Monday, February 10, 2014

Better? Bitter? Who knows?

This week seems better. Kind of. On Tuesday last week, my sister sent me a very thoughtful email asking if 1. I would like to be invited to the baby's bits reveal party (I'm avoiding - hopefully - making this googleable by not using the word "gen.der," which it isn't anyway - it's biological sex that's being revealed) party and if so, 2. would I like to make the cake? It floored me. I don't know why. I knew this milestone was coming - I talked about it in my last post. But something about... I-don't-even-know-what really upset me. A lot. I answered back that I'd like to be invited - I certainly don't want to be excluded (FYI, I think it's best to invite an infertile friend and let them decided their presence, rather than asking if they want to be invited. Usually people don't want to not be invited) from it - and that I would think about the cake and talk to my therapist about it (I happened to have an appointment on Thursday). I passed the email or the details on to a couple people (and to Twitter) to get their thoughts. I just felt I wanted to make a fair decision, and I thought friends' input might be helpful.

Later that evening, I was included on a group email inviting me and Buddy, my parents, my sister's in-laws, and my BIL's sister (via skype) to an early dinner and then the reveal back at Sis and BIL's temporary housing apartment. Now when Sis had told me it was a bits reveal "party," I assumed it was going to be at either my parents' or BIL's parents' house in our hometown with extended family and their friends. But dinner with just the 8 of us and then the reveal felt very intimate and different. At a large party, I could escape pretty well unnoticed if I felt overwhelmed. In a one-bedroom apartment? Not so much. And I started to think about seeing my parents finding out if they would have a granddaughter or grandson and my heart started racing all over again.

I started to try to break it down logically, and bounced all my thoughts off friends and my therapist. Ultimately, I looked at it as three events that were not mutually exclusive: the cake making, the dinner, and the reveal. When I considered the cake making, people made the really good point that I would know first and would have time to process it. I wouldn't be finding out with everyone else and that would take pressure off for an appropriate reaction. I also have been hoping to have a moment where I'm okay with all this - like I did with my best friend's pregnancy - and turn the corner and feel joy. Maybe doing the cake would be that for me. Maybe it wouldn't, but it couldn't hurt to try. On the downside, I haven't made a baby related cake since we were diagnosed, so I was worried about emotions. However, in the end, I decided knowing first and the chance at a unique connection with my niece or nephew (I think niece, by the way) won out.

Now the dinner. What are people going to talk about at a dinner before they find out what their grandchild is? The baby. Duh. So that wasn't super appealing. But I talked to Sis, and we're actually doing a late lunch at a cool spot that is basically a sprawling lawn that people picnic on with food bought from their small carry-out-only restaurant. Not the claustrophobic Chili's booth I somehow had in mind. So there'd be some space, and that seemed a little doable. We'll mark dinner as a possibility.

The reveal? Nope. I really just don't think I can see my parents finding out. And understandably and justifiably, the parents- and grandparents-to-be would be wanting to talk about the little arrival and about names and nursery ideas and all that stuff. Not easy or non-awkward to escape from in a small apartment. No to mention, I feel very strongly that my sister has been robbed of some of her experience as an expectant parent because of me. I wouldn't want anyone to feel that because of my presence, they had to hold back any of their emotions or excitement or even consider me in any way. My sister assured me that they would have fun and enjoy it no matter what, but I have a hard time believing that if I started crying or it became awkward if I was visibly upset and my parents felt torn between celebrating with her and consoling me (which I would want them to do for her if the roles were swapped), shit would just go on as if nothing happened. I don't know what to make of her thinking all would be A-okay on that one (it feels lacking of compassion), but whatever. I decided I'd rather just skip that. Part of me thinks it would be cool to take the new camera and get photos, but I don't know if I'm being realistic in thinking that would be fun. My sister and BIL will know what the bits are already anyway, and half the "fun" of those pics is seeing the parents'-to be faces, so that's a moot point.

So I got that all figured out, but there were some upsetting things during the week that still have me feeling... not better. In trying to open up to my mom some about how I've been feeling, I ended up in tears and she suggested we reconsider our stance on adoption. NOT helpful. The whole conversation in general was a disaster and we haven't spoken in almost a week, which is unusual. At the same time, we haven't really talked a lot since Sis even told me she was pregnant because I didn't feel confident that she'd be very sensitive and understanding about my little crisis. And I was right, so I have little incentive to open myself up again. And even though I came to a bit reveal non-party solution I'm relatively happy with, I still have general unease and sadness about not being able to just be like "sure, sis, I'd love to come to your bits reveal party and be super excited and cry tears of joy and talk about how to decorate the nursery." It just sucks.

