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How do I tell my sister?

(55 Posts)
MissScarletinthePantry Sun 05-Nov-17 18:54:45


I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant. I’m delighted, but consumed with anxiety about my younger sister. She has been trying for 16 months and is convinced it won’t happen for her. She’s been told by her doctor that preliminary investigations suggest that she and her husband should be able to conceive and she should keep trying, so all hope is not lost, but she is pretty down about it all, even depressed. She has as much as said that me getting pregnant would be the last straw.

I have seen horribly insensitive stuff on eg AIBU and am only really interested in the thoughts of those with experience or at least empathy. I thought this might be the best place to get advice as to handling everything with the most sensitivity I possibly can (assuming the pregnancy sticks: I’m conscious that I still have a 25% miscarriage risk). My current thoughts are:

-She is going to really struggle with my pregnancy. I should be sensitive to this, including understanding if she has to see less of me.

- No complaining to her about pregnancy or newborn, ever.

-I need to make sure she hears the news from me, but by telephone so she doesn’t have to pretend to be happy to my face until she has gathered herself. A text would I think be considered too impersonal, plus if I didn’t get a response I would be really worried (and she’s not good at checking her phone).

-I shouldn’t tell her until around the 12 week mark because the longer she has to try the better. But I must make absolutely sure she hears it from me and nobody else.

-I shouldn’t suggest that she “will” or even might have a baby. This is one I have gleaned from Mumsnet, as it seems that this is an annoying/insensitive thing to say to someone struggling with fertility issues. However, is there anything at all I can say? I feel like saying “I’m pregnant.” and nothing else will confirm in her mind that I believe that she will never have a child. I do think/hope she will one day have a child/children – she hasn’t even tried any fertility treatments like Clomid yet, and she also seems to be stressed out which I imagine isn’t helping.

Does this sound right? Any help gratefully received. I love her dearly and hate the thought of causing her such pain, it’s difficult enough to watch as it is (but at my age I really couldn’t wait any longer to start a family). I’m also concerned that our parents will not be terribly sensitive, this will be their first grandchild and I’m not confident they will be able to rein it in.

planegazer Sun 05-Nov-17 19:09:49


Firstly congrats on your lovely news.

Can I ask how close are you both?

Im the big sister and I’m having issues which involve a potential early menopause at 34. If my younger sister(31) fell pregnant I’d be over the bloody moon for her. We are very very close and her joy would be mine, I would still of course be sad for myself but i would hate it if she was feeling like you were.

My sil is pregnant, we just found out. And I cried. We aren’t at all close, I’m happy for her but inside I was so upset it wasn’t us.

I would say you are very much along the right lines but it would depend on what your relationship is like.

These situations are never easy and you sound like a fab big sister. Hugs.

MissScarletinthePantry Sun 05-Nov-17 20:22:52

Thanks so much Plane.

I would say we are pretty close, but that she is generally quite a proud person. I can imagine her trying to put on a brave face and feeling the need to seem super-happy for me but crumbling inside. It's taken a long time for her to open up to me about her fertility struggles, and when she did I felt quite relieved as I worry about her general tendency to bottle things up. Her DH "jokingly" said that if I got pregnant she would throw herself off a cliff... I don't think he meant that literally but I really think this will be hard for her, especially as I imagine that our parents will struggle to empathise.

Blueroses99 Sun 05-Nov-17 20:29:28

Hi OP, I think you’re on the right track with all your suggestions. You should be prepared for her to distance herself from you for a while, possibly all throughout your pregnancy. If you have any influence on your parents to make them more sensitive, or at least avoid insensitive remarks, that would be a welcome bonus.

Congratulations BTW

Winenight Sun 05-Nov-17 20:37:20

Congratulations on your pregnancy OP.

It's horrible being in your sister's position but it sounds like you have the right ideas for being mindful to be sensitive and tactful.

I would text her before making the call, something along the lines of, "I need to discuss a personal matter/my news with you, when would be a good time to call?" That way it will hopefully prepare her for your news and she can be somewhere suitable to digest it.

