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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
This Is Life With Lisa Ling: The Genius Experiment
Aired October 18, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA LING, CNN NARRATOR (voice-over): This is the story of a controversial experiment to create geniuses that began over 30 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to have stronger, more intelligent people reproduce more.
LING: Robert Graham, an eccentric millionaire who believed the brain power of the human race was in declined had a solution, selectively breeding for intelligence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was called the repository for choice. And the press got wind of it and people went up in arms, this is tampering with God.
LING: Hidden amongst us are over 200 children that carry a secret buried deep in their DNA, the genetic makeup for academic excellence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We as a species, do need to make sure that we're not slipping into an idiocracy (ph).
LING: Did the experiment work? Are you a genius?
Tonight, we'll meet the progeny of the experiment to create geniuses and explore the legacy Robert Graham left behind.
What is it like to try and create a better version of you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Super weird.
LING: So nine years ago I met this guy. He was 6'4", a doctor, and as it turns out, a pretty good cook. I was instantly interested. I admittedly thought to myself, this guy could make a good baby daddy.
Paul and I got married and several years later decided to start a family. But the journey wasn't easy. After two miscarriages, we were finally successful, when in 2013 we gave birth to our baby girl, Jet.
Are you going to help daddy cook? Are you going to help daddy cook?
All we cared about was having a healthy baby, but of course we hoped she'd be smart too. So for fun, we started to test her.
Where's the turtle? Where's turtle? Yes. Where's sea horse? Where's sea horse? Yes.
DR. PAUL SONG, LISA LING'S HUSBAND: Let's look.
LING: Did she inherit her father's academic prowess?
LING: Or will she have more of her mother's outgoing personality?
Give me five. Good job!
Jet's genetic hand has been dealt and only time will tell if she turns out to be our baby genius. But what if you could shop for smarts? It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but in the 1980s, one man didn't think so.
When Robert Graham opened the so-called genius sperm bank over 30 years ago, it caused a media frenzy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this estate, 30 miles north of San Diego is house of sperm bank said to made up exclusively a donations by Nobel prize winning scientist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sperm is the property of Robert K. Graham who has long been concerned about what he believes to be the decline in genetic endowment of mankind.
ROBERT GRAHAM, CREATOR, GENIUS SPERM BANK: The better the human gene pool of mankind, the better the individuals will come out of it. The poorer the human gene pool, the more useless and detrimental individuals will come out of it. I'm interested in improving the human gene pool.
LING: Officially called the repository for germinal choice, its goal was simple but innovative. Graham would prescreen men, based on their intellectual pedigree. Once approved, a donor sheet listing their IQ and academic accomplishments would be mailed to interested shoppers. Over 200 prodigy were born from genius sperm. Children he hoped would better the human gene pool. The question is, did it work?
So 30 years ago what Robert Graham tried to do in manufacturing genius was hugely controversial. But nevertheless, he was inundated with people who wanted to utilized his services like a couple that was in this building here in New York City.
Before finding the repository, Adrianne and David Ram tried for years to conceive naturally, with no success.
At what point did you realize there was something wrong?
DAVID RAM, UTILIZED GERMINAL CHOICE: We visited the doctors. She turned out to be exceptionally fertile. And I was exceptionally infertile.
LING: Adrianne wanted the experience of birth. So adoption was out of the question. After hearing about the repository on TV, they decided to check it out.
So what did you actually read about the repository that struck you?
D. RAM: Really, the basic thing was the research on the donor's past and their genetics and their health history number one. But number two would be the what they had accomplished.
LING: The donors?
D. RAM: The donors, yes.
LING: The Rams applied and their application was quickly accepted.
I can't believe you still have this brochure, the repository for germinal choice not only enables the wives to become mothers but increases the chance of giving their children a genetically advantaged start in life. And these are the donor profiles? You still have these as well?
Each donor was given a color-coded I.D. to protect their identity. Donor clear and donor Fuchsia were at the top of the Rams' list.
Outstanding intellect with exceptional athletic ability, northwest, European, blue eyes, fair skin, blonde hair, professor of heart science at a major university. He has produced an outstanding research.
