‘Childless’ man Peter Ellenstein discovers he has 37 children

A “childless” man has spoken of his surprise at finding out he was actually the father of 37 secret children.

Peter Ellenstein’s world was turned upside down in 2017 when he received a message on Facebook from a woman named Rachel: “Hi Peter. I am messaging you under very strange circumstances.

“This is a very sensitive subject… but to give you a bit of my background, I was born in 1994 due to in-vitro fertilisation. The reason I am messaging you is that I believe you may have been the donor.”

Mr Ellenstein was “freaked out”. He suspected it might be a scam, he wrote in a recent article for The Telegraph.

While working as a theatre producer and artistic director in his 20s and 30s in Los Angeles, he had donated sperm “frequently” at two sperm banks.

At $45 per donation, it was a good income stream. He ultimately made “hundreds of donations” anonymously, although he allowed any potential offspring to contact him in case of a medical emergency.

He married late at 48 and never had children, although he raised his wife’s daughter as his own.

He never gave a second thought about the potential children he was fathering.

Rachel, a 23-year-old single mother, started searching for Mr Ellenstein when she was eight.

Information available on a film industry website was the missing piece of the puzzle that allowed her to track him down.

Mr Ellenstein began a video chat with Rachel and immediately noticed she had his eyes.

“From the minute that I locked eyes with Rachel – eyes that were the same as mine – I was able to think of nothing else. I wanted to know her: she opened a different part of my heart and brain that had not existed before, a way of being in the world that I’d never previously contemplated,” he wrote.

Rachel later informed Mr Ellenstein that she knew about 11 other children he had sired, including a sailor and a scientist.

He met four of his daughters, and then found out he was a grandfather.

“In all I have 37 children that I know of, and currently I’ve met 34 of them,” he said.

The children have various backgrounds and mostly live in the United States.

“Many of the mothers are Jewish – I’m also Jewish,” Mr Ellenstein wrote.

The family members now communicate through a Facebook group.

Mr Ellenstein added he had not provided financial support to any of his children.

“None of my kids have pressed me or made me feel obligated to support them,” he said. “I wish I had more money to help those who need it or make visits easier. (I’ve loaned small amounts to several of them though.)”

Australia has experienced a shortage of sperm donors in recent years as demand at IVF clinics spikes.

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