The Man With 1000 Kids: The Full Story

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

This Netflix docuseries has everyone talking

How on Earth does one man have 1,000 children? This is the question at the heart of buzzy new Netflix documentary The Man With 1000 Kids which centres on Dutch scammer Jonathan Meijer. Here’s everything you can expect from the three-episode docuseries.

What Happens In The Man With 1000 Kids?

The Man With 1000 Kids tells the story of Jonathan Meijer – and the hundreds of parents he scammed. A charismatic sperm donor – tall, handsome, with a thick head of blonde hair – the docuseries centres on a group of families who are aggrieved to learn the man they trusted has not only fathered hundreds of children, but possibly thousands across the globe. 

Meijer was born in the Netherlands in 1981 or 1982. A childhood friend, Patricia, describes him in The Man With 1000 Kids as struggling with identity, cycling through a range of looks and jobs. But Meijer’s path to infamy all started in 2007, when he started donating sperm to clinics in his homeland of the Netherlands, aged 25. According to Patricia, this coincided with more of a long-haired, small time guru persona. ‘At first it was really great,’ Meijer recently told the Independent. ‘I knew that the people who got my sample would be super happy, and they’d create a family. That’s something meaningful and real.’ But then: ‘I thought it was a pity I couldn’t meet people and see the smiles on their faces. Then I read about websites where you could donate privately, and I realised it was something I wanted to do as well. It felt more complete to me.’

Meijer then posted on a range of Dutch websites where women sought sperm donors – and the response was overwhelming. ‘From the moment I put up the advertisement, an hour later there were four or five emails already,’ he told the Independent. ‘That would go on the whole day. People think I had this plan from the start, but I thought I’d maybe help one or two people. I know people think I’m crazy and that I help too much, but in my opinion I was super selective. People really don’t understand the shortage of donors.’

Jonathan Jacob Meijer in The Man With 1000 Kids

Jonathan Jacob Meijer in The Man With 1000 Kids. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Flash forward to 2017 and a doctor at Dutch clinic Isala Fertility Center received an anonymous email alleging one of their donors had possibly fathered more than 150 children in the Netherlands. This tip came from someone at Dutch website ‘Verlangen voor een kind’ (‘Longing for a child’), suggesting not only did Meijer donate there, but many of the profiles on that website were actually Meijer in disguise, along with his friend Leon. The whistleblower claimed Leon and Meijer were competing to father as many children as possible: ‘They operated like a cartel, and a cartel works the way that you divide up territory – in their case, dividing up the women.’ In fact, The Man With 1000 Kids reveals the shocking detail that Leon and Meijer would sometimes mix their sperm deposits together before handing it over, playing a kind of ‘sperm roulette’. So some of the women scammed by Meijer didn’t have his biological child: they had Leon’s. Note that Meijer has denied this on his YouTube channel, telling the Independent: ‘that’s total slander. It’s insane. Why would I do that? Why should anyone do that? If it’s in the documentary, be prepared, I will definitely sue the hell out of the whole Netflix crew.’

Either way, donating to other banks – and working directly with some families – violated Meijer’s agreement with Isala, which asked donors to work exclusively with them. As a result, the Dutch Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology discovered Meijer had fathered over 100 children in 11 different clinics, and he was banned from donating sperm in the Netherlands. And thus the international scam entered full swing.

Barely put off by his Dutch ban, Meijer proceeded to donate his sperm across several countries (including Denmark, Mexico, Argentina and Russia), sometimes anonymously, sometimes handing over the sperm in a plastic cup, sometimes having sex with the women himself. While each country has its own limit on how many children a sperm donor can father, there’s no unified international limit – and Meijer made the most of this loophole. Indeed, some international clinics like Cryos – the largest international sperm and egg bank in the world, based in Denmark – simply send donations to prospective parents in another country when a donor has maxed out their limit. Meanwhile, even though the Dutch clinic Isala can ask donors not to work with other banks, there’s no way to enforce these guidelines, meaning Meijer could really hit the ground running when commencing his deception. As one expert points out in The Man With 1000 Kids, there’s more regulation in cattle breeding than in sperm donation.

