Dear Amy: All my life, I have wanted to be a mother — more than anything else. Two years ago, I learned that the only way would be through IVF. I was devastated, but still hopeful.
My sister-in-law confided in me that she and her husband were struggling to become pregnant. I, in turn, opened up to her about my own infertility.
Last year on Father’s Day I was invited to a gathering at their home.
They surprised everyone with the news that they were expecting.
I felt like I had been gut-punched, but managed a smile and congratulations, and left very quickly after the announcement.
I was inconsolable at home. I felt completely shattered.
I didn’t understand my feelings. Why was I so tormented by someone’s good news? I felt angry at them for not allowing me to deal with it in private.
I expect they shared my misfortunes with everyone else, and that made things even worse.
Fast-forward to today. It has been a year. Their child was born, and I have had two failed embryo transfers through IVF. I have not seen or spoken to them.
I am still hurting and angry. I don’t know what to do to make the pain and animosity stop. Help.
Dear Bitter: I agree that it was extremely insensitive of your sister-in-law not to recognize your situation and at least give you a heads-up about their announcement. She doesn’t seem supportive, now. Your reaction is visceral and understandable.
However, one unfortunate consequence is that you, who want a baby so badly, are not able to enjoy contact with ... a baby.
You should be brave and explain yourself. Tell (or email) your sister-in-law — “I’m sorry I’ve stayed away, but your pregnancy and birth have reminded me of my own struggle. It’s been very hard for me, and I’m sorry, but this is the best I seem to be able to do.”
Your IVF clinic will have information about support groups. This roller-coaster ride will be easier for you if you are able to share your story with other parents who are also going through it.
I must also point out that giving birth is NOT the only way to become a mother. I urge you to consider adoption as a way to make your family complete.
Dear Amy: I want to help my younger sister, but I don’t know how.
Her latest disease is breast cancer. She has had surgery, but refuses to continue with needed chemotherapy and radiation.
She also has Parkinson’s disease, which she takes medicine for four times a day.
My sister suffers from Bipolar II disorder, has battled crack addiction and lives with her sometime boyfriend, a waiter who drinks alcohol to excess every day he isn’t at work.
My sister entertains herself with a few household pets and her phone. She smokes cigarettes, a little weed, and drinks alcohol fairly habitually.
I have encouraged her on the phone to get exercise and just live, but all I got back was the brush-off.
We are the only two people left in our family. What can I do to help her?
Dear Sister: I think encouraging a former crack addict who has breast cancer, Parkinson’s and bipolar disorder to “get exercise and just live” — is not particularly helpful.
Your sister may not be able to exercise. She may not want to exercise.
What she is doing right now — hanging out with her pets, smoking weed, drinking — this is the living she is doing.
It sounds as if you don’t live nearby. Given the severity and complexity of her health problems, I think you should stop telling her how to live, accept her in an “as is” state, and simply be with her and communicate with her on her terms. This is not giving up on her. It is accepting her.
You might both feel liberated.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your compassionate advice to “Needs an Intervention,” whose daughter seemed to have a hoarding disorder.
This is so tricky, as you noted. Extensive, hands-on therapy is called for.
Thank you especially for noting your concern for the welfare of the animal this daughter had in the home.
-- Been There
Dear Been There: As I said in my answer, the human can choose to try to change her living situation. An animal has no such option.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)