Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to tell an infertile family member I'm pregnant.

I'm wondering if you can provide any suggestions for how I can approach the following situation:

This past weekend I found out that my husband and I are expecting our first child. We are very excited and feeling very blessed (and surprised!) since this was our first month "trying." We were definitely not expecting it to happen this quickly, though we were also prepared for the possibility.

My sister-in-law (DH's sister) and her husband have been TTC for over a year. In early December she told me that her doctor is going to start her on Clomid and has reason to have high hopes that it will be successful soon. We're having trouble deciding what would be the best way to tell SIL that we're pregnant. I am very sensitive to how this will affect her and want it be as gentle as possible. We were planning to wait until 8 weeks or so to tell family, but don't know if it would be better to tell her sooner? They live out of state, so would it be better to tell her in person or over the phone so she has time to process it before we see them? I know she had a very difficult time dealing with the pregnancy of her other sister-in-law so am very aware that she could take this badly. I sincerely hope that she is able to get pregnant very soon and would be ecstatic if she tells us they're expecting before we get a chance to tell them!

Melissa's answer:

Your situation hits extremely close to home as this is where I was at almost 2 years ago. I found out I was pregnant with my FOURTH before Rachel had gotten pregnant with her first. She had told me a few months before this that if this situation were to happen, it would be the worst thing that could happen to her….

The mixture of joy and grief flooded me as my assuming turned to knowing when I saw the positive pregnancy test.

Here is how I handled the situation. To be honest with you, I have not asked Rachel if I could have handled it better…she may be able to add some other things.

First of all I prayed. Prayed prayed prayed. Mostly for Rachel. But, I also had to pray that I could be ok with the fact that I was pregnant. That I HADN’T done anything wrong by getting pregnant when she couldn’t (b.c this is the lie that kept nipping at me).

Then I asked a few select people to join me in prayer for her.

For me, I needed to tell her in person. I just knew it would be the best way…however, I KNEW (I have no doubt God warned me of this to ease the hurt on my side) that Rachel would ask me to leave after I told her. (she actually left the room and after awhile asked Joey to ask me to leave)

I will be honest that when I left I REALLY battled for a few minutes with anger….anger that she could be SO devastated by my news when this exact news for herself was exactly what she was grieving for. But, then….I just had sadness. For her. For me. For my baby. I prayed the whole way home (about a 40 minute drive). By the time I was home, I was tear soaked and heavy hearted…but I also felt hope. Somehow, I KNEW that where we were at that moment would not be where we would always be.

The next day Rachel wrote a very raw post on her blog…about how sad she was, how she couldn’t even believe she woke up. That the worst thing in the world had happened the night before….etc.

As you can imagine, this TORE my heart out. I was shaking as I read it. BUT, I can be totally honest when I say I was NOT angry. Just sad. We didn’t talk (except thru email in regards to work only) for 2 days (or almost 2…I can’t remember) and the entire time I prayed for her and spoke to my baby. I told him that he was soo loved and sooo wanted. =) (I had to do that…for my sake!)

Our story turned out wonderful as God was COMPLETELY involved on both ends…and as much as he gave me a grace for Rachel while she processed my baby’s life; He gave her a miraculous healing. Now, on my end I was still extremely cautious of what I said to her about my baby…but we WERE ok.

So, to start over:

-PRAY for her and you. Pray that her heart is protected and yours is FULL of grace

-Have others praying for both of you

-Don’t expect her to be happy or ok

-Expect her to need her space…and be ok with that

-DON’T feel guilty. You have done nothing wrong by being pregnant

-Be tender

I will be praying for you! Please keep us posted as to how the next few weeks/months go for you.

Rachel's answer:

First I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry that you even have to prepare yourself to deliver “bad news” to someone that should only be taken as good news. Being on this side of infertility, it pains me to think how badly I received pregnancy announcements from those I loved the most. And I feel I need to say on behalf of infertile women, I am sorry. We don’t mean to make this hard on you.

You’ve already read how my sister shared her pregnancy announcement with me. I can’t honestly say that’s my recommendation. I only wanted to hear something like this over email. So no one had to see my face, or hear my voice and know I was pained. However an email from my sister probably wouldn’t have been that great either and I think in our case, she handled it perfectly. But I can’t really say I think you should tell her in person.

However, if you feel that an email wouldn’t be the best way, I would suggest your husband talk to her husband (if they’re close enough). If not, then maybe your husband should tell his sister, over the phone.

If you’re planning on doing a group announcement, I beg you to tell her ahead of time. A few days or even weeks ahead of time. It’s not fair to lump them into that group as it will most likely ruin their day. And I’m sorry, I hate even writing that.

