Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Object of pity

A few years ago we were just coming to grips with the fact that we'd never have children.  Within months of ending our quest to have children we found out that one of my sisters was pregnant in a very public announcement with much fanfare.  As you might predict I didn't react well.

To decrease the likelihood of reacting poorly (and publicly) again, I asked my mom to give me the heads up if she found out that any of my sisters were pregnant and she promised to let me know. Now, I haven't written much about my relationship with my mom, but suffice to say, it's complicated, and she has an established track record of not coming through for me.  But with this she did.  It gave me the time and space to process the news and the ability to pretend that I was happy for them when I "found out."  

A few weeks ago my mom called me, randomly, on a Sunday night.  I knew from the tone of her voice that one of my sisters was pregnant, just not which one.  I soon found out.  

I figured that my sister would call within the next few days, or at least text.  But she didn't.  About a week later my mom called me again.  Apparently my sister feels so sorry for me that she can't tell me herself.  My mom was tasked with giving the official news.

So basically I'm an object of pity (and/or the bitter infertile).

I can deal with the pregnancy news.  I mean, I'm the oldest, and I'm 36, which is not ancient by normal reproductive standards, so realistically it's far more likely that there would be pregnancies than not.

But to be pitied?  That hurts.

I don't want pity.  A little bit of sensitivity and empathy would be nice.  But please don't pity me.

I'm not sure how to deal with this.  Or whether or not I should bother.  I don't want my family to fear telling me their happy news.

I haven't talked to my sister since my mom told me the official pregnancy news, though this is for reasons completely unrelated to her pregnancy (and completely related to her being a selfish jerk). Honestly, I'm not in any hurry to talk to her.


19 comments:

  1. That's right! I owe your mom a glitter bomb for the follow up phone call informing you how they all pity you because of infertility. The initial round of news, she did fine. But that second phone call....

    I think we landed on pink glitter, right? Though I'm wondering if they take special requests for mixing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ugh, this is so hard. Sometimes I feel bad because I am so Goldilocks-like in how I want to be treated: I want to be told news (not left out/kept in the dark), but preferably personally and in a non-public way so I have time to process. I want to be a part of friends/family's pregnancies, but I don't want to feel like that's all we talk about. And I want sensitivity in how we talk about it-- e.g. please be respectful and think about your audience before you start long rants about how hard and awful pregnancy is or say things like "you're lucky you never have to go through this."

    I'm sorry that you have to continually deal with this with your sisters. It's so hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is hard, but the support of this community got me through last time and I'm sure it will get me through this time too. I don't understand why she can't just tell me herself. Send a text, FFS.

      Delete
  3. Oh no... Good on your mom for following through on giving you the heads up, that is really great. But the pity thing is the WORST. I had a friend once call me crying to tell me she was pregnant. I appreciated that she legitimately felt horrible that she had accidentally gotten pregnant with a third while we were struggling like mad to get a first, but I was like, "I don't want your amazingly happy news to turn into tragedy just because it's me." I get not wanting to be pitied. It makes a body feel so much worse. I appreciate those who can matter-of-factly tell me, "Hey, I'm pregnant, we don't have to talk about it so I'll take my cues from you." I have a friend from school like that, and it was glorious. If only more people took that route. I feel a bit like your sister is being quite cowardly in not wanting to tell you her news (or talk with you at all). That's awful. Hopefully she comes around (but not in a over-the-top way that then goes all "let me tell you ALL ABOUT EVERYTHING"). Thinking of you... this is all so hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Even though it sucks to be around such fertile family (and/or friends), I can accept that her getting pregnant again has nothing to do with me not getting pregnant. If that makes sense. With the exception of a few things (like throwing a fit that I didn't come to her baby shower and inviting me to an elective 4D ultrasound) she wasn't too bad during her first pregnancy. Hopefully that will continue.

      Delete
  4. Oy. Your mom gets points for telling you in advance, as requested... but...!! You have voiced my feelings exactly. I want some respect & sympathy/empathy (if not understanding) for what I've gone through. But I do NOT Want to be pitied!! :p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And yet they don't understand, even when asked. Ugh.

      Delete
  5. I know, being object of pity hurts. I know that from my own experiences.

    I am glad that your mom understood what you need from her and she listened to your wishes.

    sending a warm (or may I say hot, it is 35 C = 93 F here!) hug from sLOVEnia,

    Klara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know that you know too. It's so hard.