And that nursery? Is going to be in a house 67 minutes from us - their offer has been accepted on a home some 50 miles from us. On the one hand, we keep some of our freedom. It's far enough that no one is going to just pop in because they were in the neighborhood. On the other hand, going to see them is going to be a minimum 2 hour commitment. It's long enough to feel like a day trip. That's a lot for us, considering we'll be doing the driving since our home won't be baby-proofed, they'll have more space, and I wouldn't expect them to drive an hour each way with a kid, especially in the beginning with a small baby. I wouldn't expect them to choose our side of town since it's not convenient to them either, but it sucks. I want to have a close relationship with my niece or nephew, and this makes it not as easy. And I keep thinking about holidays. I currently host Thanksgiving and usually Christmas with both my parents and Buddy's. So what now? With Sis and BIL here, they're also close to his parents, who I imagine - wait, know, based on the infamous Thanksgiving grocery list and Christmases that are planned down to the half hour - that they will want significant control over planning holidays. Do we now begin the dreaded splitting of time that we've been lucky to avoid? We've been fortunate that we've been able to just plan with our two sets of parents and it works out. And maybe that's the right approach to continue - we'll plan what we want and if you can join in, great. But with a kid in the mix - and only grandchild on both sides, no less - I just have a feeling everything will revolve around him/her, and we'll want to be there, but want to not be steam rolled. It makes me feel... insignificant. Like, "hey, don't forget about us. We're a family, too." It just gets me down.

Alright, I'm blabbing. Point is: I strategized, figured out a good solution for one thing, and it brought up thoughts and feelings and hard emotions about a whole other thing. I guess this is just the way it's going to be.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Sister's Pregnancy

This is going to be an incredibly and brutally honest post because I don't know how else to say it. There are feelings that will be shared that I feel shame for, and that I feel should be hidden, but they're raw and honest and so very real. If you're the friend or family member of someone who struggles with infertility, I feel they're something you should read, because whether you like it or not, no matter how happy your infertile friend is to your face, they're struggling with something. Maybe not all of what I'm struggling with, but some of it. A lot of it is contradictory, and I'll get into that. And if my family finds this, I'm sorry. You all know I advocate, and that means sharing tough stuff to make others aware so we can all be more loving. This isn't meant to hurt you, ever, and I love you. My goal is and always will be to help others feel less alone. Your compassion and love are appreciated.

A little background on my relationship with my sister: we're 3.5 years apart, and the only siblings in our family. We fought a lot growing up. A lot. Sometimes violently - hitting kicking, punching. I was NOT a nice big sister. And yet, M, my now 29-year-old sister, is an incredible person. We didn't have the typical birth order roles you think of, where the oldest (me) has all the restrictions and curfews and is the overachieving Type A. I had it pretty easy, and M was the "normal" first born type. She's always been the best at everything. She was the better athlete, the better student. She never gave our parents a scare by dropping out of college (don't worry, I went back and then earned a master's degree). She knew her major from day 1 and followed in our mother's footsteps. She married the man with more earning potential, is smarter with money, has the bigger house. There's plenty to envy, so yes, there's some jealousy. And now, she's having the first grandkid, which will only be followed by other grandchildren that are hers. She's got it all.

She also struggles. When we were little, she was heavier. I had our mom's skinny-legged, lanky build, and she was more like Dad's side of the family. I wasn't nice about that with her, either, and it's my biggest life's regret. Her first or second year in college, she went away to be a camp counselor and was so homesick, she couldn't eat or sleep or function. She came home - I don't even know how many pounds, but a lot - much skinnier after about 3 or 4 weeks, and she's stayed that way, or even slimmer, for over 8 years. Because of my teasing, weight and health is not an easy topic for us. I'm now the fat one, and she's the skinny one, though there's worry and evidence that her weight is not always achieved by healthy means. Like I said, my biggest regret, truly. It's been hard and heartbreaking, and I have tremendous guilt for how our relationship has played out.