And as you've suggested- being understanding that she may withdraw from you. It is nothing personal, just sometimes you need to take that action for necessary self- preservation.

Good luck x

MouseLove Sun 05-Nov-17 20:38:49

I really have no idea what to say as I’ve been TTC for 14 months and whilst we’re the older siblings in the family I’d probably be both very happy and very sad if my younger sister said she was pregnant. I’d be absolutely devastated if my SIL said she was. I think your points are absolutely spot on and I think you really need to fuss over your sister when you tell her. She needs to remember that she will be an amazing aunty and not just someone who is without a child. Very hard situation but what a wonderful sister you are.

Congratulations on your pregnancy. X

Anyoneanytimeanywhere Sun 05-Nov-17 20:39:16

No experience of this.
I don’t know if this would be helpful, and someone else with a better idea will be probably along soon.
However would it be helpful to really emphasise how she can be very involved as an aunt? If that’s what you and of course she wants.
Of course she will have mixed emotions but If she could see your baby as a positive impact on her life regardless of whether or not she conceives in the future, from how I imagine the experience of infertility, I guess it may help.

EarlGreyT Sun 05-Nov-17 20:40:53

Firstly congratulations on your pregnancy and secondly you sound like a lovely and considerate sister.

I think you’re on the right lines with what you’re planning. You’re absolutely right she needs to hear it from you and not someone else, but I’d also suggest you don’t tell other people before the 12 week mark either. It’s going to make your sister feel even more crap and alone (as infertility often makes people feel alone) if she finds out that a whole load of other people were told before her.

Also there unfortunately is nothing you can say to make her feel any better. Don’t offer her any platitudes, suggest it’ll work out for her or that it’ll be her turn next as this will probably make her feel even worse. Just be there for her and listen if she wants to talk, although if she doesn’t want to talk to you about things, don’t take it personally.

alltheworld Sun 05-Nov-17 20:42:49

When you tell her don't be all excited. A friend told me in a downbeat way because she knew I would be pleased for her but sad for me. Also don't please tell her she will be an amAzibg auntie.

EarlGreyT Sun 05-Nov-17 20:45:13

However would it be helpful to really emphasise how she can be very involved as an aunt?
That’s a nice thought and well intended, but unfortunately not likely to be helpful. Being an aunt is no substitute for her having her own children. If anything this will make her feel worse rather than better as she may feel she needs to withdraw for her self preservation. If she does do this after you’ve said you want her to be really involved as an aunt, she’s then likely to feel guilty about not being able to do this on top of all the other crap emotions she’s already experiencing.

PigletWasPoohsFriend Sun 05-Nov-17 20:48:21

Congratulations OP

However would it be helpful to really emphasise how she can be very involved as an aunt?

Whilst a nice idea, please don't do this.

If my DSis had done this it would probably have pushed us further apart.

Anyoneanytimeanywhere Sun 05-Nov-17 20:53:05

Fair enough piglet and earl. Like I said I don’t have experience of this. I just thought that some people in the ops sisters position may get comfort from knowing how valued they would be as an aunt. I know how much my ds and I deeply value the input his aunts and uncles on both sides of my family have. They are and always will be important to him.
But like I say I don’t have experience of this and I can see your point.
Op you seem very thoughtful. Good luck to you.

LisaSimpsonsbff Sun 05-Nov-17 21:09:24

In a way my situation is quite similar to this - my brother's girlfriend just had their first child and I've been trying 16 months, with three miscarriages along the way. Their child was born three weeks before my first would have been due if it had worked out. I won't pretend it has always been easy. It's much, much easier now my gorgeous nephew is here than it was during the pregnancy.

My mum actually told me, which I was very grateful for. She said she deliberately did it so I could be upset and even cry without them knowing. As it happened, I didn't feel immediately upset by the news, but I was grateful for the thoughtfulness and the acknowledgement that I might be and that would be ok. It meant I could really steady myself before calling and offering my heartfelt congratulations.

