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Posted on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Woman tired of trying to find help for medical problem

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

How much am I obligated to my boyfriend to try to find treatment for medical problems that make it impossible for me to have children? I've been shuttled around between various doctors for the past year and a half, none of whom are familiar with the problem or know how to treat it.

I imagine someone out there can help, if I just keep looking. But, in the meantime, the invasive tests and the doctor's fees are taking a huge toll on my emotional health and my pocketbook.

My boyfriend wants me to keep trying everything and anything. I want to stop for now; it's too much of a burden on me, and I just feel like I'd be trying the same things that didn't work before over and over again. What should I do?

-- Anonymous

Stop for now, of course.

"It's your body" is the last word -- well, phrase -- on this subject. But there are a lot of variables worth considering before you get there. If you were declining to treat a treatable, life-threatening illness, for example, then it would still be your body, but I can nevertheless see myself arguing the side of the loved one wishing you'd rally.

If you two were established life partners, then I still might defend your taking a break, but the potential daddy's hand would be stronger. I'd also see his point more if you were surrendering for good.

Instead you have a fertility issue versus a life-and-death issue, a boyfriend versus a life partner, and a desire to take a break versus quit.

Add those up, and what I get is a pressing concern about his motives. Which is more important to him, you or your uterus? Your whole letter is a cry for help; is he somehow not hearing it?

Meanwhile, you're saying these health issues "make it impossible for me to have children," and the copy editor in me wants to send it back to you with a note questioning your verb choice. You can't "have" children, or is it that you can't (BEG ITAL)bear(END ITAL) children?

Just as there's no such thing as universal taste in art or views in politics, there's no one way to love someone profoundly. Yet you'd think a boyfriend who loved you profoundly would take your hand; tell you (health issue) has no bearing on his desire to spend his life with you; explain that he doesn't want to see you torture yourself like this anymore; and assure you that you and he will find some way to have children. And, er, offer to cover some of those bills you've racked up?

Maybe he believes you're the one who wants this. Maybe he thinks you'll regret it if you quit in despair while there's still legitimate medical hope. Maybe he's trying to be strong for you both, while already seeing you as his life partner, chipping in for the bills and making preliminary inquiries on adoption, surrogacy and foster parenting.

If you don't know whose back he has, yours or his own, then I suggest you find out. Try framing it this way: How obligated is he to support you emotionally and follow your lead on seeking (or declining) treatment for medical problems that keep you from bearing his children?

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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