Monday, 30 May 2011

You Can't Choose Your Family

Along our TTC journey I’ve shared little tit-bits about the up’s and down’s with the sister-in-law (SIL) situation, it hasn’t been pretty (that’s an understatement) and I tried not to write too much about it on my blog as the ‘situation’ clashed with the failure of our first ICSI cycle and throughout our second ICSI cycle so there was more than enough to deal with. Instead I’ve mentioned it on twitter and here on my blog but probably not enough detail to put you in the picture, one of my tweeps, @saleschick, suggested I blog about it, and I think the time is right.

I could write for hours, but I’ll try (!) to summarise, if you have any advice, I’m all ears.

My brother is my only sibling, we are (were) very close, he’s 5 years older but I guess I acted more like the older sister. We don’t live near each other but talked on the phone 2 or 3 times a week depending on what was going on.
I didn’t share much detail of our TTC journey with him over the years, just key milestones . . . when I had suspected endometriosis, being referred to our consultant and then I shared a bit more info as we approached our first ICSI cycle.  He met my SIL maybe 3 years ago now, they have an incredibly volatile relationship, always breaking up and then getting back together. In the first year or so my brother would ask me for advice ALL THE TIME, he wouldn’t go into much detail but I would give the female perspective and help him work out a way to move forward with her. As time went on, they became more serious, got engaged, it was all moving quite fast. We got to know my SIL more and more, a little difficult at times as they were forever falling out / breaking up and we would just have to pretend that everything was fine. OH and I would try to stay out of any awkward situations and as difficult as it was I would shy away from conversations my SIL would try to draw me in to moan about my brother. My SIL resented that my brother spoke to me quite so openly, so in the last year or so we talked less in general, and definitely less about ‘them’, this was much easier all round.

Anyway, after numerous break-ups they decide they want to get married, and quickly too as they found a venue with availability in 11 weeks (interesting logic there), my parents and I expressed our concerns at the rush as they hadn’t proven they could even live together for any duration of time, he assured us it was fine so we supported them. I had always hoped I could be a bridesmaid for my brother, but seems that my SIL had other ideas, call me paranoid, but instead she proceeded to exclude me and definitely give me the sense that she didn’t like me much. I was hurt, there is no denying that, but I did what any sister would do and I continued to support my brother and helped with the arrangements he was responsible for.

Whilst they are on honeymoon and we were in the midst of our first ICSI cycle, my dad suddenly fell very poorly and was admitted to hospital.  OH and I spent a lot of time up North with my mum, ferrying her to and from the hospital, my brother and SIL also made frequent visits. On one of their visits, there was a tense atmosphere, she ignores us all, packs her bags and walks out of the house. Naturally we’re concerned and for the first time in a long time we ask my brother how are things with them and what’s going on?? He says that we wouldn’t believe it and he’ll send me a copy of a letter she has written to him later that night. The letter is shocking, it basically says that she wants marriage counselling after being married a month, otherwise maybe they should get divorced!? The rest of the letter seems like lots of tiny things that are blown out of proportion that don’t seem that important (we all didn’t know at the time that she was indeed pregnant at this stage). We decide to stay out of it, my dad was our priority and so we encouraged my brother to look into counselling. 

