RHONY Alum Jill Zarin Reveals She Used a Sperm Donor to Conceive Daughter Ally Shapiro
"We were going to take it to our grave, nobody knew," Jill Zarin said
The Real Housewives of New York City alum, 56, dropped the news that she and her ex-husband Steven Shapiro ran into fertility troubles when they were looking to expand their family all those years ago, so they ended up using a sperm donor to conceive their now 27-year-old daughter Ally Shapiro.
“We were going to take it to our grave, nobody knew,” Zarin said. “We had no plan to tell [Ally].”
“This was many many years ago … and in those days it was very early on in this whole sperm donor business. At the time people said, ‘You just don’t say anything. Do the insemination and then have sex and pretend that’s how you got pregnant then,’ ” Zarin recalled. “Because there was like a shame to it back then.”
Zarin explained that she and Steven tried to pick a sperm donor who would resemble him, but Ally ended up growing up to be shorter than her dad and with blue eyes, which he didn’t have.
After Zarin and Steven divorced, they both remarried and a relative allegedly tried to blackmail Zarin into telling the news — emailing all of Ally’s extended family by asking, “Why is Ally the fattest in the Shapiro family?” and “Why does Ally have blue eyes and no one else does?”
Worried the secret would upset Ally, Zarin and her ex agreed to tell their daughter the news after she graduated from college. But Ally ended up discovering the email on her own while snooping on her mom’s computer, confronting her parents for the truth.
“[My mom] said, ‘We were never going to tell you like this and we didn’t know when the right time was, but basically, your dad’s your dad, but you know that we had a difficult time having you, and we used a sperm donor,’ ” Ally remembered. “And I never in a million years would have thought that. Like, I had no inkling. Yeah, I had blue eyes and I’m shorter than everyone else, but never would have guessed it at all.”
“I think I was shocked. I don’t think I was ever really mad, I was more just surprised,” Ally said. “I was just so shocked that she kept this from me for so long.”
Also shocked about the secret? Zarin’s own parents, who hadn’t known. “They were so mad,” Zarin said. “I said, ‘Stephen and I tried to have Ally and we couldn’t, so we used a sperm donor, no big deal!’ ”
As for Ally, after learning that the donor paperwork was mixed up, she’s since learned a lot about her donor father — connecting with him over on 23andMe just last year.
“She looks just like him,” Zarin said of the unnamed man, who donated to Repro Lab in Murray Hill, New York, back in 1991. “He [sent] a picture and his eyes are her eyes. There’s no disputing that this is [her father]. And the irony is, he lives maybe five blocks away from her. Personality wise — I haven’t met him, I’ve emailed a little bit — he seems more like Ally than I am. He’s calm, he’s a listener, he’s in the education world, he’s a teacher, a professor. Just very different. He’s very shy. He’s not on Facebook, he’s not on Instagram, he’s not like that. And Ally never liked that. She did it because of me … being famous wasn’t her thing, she could care less. That’s not Ally, she’s never been like that at all. So I can see the resemblance that way.”
Still, Ally hasn’t met him yet, but has met one of her four half-sisters, all of whom were born by his donations.
“I’m just not in a rush [to meet my biological father],” Ally said. “I think that a lot of this, I didn’t have a say in. I didn’t have a say in who my mom chose. I didn’t have a say in when I was told and how I was told or who my siblings are now. I feel like I can choose now when I want to meet this guy and what our relationship is.”
“I want to meet him when the timing is right for both of us. I feel like now’s not the right time,” Ally said, citing relationships she had with her mom’s second husband, Bobby Zarin (who died in 2018) and her mom’s new boyfriend, Gary Brody. “I feel so lucky that I’ve had so many dads in my life. My mom’s boyfriend right now, I’m really close with. I don’t feel like I’m trying to fill a role of like a long-lost father or a dad. Eventually when I meet him, it’ll be great.”
In the end, Zarin has no regrets over using a sperm donor.
“I have a happy ending,” she stressed. “I have a beautiful, bright, articulate girl and I couldn’t have asked for a better donor. But it could have turned out very differently.”