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Dear Prudence: His ex-wife poses procreation dilemma

  • Article by: Emily Yoffe
  • Slate
  • October 1, 2013 - 1:50 PM

Dear Prudence: I recently married a very successful athlete. We both want children, but in a world where so many children are without loving homes, I can’t imagine having biological offspring when we could provide a wonderful life for children who would never otherwise have one.

My husband has always been supportive of this, but recently he brought up an interesting proposition. His ex-wife, who is older than me and has never remarried, asked him to be a sperm donor. She has a successful career and would not need financial support, but I think the proposition is bizarre.

He argues that they both have excellent genetics that would be “wasted” if they do not jump at what could be their only chance to have biological children. He said it is no different from donating sperm to a bank, except that he knows the mother will be able to provide well for his offspring. The two split amicably due to pressures of both of their careers. Am I being selfish to say she should find another sperm donor?

Prudence says: There are many issues to sort out here, among them the methods section of your husband’s proposal. Additionally, no matter how much money the ex makes, your husband would be the father of the child, thus legally he would likely have a financial responsibility for his offspring, and morally he would definitely have an emotional one. It’s not hard to imagine that if they had a baby together, he and his ex would start to wonder why they split in the first place.

So I agree with your instincts that this is a terrible idea for your marriage. But even if your husband tells his ex to go to a sperm bank and pick some other superb specimen, it does not solve your essential problem. Your husband wants to father a child. That is a normal desire, and if you two have a biological child or children it won’t ruin the world. Nor will procreating prevent you from trying to make life better for children in dire circumstances.

You and your husband must have a very honest conversation about what you really want out of life and what compromises you are willing to make for each other. Otherwise you may find yourself trying to adopt alone.

Snickering at dental problems

Dear Prudence: A few years ago, my husband lost his job because of a medical problem. We managed to make it through, but there was absolutely no money for dentists. I lost a lot of teeth to decay, including my two front teeth. After we got back on our feet, I went to a dentist who said it would cost $7,000 to repair my teeth. I can’t afford this for a few years. How do I deal with the judgments of my co-workers? I find them talking loudly about dentists and how they’re having their teeth fixed in front of me, giving me sly looks as they do. What do I say? Should I ignore it?

Prudence says: Of course your co-workers’ overheard comments hurt, but a confrontation will only make things more awkward. Stay polite and concentrate on doing a good job. Let’s hope a sense of shame finally overtakes these goons. But I don’t think you should take one dentist’s word as gospel. There may be more economical ways to replace your teeth. Dental schools, for example let students do supervised work at much reduced prices. Pursue this not to shut up your co-workers, but for your own health and confidence.

Send questions to prudence@slate.com.

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