When Jessica bought sperm to start a family with her wife 18 years ago, she would never have believed the twists and turns her life would take after her daughter was born.
Now though she is in a relationship with the father of her daughter Alice, 16.
“I was married to my wife and living in another state and we decided to get an anonymous sperm donor,” explains Jessica, 45, who appeared on hit C4 show Steph’s Packed Lunch yesterday.
“Back then you looked on the Internet and picked someone out thinking you would never get the chance to meet them.”
The mum, from Vashon Island, Washington State, described how a decade later her daughter Alice’s curiosity about her genetic make-up led to new love.
“My daughter really wanted to know what countries she was from so we did a DNA test at Christmas.
“She wasn’t interested so much in what her father’s name was. Her Grandma, who loves genealogy, very kindly jumped in and gave her a DNA test,” explains Jessica.
“We did the test and you can opt in to see your DNA relatives and we pushed the button and the first thing that came up was Aaron Long – shares 50 percent of genes – father.
“It was terrifying because I had no idea that database was so big and people were doing it. I had no expectation of anything.
“Aaron was pretty new to the site too and we had to stop and think ‘What are we going to do about this?’”
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Aaron, 54, recalls that time: “In 1994 I was working as a cab driver and didn’t have too much going on in my life and it was an easy part-time job.’
“Then that Christmas I received this message which said it was from Alice, but it was really Jess writing, and she explained she had a daughter by me and was interested in sharing information about her, and getting to know me, and I said the same things back.
“I had already met a couple of other sperm children and my position was always ‘If you want to get to know me I am pretty open to that.””
By this time Jess’ marriage to her ex-wife was over and she was single. Aaron also provided the sperm for Alice’s sister Soren, who was born in 2007. But when the marriage ended Jessica’s ex-wife left with Soren.
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“At this point, I hadn’t been with my wife for some time,” says Alice.
“There were a couple of other sperm children and we decided we were all going to meet up.
“We had a two-week vacation together and it felt like we had always known each other and we had a lot of fun and the rest is history.
“Aaron’s a very open person. It’s been a very natural process of getting to know him. He’s just so happy. It’s very cool. I’m so grateful that we found him.”
In a modern and unusual – yet very happy – blended family, Jessica and her daughter Alice now live with Aaron – along with his 24-year-old daughter Madi, who he also had through sperm donation.
They’ve also met two of Aaron’s other children through sperm donation, Bryce, 26, and 14-year-old Emily. Alice gets on well with all her genetic siblings. “She thinks it’s kind of funny that everybody thinks it’s a big deal,” says Jessica, adding: “We did everything everyone else does, but backward.”
Says Aaron: “Before we met we texted on Facebook chat for months and months and got to know each other and discussed how I looked and didn’t look like Alice.
“She said one of the first things that attracted her was how similar my facial expressions were to Alice’s.
“Alice and I get on very well, we have similar temperaments, she doesn’t consider me her dad but her mum’s boyfriend.
“She had another parent for 12 years. We are friends, we live together. It’s kind of a fairytale for us."
Steph’s Packed Lunch is on Monday to Friday at 12.30pm on Channel 4 and All 4.
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