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.

6 comments:

Bethany said...

Hey. I hope that you can hope soon. Your fears and sadness look really hard, and I think it would be silly to tell you, "Be strong, it'll all be okay!" like you haven't had your heart ripped out. So I hope you find your hope. Sometimes that's what gets you through when you can't be strong.

Tonya said...

Brooke, I'm so so sorry that this is what you've been dealing with the last few months. Just reading it, I can totally understand every single feeling you have. There are no words that I could ever say that could make it better. Just know that I'm thinking about you and I completely understand the conflicting emotions that you are experiencing. You're not alone!!
Hugs to you!

Temerity Jane said...

I obviously don't have experience with your situation, and I don't know what a therapist would say about it, so ignore me if I say all the wrong and opposite things. But I know you've heard me talk several times about being different than close relatives, and how I feel about it, and how they feel about it, and how I feel about how they feel about it, and that's just too many feelings for me to have feelings about. I can't. I can't. Of course I still go over it and over it and over it in my head, but the options as I see them (in my situations, which I have told you about... at great length... ) are this: one, make myself deeply uncomfortable for the comfort and happiness of others, leading to more than the simmering unhappiness and resentment I already feel at times, or two, opt out of what I need to opt out of (as it applies to my situation, which is different than yours), and deal with how I feel about that, and count on those involved to handle how they feel about that without expecting me to take that responsibility onto myself.

It's natural to follow the line of thinking from how you feel about something, to how that makes you want to act, to how your actions will be perceived by others, to how it will make them feel. If you say shitty things right to someone's face or kick them, you're responsible for that, and you should take actions to make someone feel better after that. But when taking charge of managing your own feelings in a polite, reasonable, and adult manner, how it makes someone else feel can't be your responsibility. You're not personally responsible for the happiness and experiences of other people.

This is stuff obviously better suited to a less delicate and sensitive topic or situation, like my own, when obviously it's easier to say no, or put up boundaries, or enforce existing boundaries. I read a message board where people say, "Of course you can just do X, it's easy, just do it," and if the person says they can't, they just ignore them as someone who clearly doesn't want advice. But sometimes it's really just not that simple. In a perfect world, you can lay out boundaries, you can continue visiting with your parents with the frequency you've already established, you can... do what you want. In reality... well, people shouldn't be dicks to you if you decide to do that.

I started with a point. I hope it's in here somewhere. I think it's that people shouldn't be dicks. And that if everything/everyone is shitty, just pull up a wheelbarrow, section off your own shit, take it home, and leave shovels for everyone else if they so choose to deal with theirs.

Jess said...

Oh man. All of this makes SO MUCH SENSE. Of COURSE you feel this way. I want to say that first, that I hope you feel some validation from writing this and getting supportive responses, because there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. It SUCKS that you have to feel this way, and I'm so sorry that you're dealing with this crisis, but everything you've articulated here is so incredibly understandable. And I think Kelly's point above is so important. You're having these feelings and you are doing a GREAT job dealing with them. You're seeing your therapist, you're talking to your husband (who WILL continue to be your rock), you're not pushing them on your sister. You're being nice, polite, reasonable, like Kelly said. And if anyone is judging you for how you're feeling beyond that, given how well you're managing your own external reaction, that's their problem and not yours.

It sucks about them moving closer and all that shit you have to deal with, even without the pregnancy. My sister and I also have very different relationships with our parents and it has made a huge difference that I moved across the country so my sister and my parents are within driving distance of each other but flying distance for us. If suddenly my sister moved closer to us, especially if my parents were also in driving distance, I'd be going through all the same worries and so forth that you have. And I think, regardless of your sister's pregnancy, that you need to set some boundaries here. So your sister wants to see your family more often than you do. Fine. Let her. Continue with what works for you. Your parents might be upset about that, they might compare, but again, that's their issue, not yours. My mom has finally gotten to a point where she can just recognize that my sister and I are different about how much family stuff we like to do and how often we like to talk and visit, and she just accepts it. It helps a lot that I set clear boundaries and routines and stick with them. You are totally justified in doing the same, even if your sister is doing something different. In fact, maybe her pregnancy can actually be useful here--your parents will see her more because she's busy, overwhelmed, needs help, has a kid they want to see, etc. You aren't dealing with that stuff so you don't need them to be such a big presence in your daily life. However you want to draw it, I just really hope that you don't feel forced into changing up something that's been working for you for a long time just because your sister will be doing it differently.

Anyway! All of this really is to say that I'm sorry that this stuff is sucky, but I hope you know that it's really OK that it feels so sucky, and that it doesn't reflect poorly on you, and I hope that your family loves you and knows you well enough to not be judging your feelings, especially when you are handling them with such class and grace. Xo.

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Unknown said...

My SIL had three children in three years - it has been absolutely crippling bc we are dealing with MFI and my BIL got her pregnant three times just by looking at her. We still struggle with how to handle the holidays. It just sucks.