Problem w/ sister & infertility issues — The Bump
February 2016 Moms

Problem w/ sister & infertility issues

Hey guys!
Lately, I've been having a really hard time maintaining a relationship with my older sister. Unfortunately, she is struggling through IVF during the same time that I'm pregnant. I'm trying really hard to be a good sister and a supportive friend to her by listening to her worries, and allowing her to vent or talk things through when she needs to.  I never bring up things related to my pregnancy unless she specifically asks about it (which she does, sometimes), and I censor details about my life to try to spare her details about things that might upset her.

 I know that this is heartbreaking for her -- in many ways it has completely consumed her life and changed her into a different person. I feel like I have made every possible effort to be sensitive to her situation.I made sure to plan out how to tell her I was pregnant, I never complain about pregnancy symptoms or other discomforts, and try to hard to keep her included without hurting her as much as possible.  However, it doesn't feel like she's offering me the same courtesy.  She's made quite a few insensitive comments that I don't think she realizes are hurtful. For example, when I went to my confirmation appointment, she said "I won't call you after the appointment in case you get bad news and you need time to process it." I was so shocked she would think that was appropriate to say out loud. She's also made some statements about our apartment being really small for a baby, how we need to save money, etc. which I know she is viewing as good advice, but it feels judgey, like she's thinking she is so much better prepared to be a mother than I am.

Now I'm getting really stressed about going home for Christmas and my baby shower. She has made several comments about how she can't really help with the shower because she might have to run out crying or leave to get some air. While I totally understand that this could be hard from her, it seems unfair that she's making these comments in conversation with me. Hearing her say that makes me feel like I have to downplay my excitement, or that it will be really awkward to open baby-related presents during Christmas with my family. In some ways, I'm beginning to feel hurt that her difficulties are ruining some of the enjoyment of my pregnancy. From some of her comments, I worry that if I just walk in the room with my baby bump, she's going to run out sobbing. How are we going to make it through a week of holiday celebrations?

Is it wrong to think that she should be censoring these comments while speaking to me in the same way that I try to shield her from hurtful pregnancy comments? Is there a nice way to tell her any of this, or do I just need to suck it up, create some distance from her, and hope for the best?

Re: Problem w/ sister & infertility issues

  • I'm sorry you're facing this. Something I personally use in my life is "everyone fights a different battle." I struggled with secondary infertility and a miscarriage for 4 years before this baby and in the mean time had my bff conceive and have twins naturally, my sister have a baby, and my cousin have a baby. I cried a little each time I found out but then moved on and celebrated them. We all have different battles and mine was infertility but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to have a baby just because I couldn't. I just had to remind myself constantly that they faced other difficulties in their life that maybe I knew nothing about. I know this doesn't help you much or maybe even make sense but it's my point of view from the other side. I think as women we all are too easily offended/sensitive and that's just natural. Maybe a good heart to heart talk with your sister could help?
  • You sound like a considerate person who loves your sister very much. If I were in your shoes, and I decided to talk to her about it, I have a feeling that I might feel terribly guilty about it later. Even though I don't think it would be wrong if you to discuss it, I have a feeling that it may change the dynamic of your relationship (at least for a time), and if it were me, I might really regret it and later think, "I wish I would have just tolerated it for the sake of our relationship." I'm a sensitive Sally and an adult child of an alcoholic, though, so I tend to struggle with these sorts of confrontational situations! Best of luck to you. You sound like a wonderful sister!
    *E 10/2012, H 7/2014, F 2/2016*
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  • I can tell from the details of your post that you're doing the best you can with the situation, so kudos to you for being sensitive to your sister during a difficult time. It's too bad she's not showing you the same consideration, but unfortunately a discussion may not change that. If it's worth the risk of things potentially getting worse instead of better you might say something, but if her potential reaction is just going to end up making you upset it might be best just to ride it out. This is a tough one, and partly depends on the dynamic of your relationship before.

  • Sorry you are going through this, this tough. I agree with PP if you think it'll ruin your relationship with her, I wouldn't tell her anything. If you think she can talk about it, bring it up next time she says something. Just nicely say it hurts your feelings, if she can try to be nicer, since you obviously are! Good luck! Hugs!



  • As someone who struggled with infertility for 5 years, thank you for being such an awesome sister. I honestly don't know if a talk would change anything. The comments she is making might be the best/nicest things she can come up with. Infertility really messed me up. She is dealing with grief and depression and all you can do is what you are already doing.
  • Thanks for the kind advice, guys. I think you're right. It might be too hard to get her to understand what I'm feeling, since I'm sure she's not feeling too bad for me at the moment. Fortunately, I do have other friends to celebrate with, and I'll just have to turn to them for more support and excitement.  I always dreamed of sharing this with my sister, but I suppose the things she dreamed about aren't happening either. 

