I want to help my brother have a baby, not my sister-in-law.


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Mallory Ortberg
Mallory Ortberg

Sam Breach

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, Slaters! Let’s chat.

I understand the grief and loss and raw wanting that comes with infertility. I also understand it is not a license to inflict your pain on the world at large. My sister in-law did not speak to us for four months after we announced we were having twins. The year before that, we both miscarried, and I tried to reach out, only to be told “mine didn’t count” since I already had a baby. She is a dominating force in my husband’s family—his parents and other siblings tend to fall in line. If we announce we are giving the embryos to my brother, she is going to try to get her claws in. She will demand our embryos.

I shudder to even think of her raising any child of my blood. She is not a good mother and neglects my nephew. She is also nearly in her 50s. I don’t know what to do. I would love to see my brother have the children he deserves, but the thought of the thunderstorm that follows makes my head ache. Can you help me think of a way out, or should we just leave the embryos as-is?

A: You and your husband should come to a decision about whether you want to donate your embryos to your brother or have them destroyed as if his sister did not exist.

If your husband is merely not opposed to the idea, then you two need to have a serious conversation about what he wants. If you two decide to donate your embryos to your brother, then it should be with genuine enthusiasm on both your parts, because what you’re contemplating is profoundly intimate and long-term. Even if you all understand your brother and his husband to be the sole parents of whatever children are born from this arrangement, you’ll still be bound up in their lives in a new and complex way. It’s possible that the children may someday have their own, complicated feelings about you and your husband. So the two of you should get on the same page, whether you make the offer or not.

A: Check Daily Med or Dispose My Meds to find the prescription disposal center nearest you. Many pharmacies will dispose of unused medication for you, and sometimes local law enforcement will too. Perhaps surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration approves a number of opioids for disposal by flushing, too.

Q. Housewarming: Not a real problem! My boyfriend and I just moved into our first home. I want to tell people we moved and in turn do a mass “please, please please visit us” invite, but what is the appropriate way to do that? Do we send out cards that say, “We moved”? I don’t want it to come across show-offy—or, God forbid, a gift grab—but I do want to disseminate the information and let everyone know this is an exciting thing for us.

A: Throw a party! A housewarming party is the solution to all your problems, at least all the problems in this letter. In general, if you want people to visit you, it’s better to offer them a specific time they can either accept or reject, rather than put the onus of planning on the invitee. If you just send out a generic request to all your friends asking them to visit you “at some point,” you’re going to get stuck in a lot of formless text threads with questions like “Does next Thursday work for you?” and “What if we met up at my new gym after work instead? It’s closer.” You’ll never actually get to see a single friend ever again.

Pick a convenient date, block off a few hours, and let your guests know they can drop by anytime during that window to ooh and ahh over your water fixtures. Congratulations!

Q. Re: Saying sorry: This is a pet peeve of mine. Sorry is not just an apology or an admission of guilt. It’s also an expression of sympathy. And that’s how it’s most commonly used in countries other than the U.S. When you tell me your mother recently passed away, I say, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” That doesn’t mean I killed her!

Just try tacking on a couple of extra words so that others don’t feel compelled to correct your perfectly correct usage of the word sorry. Try saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” for example.

A: I’m wondering now if, instead of shifting blame from the “I’m sorry”–sayers to the “It’s not your fault”–sayers, the problem lies somewhere with our collective national discomfort with sympathy and the idea that expressing mutual sorrow or pain somehow obligates us to fix someone else’s problems. Maybe the people who reflexively say, “It’s not your fault” don’t really think the people saying, “I’m sorry” are at fault any more than they do. Maybe we’re all just terribly uncomfortable at the prospect that something is wrong and nobody knows how to fix it, and we’re all trying to make sure nobody feels responsible for it.

Q. Sleepy: I don’t want to get out of bed this morning. Do I have to?

A: Absolutely not. If anyone tries to give you trouble about the matter, send him or her to me, and I’ll explain.

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