Tuesday, December 30, 2008

guilt, complex

Thanks everyone for your comments on my last post. In the end, I felt so irrationally panicked that I left work early and went straight to bed. Now, I'm feeling much better. Independent events I keep saying to myself, Coincidence. Happenstance. It doesn't mean anything at all.

I know I've already written about the whole thing, probably at inordinate length, but the gist is that my stepbrother's wife (who lives in the same town as me) was pregnant with her first at the same time I was pregnant with the twins and we were due within a week or so of each other.

We hadn't been especially close before -- for one thing, I'd never had much contact with her since, until shortly before she became pregnant, they lived 500 miles away -- but we bonded over pregnancy and baby talk and the idea that we'd have children exactly the same age.

I'm sure that, at least rationally, she understands why I've cut off contact. I have no idea if she's hurt or angry or just indifferent. And I guess there's a part of me that would like to reestablish some semblance of the way things used to be. But she'd naturally want to talk about her just-turned-two-year-old and her new pregnancy or -- worse yet, about my twins -- and, even if she didn't, I worry that just being around her would bring me back to that dark place of despair.

You know me. I run. I hide. I deny. I minimize. I close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears. But occasionally, I feel guilty about it and wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

If I were to send her an email, what should I say? If you were her, what -- if anything -- would you want to hear?

39 comments:

Christine said...

what to say...? not sure, maybe something very simple like, "I've heard about your good news, congratulations." Or wait until kyrie delivers your baby and send a joint announcement/congratulatory letter or email. i say keep it simple. and even if you chose not to contact her it really is ok.

xo

charmedgirl said...

i think you should most definitely wait to give your own good news, and ask about hers. act nonchalant otherwise, and see what happens...see what kind of responses you get. there's no way to control (duh) where it would go or not (in terms of what she wanted to bring up), but if you have an open mind and wanted to give it a chance with her, why not?

thordora said...

Honestly? I wouldn't.

Sometimes space and time is there for a reason-to protect you. If I was her, I would forever feel worried that I would say the wrong thing, because I could imagine the horror of your loss.

Bide. Get past where you fear and get him in your arms-then decide. I'm sure she understands enough.

thirtysomething said...

That is a toughie. I can completely understand why you broke off ties, and I am certain that she knows as well. I guess before you say anything to her, you might want to make sure you are really ok with hearing about everything, b/c she will ask questions, and talk about her feelings and her two-year-old ~ that is human nature.
But, more than likely after those awkward, reconnecting moments, it would be nice to have the relationship re-established and be able to share Mommy moments - it is a new time, a different journey, and if the two of you had become close it would be easy to believe that you would be close once again - maybe even moreso.
I think just something as simple as an invitation to coffee, or an email asking her if she would like to get together and "catch up". I am sure she will jump at the opportunity, because I am sure she has missed you, and felt guilty, and had no idea what to say, etc.

Thinking about you.
(and checking blog multiple times daily for Baby news!)

Carly said...

I am trying to put on my post baby lost mama mind and imagine myself in her shoes........

I wouldn't expect anything from you. I would feel so sad that you didn't get to have the happiness that I know. I would only want honesty if anything. Something short and sweet.

I don't think you have to worry yourself too much over her news right now. There is so much time before her baby comes out to meet this world.

Sending you love at this nervous time in your life.

Love Carly x

Tash said...

As you know, I've got the neighbor up the street with whom I have the same sort of issue. As you also know, she rather inappropriately confronted *me,* and we haven't spoken since. I know she knows I don't hate her, I do what I do because the whole thing makes me very sad. And frankly, if she heard me say that, that's all I really need right now.

You have plenty of other stuff to stress over right now. I'd bask in your own . . . er, worry, and just see what transpires.

Cara said...

Wow - that is a toughie. Me? I'd wait. I'm a firm believer that after loss some connections break - both the tried and true and the new and tentative. I lost so many and never searched for them.

So- I'm going with wait until your baby is here. Send an announcement with a brief handwritten sentence on the bottom..something like, "Heard your good news. Hope you are doing well."

The ball in her court, and all. Then, let it go and just bask in motherhood.

yummysushipajamas said...