Lets fast forward to the outcome of my first ICSI cycle in Nov 2011, the day we realise that it’s failed I let my brother know as he happened to call, in the very same call, he decides to tell me that my SIL is 5 weeks pregnant and phrases such as ‘we didn’t realise it could happen this quick’ are muttered . . . so after being married for 3 months they are already pregnant, fabulous, I’m congratulatory of course but it was a little hard to hear on that day especially. We took the first ICSI failure hard, it was heart-breaking, I felt I couldn’t look to my brother/parents for support as they had happy news to focus on.  We decide life goes on so put on our brave faces and tried to enjoy a pre-planned family night on the town about 2 weeks later just before Christmas. We see my brother / SIL and congratulate them, I manage to keep my distance from my SIL until near the end of the night, eventually she plucks up the courage to speak to me. I speak honestly as she asked ‘how am I’, I tell her it’s hard, especially with my the problems with work earlier in the year and also my dad’s recent health problems and now the BFN it just feels like one thing after another. She says a couple of comforting remarks along the lines of talking to my mum more for support . . . then somehow she manages to transcend into a conversation about my brother and how difficult things still are (how do I get trapped in these situations!). I don’t say much as I’m in shock really, I let her talk at me for quite some time, eventually I excuse myself for the bathroom at which point I’m a crying mess as she suddenly made the conversation all about her AGAIN, I didn’t want to listen about their problems right now as I had enough on my plate.  OH rescues me and not before long the night is finally over.

A couple of weeks later we see them again at my parents for Christmas day, we notice that they are both being a bit weird with us but put it down to the fact that it’s an awkward situation for all, we just had our BFN and they are pregnant.  Move forward to a phone call in early February, I’ve had a 3 week break away on holiday and I’m feeling stronger so I mention to my brother that I’ve realised I need more support from my family as the ICSI cycles are really tough. Surprisingly he is quite abrupt back and we get into a heated conversation where he basically says - what did you expect when I told my SIL that hearing about their pregnancy was like a ‘slap in the face’. Obviously I’m outraged and in tears, this was a phrase I’ve never used before and suddenly I’m being accused of this and also lots of other mixed up things that have either been blown out of proportion or untrue. Over the next few couple of weeks there are a series of emails exchanged where I try to explain that is not my recollection of the evening, I maintain my dignity in it all, I don’t lower myself to her level and I don’t go into any detail as I can see it’s not going to get me anywhere. I also find out that she has read all of my private emails, chat messages and texts with my brother!? Randomly she texts me one day with disgusting and vile comments about how she will be making my parents grandparents first and that they have made a 'baby out of love' and that I have 'wrecked the family', basically rubbing our infertility situation right in our faces, completely unforgivable. Again, I do not lower myself to her level and I don’t reply.

I eventually persuade my brother to meet with me, it was awkward at first but then it was good to have a chat and see him. I clearly explain that I have done nothing but support them and suddenly I am being accused of numerous lies. He’s in a tricky situation, it’s clear to me what she is doing, but not so much to him. She is of course having the worst pregnancy which is not making any of this easier. I leave it with him to discuss it with her to decide a way forward. Instead of moving forward we take ten steps back, over the next few weeks sends more abusive texts to me and also calls my mum on several occasions dragging her into it all and being very rude to her about her issues with me, wtf?! Again, I don’t reply to any of her mad texts.

At this point, we’re at a complete loss of what to do and we are approaching egg collection for our second ICSI cycle, OH speaks with my brother and asks that he give me some space for the next two weeks minimum until I get in touch. Our second ICSI cycle also failed, again another heart-breaking and difficult time for us both. A few weeks later I make contact with my brother (by text during the day, apparently I’m not allowed to call him in the evening in case ‘she’ is there), we agree a date/time to talk properly which was last week. The call was hard, I still ask after her and the baby (am I a mug?) . . . I’m only really interested in my niece/nephew, they have decided that the only way forward is for my SIL and I to talk about the conversation in December . . . I have to remind him that this is so much more than that ‘conversation’ now, she has since dragged up so many many other things, yet I have not retaliated and said what I think of her and her behaviour over the years. I know what she wants to do, she just wants an opportunity to have her say to my face, this won’t get me anywhere because if I say one little thing about what I think about her actions she will surely just come back and say you can’t speak to your brother (which is her ultimate plan anyway). Judging by her recent behaviour I will just have to sit there whilst she shouts and tells her ludicrous lies to my face, I’m not strong enough to deal with that right now, especially when I don’t get my brother back, I explain this to him and he hadn’t really thought about it from my point of view. We have a family wedding approaching where I will be a bridesmaid to my cousin who has been more of a sibling to me of late (and which I am so grateful for) . . . my brother and SIL would like to come to the wedding even though my SIL will only be 2 weeks from her due date and it's a about a 7 hour round trip (ludicrous right? she just wants to put her belly in my face I’m sure and ruin the day for everyone). I’ve asked my brother to think about how this is going to work with the situation with me and also my parents with my SIL, it just seems like madness.

