By Lisa Manterfield
As I continue on my own journey of healing, I find it hard sometimes to write about the issues that used to cause me such discomfort. It’s amazing how the human brain can dull past pain. So I appreciate when readers contact me with ideas for topics they’d like to see discussed.
Recently, one reader sent me this question about envy within families:
“I see a lot of people post about the joy of having nieces and nephews. Well, my brother’s wife is pregnant and I’m feeling completely pushed of out the picture. It may be because I reacted with shock and sadness over their first pregnancy. But I did write a lengthy, heartfelt apology and when that resulted in a miscarriage, my husband and I were the first to make it to the hospital and we stayed 11 hours with them. Now, my sister-in-law is being really removed from me.
I really want to have the connection with my niece or nephew, but I’m afraid I won’t. And honestly, I’m envious.
I wonder if others have similar experiences?”
A new baby in the family is a really difficult situation to navigate. There’s such a mixed bag of emotions involved. You’re trying to deal with your own grief, while also feeling alone because others don’t understand what you’re going through. Then a cause for celebration gets thrown in on top of that and, as much as you know you’re supposed to be happy for the new parents, all you can feel is resentment and envy that it’s not you. So, guilt and shame for being a bad sport get piled on top of that.
I also know that other people don’t know how to handle us when they have good news. I recall a friend being extremely uncomfortable about telling me she was pregnant. She dealt with it by sitting down, explaining that she knew this was difficult for me, and asking me how much or how little I wanted to know or be involved. I really appreciated her being open and it allowed me to be honest with her about how I felt. I’ve also had the experience of a friend saying, “Guess what?!” and then launching into every detail of how she found out and how it feels to be pregnant, while I sat and squirmed. Often people don’t know what to say or how best to handle us “volatile” folks, so they pull away and say nothing.
How about you? Have you experienced jealousy over new babies in the family? How have you dealt with it? Have you had a good experience with a friend or family member handling their news with aplomb?
If you have a topic or question you’d like to see discussed on the blog, please drop me a line. You can email me at lisa [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com or go through the Contact page.
Absolutely felt this way! My husband’s younger sister got married the week after we did. My husband and I decided to wait two years before starting for babies. My SIL got prego (well actually three of my SIL got prego and had kids January, July, and December all in the same year) and I was super jealous! She now has two kids. They live an hour and a half away. I hardly see them. Of the three SIL that got prego above I’m only close to one of them and her kids. I have 4 nieces and 4 nephews and I’m only close to 3 of the girls and 1 boy.
I am really struggling with a coworker who struggled with IF and now is pregnant with her second. I cant wrap my head around her double success with my never ending lack of success. I also struggle with being joyous of people that seem like unfit parents. I know life is not fair, but tell that to my heart
When my husband’s daughter called him to let him know she was pregnant, he practically jumped out of his seat with joy; he kept nudging me and grinning while he was on the phone with her. I was very upset; my husband was angry that I was upset. His granddaughter was born last year, and he is excited every time he Skypes with them, enjoys telling people that he is now a grandfather. I have no idea how to ‘deal with it’. I have tried explaining to my husband that, while I am very happy for him, I am grieving deeply about being childless and also about the fact that he does not want children with me. Saying this to my husband makes him angry so I don’t see much point in bringing it up but ignoring it is not the solution. The only option that makes any ‘sense’ to me is for us to break up. Coming to terms with being childless, and embracing a childless life, is one thing; being with someone who has children and doesn’t want them with me is a whole other story!
Different Shores says
Hugs to you, that’s an awful situation. Your pain is totally understandable.
Thank you for hearing me, Different Shores. It means a lot.
dubliner in deutschland says
That sounds like a very hard situation to be in. Having a husband who doesn’t understand you and gets angry when you try to explain how you are feeling doesn’t sound good to be honest. Wishing you lots of strength.
I know, it’s not a good situation, dubliner in deutschland. I’m really struggling to know what to do. Coming on here helps; I don’t feel so alone. Thank you for listening!
