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 envy 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?
Just as I turned 40 my younger sister had a baby boy. We used to be close, now I can’t talk to her or look at her son – it hurts too much. When I tried to explain she told me I could still try…there was time 🙁
I avoid family functions where I know she will be there & if I can’t I have an early exit plan.
Advice will be helpful.
When I found out my brother was going to have twins, it was my mom who told me. She was so excited but I remember my heart just dropping a little. Of course I was happy for my brother, but at the time, my now husband and I were only about year into our relationship. I recall thinking when was it going to be my turn, and my turn never came.
I love my boys and the best way I dealt with it was to develop my own relationship with them and later, my niece. I am fortunate in that we all live in the same locale so I was their sitter, etc. What is interesting now is that they are in the midst of the insanity of college applications and the pressure is really causing friction between parents and offspring. I have been able to step in and spend time with them to help and the result has been much gratitude from all parties. I want them to succeed, of course, but because the relationship dynamic is different I can work with them in a way my brother and his wife can’t; I feel very flattered they have reached out and a sense of closeness that I haven’t had in awhile and it has been great, partly because it is more of a preview of our coming adult relationships. But I wonder if I would have had the same challenges with my own kids?
My younger sister just told me she’s pregnant for the third time, without even really trying. She just took her IUD out and “left the door open.”
While I’m happy for her, I’m already anticipating the pain in myself that comes with being around a new baby. I adore my niece and nephew, but their infancy was incredibly difficult for me. It’s somewhat easier now that they’re toddlers – but here we go again.
She was so worried about telling me, that I actually felt bad for her. I truly do not want to take away from her joy.
In the past week, 3 ppl have told me they’re pregnant. My esthetician (as I was laying bottomless on the waxing table!), the infertility support group leader (at the beginning of our support group meeting, which I’ve decided I’ve kinda grown past) and finally, a friend who’s house we are going over to tomorrow night for dinner called to let me know she’s 5 months pregnant with her 3rd (haven’t seen her since the summer as we’ve both been away on holiday). I appreciated her calling to tell me, because it gives me time to decompress before seeing her, but I still feel punched in the gut. It’s funny how you can go from feeling at peace with your childless status, even happy about it(!) then be sucked back down into shame, jealousy, and sadness. Was so looking forward to tomorrow night but now I’m anxious. I appreciate friends being sensitive to my feelings but I also hate feeling pitied. It’s tricky! I can only hope it’ll get better as time goes on. Wishing strength for us all.
I find it makes the biggest difference when people are aware and sensitive about how tough it might be for me. It has the effect of almost removing the sharpest of the envy pains. I have a cousin who is like a sister to me (who also went through fertility struggles) and she has been consistently sensitive. I love spending time with her and her daughter who is basically a bonus niece for me. I love my brother’s kids too, and he is excellent about making sure we are a big part of their lives, but sometimes he speaks without thinking and will say stuff like “you don’t understand because you don’t have kids.” My cousin has never ever said anything like that to me, for which I’m eternally grateful. Some people are just more self-aware.
Thank you sooo much for this. I will be honest and tell you that I am not in this situation, but I read this article and have thought a lot about this in the past as I see posts on social media and what not. It is important to consider others situations especially one that is sooooo emotional as this. Maybe consider not posting to facebook how easy it was for you to get pregnant or even worse complain about how your baby or kids are acting. Not everyone is so lucky.