It may be a little tougher for her to understand than it is for some of us, but I would say the truth is always the best. Explain to her that you feel badly about the separation but that you just didn't feel like you could handle the situation at the time because you were going through so much emotional turmoil. Tell her that you worry about that going forward too, but that you're ready to try and make things work again because you miss her...

I think that is what I would want to hear. Either way, if she has a good heart, she will appreciate hearing from you and she will do her best to understand your side.

thailandchani said...

I think you should tell her what's in your heart... just the truth. Plain and simple.



~*

niobe said...

Chani, you are, I think absolutely right. Even if the truth is seldom plain and never simple.

k@lakly said...

I'm with the truth. My Sis in law and I were pg at the same time and due a day apart when I lost Caleb. The first thing she said when she heard about his death (after the appropriate shock and sympathy things)was that I would never want to see her again. She and I had also become close during the whole trying time and then the pg time. Something about her words made me feel sad for her too because it was the beginning of seeing the ripple effect the loss would have in my life. But she was right. I couldn't talk to her or see her. She would call and I wouldn't/couldn't call back and then she sent an email. I felt safe with that mode of communication and told her how devestated I was and that I didn't think I would ever be the same again but that I wanted her to have a healthy baby and that I didn't resent her her baby. That being said it was months before I could see her and longer still for me to even dabble in dealing with the pg or the impending baby. But she gave me the sapce I needed and the time.
It is so hard, even for us db moms to know how to act or react to this hell, it is also hard for our family to know how to act or help. My guess is if you give her the chance and tell her what you can handle and what you can't, she'll respect that. If she doesn't, you can pull back again.
I hope she rises to the occasion Niobe. You and your beautiful baby should be surrounded by as many loving, supportive, happy for you people, as possible. You both deserve it.

Clarabella said...

Just. Be. Honest.
Even if the truth is sometimes painful, it's always the best route, in my opinion.
Good luck!

Elspeth said...

You know, I really wish I had some wisdom on this. I keep trying to leave a response, and only get stuck.

Why do you feel guilty?

niobe said...

Elspeth: I feel guilty because I completely cut them out of my life.

I sent a baby gift when their daughter was born, but when they sent me a thank you note, I realized I couldn't even bear that small amount of contact and sent them an email saying it hurt too much to be in contact with them.

I've sent them a couple of other little gifts for the baby, but, at my request, they didn't send thank you notes.

They haven't done anything wrong --they were just lucky and I was unlucky. I feel guilty for feeling jealous and guilty for not being a better person.

I try to imagine how I would feel in their situation and the answer is horrible. (though, who knows, maybe they don't give the matter a second thought).

Becky said...

I was in a similar situation, but it was with a friend...not family.

I felt guilty too because admittedly, I wasn't very nice. I contacted her after Lily was born. I explained that at the time, I was in a very selfish place. I was so sad for myself and my own family that I was unable to feel joy for other's. I explained that it had nothing to do with her daughter...basically she was just lucky and I wasn't. I appologized for not being very nice and that was that. She emailed me back about a month later and she explained that she was afraid to tell me but more afraid not to tell me. I was honest with her, and she was honest with me. I appreciated it, but we haven't talk much since. She sends those happy (make-me-want-to-vomit)group emails about the status of her family. I read them, reply when I feel like it, and leave it at that. I sent her Christmas pictures and haven't gotten any response yet.

I would probably try and reach out. But maybe it would be easier for you after the baby gets here. If not for anyone but yourself.

What K@lakly said hit something in me. It's hard to realize what loosing our babies means to other people. Sadly, it seems that cutting people out is something that we all have in common.

Julia said...

Soooo... are you thinking of contacting them now because
a) you want to,
b) you think others in your family want you to,
c) you feel guilty, and so think you should, or
d) feel like facing that coincidence might in some way protect the baby Kyrie is carrying?

I was actually thinking of Tash's cousin (rather then the ME-ME-ME neighbor), who was being very discreet about their post-Maddy baby. Do you think your SIL might take that tack about her 2 year old? I am sure she has plenty of people she can discuss her with. Is she, you think, the kind who might be inclined to limit discussion of that particular subject when talking with you? Also, it might (will, right?, will) soon be next to impossible for you, but if you decide to go ahead with the contact, do you think you would want to ask her to get together without the kids at first? Coffee somewhere neutral, from whence you can always beat a hasty retreat?

niobe said...