If my husband ever has grandkids I’m going to hate him.
He has two grown up sons and doesn’t/didn’t want children with me.
I’ve told him that if that day comes, I will buy a camper and travel the world and come home now and then for a visit.
At the same time my heart breaks at the thought of his sons not getting children if they want them, I know the oldest one really want to have kids.
I’m sorry, M2L, I think I know what it feels like.
Thank you Lin. I’m sorry you know what it feels like, as it’s not a ‘good’ place to be in, but I’m grateful that you posted. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Hugs to you x
I’m grateful for these posts and the feelings shared. I can relate to them (especially to your comment M2L). My husband is 21 years older than me and has a grown-up daughter. My husband and I have no children together. A couple of years after we got together, he told me he was past that stage of his life and did not want anymore children.
His daughter has a toddler and another one on the way (a surprise pregnancy due to a failure with birth control). The feelings I had (which included, grieving over not having children and envy) during her first pregnancy were very difficult for me. At times I think I am finding my feelings around her second pregnancy to be even more difficult…because I am now truly past the age to conceive.
I celebrated my birthday recently and at a celebratory dinner with my husband, I made the mistake of asking whether he had spoken with his daughter recently. He proceeded to tell me about what she had shared with him about her pregnancy. I had previously asked him not to discuss her pregnancy with me; he had forgotten this. I suddenly became very emotional during the dinner, trying to hold back the tears. A saying I like when these emotions come up for me is, You’ve done nothing wrong; you are nothing wrong. I think I have shame around not being a mother and question whether there is something fundamentally wrong with me, which is curious because I don’t see other childless women in this way. I think these feelings tie into my emotional wounding from the past and tie into the “perfect family” messages that seem to be all around us.
I have had family members tell me that now that my stepdaughter has children, I will be able to share in the experience of being a grandmother because the children will know me from an early age and the step family dynamic will not enter into the relationship. Well, I am not able to embrace this idea yet. Also, they live far away so we only see them once a year at most so it is hard to build a relationship. And if I’m honest, sometimes I am thankful that they live far away.
Something I am thankful for is that it seems like my husband and I have had a communication breakthrough and are more able to discuss my feelings around childlessness without it escalating into an argument. I feel like he has become more sympathetic and less defensive about the subject.
Wow, Kate, thank you for sharing your story – your situation sounds so similar to mine. My husband, however, is unfortunately not open to hearing how I feel nor to taking my feelings into account. I am near breaking point in our relationship. It is no longer ‘just’ because he doesn’t want children with me, as if that isn’t hard enough, but his inability to even try to understand how I feel and how difficult it is for me. I am hoping I can find the courage to do what I need to do to take better care of myself in the future.
M2L, I’m sorry your husband is responding in this way and is not giving you the support and understanding that is so important and essential. It’s so difficult. I think I can relate to the situation and what you might be feeling. Until recently, when I brought up the subject matter (I was always the one to bring it up), my husband would become defensive and tell me that he didn’t want to be blamed for his past and for keeping me from having a child. He said that I chose our relationship, fully knowing what his decision was. Yes, I did choose to marry him knowing his stance on not having any “more” children. I was already emotionally invested and was 40 years old by the time we married. I thought our relationship (my love for him) was more important to me than having children…what a difficult choice. Also, what were my chances at 39-40 of finding love and compatibility with someone else in time to have children?
If I’m truthful with myself, there was a part of me that thought he might change his mind (and/or that I might unexpectedly get pregnant and that he would be happy about it – none of that happened). Two years into our marriage he decided to have a vasectomy and this was a real blow to me. I grappled with the gravity of my lost dreams and tried to find a sense of acceptance regarding the situation.
When life’s stressors occur, I have sometimes questioned whether I made the right choice. I felt like leaving when I heard his daughter was pregnant for a second time. I didn’t think I could go through all these emotions again.