I just want a relationship with him for now (realising that it can never be how it was, but I would like to be able to speak to him occasionally) and maybe time will heal the rest, but he explains that can’t work as she won’t allow separate relationships. The call just ends with tears and he said he’ll have a think about things.

So that brings me to now. I’m grieving for my brother as I've lost him for now.


  1. My sweet little moonpea, what a horrible situation to have to deal with. For what it's worth, I think you have handled it impeccably and with a lot of dignity. It's so hard to give advice as it's so tricky but i think your priorities are maintaining your relationship with your bro while looking after yourself. I would stay away from sil at all costs, I honestly don't think it will achieve anything except for her unleashing more evil. I would also steer clear of discussing her with your bro and try to just talk to him about building your relationship with him again. Hope that helps a little, always here for u offline if u need to chat/rant some more. Big hugs lady xxx

  2. Hi - I've been following you for a while, though this is my first comment. I am so sorry you're going through this. My brother was actually in a similar situation. He's six years older than me, got married too fast to a total crazy you-know-what, and they had a kid shortly thereafter. She then proceeded to go completely bat$#it on him and they divorced. I would never wish that on anyone, and I see my amazing nephew (now six) having to deal with divorced parents.
    While they were in the relationship, I would listen to my brother complain, or sometimes not - but I felt how miserable he was. I remember going to my parents house after babysitting for them, and crying my eyes out to my dad because I knew how miserable she was making him.
    The bottom line is, that the lesson I learned from it is that there's nothing I can really do to control other people's situations and reactions, only my own.
    It's hard to expect the best out of people, especially ones who have been so cruel. But coming from a fellow IFer I can tell you that you will love that little niece or nephew with all of your heart, I promise you that. Even while you dislike his mother. And if I were in your position, I would just repeat the mantra: she is the mother of my brother's child. Just let your natural biological connection do the work of feeling compassion and patience, as understandably hard as that may seem. Let her scream. Let her rant. Let her think she's making you feel bad. But look at her swelling belly with love for the child, because that's really what will matter to you in the long term. Because I promise you, you will love that child with all of your heart. Despite the pain of what you're going through. I promise you that you will.
    I wish you luck and strength!

  3. I remember you alluding to all this during your cycles, now hearing the whole story I'm really angry. And sad for you. Your SIL is a nasty piece of work Moon, she will not change and can you ever really trust her? This sounds harsh, but you must look after yourself first. You already know my thoughts on how stress can adversely impact on fertility.

    Have you kept all the nasty emails and text messages? Print them out and give your parents and your brother a copy. They deserve to know what she has done to you, and it is important for honesty & openness about what has been happening.

    Life is too short for this kind of crap and I really think you need to draw a line in the sand. Now. It's all very well to take the higher moral ground and say nothing, but there's nothing beneficial about suffering in silence and having never-ending stress (SIL will probably always be a negative element).

    I would make it clear to your brother that you love him and want a relationship with him, but that from now on he will need to respect you & ensure that his wife refrains from her unpleasant attacks on you. Let him know that you will not accept this type of behaviour anymore, that your relationship with SIL has been irreparably damaged and you are not prepared to put any more of your time into it. Be clear and specific about how you want your relationship with him and his future children to work.

    I know I sound really uncompromising. The reason is that I have been through something very similar, and I handled it all wrong (by staying quiet). Abandon any hopes of a genuine relationship with SIL, and take charge now of how your relationship with your brother and future nieces/nephews will be structured.