So would you say your first child has outstanding intellect with exceptional athletic ability? I mean, all of these donors sound pretty extraordinary. Executive aerospace scientist, graduate, involved in genetic research. But I mean, I would have a hard time with these.
On paper, they're all amazing.
David, I just have to ask you, as you're thumbing through some of these donor profiles and seeing these extraordinary accomplishments and physical characteristics, did you feel at all any kind of inferiority complex or insecurities?
D. RAM: Well, there was some insecurity, but not about them. Their part is done. You know, they provided the sperm. The really difficult part, in my view, is raising them, and being a father. And that's going to be up to me.
LING: The decision had been made and an order placed. Donor clear, professor of a hard science at a major university, outstanding intellect and exceptional athletic ability.
So this big canister shows up in the mail?
ADRIANNE RAM, UTILIZED GERMINAL CHOICE: Yes, FedEx.
D. RAM: And then like sci-fi movie, you take the lid off the tank and all the smoke comes out and everything. It was a learning experience for me. It is an eye opener to say the least. LING: The insemination was a success on the first try. Nine months
later, the rams' welcomed their first child, Leandra, into the world.
A. RAM: Right away, she had a voice. Oh, my goodness.
LING: Academically accomplished and vocally talented growing up, Leandra found a successful career singing opera. But she wasn't the only Ram child to succeed. Ecstatic about Leandra's birth, the Rams went back to the repository in hopes of using more of donor clears sperm for a second child. But they hit a snag.
So how many children could these donors have?
A. RAM: I think it is ten children. When we were so happy with Clear, having our daughter Leandra, and we were ready to have a second child, Clear was no longer available, because he had already side (ph) the ten children. So we had to find another one.
LING: After another search, Donor Fuchsia stuck out, an Olympic gold medalist. IQ not tested but superior. Courtney was born in 1988, the Rams' second child from the repository.
Did you see Olympic qualities in her?
A. RAM: Yes. Yes, I do. She's very strong and she has all the qualities of a great artist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome. Over here -- (INAUDIBLE)
COURTNEY RAM, SECOND CHILD FROM GERMINAL CHOICE: My family's very, very artsy. I think the environment plays such a large part in who we become. And, you know, how that child and how that person is nurtured throughout their life and what experiences they have. I think that shapes them just as much as their genes for sure.
LING: What were you like as a kid?
C. RAM: As a kid, I remember being really happy all the time. I had this great friendship and relationship with my sibling, my older sister, I felt really free to do what I wanted, and free take ballet lessons, take piano lesson, take art classes, I was just really supported.
LING: How did you do in school?
C. RAM: I always actually loved school. I did really well. For the most part I got straight A's.
LING: So would you say academics came naturally to you?
C. RAM: Yes, for sure.
LING: Have you ever felt pressure to live up to the genius moniker?
C. RAM: From the outside, I've never felt any pressure. I have a lot of goals and a lot of things I'm working towards in my life. It's really just sort of who I am.
LING: The rams would have one more child through the repository. They went back to donor Fuchsia, and Courtney was given a biological brother, Logan. While his birth was a blessing to the family, somewhere along the way, they noticed a change in him.
A. RAM: There was definitely a stop of the development. He seemed to go more inside himself.
LING: Logan would later be diagnosed with PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism.
A. RAM: There's only so much you can control with genetics at this point in our history. I mean, I didn't know that my third child would be in the autistic spectrum. You know, I didn't have any control over that. You don't know what's going to happen. And even when you try to increase the chances of something going one way, you still -- it's completely --
D. RAM: What you're doing is increasing the chances, that's it. Because there are so many impossible number of variations and permutations involved in creating a human being.
LING: Whether you have your baby naturally or through artificial insemination or IVF, it's impossible to know what kind of characteristics your child is going to have. You just can't know. All you can do is provide love.
When Robert Graham died in 1997, the genius sperm bank followed closely behind. And with it, decades of record keeping and files were relocated. But after some digging, we found a young man in the Midwest who decided to talk on camera for the first time, sharing the details of a life that's had many twists and turns.
LING: There were over 200 kids born from the repository over an 18- year period. Some of them are still quite young and may not even know they were born using sperm from the repository. Kids are spread out all over the United States, but there's a young man here in rural Illinois, who has agreed to talk to us.