We were in a very negative communication pattern around this subject until a month ago. Grief and anger would come up for me and I would express it to him. He would then become defensive and say he did not want to be blamed for this the rest of his life. Then it would usually turn into crying and/or raised voices. I think the shift that has occurred over the past month is that we started to see my therapist together (we had been in therapy with another therapist prior to and early on in our marriage and it did not seem helpful overall). So far, my therapist has helped us. She asked my husband to not take my feelings (and anger) personally. She has asked him to try to listen to me, be there for me, and acknowledge my feelings. He has been trying to do this and it has meant a great deal to me.
M2L, sending hugs to you. I hope a positive shift happens in your relationship and that your husband will have an awareness and work on trying to understand your feelings. And, if this does not come to be, I hope you find the courage to do what’s best for you even if that means leaving the situation.
Jane P (UK) says
Yes, this hits a raw nerve – I still recall the surprise announcement my SIL made on Christmas day to everyone 16 years ago. The hurt and sadness and strength it took to get through the meal – thing is the sadness then would hang over me for days/weeks and months because there was never a pregnancy for us. My SIL moved to USA when her first was 5 yrs and with her 2nd on the way. I was relieved not to have to visit, babysit, be a good aunt etc – the pain of putting on a smile and a brave face up to the point they left had taken more than can I bear to think back on ( I would definitely “be busy” more have something pressing to do on any baby showers etc. I have 1 brother and he never had children (through choice), he hasn’t involved me in his current partner and step sons life at all and I am now estranged from him. So we don’t have nieces and nephews – I think this was better for me but I feel sorry for my husband who may have filled a void with his nieces. For me though, I know looking after others would not have helped, I felt I sat on the side lines of my own life watching all my friends with their families for way too long. I’m not interested in babies or children anymore. I think I’m done – 20 years TTC is way too much sadness, especially when it is overlooked by your immediate family. Perhaps I am still a bit stuck in my grief – I don’t think they are going to suddenly get it and give me the empathy I need so I find it easier not to have too much to do with them – I feel quite alone at times, particularly at Christmas but hubby and I always said “this would not destroy us” and it will not. We will be in the mountains for Christmas day skiing – we are planning our Christmas dinner and will start the day with a champagne breakfast. It will just be the two of us – I’m looking forward to it – although its not how we pictured our Christmas day dinner when we met 24 years ago.
Sat with friend in her living room and she asked how I was coping after my final round of IVF ended in miscarriage. I started to say “It’s ok but I’m struggling a little at the mo, it’s like I’m grieving I guess.”
Before I could continue she rubbed her pregnant belly and announced quite sternly
“Well so you know, I refuse to feel bad about this baby as it’s a blessing.”
I asked her when I had tried to make her feel bad about her pregnancy (Or any of them)
” You haven’t yet but I don’t want you to start now you’ve given up.”
Sometimes it’s not how you react, it’s how people assume you will react that’s the kicker.
That’s dreadful! So insensitive, that would make me so angry. It’s wrong on many levels… so your not blessed because you lost your baby.
dubliner in deutschland says
wow that’s a horrible way your friend reacted! I’m sorry
Jane P (UK) says
Wow – that’s really insensitive -so sorry Abs – I had a friend similar to this – not quite as blunt – I kicked her right out of my life. I gave myself a hard time back then for doing so but looking back – someone that wrapped up in themselves will not help you through your journey.
This person doesn’t sound like much of a friend, Abs; she sounds incredibly insensitive and self-absorbed. Hugs to you x
Different Shores says
Although I am in a good place right now and don’t have the visceral feelings of a few years ago, I still have one major blind spot. When someone in the extended family (e.g. a cousin) has a baby at the age that I was when I couldn’t conceive, I do feel resentment. Actually, in general when I hear that someone has conceived easily at age 36, 37, 38, I feel fairly evil towards them. Well, more like studied indifference – I just refuse to be interested. It’s nasty I know but I won’t send a card or congratulations (if I can get away with it, i.e. if they aren’t a really close cousin or whatever). If they’re younger, I don’t mind so much. Is that awful? Probably. One thing I always leap on whenever anyone is pregnant or has a baby is her age: I still scan the article for the woman’s age, or ask the question “How old is she?” before all others. I suppose it’s a sore point with me.