    It's a good point that those might be the nicest things she can come up with right now, and that she probably doesn't mean any of it personally.

  • It really sounds like you are being an awesome sister. So my hat is off to you for that. Some of what you said actually sounds normal for non-parents (ie the unwanted advice about your house and money). Everyone is a perfect parent until they become one. As far as the comment about giving you time to process in case of bad news, I actually interpreted that as how she is relating to your pregnancy. She is struggling and most likely depressed and frustrated so that is how her feelings are projecting on to anything pregnancy related. So when she talks or thinks about your pregnancy it all goes through that filter of her emotions first and her mind is naturally going to connect it to something that is depressing because of it. I hope that makes sense. I don't think talking about it will change that mental connection she has. Hopefully when your little one arrives, she'll change associating your baby with fertility and just be an awesome aunt. You're a great sister for being so caring and understanding.

  • I agree that you're being a great friend and sister, and being very sensitive to her.
    I haven't struggled with infertility, but I lost a son so I can speak as someone who has had to navigate baby related things while dealing with my own grief.
    To me it doesn't sound like she's being insensitive. Those are things I can imagine myself saying to someone I was close to, in order to be open and honest about my journey.
    Your baby shower is going to be very tough for her and she's being totally honest with you that she might need to leave. That she's going to attend says to me that she loves you and is trying to support you in your pregnancy.
    The confirmation appointment remark sounds to me like someone who is used to dealing with bad news related to pregnancy, and she was trying to prepare, just in case. Again, she was trying to be sensitive.
    As for the other comments, those are things people in "regular" situations say, unfortunately. Sounds like she's being a big sister :-)

    I know that it must be hard for you to feel like some of your happiness is being robbed, but her situation is so much suckier (I'm going with that being a word!) and if she could change it, she would.
    I would love to still have my son and not feel awkward and sad around other people's babies and certain conversations about babies. I would love to not potentially make them feel bad around me. But something terrible happened to me and I do have to protect myself emotionally as much as I can. Other people's discomfort is nothing compared to what I'm going through... And that's where I'm guessing she's coming from.

    Hopefully it'll get easier for both of you.

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  • @babyseaturtles - I love what you said at the end.  That once the baby is born, she'll stop associating it with fertility and our relationship may improve. I can put up with some strained relationships for a few months with the hope that things could return to somewhat normal in the future.

  • I disagree that you shouldn't talk to her about it. You are honestly going out of your way to be understanding and sensitive to her situation. She's not being the great sister that you are by returning an effort to be happy for you. I understand that she's going through a depressing time but that doesn't give her license to disregard your feelings. I think explaining exactly what you just told us might make her wake up to the fact she's not being kind to you in a time that it would be nice to see her happy for you. Even in the smallest way. Nothing over the top. But that's just how I see it.
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  • I'm sorry for your situation, and commend you for the way you are handling this situation.  It's definitely a sticky one.

    I'm in a similar situation.  I am pregnant with my second child, I've had one miscarriage, 1 bio-chemical pregnancy, and needed to be on fertility meds (pills and shots) to get pregnant.  I have PCOS.  My sister is in the exact situation.  She was having major problems getting pregnant and had to go to the next step past pills to IUD.  She would either grow many eggs or none.  And if there was too many they would have to cancel for risks of multiples.  Add onto all this with her having marriage issues.  She has one child and currently tells me that she doesn't want any more.  

    We don't talk often, but when we do she does ask me about things.  She seems excited about it, but it took some time.  She was definitely not excited in the beginning.  So, I think you definitely need to talk to her, but maybe not right now.  Have you tried going through your parents?  Sometimes having a family function can prompt the parents to say something if they notice things (that happens in my family).

    I also agree with other posters that I'm sure by the time the baby arrives, she'll forget about her dealings and focus on the new baby!

    Good luck otherwise!
    Second-time Mommy & OPML 
    M/C (Angel Baby) 10/2011
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  • It honestly sounds like to me that you are both doing the best you can with the situation. She is obviously going through a really hard time, but is trying to be supportive of you by giving you advice etc. She is probably right that your shower will be really emotional for her and she just may have to leave crying, but at least she is willing to go. I struggled with my friend's pregnancy after my MC. I wanted to be supportive, but it was very difficult because I was so emotional. I suggest talking to your sister before your visit and asking her what you can do to make things easier for her while you are there. You can't hide the fact that you are pregnant or that you are excited about it, but you may be able to tone down the baby talk some around her. I don't see the things she said as any more hurtful than the stuff most people say to pregnant ladies (especially family), but it doesn't mean you shouldn't let her know she is hurting your feelings. You can't expect everyone (even family) to be jumping up and down about your pregnancy, but she can't expect you to hide that excitement completely either.
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