TOM, PROGENY: I was very lucky because the two elements that go into a person, nature and nurture, I had the best of both worlds really.
LING: Genius can be found in many places, but on top of a roof is not where I expected to find one of the progeny. Hey, Tom.
TOM: Hey, Lisa.
LING: How you doing?
TOM: Not bad. Yourself?
LING: Good. It's toasty out here. So how long have you been roofing?
TOM: This is my second year.
LING: How do you like it?
TOM: It's actually really fun. You get to work outside all the time. I get to work with all my friends.
LING: Do the guys you work with know you're progeny from the genius sperm bank?
TOM: Yes, some of them do. Some of them I'm OK sharing my background with.
LING: There might be people who are surprised to see someone from the genius sperm bank out here doing manual labor, what do you think?
TOM: It's been a winding road that's brought me to here.
LING: 29-year-old Tom's genetic journey began at birth. His parents never told him about his repository past, raising him as if he were just like any other child. But on the inside written in his DNA, was the genetic code for academic excellence.
Did you do well in school?
TOM: Yes, very well in school. When I got to high school, I actually started taking college courses as a freshman. I have a near eidetic memory, when I read something or hear it, it recalls faster than most people.
LING: You have been that way since you were a kid?
TOM: Yes. It's horribly painful when the speed of the class moves at the speed of the slowest student in the room and you are on the end of the spectrum and you are just constantly bored.
LING: Were you a popular kid?
TOM: No. Those two don't go hand and hand.
LING: Kind of a nerd?
TOM: Yes. Definitely a nerd, the outcast.
LING: Are these all your books?
TOM: Yes. That's not all of them, though. It's a good amount of them. This is actually probably the most appropriate.
LING: Brave new world?
TOM: Yes. Had this for forever. Borrowed it from the library. (LAUGHTER)
TOM: It's actually all about eugenics and the future and the impact the eugenics can have. This is all designer babies, built to be alphas, betas, deltas, and have a social class that's predetermined.
LING: Do you think Tom's a genius?
MARY, TOM'S MOTHER: I think he's very, very intelligent, yes.
LING: Thirty years ago, Tom's mother, Mary, wanted to start a family. But after years of trying she wasn't getting pregnant.
MARY: We went through all the fertility testing and everything was fine with me. So then we went for testing for him, and he wound out that he had a problem.
LING: Unable to have a biological child through her husband, the only option was to use a sperm bank, and their doctor recommended the repository.
So how important was the intelligence factor in your decision to go with the repository?
MARY: To me, that was huge. Because I've always felt that intelligence equals success in life, usually. If you're like in a situation where I was, where my husband and I could not have our own child, and you have to pick characteristics, it's only the smart thing to do, to try to stack the deck in your child's favor, and to try to get the best that you can get for your child.
LING: Mary ended up picking donor Coral, an IQ of 160 at age nine, and a professional man of high standing. Nine months later, Tom was born. Given the source, expectations were high.
Did your mother ride you a lot as a kid?
TOM: Yes. Yes. My mom pushed me. You have more potential than this. You can do better. Keep working. Keep doing your homework.
LING: So she had certain expectations of you?
MARY: I just always felt he would be smart. It was something I just expected.
LING: Because of --
MARY: Yes, I'm sure that influenced me.
LING: While his mother was always driving Tom forward, his father was noticeably absent from the home, growing more distant from him as time passed. What Tom suspected but didn't know was that his dad wasn't his biological father and the secret was close to coming out.
TOM: I could tell that there was definitely a rift between me and my dad growing up.
LING: Do you feel like you have much in common with your dad?
TOM: No, we're completely two different people.
MARY: I weighed, is this going to be harder for him if I tell him, or harder for him if I don't tell him?
TOM: I was 15 years old. I could tell that there was secrets or things she was keeping from me. And I really pushed her to find out what it was.
LING: What did your mother actually say when she finally relented and told you?
TOM: That I didn't have to worry about my dad's genes, because I wasn't related to him anyway. You've hit the genetic lottery, you have about the best genes you could possibly get, I made sure of that, I went through the repository for germinal choice.
