I’ve gotten several emails over the past few weeks from fellow IF Islanders who are dealing with the difficult emotions of having a pregnant sister-in-law. I’ve kind of avoided writing about this topic because I too have a pregnant sister-in-law, and I think she occasionally reads this blog. While I wanted to protect her privacy for a while, I also wanted to write when I could do so from a place of love.
There’s something specific about the pregnant SIL. If my own sister got pregnant, I’d be thrilled—even though she’s 3 ½ years younger and not yet married! When she donated eggs to me, the cycle raised some concerns about her own fertility, and I pray every day that she will never go through what Noah and I are going through. But the pregnant SIL is a different thing for some reason.
I have one friend who had been on IF Island for two years, had gone through several IVF’s and the day after she had an early miscarriage, her SIL, her husband’s younger brother’s wife, announced she was pregnant at a big family dinner. My friend ran from the room crying. She couldn’t help it. The feelings were so raw. Her brother and sister-in-law didn’t know what my friend and her husband had just gone through, so the announcement wasn’t at all spiteful, it was just their news.
The news that my SIL is pregnant came to us a few months ago. Noah’s younger brother sent us an email, and again, as all pregnancy announcements do, feelings of dysfunction and unfairness and frustration began to swell. On the one hand, I was genuinely happy for them and for our family. I will be this child’s only aunt (I think, or one of two, whatever, I will be this child’s favorite aunt). I am very close with my aunts and look forward to the relationship Noah and I will have with this little person. We have a small family and I am happy Noah’s brother and his wife didn’t struggle. But on the other hand, these feelings of…deserving come up. I feel like a jerk writing that down, but I don’t think it’s an uncommon feeling. Noah and I have been trying for longer than his brother and sister-in-law have known each other. His brother is 3+ years younger and will have a child who is genetically his and his families. It is likely Noah will not, and while we no longer feel that means all that much, it’s something. It’s still somehow unfair. Noah’s response to these feelings of mine is, “If I can’t have a biological kid, my brother should be the one to.” True. I guess it just brings up hard feelings of guilt and loss and sadness for me because I’m once again reminded that my body is the root cause of our infertility.
The length of time a couple has been together and how hard it was for them to conceive have somehow become markers for me of whether that couple is deserving or not. It’s totally absurd perhaps, but sometimes you can’t help the rules your brain creates. One of my co-workers has had two kids in the time we’ve been trying. I’m ok with that. She’s older than I am and had been trying for a while before her family came together. Another co-worker was divorcing his first wife when Noah and I started trying. His second child with another woman is due this week. That feels less ok. I don’t know why. It just does. What I have to remember is that my brain isn’t always right. Just because my brain decides someone is less deserving does not make it true. Just because I think or feel something, does not make it fact. Everyone is entitled to follow their bliss and create the best life they can for themselves. Everyone is equally deserving of having a family. Noah and I are just as deserving, not necessarily more, of having the family we desire. Unfortunately we just haven’t been as lucky.
What sometimes makes pregnancy announcements within a family extra hard is that it builds a deeper wedge of misunderstanding. If one person is filled with light and life and another is filled with heartbreak and repetitive bad news, who is the attention going to follow?
Someone wrote me the other day about being pregnant at the same time as her SIL. But this person miscarried while her SIL continues to have a healthy pregnancy. Her SIL is due a within a week of when her baby would be have been due. This person will have to watch her mother celebrate her SIL and the new baby, and will be constantly reminded of her loss and what could have been.
Sometimes friendships get parked when one person gets sequestered to IF Island and another person celebrates the expansion of their family. It’s a crappy but common situation for many. But this kind of separation often can’t happen within a family. So what’s a person to do?
I’ve always been a very big believer in trying to increase understanding through communication. Honestly expressing the conflicting feelings of being excited for and saddened by a pregnancy may help you feel heard. But I have to admit sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes fertile and hyper-fertile people just can’t fathom the experience of trying everything possible to achieve something they were able to achieve in one shot. Literally. Sometimes people feel pity, sometimes they compare your fertility struggles to other life struggles they have had. Bottom line is that sometimes others just may not get your pain.
I have learned to understand that that is ok. I remind myself that no one is getting pregnant to hurt me or to make me feel bad. It’s not about me at all. Everyone has the right to move forward in their lives and to experience the joys and excitement of pregnancy. I have choices in how I handle the situation. Sometimes I feel the need to protect myself and give myself space, sometimes I push myself to open my heart the best I can, and share in the joy for another person. It really depends on the day.
My SIL happens to live in the same state we are hopefully traveling to for our embryo adoption. So while I will be getting massive progesterone shots in the butt and praying that this donated little embie sticks, she will be going through her second trimester with that pregnant glow. And that’s just what it is. I have to try and think about the bigger picture. I know she wants the best for us and hopes that this works. I know that I care about her deeply, and she feels the same way about me. Her pregnancy will one day feel like a blessing, and I will have a niece or nephew who I can spoil and love. One day, my SIL and I will have things in common, and we will be able to share in the joys and pitfalls of parenting.