Caroline West-Meads: ‘He’s offered to help us have a baby’

Ask Caroline

Q. I am in my late 30s and my husband and I have been trying for a baby for six years without success. I know it sounds mean-spirited, but it has been heartbreaking watching our siblings and friends start families while we have not been able to. We were stuck for a long time on the idea of conceiving naturally, but it just hasn’t happened. We’ve been down the fertility testing route and the difficulty lies with my husband, so now even straightforward IVF treatment isn’t possible. I know a friend of a friend who used a sperm bank, but I feel that a stranger being such an intimate part of our lives is not for me. Now my husband’s younger brother (who has his own kids) has offered to donate sperm. My husband is keen on the idea – he’s close to his brother and feels that the baby would then share the family’s genes. He says we wouldn’t need to use a clinic – we could make a private arrangement with his brother (not involving having sex) and the baby could be passed off as my husband’s. Both brothers are worried their mum wouldn’t understand, so they are reluctant for her to know the truth. I’m thrilled by the offer and keen to say yes, but I’m worried that doing it this way might store up future problems – what it could mean for our child and family and whether we could keep it secret. I’m even wondering about putting my husband’s name down as the father on the birth certificate. What should I do?

A. Please don’t feel mean-spirited – wanting a baby is such a primal need and it can be desperately hard for couples when this doesn’t happen. It’s lovely that your husband’s brother has offered to donate sperm. However, I think doing it secretly would be a mistake. We can never know what the future holds and, although it may seem unlikely now, things could get messy later on. Suppose, for instance, you divorce or, once the baby was born, your brother-in-law felt more like a dad and wanted to be over-involved. I suspect your husband wants to keep the arrangement secret because he feels embarrassed about being infertile. Sadly some men do, but there is no need. Infertility has a number of causes and it doesn’t make him any less virile. If you went ahead, the secrecy might become too much for any one of you to contain long-term, which could cause problems with your child later. So it is best to be open from the start. Your mother-in-law will get used to it and, hopefully, be delighted to see her other son become a dad. Bear in mind, too, that if you go through a regulated clinic, there is more chance of success. So contact hfea.gov.uk for support and advice. I would also advise setting a time limit for how long you try. You have spent so many years desperate for a baby, and if it doesn’t happen you need to follow a different path instead of permanently having your hopes dashed.

‘Is my boyfriend being kind or controlling?’

Q. I’m 31 and I’ve been with my boyfriend for six months. He treats me like a princess, showering me with compliments and often buying me gifts or flowers. He’s a few years older, very wealthy and will never let me pay for anything, even though I have a decent career. The sex is great too, and I was beginning to feel like I might have met ‘the one’. However, he is not as nice to everyone else. We went to a restaurant recently and he was extremely rude to the waitress. She was almost in tears. I tried to talk to him about it later but he said that she should be better at her job. It’s not the first time that something like this has happened. How can he be so nice to me but rude to other people?

A. Unfortunately, I think the question you ought to be asking is whether you should stay with him. The answer to which is no. This man is a bully. Sadly, he has all the hallmarks of someone who could turn nasty once the first flush of romance has worn off. There is no excuse for treating people badly, but he thinks his wealth makes him entitled to throw his weight around. You see him paying for everything as generosity, but it’s also controlling. He is using his wealth to keep you in what he thinks is your place – being constantly grateful to him and without any power of your own. If you want to give him another chance, tell him that you find his rudeness to other people appalling and that you won’t put up with it. Unless he is prepared to look at his behaviour and you can see evidence of change, please walk away. You do not need to end up in a coercively controlled relationship.