Papa Ed: The Busy Life of a Prolific Sperm Donor
Eighty-two children with another 10 on the way: That is the prodigious output of Netherlands native Ed Houben, a private sperm donor. He is active around the world and says his goal is to make would-be mothers happy. A bit of pleasure for himself comes with the territory.
On the way to fathering his 83rd child, Ed Houben walks into Arrivals Hall D at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport. He’s wearing hiking pants with pocket flaps and a fleece sweater, and he’s carrying a backpack with a bottle of water in one of the side pockets. “Hallo,” he says, overemphasizing the letter “l” in his Dutch accent. He walks straight toward the bus stop. He’s in a hurry because the would-be mother goes to bed early and they still have plans for the evening.
Houben hasn’t actually traveled to meet women in a long time. Nowadays, they usually come to him. But there are emergencies like this one: The would-be mother is in the 11th day of her cycle — that is, two days before ovulation — and she doesn’t have anyone to take care of her cats.
She is waiting in a small apartment at the other end of the city. She has inflated the air mattress in the living room and is wearing attractive lingerie.
Houben takes a seat on the upper deck of the double-decker bus. He already has three children in Berlin. The remaining 79 live in other cities and countries, including Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. Houben has entered their names, dates of birth and genders into an Excel table at home. The oldest child is almost nine, while the youngest is only 2 months old. He pops another mint into his mouth and yawns. “My sleep hormones are starting to kick in,” he says, “but I can’t go to sleep just yet.”
He gets off the bus and switches to the subway in Berlin’s Rudow neighborhood. The train stops on Hermannplatz, where he has to board another bus replacing a stretch of the subway that is out of service. It’s all very time-consuming. He looks at his watch. It’s almost 11 p.m. “Pretty soon,” he says, “there won’t be much of an opportunity for romance anymore.”
An attempt is planned for the evening, and a second one for the following morning. “Attempt,” in this case, means sexual intercourse with a woman he met online through the sperm-donation site spermaspender.de.
The Right Fit
Houben is a sperm donor. He gives women his sperm and, according to his estimates, he succeeds in giving them a child in 80 percent of cases. “That’s my success rate,” he says.
Ten of the women he has helped become mothers are doctors. It’s important to him that the women are educated, says Houben, a 42-year-old historian.