Julia: I guess it's a combination of (a)(want to) and (c)(feel guilty). Also, I guess it's kind of a preemptive strike. I'm terrified that (if things go well) she'll send a congratulatory email or even some kind of present. And the thought of either one makes me feel sick to my stomach.

The thing is, I can't imagine what else we'd talk about if not her daughter and her current pregnancy. I really didn't have any prior relationship with her and most of the people we know in common (my other stepbrother, my half-sister, my mother) I've also cut myself off from.

Elspeth said...

Niobe ~ you wrote: "I feel guilty for feeling jealous and guilty for not being a better person."

I don't know that being self-protective in the aftermath of such a trauma is at all inappropriate, or anything to feel guilty over. We are none of us perfect persons: we all need to find ways to keep breathing, at such times.

My own experiences and feelings in this arena are quite complicated. I've done the cutting off: of much of my family, eventually, over their extraordinary (in my opinion) callous disregard over my multiple pregnancy losses, as well as over the death of my first-born (she died of SIDS, a great many years ago now. I miss her, just as much as ever). But I've also been the one who was cut out: by her father. And that burns, just as much, now, as it ever did.

So, not really like your situation with your SIL, but perhaps similar enough that I can understand, a little. Because at the heart of it all is pain: contact is simply too painful.

Why not write some practice letters, before the baby is born, to help sort out what you would say, if you were going to say anything? Or, if you need to wait until he is here, you may find that the words flow easily then: a simple announcement? And you may find, too, that when she replies, it won't be quite as painful and uncomfortable as you anticipate.

Or, you know, not, because life tends to be unreasonable.

justdawn said...

If it were me, I mwould probably wait until your wee one arrives and maybe congratulate her while you are making your announcement.

Anonymous said...

I think your sister in law could feel guilty, a kind of survivor's guilt. And it's quite possible that she feels like she let YOU down somehow. I have a feeling she is an understanding and compassionate person. I'm impressed that you sent baby gifts! To me that says you were thinking of them but making it clear that you still needed space. Soon, I think, you will be so busy that all this will be put on the back burner. An e-mail seems a little impersonal, but a hand written note in your announcement that opens a door to a new conversation seems a good idea to me... if and when you're ready.
allypally

G$ said...

If it were me? I would do nothing. Or, wait until you have news of a new baby to reconnect. Then she would have a common thread to avoid the elephant in the room with you.

Katie said...

Maybe hold off sending that email until you have your own kicking and screaming baby in your arms. You must have got on to be so close, it would be a shame to lose that friendship, this way you aren't going to be busy worrying about what if and just enjoy each others company.

debbie said...

I feel the same way you do. I've cut so many people out not necessarily because of anything they did but because I just couldn't bring myself to be surrounded by their joy--it hurt too much and still does.

Yesterday I spoke to a cousin whom I used to be incredibly close to. I hadn't spoken to her in quite some time and she desperately wanted to tell me how much she thinks of us and how she knows things will happen for us eventually. When my akward attempt at changing the subject to talk about her didn't succeed. I quickly ended the conversation. I just wasn't up for going there. I felt guilty about it afterwards, but it's more important that I take care of me right now.

Notwithstanding you're upcoming joy (kenna hora), you are still in survival mode. If you don't know what to do, chances are you should do nothing. You'll know when it's time to mend that broken fence, but right now you need to focus on yourself. There'll be time for making yourself vulnerable later, I'm sure.

diana said...

I started and deleted many a comment. The truth is the only way. If you didn't care about your SIL, not step-brother, but her, you wouldn't think so much about it. Maybe you saw her as a possible, I don't know, someone you could trust*, or something, and now, that your horible tragedy is a little shadowed by hope, you have the strength to open yourself (I can see you opening here, on the blog).
If she's someone you could trust, maybe she deserves the truth. Maybe she's bright and understands.

*Trust is a limited concept. I don't fully trust anyone but my kids. Yet, they are still very young and I still read them.

Hope's Mama said...

just coming out to say i've been lurking here for a while now, and i'm on the edge of my seat to hear your news. as for an answer to your question in your post - I've got none, as i'm going through similar things myself right now.
will keep checking in....

