It's a very uncomfortable feeling for me, as I would imagine it is for a lot of people.
I recently watched this TED Talk of Brene Brown. I would really highly recommend it, as well as a second talk that she did on shame. It's about having courage and being vulnerable. It's been changing my thinking lately.
I'm feeling right now, that a relationship that can't withstand a little heat, or that you can't be vulnerable in it, it isn't worth very much. I think that meaning that comes (for me) in a relationship is the ability to share the good, fun times, but also when someone is able to be there in the mud with you too.
I decided a few days ago to be more vulnerable and reach out to my sister. I wanted to let her know that I was hurting from infertility. I also wanted to let her know that I felt let down by her. It's a pattern in her life to disappear and distance herself from people, especially when things get rough or directed at her. She's a social worker, and she's been though a year of personal counselling and I think this must have been one of the topics that was discussed there. It's really nothing new, but it's something that I want to be changed for me and for her in her other relationships.
Back story of my relationship with her - When we are in person things are great and we get along fantastic! When we are apart (we live 9 hours from each other), we hardly communicate. I asked her to come with me to Colorado with me for my last treatment. She said yes, and I was so happy and grateful for the sister time. After Colorado, I didn't hear from her. After the month wait to get our CCS results, I reached out to her to tell her that we only had one abnormal embryo. I got one text that said "I'm sorry. This is me sending you my love <3" and then there was mostly silence and couple of polite in person conversations over a recent family holiday. I didn't reach out to her more because I was pissed.
I also have not forgiven this sister from a time in the spring of 2012 when my last miscarriage happened. D reached out only to her (with my permission) and told her what had happened, that I was really upset and that I could use some support. She did not contact us, and I know she got the text from D. When you have a hard time reaching out to begin with and the one person you choose to do it with doesn't respond it is devastating.
I decided it was time to have a discussion with my sister. Here's what I wrote a couple of days ago:
Me: I'm writing you because I am feeling very hurt and unsupported as it relates to my infertility stuff. I know you probably have no idea that I am feeling this way, which is why I am telling you.
First let me say that I really appreciate that you chose to spend your vacation time and hard earned money accompanying me to Colorado. It was a tremendously generous gesture that I will never forget.
Since we have been back, I have beendealing with some major issues related to our infertility.
They have been:
1. The extremely poor and devastating result of our IVF in Colorado. This represented the end of my chances to have a genetic child, and a huge amount of money and time wasted.
2. Transitioning into donor egg and traditional adoption. It's complex and emotionally exhausting.
I appreciate that you are busy and that you have your own things going on, and that you may not realize that this trouble is happening in my life.
The outcome that I am hoping for is for us to open the lines of communication. I would like a relationship with you where we can both share the important and sometimes difficult things that happen in our lives. I feel that to get there, I needed to share this with you.
Sister: (within minutes - wow!)
I am very sorry that I haven't been more supportive. I have been a poor long distance communicator for quite a while. Not an excuse, just me acknowledging that unfortunately this is nothing new. I cannot begin to understant the infertility stuff has been for you gusy. I'm honestly generally at a loss of whether it is better to ask and rehash or not. Maybe it's wrong but sometimes I feel like it might be intrustive to ask too many questions, although even then, I now realize I should have been at least asking how you were. All that can be said now is, I am very sorry and I will try to do better.
Me: Thank you for writing back so quickly. I don't find it intrusive when people I know well ask me, quite the opposite. I would let you know if there was something I did not want to discuss.
Sister: Noted. I'm glad you brought it up. I would never do anything intentionally that would hurt you, or anyone for that matter. But neglect can be worse.
I thought this conversation couldn't have went better. I was happy that I did (with the help of D) it even though I didn't want to push send. The problem though reared it's head again days later when I didn't get a phone call from her. I felt like I was reaching out asking for help and I didn't get anything but an apology.
Yes, I could have called her too, and I do initiate contact with her more than she does with me in general, but this time I was being stubborn and sticking it out. I was testing her.
Finally, last night (3 days later) she called.
I asked her why did she take 3 evenings to call? She said she didn't want it to seem like she was only calling because I asked her to. (Huh? I was reaching out). We talked, hashed a few things out calmly and honestly.
Afterwards, I told her what had been happening in my life lately. I shared about the wine tasting weekend where one of the girls instantly announced her pregnancy after a hidden 2 year battle with infertility. And how the conversation was all about "exciting" pregnancy things after that. About how I carpooled with my friend and two other ladies to a concert, and one of the other two girls talked about cuddling and cute stories about her kiddos, and she's just so wiped out. Yes, she knew that both me and my friend have been struggling with infertility. And how the list goes on....I told her about how our adoption worker was counselling us on not if babies up for adoption have been exposed to alcohol, but how much, and how devastating that was to hear. I think she started to get an idea of what the emotional life of a long time infertile is like. And you know what, even though it was hard for me to do (I cried through most of it and couldn't get words out), and hard for her to hear, I'm glad to do it. I feel a little better today. (Also because of your words of support too - THANK YOU!)
I learned a few things about myself in this conversation. She told me that I am very factual when describing our infertility stuff. That people see me as the rock and not very emotional. That I'm not the one that usually has issues, so people don't ask.
Interesting that people's perceptions couldn't be farther from the truth.