A 72-year-old retiree believed to be Australia’s oldest sperm donor has fathered up to 50 children, all of whom he call his sons and daughters.
John Lindsay Mayger began donating in 1978 after his wife suffered two miscarriages, though they later had four children, some of whom have their own families.
‘I was traumatised by the two miscarriages and I could start to understand how people who couldn’t have children would feel,’ he said.
He has no idea how many children he fathered from the donations to IVF clinics in 1978 and 1979, but guesses it was about two dozen.
John Lindsay Mayger, from Tamworth, NSW, began donating in 1978 after his wife suffered two miscarriages but when he wanted to come out of retirement in 2003, he was told he was too old
When his marriage ended in 2003, at the age of 53, he tried donating again, but was dismayed when clinics told him he had too many children already and was too old.
Most clinics only accept donors until about 45 years old and only allow a up to 10 families to be created, including the donor’s own family.
‘I thought, “who else might want sperm – lesbians might want sperm”,’ he said.
So he began advertising in gay and lesbian magazines.
‘There is still a shortage of donors and not many prepared to travel to Tamworth (where the women are waiting for him) but because I am retired, I was able to travel around to where I was needed,’ he said.
‘Some people fish, some golf… I masturbate.’
Mr Mayger has 21 donor children that he knows about, and estimates there to be about 50 donor when including those from the clinics 40 years ago.
His oldest donor child, that he knows of, is now almost 17 and the youngest almost three.
Mr Mayger has 21 donor children that he knows about, including these siblings to a lesbian couple. He mostly caters to lesbians now as he is too old for clinics to accept him
He has created children with 18 different women and said he thinks he donated to about another 20 privately who didn’t advise him if they were successful.
‘I keep in contact with most of them and there are probably more children I don’t know about because some people drop out that I don’t hear about,’ he said.
‘A lot of them I am friends with. One family has three children to me, and another has two.’
Mr Mayger refers to all the children as ‘his’ children and said his relationship with the child depends on the relationship he has with the mothers.
‘The children are paramount. Children deserve to know where they come from. My children call me by different names. One calls me DD for donor dad,’ he said.
He said, like other sperm donors, his reasons for donating are multiple and complex.
‘Some reasons are spiritual, some are carnal,’ he said.
‘I am a blood donor so donating is in my psyche. Also, I am a Christian. And I could empathise with people who couldn’t have children after losing two children.
‘It is a big ego trip to spread your seed and I get a lot of physical pleasure when I interact with them and they climb all over me and call me dad.’
Mr Mayger refers to all the children as ‘his’ children and said his relationship with the child depends on the relationship he has with the mothers. These twin brothers were conceived with his sperm
Mr Mayger said unlike most donors who never want to meet their offspring, his favourite part of the job is connecting with them.
‘I received a message from my four-year-old daughter. They were going through photographs of me because it was my birthday and she talked about her donor dad,’ he said.
‘It gives you a warm gushy feeling in your heart to know that the children want to have a relationship with you.
‘Sometimes they rush up to me and jump into my arms and when they get a bit older ask if they can call me dad, which also gives me a warm feeling in my heart.’
The women are connected via a private Facebook group to which he is not a member.
Some of the children have met their other ‘siblings’ and three of his own adult sons have met some of their donor siblings.
Mr Mayger in India with children from an orphanage, he helped build with Transformation International
However, his own children’s feelings about the donor children are mixed. Two want nothing to do with them, but the other two are happy to meet them.
Mr Mayger said he feels sorry for Alan Phan, who took over from him as the most prolific donor with 23 children and is now under investigation by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Authority.
‘They are attempting to limit the number of donations by limiting the number of donors and this is discrimination of women who want to be mothers and that is why I have exceeded my quota more than twice,’ he said.
‘It is incredibly sad that people will destroy embryos because he is over his quota and also the backlash that has happened to him.
‘I have also suffered backlash and ostracisation. People look at me like some sort of paedophile.
‘I believe it is a woman’s right to have a child if she wants one so she should be facilitated by kind men to become a mother if that is what she wants to be.’
Mr Mayger is waiting for Covid-19 restrictions to ease so that he can return to Australia from the Philippines to continue his donations
Mr Mayger said women were drawn to him as a donor because he treats them with respect, and they can see his progeny and get references from other women.
Although John has no plans to retire just yet, he doesn’t agree with the hundreds of children some US donors have, saying it leaves the children feeling sausages coming out of a sausage machine.
‘I relate to all my children as individuals and relate to each of them according to their hobbies and expertise,’ he said.
Now he is waiting for Covid-19 restrictions to ease so that he can return to Australia from the Philippines to continue his donations.
‘I have two bookings when I return to Australia after Covid lets me return. If any woman wants me, I will donate.’ he said, proudly stating that he has no plans to retire from donating any time soon.