      I always love any kind of hug from you! <3

      Delete
  6. I'm eye-rolling a little here, but not at you. Yes, your mom told you in advance, which was great. But her follow up phone call is one of ignorance. I can imagine - out of the best intentions - my mother doing the same. She thinks that she's letting you know that your sister is thinking about you, and that your sister is kind. But your sister's reaction annoys me, because she's not thinking about what is easiest for you, but what is easiest for her (ie not telling you herself). Sadly, I think that's very common. I do wish your sister, knowing that your mother had told you, had been able to reach out. But I think most people are very poorly equipped to respond.

    I've been thinking a lot recently about pity, and what it is that we hate about it. And I think it's the condescending nature of pity. Whereas we'd say yes please to some empathy, or even a gesture that we are trying to understand.

    How to deal with it is hard. Maybe a congratulatory note or card or text to your sister, saying you'll follow up with a phone call when you've got time?

    Sending hugs from chilly NZ too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You nailed exactly my feelings about pity. It does feel so condescending!

      This sister has a pretty long history of doing what's easiest for her, and honestly I don't expect that to change anytime soon, unfortunately. She (and most people) are poorly equipped.

      Delete
  7. I'm late to the party, but ... for fuck's sake. You're not some invalid. You're just asking for a teensy bit of sensitivity. This weird pussyfooting is the kind of BS that amplifies the otherness of being childless. Childlessness: It's like leprosy, but worse.

    I'm just super annoyed in your behalf.

    ReplyDelete
  8. On a side note regarding pity, I had a taste of being an object of that this weekend and I had to reprimand a friend for it. I met up with a very talkative old college mate who delighted in filling me in with details of the lives of hundreds of people that I can't remember or have never heard of. Anyway, I noticed she measures things in babies - "... and they had two children and then he left her and had one with another woman and X had twins oh and Y and Z have a son now...". So far so boring but she then started to do a little forlorn face if someone hadn't had kids, almost a sad-face emoji expression. "... and they never had children" SAD FACE. "And X did really well but I wonder at what expense because she doesn't have children" SAD FACE. Bloody awful, as if we are some sort of diseased race to be banished to the childless colonies!
    On the topic of 'fertile sibling finds it so awkward to talk to bitter infertile sibling that she avoids it entirely', I agree with Mali that she's not thinking about what is easiest for you, but what is easiest for her. Not easy to forgive, really. I hope your mum isn't using her exact words (that she feels sorry for you). It's too condescending to bear. I had this with a good friend, who said to me "I agonised and agonised about how to tell you" (in the end she wrote it in a letter that she posted to me. But the 'agonised and agonised' did get to me). I personally think your sister should strap on a pair and be straightforward about it, and call you and say she's sorry your mum did the dirty work; she knows it's really hard and a weird situation (no need to elaborate on that) but that she wanted you to know from her, and here she is now, and how are you? She needs to make the move. I would leave it and see if that happens, and if it doesn't, evaluate whether you want to break the ice with her (just to have an easy life), or whether she's not really worth it as she doesn't seem to be a very giving person. In which case you could just be polite yet distant going forward, which is all I think she deserves for now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She still hasn't mentioned it. Yet called to ask me questions about flying with her 18 month old. Because I know all about flying requirements for a baby and how to get him a passport. Ugh. I should write a blog post about it.

      Delete
  9. Nobody wants to be pitied. Mali really hit the nail on the head in her comment above. I'm sorry you were treated this way :-(. When these things come from people close to you or in the family, it's the hardest. Yet you can't choose family... sending hugs across the Atlantic, too!

    I am glad about the first part when your mom called though. Wish there was more of that and less of the other...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I read this when you first posted but needed time to think about it. I think you should talk to your sister, you know you like your nieces and nephews so why not set the record straight that you don't need pity. You are stronger than you were when they were all pregnant at once, plus your mom likes to push your buttons, go to the source. Could be more that she is afraid of saying the wrong thing and doesn't want to strain your relationship.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The thing that makes me feel sad about your sister's behavior so far is that she seems unwilling to make the effort necessary to meet you where you are (a place that you didn't ask for and that is not your fault by the way). I sense she may be exaggerating and using the pain she (note the word she) feels over your childlessness as a smoke screen so she doesn't have to dive into the situation. Unfortunately most people retreat instead of taking the "I'm not sure the right way to do this but I want to respect you I accept where you're at and I'm here to listen" type of approach.

    And I'd like to hop on to the "for fuck's sake" bandwagon if I may, it just feels right.

    ReplyDelete