LING: Tom's future seemed bright, filled with limitless potential. But life was about to throw him and his high school girlfriend a huge curveball.
TOM: I got my wife pregnant at 16. I've had a son since I was 17. After I got out of high school, I knew she was pregnant. Four days later I had a full-time job, and I was working 40 hours a week and you are contributing and being there for him.
I have two children. I'm financially responsible for. I'm committed to providing the best environment that I can for them.
You know, it's over right now already, right?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Might be.
TOM: No, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: How is it already over?
TOM: No. You know better.
LING: Faced with raising a family at such a young age, college would have to wait. The manual labor wasn't Tom's first choice to make a living. He had something a little more unconventional in mind.
TOM: The main reason I ended up going into roofing is because I have a felony on my background for production of Cannabis.
LING: And how did you get into that?
TOM: I actually was interested in the biology and the science behind it --
LING: Of course you were.
TOM: -- in the selectively breeding for traits, I picked the best ten plants, and those would be my mothers' that I would seed and create my next generation.
LING: So you were a product of selective breeding.
LING: You happen to take a keen interest in selective breeding.
LING: Kind of ironic.
TOM: I have a strong interest in it. Attention grows where interests goes. I have heirloom strains that I've created for my children to pass long to them someday. It's going to be legal in the United States someday. And I've got a felony for being ahead of my time a little bit.
LING: A man ahead of his time. It begs the question, who was Tom's biological father? Did he too think outside the box, a step ahead of the rest? After an exhaustive search, Tom had a real name and phone number.
So you're sitting by the phone and what are you thinking?
TOM: I'm just -- I'm wondering what's going to be on the other end. Who's going to call me? Is he going to be a lawyer or a doctor? What kind of person am I going to be meeting?
LING: Imagine finding out that the person you always thought was your father isn't, and that you had genius genes from someone else. It puts pressure on him to live up to expectations of what he might become. But it really made me wonder, what kind of man would donate to this controversial program 30 years ago?
LING (voice-over): Tom is one of the over 200 progeny born from the genius sperm bank, an experiment to populate the world's gene pool with smart genes. After years of searching for his biological father, they finally connected on the phone. The mystery of half his family tree was about to be solved.
TOM: The phone call comes. I start talking with him. And he's a normal person. He's just a regular person like me. He's made mistakes. He's had triumphs, relations.
LING: After the call, they agree to meet in person several months later. Tom came face to face with a father he only knew as Donor Coral, an MIT graduate and a man of high standing.
Is that your biological dad?
TOM: That's my biological dad and my two half sisters.
LING: You look like him.
TOM: You can really see it.
LING: You really look like him.
What was that like, this man that you'd never known, that you just found out about, and then seeing yourself so profoundly in him?
TOM: It was just really, really eerie. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing myself 20 years from now.
LING: Who was Donor Coral? Why was he selected for the repository for germinal choice. I was about to find out.
LING: Hi, Ben.
BENJAMIN, SPERM DONOR: Hi.
Donor coral, real name Benjamin, agreed to speak with us on the phone.
BENJAMIN: (INAUDIBLE) intelligence is one of the things --
LING: Did your educational pedigree, was that one of the reasons why you were somewhat sought after as a donor?
BENJAMIN: Quite possible. I have a bachelor's degree in mathematics. (INAUDIBLE). And then I went to law school. So I thought it seemed like a good idea.
LING: And how many times did you donate for the repository?
BENJAMIN: Maybe 25 times or 30.
LING: 25 or 30?
LING: Do you know how many of those donations resulted in a child?
LING: Do you remember any of the questions that Robert Graham asked you or what the application process was like?
BENJAMIN: Juliannea was involved with that. There was a lady worked from the sperm bank, Juliannea.
LING: There are few people who worked directly with Robert Graham. Bu Juliannea (INAUDIBLE) was one of them. From 1980 to 1985, she helped him track down the best and brightest sperm in the states. What were the perquisites for becoming a donor for the repository?
JULIANNEA, FORMER SPERM BANK WORKER: Well, number one, women wanted good health. Number two, they wanted good looks. Number three, they wanted brilliance.
LING: How would you go about recruiting them? And what was your pitch?
