Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Sister-in-Law’s Infertility

Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the sister-in-law’s infertility.

Danny: so my thought here is that you have plenty of grounds to say you can’t discuss this with her as much as you have previously

but I would hold off on bigger questions about whether or not she should continue to pursue pregnancy, because to my mind that’s personal and subjective enough that the only person who should consider offering her advice there would be her partner and maybe one or two VERY close friends

I realize that, by bringing it to you so often, she’s certainly initiated a pretty personal/subjective conversation

so it’s not like if you did say something you’d be coming out of left field

Nicole: Right. I think that largely your role can be to commiserate, vaguely. “I’m so sorry you are going through this; I understand how emotional painful this process is.”

It does not sound like she has asked for advice?

If she did ask, or if you just simply cannot continue having these conversations anymore, I might say “can I be completely frank with you? Doctors want to take your money, and if three doctors have told you that donor eggs or embryos are your best and possibly only chance to conceive, it’s likely to be the truth.”

Danny: and the ‘doctors want to take your money’ part would mean “if they’ve told you something unlikely to make THEM money, it’s probably the truth,” do i have that right?

Nicole: Secondary infertility (when you have one or two or….three…children and cannot conceive your next child) can be very thorny in infertility circles and I sympathize with the LW’s “do you not see how lucky you are” fraction.


Danny: I see

Nicole: Infertility clinics deliberately turn people away if they think they cannot get a good outcome.

Bc they have to make the stats available.

There are indeed places that will let you try until you run out of money

Danny: yeah, I think regardless of whether you decide to give her your thoughts about whether or not she’s wasting her time and energy, you can just tell her, “This is so hard; I hope you’re looking out for yourself. I can’t talk about this right now, but I hope you’re able to get the support you need”

Nicole: But these doctors want you to have a good outcome. For them and for you.

Yes, agreed.

Unless advice is asked for, vague yet warm support.

Danny: or if you need to be more frank, just saying “I can’t talk about this with you right now; I need to take a step back”


if she is writing in, she’s starting to chafe

Danny: yeah since she’s a sister-in-law and not a sister of yours (and it doesn’t sound like you two were especially close before this?) I’d err on the side of vague

because I just think anyone you’re not REALLY close with is going to bristle if you bring up whether they should be doing this at all

I was going to suggest maybe checking in with her husband if he’s your brother but I think this is the OP’s own husband’s sister

Nicole: That’s my read as well:

and you can talk to your husband about it!

He can talk to his sister, he too went in his own way through this process.

Danny: yeah! if he hasn’t lately, you can ask him to check in with her and it may help her to talk to someone else

not necessarily with the goal of “convince her to abandon this project”

but with an eye towards, “Have you thought at all about at what point you would feel it’s time to move on?”

Nicole: Yes.

Which is a very necessary question and one that, unfortunately, the goal posts change on the more money you spend.

Lots of “I would do clomid but not IVF, I would do IVF but just one cycle, I would never consider donor eggs, etc.”

I am now just free-balling on reproductive technology. Talk to your husband.

He can also say “it’s hard for Meredith to talk about this with you bc she still finds her own memories of IVF very painful.”

Danny: Nicole Free-Balls On Repro-Tech

Nicole: Do some emotional labor for your wife

Danny: yes! or you could say that yourself, if you wanted (and if it’s true — I don’t want you to feel like you have to pretend you’re wounded when you’re actually exhausted)

Nicole you know how hard I am trying to course-correct the use of “emotional labor” in my column!!!

you come in here spilling “emotional labor” all over the floor

now I gotta get the broom

Nicole: You are completely correct. I apologize.

Danny: ahahahahah

i love you so much