The mothers at the centre of The Man with 1000 Kids: ‘We just want him to stop’


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In 2010, a Dutch woman named Natalie decided she wanted to have a child. “It’s not easy if you’re a lesbian,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I can’t just go out and have some fun and become pregnant. It takes a little bit of planning.”

After ruling out male friends, Natalie went online and weighed up her options. At first, she considered a donor clinic, but was put off by the Dutch law that prevents donor-conceived children from learning the identity of the donor until they turn 16. “I was afraid there could be an identity crisis lying ahead,” she explains. “That’s something I don’t wish for any child.”

Instead, she turned to a website called “Longing for a Child”. There, she found dating site-style profiles for a number of potential donors. After an unsuccessful meet-up with a man called Leon, she landed on what she’d been searching for in a good-looking, curly-haired young man called Jonathan Jacob Meijer.

“He was perfect in every way,” remembers Natalie. “The looks were there, the intelligence was there, the way he talked was there. Everything that for me was important, was there.” When they met, they spoke about why Meijer had decided to become a sperm donor, and he said he’d been inspired by a college friend who was infertile. “He told me he wanted to help five families, and that I would be number three,” says Natalie. “That was his story back then.”

With Meijer’s help, Natalie had a son. “The first eight years were perfect,” she says. “There was nothing to worry about.” Then one day, Natalie’s partner Suzanne was enjoying a morning coffee and reading the newspaper when she came across a story about a Dutch sperm donor who had fathered hundreds of children, far more than the 25-child limit imposed by national law. The man matched Meijer’s description. “That’s how we found out that he donated way more children than we ever imagined,” says Suzanne.

Jonathan Jacob Meijer, the compulsive sperm donor known to have hundreds of children

Jonathan Jacob Meijer, the compulsive sperm donor known to have hundreds of children (Netflix)

Natalie and Suzanne are just two of the many mothers featured in Netflix’s shocking new three-part docuseries The Man with 1000 Kids. The women involved are separated by continents, spread across Europe, Africa and Australia, but united by a feeling that they were misled and betrayed. It would emerge that Meijer had donated sperm to multiple fertility clinics in the Netherlands – at least 11 by 2023, according to court records – and they say he had told each of them he had not donated elsewhere. He also travelled the world to give private donations. Speaking to The Independent, Meijer admitted he had not been “open” with the women, but denied some of the other accusations made about him in the documentary.

For Natalie and Suzanne, their feeling of betrayal was amplified by the fact that they had spoken to Meijer less than a year earlier about having another child with him. Suzanne had wanted to use the same donor so the couple’s children would be biological siblings, so they met up with Meijer once again. “We asked him how many children he had, and he said: ‘25’,” recalls Suzanne. “We thought it sounded like a lot. He told us that some families had a second or even third child with him, and that he’d been doing it for a few years. He said it was normal, and we believed him.”

They attempted to go through with a second insemination, but it failed. The couple were by that time a little relieved, having been put off by Meijer’s actions. While he had previously donated his sperm at their home, this time he had arranged to meet them in a public place. “I think the rock bottom in our story is that at some point he wanted to meet in a shopping mall,” says Suzanne. “He went into a public restroom. Natalie called me, like ‘What the f***?’ I told her: ‘This is not right.’” Natalie squirms beside her. “I felt really uncomfortable,” she says. “It felt like we were doing a drug deal. It’s not the place where you go to make a baby.”

At that moment it felt like having an Ikea bookcase. ‘Oh, I see you have the Billy! Great bookcase, we have that too!’

Suzanne

After they learned the truth about Meijer, Natalie and Suzanne joined a Facebook group filled with other mothers who had used his donations. They were stunned by what they saw. “You’d show a photo and someone would say: ‘Oh, that looks just like child A, B, C and D,’” recalls Suzanne. “At that moment it felt like having an Ikea bookcase. ‘Oh, I see you have the Billy! Great bookcase, we have that too!’ If you have a donor child, that can happen. But at this scale, it’s unheard of. It’s not that we are worried that our child is not unique, but it’s about the implications of this. If the children meet each other later in life, they might find each other romantically attractive – and then what?”

For the mothers, the biggest concern isn’t that Meijer lied to them or even the sheer scale of his biological brood. It’s the potentially incestuous dangers that lie in wait for their children, and for generations to come.