JULIANNEA: Can you imagine doing that? It wasn't easy to get a donor. They kind of go, why are you in my office? And I said, well, you have some genetic material, and there's some people out there that can use that. They would like to have a child.
LING: What kinds of places would you visit in your recruiting efforts?
JULIANNEA: Cal tech.
LING: Juliannea traveled up and down the west coast, dropping in on elite college campuses to recruit Dean's list students.
JULIANNEA: I'd take the tanks of liquid nitrogen in Dr. Graham's Cadillac and drive up to Cal Tech and talk to the students. And they say, you want to meet the genius of the whole school? That's his office. So I just go knock on his office door and tell him the whole story. And he said, OK.
LING: Slid in the bathroom and provided a sample.
JULIANNEA: Yes. I thought, that is so cool.
LING: Why do you think the repository became known as the Nobel sperm bank?
JULIANNEA: That was the press. It was called the repository for germinal choice. And press got wind of it and boy oh boy, they went to town with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once one starts down this path, which is based on false assumptions in life, you not only start thinking in terms of science fiction about improving the breed, you also start thinking about controlling the breeding of people you don't like. I think we've all seen where that leads, in Nazi Germany not that long ago.
LING: The idea of selective breeding was enough to cause headlines, but the biggest pr blow-out would come from one of their controversial donors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Graham is dealing with questions here which are of vast importance to the future of mankind, and which are now being effectively buried. People are unwilling to do that.
LING: William Shockley, inventor of the transistor and sperm donor to the program, believed in Graham's mission. But Shockley was well known at the time for his racist views. (INAUDIBLE) believed that whites were genetically superior to blacks. Shockley was eventually dropped as a donor. And Robert Graham maintained to the press that his sperm bank was just about the preservation of intelligent genes.
GRAHAM: We're not thinking in terms of a super race. We're thinking in terms of a few more creative, intelligent, useful individuals who would otherwise never have been born.
JULIANNEA: Nobody understood it. It was severe. God, I would say, Dr. Graham, how can you take this? And he said, it's fine, because publicity is good for us. And it was. Because that phone never stopped ringing. We never had enough sperm.
LING: As far as sperm banks went, why was the repository so unique?
JULIANNEA: Because we screened the donor. Because we cared about the genetic material that the recipient would receive. We cared about the child, you know.
LING: Look, what Robert Graham tried to do 30 years ago was hugely controversial, but it's undeniable that he was a pioneer and that he was the first person to allow couples and women a choice in who their donor would be.
These days, those who need it are able to choose from the best quality and pedigree when it comes to sperm and even eggs. And ultimately, if given the choice, wouldn't you want to give your child the best opportunities possible?
LING: The sperm bank industry has changed drastically since the heyday of the repository 30 years ago. What Graham pioneered, the screening of sperm for desirable traits like intelligence is now common place.
This is Fairfax Cryo bank, a sperm bank and facility research center in Virginia. Inside this building, billions of sperm have been collected, all waiting for a shot at creating a baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever used a microscope before?
LING: Not since seventh grade. But I'm seeing a plethora. They're fast little buggers.
How much sperm is in this specimen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A healthy male will have 20 million sperm per milliliter of sperm produced.
LING: Twenty million.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty million. LING: Dr. Michelle Odie (ph) is the lab director who oversees the
journey of these little guys from collection cup to Cryo tank and is the gate keeper for who is and isn't allowed to donate.
Is it hard to become a donor?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a rigorous screening process which is a good thing because we want really high quality guys in the program. Less than one percent of the men who initially apply to the Fai Fox donor program will make it through to become an actual asset donor.
LING: Less than one percent?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less than one percent. Statistically it's easier to get into an ivy league school than the Fair Fax program.
LING: That's wild.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for calling. This is (INAUDIBLE). How can I help you today?
LING: We live in a competitive world. Now more than ever, parents are looking to give their kids every possible advantage. They come here looking for genetic material to do just that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, donor 4315 is identity option, English- German, English-Scottish, brown hair and hazel eyes. Right now he has two vials available.
LING: They're searching for genes to help them create kids that are healthy, good-looking, and smart. But whose DNA is in such high demand?