    I really hope that your brother is mature enough to make this work, and I hope that this won't mean you will lose him...but, in the end, that may be less stressful than constant attacks from SIL and deep disappointment in how your brother deals with the situations that arise.

    Maybe I'll write a post about how my evil SIL undermined my relationship with my brother, so you can see that you are not alone.

    Get this sorted Moon, one way or another, before you start your next cycle. Good luck xxx

  4. *hugs* I am so sorry you have to go through this and she is such a mean person. I am hoping the best for you and that your brother realizes what is happening and tries to make a relationship again with you.

  5. What a psycho bitch! I feel for her kid growing up with that. can your brother not put his foot down and maintain his family relationships without her say-so?

    I'm sorry this horrible mare has done all this at such a vulnerable time for you. My SIL is a nightmare but nowhere to the extent of this.
    People who try and control EVERYTHING around them only end up losing the lot eventually

  6. Firstly my little moonbeam I want to say how proud I am of you for posting this blog. It must have been difficult and taken much courage.

    I urge you to keep trying to contact your brother if you can, even if its just an email here and there and I hope and pray that he realises what an amazing sister he has and comes around to realise what this woman has done to his family.

    He needs to know what this woman is saying to you and I think you are well within your rights to send him copies of her texts and emails.

    You may feel very alone through all of this but know that although I am across the otherside of the world, I am here to support you through this whenever you need.

    Much Love to you

  7. Moonie, I too am proud of you for this blog post.

    It's such a horrible situation to be in, especially with having so much to deal with anyway. It's a time when you'd hope your family would be able to support you.

    I get on well with my SIL but there is definitely a bit of a wedge between me and my brother since they got married. I'm not sure why this has happened but as I've always been the supportive one in our relationship so it doesn't bother me too much. I have a 10 month old niece now and I love her to bits.

    I wish it could be the same for you. It's horrible to hear how one nasty person could have such an impact on so many people.

    Please don't give up on your brother or your niece/nephew. You've done nothing you should regret so far so make sure it stays that way.

    Lots of love,

  8. So sad your SIL is tearing your family apart. :(

  9. Awww Moonie - thank you for the mention, you are very sweet :-)

    I also think you are very mature with the way you have handled all of this (and not lowering yourself to her standards). You are also a very brave lady to share all of this with us, so I thank you for that, as I'm sure it wasn't easy. I'm pleased it has helped you though!

    You have plenty of great advice here from wonderful ladies, so you don't need any more from me. Just a little reminder of your own mantra (that I have on a post it, stuck to the wall) Be strong, One day at a time, I can do this.

    Big hugs xx


  10. Oh moon- I'm so sorry- the fact that you have to deal with all this drama and distance from your brother on top of the emotional drain of IVF is just not fair.

    The saddest part is that your SIL doesn't even realize how lucky she is. She could have the most wonderful friend and SIL in the world if she could only realize what a crazy person she is. (But of course that sounds like it will never happen- since she is crazy.) I just wish you were my SIL.

    You are amazing and I'm so proud to be your friend. xxxx

  11. Thank you all for your lovely supportive comments, they mean so much.
    Moon xx

  12. Bloody hell. What is wrong with people? i've been following you for awhile and i can kind of relate to this drama (i went through similar though much less traumatic bullshit with a friend). My SIL was also a pregnant princess. You are a better person that i. You have handled things so well.

    Much love.

  13. Wow,what an awful woman. It's amazing how the people we marry completely transform our families. It can be a wonderful transformation - or, as in your case, a completely horrible one. We were in a similar situation with my brother's first wife (minus the excrutiating infertility, we weren't trying then). After they divorced, he could finally look back and see how she damamged our whole family. Fortunately his second wife is wonderful and his relationships with the whole family have been repaired. I hope your SIL mellows and in time your family can heal. I can't imagine going through all that and infertility, too.