Like I said, she's now pregnant. She told me on November 18th, via email, as I'd asked, as I knew it would be easiest for me. If she'd called an told me, she would have heard an awful sob followed by my phone hitting the entertainment center. Email allowed me to have my (one and a half hour) moment before I responded that I was happy for her. It was a good five minutes of crying before I could even tell my husband. It was not my proudest moment. And it's also where the conflicting emotions began. She found out she was pregnant on the 14th, at her first appointment with an RE to discuss PCOS. It was the weekend Buddy and I were having our Friendsgiving. Somehow, it was decided that the info should be withheld from me until after the party so as not to ruin my weekend. Thoughtful. And yet, it made me feel like I was a landmine. On the one hand, I want to be treated like a normal person, since I am. And on the other, I do require "kid gloves" at times. And in this case, my family erred on the side of kid gloves. I get it. I appreciate it, but it makes me feel like things are hidden from me. It makes the elephant in the room feel bigger and grayer and elephantier. It's "damned if you do, damned if you dont," because if they told me before my party, I would have been upset. It makes me feel like there's no easy way to deal with me, and that sucks.

Since being told of my sister's pregnancy, there has been almost no mention of it, aside from a couple of questions I feel I have to ask so as not to be completely disengaged, disinterested, and heartless. She struggled with morning sickness, and I inquired as to how she was doing, after being shamed by my mom ("she's been sick. You should care."). She asked me who to go to for an OB/GYN (which had me VERY upset). Other than that, nothing. I figured out today that she's about 17 weeks along, which means she'll be finding out the sex by the end of February. And again, I'm conflicted - Buddy and I wanted a girl. What if it's a girl? Will that make me happy or jealous? What if the name they pick sucks? Or, alternatively, what if it was on our list, and I feel angry that she got to use it and we didn't? Will I feel more connected if I know the sex as opposed to it being an unidentified fetus?

I have so many emotions, honestly. I'm happy for her - she wanted and is having a baby. I'm sad - I'm not having one. I'm jealous - she gets to give my grandparents a grandchild and I don't. Add onto all of  this, she's just moved back from Washington State - we've never lived in the same city as adults. As I told my therapist, I'm just not ready. Her moving here would be a shift in our relationship; her having a baby would be a shift in our relationship. I felt I could handle one, but both seems like so much. When I tell people that she's moving here and that she's expecting, the common response is "you must be so excited." But I'm not. I'm terrified, angry. I'm mourning our space, quite honestly.

Buddy and I have had this city mostly to ourselves for 6 years. We live 10 minutes from his parents and see them probably 2-3 times a month. We see mine (2 hours away) every 4-6 weeks. We enjoy a lot of freedom. My sister being here will change that, understandably. She is closer with my parents than I am (I think - I assume) and I imagine she'll want to see them every 2-3 weeks. And if she sees them, I feel the assumption id that I should make the effort, too. It's not that I don't want to see them, but it puts extra pressure on us. She and my BIL are looking at homes anywhere from 40-60 minutes, one way, from us. That's big if we're going to be expected to join in every time my sister has my parents up. And we'd be driving an hour each way to do what? Hang out? With my pregnant sister?

There it is. The first thing I think with all of this is "my pregnant sister." And the thought of just hanging out with her and her growing belly is what gets me anxious. If she'd stayed in Seattle, I wouldn't have to see all this. It would be an abstract idea, and I would see her at her baby shower (I can handle that, I did it with my best friend and survived) and then she'd have a baby and at some point, she'd fly here with it and I'd meet it. But she's here now, for the foreseeable future. And it's all not very far away in comparison, and there's no nice way to say to your sister, "nope, thanks for the brunch invite, but I have no desire to see Mom and Dad fawn all over your fetus and hear you talk about registry shopping and about how the half a million dollar home you saw yesterday isn't just perfect for your child-rearing vision." Nope. It makes my pulse quicken just thinking about it.

I'm worried about how everyone will perceive me - from the people I tell that I'm going to be an aunt, to my parents, to my husband, to my sister. I'm worried people will think I'm heartless and selfish. I'm worried my parents - namely my mom - will think I'm not being sisterly and will shame my for my feelings. I'm worried my husband will tire of my reaction to pregnancies and stop being my rock. I'm worried that my chance to build a good adult relationship with my sister will be ruined by my feelings in the next 5 months. Or that it's already been ruined, considering we've had exactly .38 conversations about her pregnancy since November.

There is just so much. All of it feels shitty. It's all constantly in my head. I'm regularly trying to figure out how I'm going to deal with it, how I'll avoid it, how I'll face it. My therapist has been wonderful. After graduating after 6 months of twice-monthly therapy, I saw her only once when my best friend from high school told me she was pregnant, just about a year ago. And now I'm back to biweekly appointments to keep my thoughts and feelings from boiling over. This is a crisis for me, and it's awful and I hate it. I don't hate that M is pregnant. I hate that it's a crisis. We're all being robbed - M of getting to enjoy every bit of pregnancy with her whole family, my mom and dad of getting to share their impending grandparethood with the world, and me of being an excited expectant aunt. No one wins.