Anonymous said...

Just a view from the other side of the fence: my aunt and uncle cut me out after their loss. It was (and is) very painful. It is difficult to go to family events with two people who don't acknowledge you. My children ask questions about it and I don't know how to answer. For a long time I questioned if it was something I said or did (or didn't do). They now have a new child and want to talk to us and ask questions like nothing ever happened. I can't go back to the way it was, I blamed myself for the end of the relationship for so long.

Iselyahna said...

I would want to hear "There are some things that I feel like I can't talk about, and it hurts me to know that I left things between us this way. I hope that you understand why I did that, and I hope you know that I'm emailing you now because I cherished the time we spent together and the talks that we had. Our lives are different now, and though our paths have diverged, and there are some issues that are too painful for me to discuss, I greatly valued your companionship, and I am very sorry if I have hurt you with my silence. If you'd like to talk..."

Just my $0.02

Grad3 said...

I would just want to know that you were thinking of me and wishing me well.

And it's all true!

My Reality said...

Sometimes, you can cut someone out of your life and not look back. Other times, you can't. I think the fact that you are posting about this means you can't.

If it were me, I would send an email telling her it is just too hard to talk to her right now, you were acting in the only way you were able to stay afloat after the loss of your twins. I would end the email with something that makes it possible for a relationship in the future if you so choose without being forced into one now.

I think you would feel better if you sent her an email, because clearly, you don't feel good about the situation as it is.

Monica H said...

I can't answer that question because I'm a DB Momma. I'd be the same in your shoes, pursuading her to induce. But then again, every time someone has had a baby in the last couple years, I try to cinvince them that they need to hurry up and have the baby because I'm worried. They don't understand my irrationalism- and I don't blame them. You have every right to feel the way you do. That's your baby. Just a few more days...

Anonymous said...

I think you are a wonderful writer, be honest and the loving person you are. It will show threw and you will better at the end.

missedconceptions said...

Wait until you have your baby in your arms. It will heal your soul.

I would just be honest. You did not do anything wrong. She did not do anything wrong. It just is what it is, and you can't change the past.

calliope said...

I think a short e-mail that just acknowledges that you are thinking of her and wishing her well is plenty. You may have a different reaction if she writes back. Or you may realize that you still cringe at seeing her name in your in-box. But really- take care of YOU.

CLC said...

I think she would probably love to hear from you. If it were me, all I would want is honesty, which I believe someone else said the same thing. Further, I am sure she feels some sort of survivor's guilt as well, so I assume she would be tactful enough to not talk about the 2 yr old. I had cut some people out as well, but the guilt weighs too much on me. Therefore, I have resumed talking to some of these people again. It's not like our relationship is or will ever be the same, but at least it allows me to let go of the guilt and jealousy. As you said, these people were just the lucky ones while I was the unlucky one.

Amelie said...

It seems to me that you think about contacting her now, before your baby is born. And, if I remember correctly, nobody in your family knows about the impeding arrival? I think I'd write a short note, wishing her well, and wait to see what kind of answer you get and how you feel about it.

painted maypole said...

be honest with her about your own fears and worries, but tell her you're sorry and want to try but that you may need to take it slow... i think she would understand

Magpie said...

Tough.

You might email her with the news of your impending event, and offer congratulations therein. It tosses the ball in the other court. Someday, perhaps you can tell her how devastating the whole synchronous thing was. Or perhaps you could agree to never discuss it.

Anonymous said...

I was in your sister-in-laws position. My SIL and I were expecting within 3 weeks of eachother and she lost her baby at 28 weeks. She cut off all contact with me. It wasn't until she gave birth to her son 18 months later that she resumed contact. Things slowly went back to "normal".

During our hiatus I felt terribly guilty. Why did I get to raise my child while she had to live with a hole in her heart? I was sad that there seemed to be nothing I could do ar say that could make it better.

My guess is: she knows why and when this baby brings a fresh wave of healing you maybe ready to resume your friendship and that will bring a specila joy to her heart (more because of the healing it represents to you than any gain it could be for her).

ewe are here said...

I, too, am with Chani... just tell her what's in your heart...