June 25, 2018
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Is it selfish to prevent my husband from giving his ex-wife his sperm?

By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

I am a young woman who recently married a very successful athlete. He is caring, kind and thoughtful. 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?

— Confused Wife

Dear Confused,

There are many issues to sort out here, among them the materials and methods section of your husband’s proposal. The material is his sperm, but you haven’t elaborated the method of its delivery. Somehow I doubt these former lovers would go the turkey baster route. 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 out of the catalog, 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 could go on to adopt children. You could put your time and resources into organizations working with needy kids. You and your husband must have a very honest conversation about what you really want out of life and what compromises you both are willing to make for each other. Or you may find yourself trying to adopt alone.

— Prudie

Dear Prudie,

A few years ago, my husband lost his job because of a medical problem. It was a rough patch for us, when we sometimes had to choose between eating, staying warm, or paying hospital bills. 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 the dentist only to find out that it was going to cost me $7,000 up front to get dentures and a bridge. I don’t have that money now, so I can’t fix my teeth for a few years. I’m a computer programmer, and my question is 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. I feel like being rude and saying, “Do you have $7,000 you can lend me so I can not offend you?” It’s making me angry and upset. I understand my mouth is yucky and nobody likes to see it, but I can’t do anything about it for now. What do I say? Should I ignore it?

— Front Toothless

Dear Front,

I’m so sorry you and your husband were the victims of a system in which medical bills can send people off an economic cliff. As an article about poverty in American notes, missing teeth can keep the working poor from getting the kind of work that will carry them into the middle class. But you have done it, so please take great pride in climbing back and finding a good job. Of course your co-workers’ overheard comments hurt, but a confrontation will only make things more awkward. I think you should cultivate a Mona Lisa look — mysterious, enigmatic, and above it all. 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. Below is a list of resources for you to explore. Pursue this not to shut up your co-workers, but for your own health and confidence.

— Prudie

Dental resources: http://1.usa.gov/boMPK6

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.


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