When put in contact with the families he was donating to, Meijer would tell them he only intended to donate sperm to a handful of people – an outright lie. He would hide behind various personas, claiming to work in education and using names such as Jacob, Ruud, Walter and Maarten. Intriguingly, when working directly with families, he didn’t ask for payment beyond his travel expenses – and, when his clinic days were over, the cost of STD tests. Meanwhile, Meijer maintained a YouTube channel showcasing everything from his attempts at the raw meat diet to his thoughts on crypto – all backdropped by an ever-changing series of destinations as he travelled around the world. Across three episodes, The Man With 1000 Kids attempts to piece together the havoc and upset Meijer left in his wake.

‘You get one life on this Earth – why has he chosen to use his charm and his intellect and his creativity in order to try to procreate on a mass scale and deceive all these people?’ director Josh Allott asks. ‘Speaking to lots of different parents that have met him and people that know him well, it seems like it almost became an addiction for him.’

According to Allott, Jonathan claims to be able to ‘always tell instantly if that child is his own’. Some parents have revealed Meijer told them he keeps a spreadsheet of all of the children he has fathered. One mother in the documentary ponders whether he has a ‘God-like complex’. Additionally, Meijer has asked parents for pictures when their child is born. ‘It may be that he’s just become totally addicted to this feeling of having children, this innate weird biological thing that’s got completely out of hand,’ Allott says. ‘And then there’s all the affirmation that comes from parents who will tell him about how amazing they think their child is and the incredible features that their child has. It must be this incredible ego boost for him.’

How Many Children Does Jonathan Meijer Have?

Jonathan Meijer has fathered at least 1,000 children, with some estimates claiming he has fathered up to 3,000 children across the globe. After 17 years of sperm donation, it’s hard to know the exact number because Meijer worked internationally – and also sometimes anonymously. It is unclear whether Meijer knows himself how many children he has; either way, he has refused to admit the total number.

In The Man With 1000 Kids, fertility fraud activist Eve Wiley hazards a guess: ‘With Jonathan and Cryos International, he’s going to Copenhagen once a month for four days for four years. That’s roughly 200 donations, and you can get about 15 straws of sperm per ejaculation. If every straw makes a baby, that could be 3,000 potential children. That is just one sperm bank. And we know that he was in at least 11 sperm banks.’

Meijer’s story, however, keeps changing. In 2021, he claimed he had approximately 250 children. In May 2024, he put the number around 550. Most recently, he told the Independent his real number of children was closer to 600. The jury’s out on this one.

Has He Stopped Donating Sperm?

Yes, Meijer recently told the Independent he stopped donating sperm in 2019. ‘Now, looking back, I can say that I should have set more boundaries for myself, and realised when I was reaching my limits,’ he said. ‘I shouldn’t have waited until people started to scream and shout at me.’

Why Did He Do It?

Some say Meijer has a God-complex, but he claims he just got a bit carried away. ‘Sometimes I would think: “It’s a lot [of children], maybe you should stop,” but then I’d get a new message saying: “Wow, you are really the donor we’ve been looking for,”’ he told the Independent. ‘I found it hard to say no. You’re the guy that comes along with the winning lottery ticket, that’s the feeling you bring these people. It’s something magical.

‘Sometimes I think I got too carried away,’ he adds. ‘I should have told myself that [a smaller number of children] is fine.’ 

And as for why he lied about it, ‘It would be best if I had been open,’ he says. ‘But I chose to follow the international guidelines. At the big sperm banks like Cryos, their guideline is not to inform the recipient about the amount of times one donor has been used. I decided for myself that if the clinics are not informing the parents then I wouldn’t either, but I understand why people feel like it wasn’t the best approach.

‘If you look at Cryos, there’s only 200 active donors for the whole world,’ he adds. ‘The demand is only increasing. They should make it easier for a man to become a donor, instead of saying you need to be ashamed.’

Mark in The Man With 1000 Kids

Mark in The Man With 1000 Kids. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Why Is He So Controversial?

What’s the problem with having so many children? Surely Meijer is just helping countless families realise their dream of having children? In 2023, the Donorkind Foundation filed a civil lawsuit against Meijer due to fears of potential unintentional incest amongst his hundreds of children in the Netherlands alone. In the Netherlands, there is a limit of 25 donor children, which Meijer violated in the extreme. ‘Children who haven’t been brought up together are more likely to get attracted to each other because they see some familiarities in the face of the sibling,’ says Natalie, a mother featured in The Man With 1000 Kids. This attraction can result in romantic love, a phenomenon known as the ‘Luke and Leia complex’, named for the characters in Star Wars. As is explained by clinical embryologist Dr. Max Curfs in the docuseries, limits on sperm donation exist in order to protect the children from both incest and unwitting consanguineous relationships between their descendants. That is to say, especially in the Netherlands, Meijer’s grandchildren could easily meet and fall in love without ever knowing they are related.