AngelicaSchuyler Sun 05-Nov-17 21:24:45

Hi OP - first of all, congratulation and well done for coming here for advice. There's been some awful, hurtful stuff posted in infertility-related threads on AIBU recently (there's another zinger rumbling on at the moment) so hopefully you'll get some advice here.

My advice (6 years ttc, younger sister has a 5 month old):

- Don't tell her in public - do it at home or somewhere she can step away easily if she gets upset. She may be fine but best to be sure.

- Don't tell her and then leave it before you tell anyone else. As much as I love my sister, she told me when she was just 6 weeks gone and didn't tell anyone else for a week or so. That week was the loneliest of my life as I was devastated (but happy for her) and so mixed up but had no-one to talk to.

- Don't tell her she can be a super-involved auntie. She probably will be but it will come across as patronising.

- Understand if she keeps her distance for a bit while it a sinks in. The week after my sister told me she was pregnant was awful. It was a hideous mix of being thrilled for her and DBIL but devastated for myself. I did all the right things, put my brave face on, told her I was thrilled and then drove home for a cry.

Obv this is my experience, but your sister might be absolutely fine! Best of luck with it all and with your pregnancy xx

minipie Sun 05-Nov-17 21:29:48

I agree with wine's suggestion of a text first. Not a text saying you are pregnant but one saying "need to tell you something, give me a call when you get a chance?"

She will probably realise/assume you are pregnant from that and so will have a chance to digest before she calls you.

MissScarletinthePantry Sun 05-Nov-17 21:52:57

Thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to respond, it's reassuring to know that I'm vaguely along the right lines. I'm really just thinking about how I would feel in her position, and the answer is horrible. It's all just so unfair. As I say hope is not lost medically speaking but she seems to see it that way.

In response to the previous poster saying not to leave her out by telling everyone else, I am totally on board with that, I appreciate it's not clear from my OP. We will maybe tell our mums 2 weeks beforehand, then siblings will be the first to know.

I will certainly consider the text first option, the only issue being that she is pretty bad at reading/responding to texts and I can imagine feeling very anxious if she doesn't respond.

My DH is her DH's best friend - is there anything to be said for my DH telling him shortly before her/simultaneously so he can comfort her? Of course he is also sad about the issues they have had to date but is not down about it and is much more optimistic than she is that it will ultimately work out.

Can someone help me with the form of words to use? On the one hand I want her to know I'm conscious of her position, not expecting fanfare and that I bloody love her but on the other I don't want to patronise/annoy her by eg saying, "I'm pregnant, hope you're not upset..." sort of thing. If it were me I think I would want a careful announcement, not terribly excited but also not dripping with sympathy which might be taken as pity. Thinking aloud here....

Thanks again, means a lot.

LisaSimpsonsbff Sun 05-Nov-17 22:19:26

Do you feel my suggestion of getting a sympathetic third party (eg your mum - who you're telling first anyway) would be a bad idea? I can see why if you're close you feel it should come from you, but I really do think it solves a lot of the problems, particularly since you've already been told - jokingly or not - that this will be hard news for her.

RavingRoo Sun 05-Nov-17 22:25:39

Suggest you tell her the same time you tell everyone else. My sister and brother told me like that, I was a bit jealous but never let on and adore my neices and nephews. Dh’s sister on the other hand chose to keep it a secret until she was almost 4 months pregnant while the rest of dh’s family knew after only a few weeks - have never gotten over it. Love my dn to bits, but don’t quite love her the same any more.

MissScarletinthePantry Sun 05-Nov-17 22:34:45

Hi LisaSimpsonsbff

Unfortunately the only one I think could possibly work would be her DH, in which case I would feel like I'd chickened out and she might well feel put out.

I don't trust my DM (or DF) to tell her sensitively to be honest. They have a complex relationship.

porolli Sun 05-Nov-17 22:41:35

I have been in this position and it’s terribly difficult. I decided to tell my sister over the phone (we are close but not geographically) and to be straightforward, as gently as possible but without any embellishment presuming how she would feel. She wanted to get off the phone immediately. She did withdraw from me for quite a few months and it was a difficult situation for a time (but not for good).

