REAL LIFE

My sperm donor dad was my doctor!

'I fainted in his office'
Us with Peter

Rachel knew she and her sister were conceived with donor sperm. But she found their biological dad in the most unusual of places…

Here, Rachel Barnes, 28, from Melbourne, Vic, tells her incredible story in her own words…

As birthdays went, my latest had stuck in my mind for all the wrong reasons.

Not only had I got an enormous splinter in my thumb while doing some DIY, when I went to the doctor to get it out, I passed out in his surgery!

It’s fair to say I was feeling sorry for myself. Fortunately Dr Lewis was recommended to me and he was an expert.

I’d told him I was a smoker and, as he dug under my nail, he gave me a lecture on the dangers of smoking to keep my mind off the pain.

Of course I’d rolled my eyes. He wasn’t going to stop me lighting up when I got outside.

It wasn’t as if he was my dad or anything.

A few months later, my little trip to the doctor paled into insignificance when my family faced a more serious medical crisis.

My dad Russell, 56, told me and my sister Anez he needed heart surgery.

Dad was a fighter. Just after he married mum, Anne-Marie, 53, he’d battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.

Given just a 33 per cent chance of survival, incredibly he’d come out the other side.

When he’d discovered the disease had robbed him and Mum of the chance to have kids, they turned to an anonymous sperm donor.

The result was Anez and me.

Identical twins, we were lucky enough to have the best parents anyone could wish for. Mum and Dad were always incredibly open about how we’d been conceived.

At the age of four we knew we were ‘special babies’ and at seven, they’d explained more.

Even they only had a few details about our biological dad.

Growing up, we knew was he was white, had brown hair and eyes, was ‘open and honest’ and liked swimming!

But Anez and I were so happy, we weren’t even looking to find out more.

Anez and me

Sure, at times we wondered where certain characteristics came from, but it’s not something we dwelt on.

But when Dad realised he needed heart surgery, he took matters into his own hands.

He told us he’d started researching how to find our biological father.

‘Are you trying to replace yourself?’ Anez and I asked, choked with emotion.

‘I just want to do this so there are no pieces of the puzzle missing,’ Dad said.

It was such an emotional time but there was no point in arguing.

If this was what Dad wanted, we needed to support him.

In any case I was pretty sure the search would prove futile.

Our donor probably didn’t want to be found.

When he donated his sperm he could have decided he didn’t want any resulting kids to contact him.

Over the next few months we put it to the back of our minds as we helped Dad through his surgery – which thankfully was a success.

Then one day Dad had news.

With the help of an online register, he’d discovered our biological father was happy to be contacted.

My head swirled with the enormity of it.

Did I even want to do this? What if we didn’t like each other?

But after talking to Anez, who was working in New Zealand, we decided to proceed.

A few weeks later I had more details. Not only did I have our sperm donor dad’s name, Peter, but I knew he was a doctor and a martial arts expert.

I had his mobile number too.

Did I even want to do this?

Chatting to a work colleague about it later that day, she looked puzzled.

‘I know a Peter, he’s a martial arts expert and a doctor,’ she frowned. ‘It can’t be. Can it…?’

There was only one way to find out.

Pulling out her mobile, she looked up his number.

My heart hammered as I realised the number matched.

‘Dr Peter Lewis,’ she nodded.

Memories of that disastrous birthday at the doctor’s flooded back.

I could hardly take it in.

I’d fainted in his office… and he was my sperm donor dad!

Going through a mediator, Peter agreed to let me call him.

Still reeling with shock, it was two weeks before I plucked up the courage to ring.

Peter was overseas in Thailand, but he answered my call straight away.

‘Remember that girl who passed out in your surgery?’ I laughed. ‘That was me!’

Peter was thrilled to hear from me and a month later we met up for the first time.

Of course I was nervous but we hit it off and I found myself marvelling at how much we looked alike.

My heart hammered as I realised the number matched.

My sperm donor dad was my doctor

Over the next few months we saw each other more.

Peter didn’t have any kids, but he introduced me to members of his family.

I realised it wasn’t just physical characteristics we shared, but the same sense of humour too.

When Anez flew over from New Zealand to meet Peter, I felt like we’d fitted the final piece of the puzzle together.

Thanks to the overwhelming support of Mum and Dad, Peter became very much part of our lives.

He even continued to lecture me about smoking!

When I decided to quit I couldn’t help but think back to that day at the doctors.

It turned out to be a birthday I’ll never forget.

Anez says:

‘When I saw Peter I was amazed at how similar we looked and I wondered what his personality would be like.

When I flew back to Australia, Rachel and I met up with him for dinner and it was so interesting to see his personality – he and Rachel share a lot of characteristics!

He’s embraced us and we keep in contact by email. I’m so happy he’s part of our lives.’

Peter says:

‘Meeting Rachel and Anez has been a really positive experience.

I think the fact that Rachel met me in the surgery actually made things easier.

I donated sperm when I was a medical student and I know I’ve fathered a total of seven children via IVF over the years.

So far Rachel and Anez are the only ones I’ve made contact with but who knows what the future holds.’

Us with Peter

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