Yep, its hard not to be envious and jealous. In the time we’ve been married (6.5years) there have been 9 births in our family and one more is on the way. They were all cousins of my husband . All but one got married after we did. Everytime a baby shower was announced I cringed. At first I went in on baby shower gifts but these last two I haven’t even acknowledged. I didn’t send a gift, I don’t think they care anyway, they are all much younger cousins. I just can’t even handle it anymore. I’m glad they are younger and my husband was never really close to them but i know he feels bad about not seeing them as we avoid a lot of gatherings. There was a recent gathering of cousins I knew about but didn’t make a huge fuss about going or put is on the calendar to make sure we attended. I figure if he really wanted to go he would make it happen. As it was he forgot about it and we didn’t go, once he remembered he felt bad about it but I can’t say that I really care. I just can’t handle seeing any of them. My emotions are still so raw, i’m so tired of putting on a face. I just don’t have the energy anymore.
I know exactly what you mean Magnolia. I don’t remind my husband of important dates for his children and grandchild anymore; like you, I leave it up to him to remember if it’s important to him. It is certainly exhausting, having to act like I’m happy all the time for these people who, like you say, don’t seem to care anyway. I think you’re brave not to go to things you know would be difficult for you. The pressure to attend can be so great. Hugs x
Being envious is natural, I think. I’ve had it – the SIL announcing pregnancy at Christmas, and my sister having her baby after I’d already been told I was too old and had to stop (by my fertility specialist). But the relationships I have now with those children are very special, and I’m very grateful for them. That’s what I was able to focus on – my relationship with that child, rather than seeing the child as something that someone else has that I wanted. It’s only possible when you get to know the child, when the child is here. The pregnancy part is very difficult.
janna roznos says
I had thought I could be a wonderful aunt to my nieces and nephews, but that didn’t come about. I had thought that my SIL would welcome another adult (w/o kids) to go to the park, or the fair or the amusement park, but I was wrong. My SIL enjoyed spending time with each other, but since I couldn’t contribute as a ‘fellow-in -the-trenches mother’ I was ignored. Also, how could I compete with the grandmothers/grandfathers who offered ‘on-call’ baby sitting and an open check book?! So the nieces and nephews grew up with really knowing their aunt and uncle. But now that they are in college/adults, at family gatherings I am able to chat with them and hear about their lives. I think maybe they (in their own way) appreciate an ‘adult’ is interested in listening to them, rather than their parents telling them what to do! I also think they may see me as another alternative – someone who didn’t have children but still has lived a full-filling life.
When I finally got married at 31, my older sister has already been married over 10 years and did not have any children. In fact, they never even discussed it but after years of my husband and I going through infertility treatments, she gets pregnant! She was never there for me during those difficult times, but she wanted me to be happy for her and to be there for her during her happy time. And then to top it off, my brother’s girlfriend gets pregnant when she was 38, and they announced at Christmas time.
Even after all these years, I still ask the universe why. I just don’t get it.
Jane P (UK) says
Hi Sherry – some families I think are a bit of a let down (mine for sure). Not only do we have to deal with the loss and sadness of not having our own family but the very people you always think will be there for you are simply not – its like a double disappointment – so sorry. Yes I still ask the universe “why” – I constantly tell myself “its not all good – there is plenty of worry and difficult times”. It helps some days and on other days I visit LWB and read other posts which helps me and reminds me to do what helps me get through and if that is avoiding family – that’s what I do.
I agree, Jane P (UK) – a couple of years ago when I was really struggling, I just couldn’t bring myself to send Christmas cards and my Mum actually had a go at me about it, saying that I’d ‘upset everyone’ by not doing so. Unbelievable. The lack of support/caring from my family is astonishing and definitely contributes to my feelings of loss of not having a family of my own. I have distanced myself from them recently and no-one has commented on it or asked me how I am. It has really brought to light how we are not close at all.