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A happy family united in an unexpected way
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Seattle woman dating her ‘anonymous’ sperm donor, 13 years after giving birth to his daughter

From left to right, Madi Saunders, Bryce Gallo, Aaron Long and Alice Mikell. (Jessica Share)

An unusual Seattle family has caught the attention of media outlets around the world. And the headlines are the definition of clickbait.

“I’m dating my kid’s father who I met 13 years after she was born.”

Intriguing right? I thought so. So here is the story of how Aaron Long, Jessica Share, Alice Mikell, Madi Saunders, and Bryce Gallo became a family.

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It all starts with Long.

“I donated sperm in 1994 for about a year,” said Long. “I donated about 100 times total. I did it as a part time job; they paid me $40 each time.”

Back in 1994, the sperm bank promised anonymity to all parties. But a few years ago, a loophole emerged.

Home DNA kits like 23andMe hit the market and Long bought one, curious to see if he could connect with any of his biological children.

“One of the things they do is you can click on a button and it will show you a list of other people who use the service who are related to you. When I got the results back a couple weeks later, I logged into their site and the first thing I saw at the top of the list was ‘Bryce Gallo, Son, 50% DNA match.'”

Long connected with Gallo, and then Gallo connected Long with Madi Saunders, one of his other biological children who grew up with her family back east. The three began to chat.

Meanwhile, down in Oregon, Jessica Share’s daughter Alice Mikell also took the 23andMe test.

Mikell wanted to know her ethnic breakdown; she had no intention of finding any long lost relatives, let alone her biological father. Share had purchased Long’s sperm about 14 years ago when she was married to a woman.

“The same thing had happened to us,” said Share. “The very first thing that happens when you click on ‘DNA Relatives’ is Aaron Long, 50 percent father. Right under: Bryce Gallo, 25 percent, half brother. I really had to decide, ‘okay, what are we going to do about this?’ I had no idea that would be there at all. It was a complete shock.”

Share wrote to Long, and pretty soon the whole gang was sending messages back and forth; they immediately clicked.

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“I was like, well why not throw a big party?” said Long. “I’ve never been married, I’ve never had a big life event like this. I thought it would be a fun way for everyone to meet each other and everyone could gawk at my kids.”

Share describes that first meeting.

When they all got together they all sat down on that couch, they looked straight ahead and they all crossed their little legs like synchronized swimmers in the same exact way. They were all really familiar. And then they started telling weird puns. This is genetic, I didn’t know, but everyone started telling the same sort of jokes.

“They felt so familiar to me, they looked kind of familiar,” said Long. “Everyone was a little soft spoken, maybe a little bit shy. Just kind of the way they held themselves in their bodies reminded me of the way I do. It was freaky.”

Saunders likes to tell a story about the time she and her half-sister, Alice, went to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.

“We split up and we came out with the same book,” Saunders said. “On the same trip we went into a grocery store and picked out the same snacks. It was an ‘Attack On Titan’ graphic novel and the snack was white cheddar popcorn.”

It makes sense that Long and his children would have things in common; genetics are involved. But then Long and Share started to fall in love. Turns out he matched the description that inspired her to select his sperm.

“I wanted a writer, we’re very literary in my family,” said Share. “We wanted someone who was educated, who was thoughtful, who considered things, who was open minded. And when we met he had all of those traits.

“We really got along,” Share continued. “We ended up going on a two week vacation together, all of us, with all the kids. We snuck away from the kids a couple times, just went on a walk around the neighborhood, what I consider our first dates. It was really strange because what happened on those first dates was we ended up talking about our kids.”

Now they all live together in a downtown Seattle co-op. Share, Long, and their 13-year-old daughter, Alice.

What’s it like living with her mom and dad?

“Definitely weird,” said Alice. “I never expected to live like this. I was always proud that we [weren’t] a nuclear family.”

A year after their first meeting, 21 year old Saunders moved across the country and into the co-op to live with them.

“I think the whole thing is so fascinating,” said Long. “There is the romance side to Jess and my story. But it’s also a science-fiction story. You’re just sort of starting your relationship backwards. Like, you’re related; get to know each other.”

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