MissScarletinthePantry Mon 06-Nov-17 09:58:31

Thanks porolli, that's of some comfort.

I am just so anxious about this, I am so worried about upsetting my wonderful sister. We've always talked about and planned our lives with our children playing together, in the same classes at school etc (though at the same time both of us, without any real basis, have long held a fear that we might be infertile, and I couldn't quite believe it when I saw that I was pregnant, I'm still apprehensive about it sticking but again for no real reason).

I think I will text first, something like "Hi darling [I know this might sound patronising but I would call her that affectionately fairly regularly], I have some news I need to share with you. Give me a call when you can xx"

If she doesn't reply in say 12 hours I will call her. And just say in a fairly matter of fact way, "Hi [her name], I'm calling to tell you I'm pregnant." and then let her get off the phone as fast as she wants to? I'm very conscious about on the one hand not being insensitive and on the other not being patronising. I've had the "pained expression/head tilt" nonsense from people who assumed that DH and I had fertility issues because we decided to wait, it made me fume.

I just feel like even one wrong phrase could make things worse though I know no form of words will make it okay.

The one other thing is that I do feel it would be good to prep her DH via my DH so he is ready to support (he is the type to say the wrong thing if taken by surprise) but my concern is that he would find himself unable to not tell her before I did.

Thanks again to everyone who has responded.

florafoxtrot Mon 06-Nov-17 12:08:29

Just wanted to say that I find your concern and sensitivity really sweet and quite enlightening.
I think you know this but there is a strong likelihood that she will hang up the phone or be very upset - but you know this and are prepared for it. I think that she will get used to the idea and she's still your sister - but it could take a long time.
I've also been trying for 16 months and recently had to deal with my SIL getting pregnant - she was not particularly sensitive about it - asked us to babysit her toddler as they "have an APPOINTMENT" and keeps commenting about having a bump earlier the second time around as I sit there barren. However other members of the family have been spot on - really concerned for me and I really do appreciate the thought so if you can - please try to get your parents onboard.
Congratulations on your pregnancy. I hope you have a healthy 9 months

WhyOhWine Mon 06-Nov-17 12:31:52

Even before you said that your DH and hers are friends, I did wonder whether it might be worth you calling herDH first to get his thoughts on best way to tell her, but i can see that she might be upset about him hearing first. it really is hard!
Perhaps the best would be to ensure your DH is lined up to call hers after you send the text (or sends a similar text to him after you send yours), so that at least she is contacted first even if her DH actually hears the news first.

FWIW, i had IVF for both DC, after about 16 months of trying before the first (I knew i would def need it for second). I was genuinely happy for friends who announced pregnancies during that period and was able to separate that from my own feelings about not being pregnant, so I guess not everyone has this reaction.

Did she know you were trying?

FaithEverPresent Mon 06-Nov-17 12:44:03

Bless you, what an awful situation. I think you are really considerate. No way around it, this is going to be tough for both of you. We TTC’d for over 2 1/2 years. It was awful and we had a lot of pregnancy announcements. It was easier when they were messages rather than face to face with most people because I could cry privately then wish them well later. Therefore I think it might be worth talking to her DH first. It might be easier if he tells her at a time when they can talk about it and she can have time to get upset. I think you’re right to be prepared that she won’t be very engaged during your pregnancy. You need to find someone to moan to so you can keep it back from her! I hope all goes well for you and that it happens for her soon too.

JeNeBaguetteRien Mon 06-Nov-17 13:58:23

Congratulations OP.
You are a thoughtful sister. I've been TTC for ages and think (hope) I will soon be getting a similar phone call. Just reading that you don't trust your parents to tell her sensitively I really think you need to consider they might spill the beans (and not in the supportive way that Lisa described).

Another vote from me saying that being an auntie is fab but no substitute and it would feel patronising to me.

A warning text is a good idea but not at the beginning of work for example (and sounds like it would add to your anxiety anyway).

FWIW I don't think there has to be a strict pecking order of who you tell first in parents or siblings but I do think I'd prefer to hear it from my sibling herself than via my DH. Just go with what you feel is best. Good luck.

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