiteboard to track their media appearances. If a top-rated Brazilian TV newsmagazine called “Fantástico: O Show da Vida” (“Fantastic — The Show of Life”) comes over to their place, why not?
Says Alice, the 13-year-old, “It’s been a pretty funny, new, bizarre experience for me. It’s pretty cool.”
Any regrets about sharing her private life?
“Nope. Not one.”