A sperm donor has arrived and leave a sample and he has agreed to talk to us, but we won't show his face because anonymity is also important. But I do have this extensive 15-page book file about him so I know a lot about him. I know he has blue eyes, he like pizza, he has a dog. He plays golf and track and played football. I know his GPA. Based on this description, I'm thinking, Tom Brady.
Hi. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
LING: I'm Lisa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.
LING: Nice to meet you.
Not exactly Tom Brady but you're just as handsome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
LING: Thanks for talking to us. Do you want to have a seat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
LING: So how long have you been doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little over a year and a half. I think I'm one of the more prevalent donors. I was asked to donate more than once a week. I do it twice weekly.
LING: Even among the one percent, this donor is elite, desirable for both his academic background and the high motility of his sperm. Basically he's got Olympic quality swimmers. This is where the magic happens?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. Small little room. Like a doctor's office basically with the leather couch and television.
LING: Not the most intimate place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but there are multiple ways to get in the mood, magazines and the covers and also the television or you can use your imagination.
LING: And are there things you're supposed to do before you come in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you're supposed to stay abstinent for 72 hours before you come in, so that kind of makes puts a little damper on your personal life, especially if you're a twice a week donor.
LING: Then after this, you just go to work and have the rest of your day?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
LING: All right, I guess I will excuse myself now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
LING: Once the deed is done, it's on to the deep freeze. Donations are frozen in a vault of liquid nitrogen, suspended in mid-swim until it's there time to shine.
So, about how much sperm is being host here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tens of thousands of individual Cryo vials from hundreds of donors are stored in these tanks.
LING: And how long does it keep for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Technically we're not sure long, but we have a successful pregnancy from sperm that was frozen for 29 years.
LING: That's amazing.
Under this roof, millions of potential babies are suspended in these tanks. A mind-boggling catalog for those searching for the perfect sperm. But today the donor isn't always a man. Fertility can be a problem for women. But science has opened doors here too. And for couples seeking donor eggs, there are just as many choices.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it unnatural to choose characteristics off of a list when conceiving a baby? Yes. Is it wrong? I don't believe that it is.
LING: We've been talking a lot about sperm and characteristics of sperm donors, but what happens when you're a woman and you have fertility issues? But we are in a rural part of Oregon to meet a couple that is dealing with exactly that.
Holly, an English teacher, met John over nine years ago. They married and put down roots, planning to start a family. But after years of trying to get pregnant naturally, they weren't having any success.
What was that like? I mean, you two are young. You two have been trying so long and not being able to get pregnant.
HOLLY, ENGLISH TEACHER: Well --
JOHN, HOLLY'S HUSBAND: It's frustrating.
HOLLY: Yes, it was. I felt like something about me was broken. And the thing I wanted most in the world, a baby, was being kept from me.
LING: At the time, the quality of Holly's eggs seemed OK, and while John's sperm count was low, the doctors said there was still a fighting chance they could have kids through IVF, invetrofertilization. Several embryos were successfully created and subsequently frozen. A stock of potential babies ready to be born.
The first egg implantation took and their son Ezra was born nine months later.
EZRA, HOLLY AND JOHN'S SON: I don't know.
HOLLY: What is this letter?
LING: At what point did you decide you definitely wanted to try to have another?
HOLLY: Well, we knew for sure always that we wanted more than one. So we had these five frozen embryos back at the clinic and said, we want to transfer these guys.
LING: They tried to get pregnant, but one by one, the frozen embryos weren't working. And finally their stockpile was empty. HOLLY: That was really crushing. Because now you are out of
everything, and I'm three years older, and they started to wonder about why these other embryos hadn't taken. To my great surprise, I learned that my ovarian reserve was extremely low, and had been extremely low three years before.
EZRA: What are you doing?
LING: Ezra's birth was an anomaly. And moving forward, there was no chance of another successful pregnancy with Holly's own eggs. If Holly and John wanted another child, they'd have to either adopt or find an egg donor.
The idea to use donor eggs was just instantly --
HOLLY: It really was. In that very consultation meeting, you know, let's just move into talking about the donor eggs. You know, what's the next step, how do we keep moving on this timeline?