The total number of children that Meijer has fathered is unknown. In 2023, he admitted in court to having fathered at least 550 children, before a Dutch judge made the unprecedented decision to ban him from donating to sperm banks. He could be fined €100,000 (£84,700) each time he breaks the court order. In recent videos posted to his YouTube channel, Meijer has claimed that the title The Man with 1000 Kids is misleading, but in truth even he may not know the actual number, because the international sperm banks he used, such as the Danish-based Cryos, are not required to inform him about the children who result from his donations.

For the sake of argument, if Meijer has 500 children, within 100 years he could be expected to have 150,000 descendants walking the Earth. “This is about our children and the way their lives are impacted,” says Suzanne. “They can never just date somebody or have intercourse with somebody, they will always need to take care and even then they might not be aware that they’re a donor child. It’s a very dangerous and unhealthy situation for these children, and for their children and grandchildren.”

“It’s a public health hazard waiting to happen,” adds Natalie. “It’s not about the number, it’s about the dangers that lie beneath the number. The bigger the number, the more dangerous it is.”

The Man With 1000 Kids – Netflix Trailer

Suzanne raises a further worry. “What if even one of these children becomes a donor, if they’re not aware?” she asks. “Or even if they are aware,” adds Natalie. “But they have the same way of thinking as Jonathan had: ‘F*** it! Let’s do it!’”

There are no international laws governing sperm donation, and the field is largely unregulated. The mothers have little recourse besides trying to spread the word about the scale of Meijer’s actions. “That’s why we’re still raising awareness, and hoping that there is a government that wants to put up legislation because that needs to happen,” says Natalie. “Not just in individual countries, but globally. He is not stopping at borders, and he’s not the only one. There are more out there.”

As The Man with 1000 Kids explores, Meijer may well be particularly prolific but he is by no means the only “super donor” operating today. Natalie later learned that Leon, the first donor she had considered, has fathered somewhere in the region of 415 children. She now believes the two men were secretly behind the “Longing for a Child” website, and that they were competing with each other to have the highest number of children. The docuseries uncovers further examples of men traveling the world to donate unrestricted amounts of sperm, including a racist who expresses his desire to donate to Kenyan clinics out of a desire to “bleach Africa”.

Natalie: ‘[We need new legislation] not just in individual countries, but globally. He is not stopping at borders, and he’s not the only one’

Natalie: ‘[We need new legislation] not just in individual countries, but globally. He is not stopping at borders, and he’s not the only one’ (Netflix)

“They know each other and they collaborate,” says Suzanne. “We need laws to prevent this. I know the HFEA [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority] put out a statement to say it’s not possible in the UK, but they don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.” Natalie nods her head in agreement. “We need a ruling that you can find someone punishable by law, so that they will think before donating their sperm in these amounts,” she says.

As it stands, governments have generally been wary of any laws that curb procreation. Suzanne believes it’s time that changed. “We regulate what women do with their bodies,” she points out. “We regulate surrogacy. There are clear rules about this all around the world. Why can’t we tell people how much they can procreate? Why not? Because it’s men?”

Today, neither Natalie and Suzanne are in touch with Meijer. He has blocked them both on WhatsApp, so they’re no longer able to talk to him about their son. He continues to post regular updates to his YouTube channel, including from trips to Finland and Zanzibar. In recent videos, he complains that Netflix is misleading people about him. “After the amount of care we’ve put into the documentary, it’s sad to hear that response,” says Suzanne. “Especially coming from somebody who is basically a fraud.”

When reached for comment by The Independent, Meijer claimed that he stopped donating to new recipients in 2019, and denied many of the accusations made against him in the documentary. He says he never collaborated with or competed against other donors, and denies the most shocking accusation in the series, that he and Leon mixed their sperm together before giving it to a recipient in order to see whose would “win”. “That’s total slander,” he says. “It’s insane. Why should I do that? Why should anyone do that? If it’s in the documentary, be prepared, I will definitely sue the hell out of the whole Netflix crew.”

Meijer declined multiple invitations to participate in the documentary himself. “He was given a right to respond,” says Natalie. “His comments are always: ‘This is untrue and the women are just angry mothers.’ We’re not angry. We just want him to stop.”

‘The Man with 1000 Kids’ is on Netflix



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