I know that this is the most joyous news you’ve ever gotten to give, and I am so excited for you. But I also know this will probably be the worst news she could receive this week (aside from a death). I can tell you that when I found out my sister was pregnant again (her second in the time we’d been trying), I wanted to die. If going to sleep and not waking up was an option, I wanted that option.

My heart felt broken and shattered and tramped on. Not by my sister, though unfortunately she was the vessel, just by infertility. And the unfairness of it all.

So as you go into this situation and you know she might “take it badly”, please be open minded to what she’s going through. The very thing you got to see on the first try, she has seen a negative for over 24 different times.

24, that’s a lot of months to get a negative test. And you never had to experience it (which is wonderful for you!!) but now she has something else to measure her loss against, each month she’s not pregnant, you’re 1 more month pregnant, and adorable, and closer to holding the very thing she wants so badly.

This is wonderful for you, and you should never feel otherwise, but I just hope you’ll truly take her feelings into consideration and let her grieve the way she needs.

This is not a fun situation, for either of you, and I’ll be praying for your relationship.

If you want to see my blog posting the day my sister told me she was pg go here
To see how God brought me full circle, just a few days later, go here


kcmarie122 said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing both sides!

I would have to second Rachel's recommendation to tell someone over e-mail or through your husbands.

It is so much better for me to deal with announcements when I'm alone and have time to deal with my own self pity before pulling myself together.

May I also suggest that if it's an e-mail that you send it at the best possible time that your SIL would be most likely to read it NOT at work. I know it's impossible to know for sure when she'd read it, but maybe sending it at the end of the workday and hope she gets it before work the next day.

Sorry, didn't mean to hijack this excellent post! Just thought I'd second Rachel's thoughts!

Paige said...

Well said both of you. I love your honesty and your love for each other.

My SIL and I have had this discussion. She called to tell me they were trying because she wanted me to hear it from her as well as she didn't want a "surprise we are pregnant moment". We have had a lot of hard times in our relationship to begin with but this would've made it worse.

She also said that her and my brother talked about when and how they would tell us. We would be first AND they would call us. He will call us. My brother and I have a much better relationship. She feels, and I agree, that a phone call will keep me from having to save face in front of people.

I thought it was very considerate and so happy that we talked about it.

Melissa Griffin said...

I agree with everything that was written. At Christmas my cousin (who knew I have been having trouble for 2 yrs) announced in a huge family circle of 14 ppl that she was expecting (and she absolutely did not want kids). It was absolutely gut wrenching that I had to leave the room. All I wanted was to have known first so I was not blindsided. BUT she is not as sensitive and understanding as you all seem to be. My advice is not to tell her in person in front of 50 can tell her before hand so she is prepared but to be honest, for me, I wish she just told me over the phone so I could congratulate her and then hang up so I could feel and cry and do whatever I wanted without making her feel bad. Not that she cared about making me feel bad but that is besides the point.
I think its wonderful how sensitive you are about it and trust me, that will make her feel better...she may not feel that way at first but she will eventually. And know that no matter what DEEP DOWN inside..she is truely happy for you - she is just outwardly sad for herself.

Mommy (to be - someday) said...

This hurt me to read this, but I'm so glad I did.
thank you both so much for sharing all of this with us.

The Patterson's said...

THANK YOU! Once again, I so appreciate the information you are sharing. It reminds me that my actions were totally "normal" when I found out my sister was pregnant.

All I can say to the person asking the question is to just empathize with your sister-in-law's situation. I know you can't know what it is like to go through infertility and treatments, but just understanding that it is real makes a huge difference.

Jamie said...

I honestly know if my sister told me she was pregnant after trying for a mere one month I would be very angry. Like a previous poster said, it would be anger at the situation. I say invite her to your house so she can walk out. It's very possible she will. This is great your being sensitive to her. My sister has told me not to be jealous of her and "its not a competition" when she gets pregnant. I feel like in time she will be OK, but it won't happen overnight. It may be until the baby is born. Just know you won't be able to turn to her for complaints etct. She won't care to hear them. GOOD LUCK!!!

Anonymous said...

My sister told me on the phone this week that she is pregnant after less than 4 motnhs ttc, (we've been 4 years ttc) and she is aware of all the tests and failed fertility treatment that we had. I'm hurt that she told her husbands sister and possibly other of his family before she told me (she let that slip)..i just feel it's a sign of things to come, they have babies and i don't so i guess she'll be closer to them because of that now. We used to be so close. That saddens me so much. I'd have thought i'd be one of the first she'd tell.

i'm also so hurt that when she told me her news she didn't once acknowledge how this news must make me feel, i know this news is about her and not me but it would have been nice if she even acknowledged my situation, all she kept saying was how thrilled they are and how happy they are...i felt like saying 'well why wouldn't you be'. It almost felt like she was saying..we're so happy so don't take from that'. anyway, overall it saddens me that i feel our relationship will never be the same again.