Dear Annie: Since I was a little girl, I've always known I wanted to be a mother. Now, as a woman in her late 20s, and after four failed embryo transfers through IVF, that dream seems less and less a reality. My husband and I shared our news of infertility with his sister and her husband after they had spoken with us about their own inability to conceive.
A few months later they shocked us all with the news that they were pregnant after they stopped all fertility treatments and "quit trying." I felt like I had been punched in the gut but managed to quietly congratulate them, and left in a panic. I fell apart that day. Of course, everyone whispered and wondered why we left in such a hurry (and I think they told people). I was absolutely inconsolable in my grief.
Why would they shock me with this news, knowing what I have gone through? In front of everyone! Why would they not allow me the grace to handle their news in private? Why would they be so cruel?
Fast-forward to a year and a half later, and our relationship remains in tatters. I've seen them all maybe once, avoided get-togethers and holidays completely. I'm very hurt and angry with them still. I'm angry because they have disclosed our private matters with others and because they sprang their news on me with complete disregard to my feelings.
I have gone through all the phases of grief and am now healing on my own terms, but I feel that my relationship with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law is irreparable. Should I let them in on why I have avoided them?
I'm sure they already know but just don't care enough about our relationship to attempt to make amends. I haven't directly addressed the issue in fear of the resulting family drama that may ensue, which would only exacerbate my pain. I don't know how I should approach this problem or if I should just leave it be and keep avoiding them like I've been doing. I suppose the answer lies in the question of how much I valued their relationship to begin with. I need an outsider's opinion. — Bitter
Dear Bitter: It is completely understandable that you feel hurt, grief-stricken and jealous when anyone, let alone your sister-in-law and brother-in-law, conceive a healthy baby. Going through four rounds of failed IVF can be traumatic, and you have to be kind to yourself. The way to do that is to be honest and open with your grief to your husband and a good therapist.
Although it seems insensitive that your in-laws announced their happy news in front of you and other people, entertain for a moment that they were not thinking about you at all. In fact, they were thinking about how happy they were and wanted to share it with you — someone they care for. Try to forgive their insensitivity. They don't understand the pain and depths of your grief. The comment about how they just "quit trying" clearly struck you. If it were that easy, then a lot more people in this world would not be struggling with infertility. However, perhaps it was meant to be a spark of hope rather than a stab to the heart.
Try to forgive them and realize that they did not hurt you intentionally. The decision to let them in or avoid them is up to you. You have a nephew or niece that could benefit from all the love you have to give. But first, focus on loving yourself and keeping faith alive that you will be a mother one day.
My guess is that once you do that, you will have a much easier time letting your family in again. Best of luck to you and your family.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]