LING: Determine to have another child, their search for the perfect donor is under way. Every day, Holly goes online where hundreds of egg donor agencies tried. They act as brokers between recipients and donor, navigating the tricky waters of medical, legal, and travel logistics.
While it is a bit of understatement, the hardest part for Holly and John is picking the right donor and there are many to choose from.
HOLLY: In this bar, there are a million things that you can choose.
LING: About how many profiles have you looked at already?
HOLLY: My goodness, thousands.
HOLLY: Yes. For me, it's almost like a chance to improve upon yourself. You're looking at those donors and you're like, well, I always wanted to be taller, so let's just kind of check that in. Then maybe we can get somebody with brown eyes and brown hair who is 5'9", instead of 5'4".
LING: What kind of characteristics are most important to you in a donor?
HOLLY: You know, would a GED be acceptable? No. Would high school graduate only be acceptable? No. Somebody in college? Absolutely.
JOHN: She graduated ten years ago, but hasn't pursued any advance degree.
S LING: o that's kind of a red flag.
HOLLY: Yes, probably wouldn't go with her. LING: A lot of clubs and sports, drill team, cheerleader, honor roll.
I'm starting to see how this can be overwhelming. A flood of medical history, academic accomplishments, and photos. But after scrolling through a couple of profiles, we stumbled upon one Holly hasn't seen before.
So 3.5 GPA.
JOHN: Look how involved she's been in both college and high school.
HOLLY: Yes, very involved and very high academics.
LING: Multilingual. She considers herself to be a Mehta cognitive person. You don't see that a lot of profile.
HOLLY: No. So this is a highly intelligent women we're dealing with.
LING: I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm a quote, go-getter.
HOLLY: I like it. A go-getter, that's what we were looking for. If we have a daughter, might have to name her after you for finding our donor.
LING: While is prospect shows promise, the price tag for donations is high. Up to $10,000 for proven donors with successful birth rates. There's no guarantee for success, but it's not stopping them.
HOLLY: The important thing to me is to be a mom. If I can find someone who looks sort of like me and has some of the characteristics that I do, then I really am OK with that.
LING: My journey has taken me from coast to coast, in search of couples not only struggling to create a family, but trying to give their kids the best genetic advantages they can.
Since its inception there has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the repository, they're breeding genius kids, and how have you dealt with that over the years?
D. RAM: Well, (INAUDIBLE) up to it. Yes, we got genius kids. We're going to take over the world. All 200-something of us, yes, indeed. It's a baseline real.
A. RAM: It all has to do with what you give to your family, how you go through your struggles and your times together. The good times and the bad times.
LING: You were derived from this reputed genius sperm bank. Are you a genius? C. RAM: I really believe that there's genius in every person. I have
a lot of like passion and I like to drive, I guess you could say, motivation. And I think I pour that into whatever I'm doing. And I see that in my sister, definitely. And in my own way, I see it in my brother as well. If that was what Robert Graham wanted, I feel like we are that for sure.
TOM: In my opinion, the real lasting legacy is that there are now this group of children who may have been selectively bred to be more intelligent, and maybe they will make some sort of lasting impact on the sciences, maybe they will do something really good for the human race. His legacy is up in the air until all of those kids have gone their full life span, and you can actually measure their accomplishments.
I have to do something with the gifts that I've been given. I have to actually do something. I can't just sit on the couch.
LING: Why do you feel this way?
TOM: It's a responsibility. I feel like since I have children, I have a stake in the future, in their future. And I have to make the world a better place for them too.
LING: Do you think you all revolutionized the idea of choice, in choosing genetic material for your donor?
JULIANNEA: I know we did. I suppose he started out with high ideals. But as time went on, he would realize that this is not so easy. He tried to recruit lots of people. His dream then was, if there are sperm banks, they should change. And it has.
LING: The idea of hedging your bets with a smart donor is now common place. But what does it mean for the future? Will there come a day when we can design our children from scratch? To pick only the best and brightest traits for them? Even if that brave new world is around the corner, would we even want it? Wouldn't it take away the wonder of watching a child grow up?
You know, if anyone can guess as to whether Jet is going to be smart or successful, but as far as we are concern, she can be anything she wants to be.