Meijer has called these fears ‘over-exaggerated’ in likelihood. ‘It comes down to if [my donor children] would run into somebody that they don’t know, and they can always ask,’ he told the Independent. ‘All the children know that they’re from a donor and they know my name. It’s a little thing that they have to be aware of. “Are you from a donor, and is your donor Jonathan?”’

As executive producer Natalie Hill put it: ‘Obviously, the children are affected, and the children’s children are affected. But every cousin is affected. Everyone who becomes a partner of those children is then affected. Jonathan’s brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, everyone that is connected or becomes connected by making a new family will be affected by his actions.’

Strikingly, when Meijer took to the stand in the 2023 court case, he shocked families by suggesting his children could avoid incest by using a unified symbol on their social media profiles.

Another reason Meijer’s actions are so controversial is the negative psychosocial impact on his children, who have a huge pool of more than 1,000 half-siblings across the globe. ‘What happens psychologically to these children that have 700, 800, 900 brothers and sisters?’ asks Kate, an Australian mother who used Meijer’s sperm through Denmark-based Cryos, the largest international sperm and egg bank in the world. ‘How are they psychologically going to be able to deal with this information?’ This was another reason at the heart of that 2023 civil lawsuit, prompting the court to order Meijer to stop donating sperm and request his samples be destroyed by the clinics still holding it, placing a €100,000 fine on each future infraction.

The international families at the centre of Netflix’s docuseries are also upset because Meijer deceived them. He claimed he planned only to donate his sperm to a handful of families, knowing full well his sperm had already helped to create hundreds of children. Meijer managed this due to the international loophole: he may have been banned from donating sperm in the Netherlands but, with many clinics still accepting anonymous donations, this was a tiny bump in the road. The parents we see in The Man With 1000 Kids are on a mission to change this in the law, hopefully preventing Meijer from deceiving even more families.

Where Is Jonathan Meijer Now?

Jonathan Meijer is still travelling the world, and still posting all about it on YouTube. Most recently, he has been posting in response to The Man With 1000 Kids, with titles such as ‘Why I am a VERY GOOD donor’, ‘Did I lie to parents?’ and ‘SPERM MIXING IS A LIE!!!’. 

But Meijer refused to be a part of the documentary itself. ‘I did meet [Jonathan] in order to speak to him about being in the documentary,’ says director Allott. ‘We approached him a number of times to be interviewed and gave him a right to reply at the end. He refused to comment on any of the allegations in the series.’

That said, he recently agreed to an interview with the Independent, in which he claimed his real number of children was closer to 600. ‘I never had the idea to have 100 children or 500 children,’ he says. ‘It happened step by step. Many donors want to be in the news, but for me if nobody knew about me that would be absolutely fine. Now they do know about me, so I want to explain my side of the story.’

Meijer also said the documentary ‘[capitalises] on families who were infertile or just wanted to have families’. Speaking to the Independent, he said: ‘They’re good people, lovely people, and now people will ask them: “Oh, is your child one from the 1,000 donor doc?” Is the doc going to do any good for the children?’

Vanessa with newborn baby fathered by Jonathan Meijer

Vanessa in The Man With 1000 Kids. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Who Are The Families In The Man With 1000 Kids?

The docuseries certainly couldn’t include all of the families impacted by Meijer, but here’s a look at who features in The Man With 1000 Kids:

  • Suzanne and Natalie, a Dutch couple who thought they were one of only a few couples Meijer was helping
  • Joyce and John, a Dutch couple who used Meijer’s sperm to have two children after John’s irreversible vasectomy
  • Laura and Kate, an Australian couple who learn about Meijer’s actions in a Facebook group after using his sperm
  • Vanessa, a single woman who was grateful to use Meijer’s sperm as she believed she was one of only a few parents
  • Nicoletted, a single mother

Where Is The Man With 1000 Kids Streaming?

All three episodes of The Man With 1000 Kids are streaming exclusively on Netflix.