It ought to be one of the happiest times of your life when your sister or sister-in-law announces her pregnancy as becoming an aunt should be a special occasion, but if you’re struggling to get pregnant yourself you may find it difficult to enjoy the experience.
Dealing with the announcement
How you feel about the initial pregnancy announcement will depend on your individual situation – and that of the mother-to-be. It can be particularly difficult to handle if it’s your younger sister who is pregnant, if she already has a number of children or has been somewhat ambivalent about the idea of starting a family. It will also be more challenging if she seemed to get pregnant effortlessly, perhaps within the first month or two of trying, or even unintentionally. When you’ve spend month after month waiting for good news, the idea that a close relative has conceived so easily can be really galling.
The way in which you find out about the pregnancy can also make a difference. Sometimes other family members who know about your situation may decide not to tell you right away – and it can be very upsetting if you discover that everyone else has known apart from you.
It may be more stressful if you haven’t told other family members about your fertility problems as they may immediately start asking when you are going to get round to making a happy announcement yourselves. Sometimes, this can provide an opportunity to have a conversation you’ve been waiting to have about your fertility problems – although if the news has made you feel more vulnerable you may find that you just can’t face it. Do remember though that you can’t expect people to be sensitive to this if haven’t told them.
Getting through the early days
You can’t avoid a sister or sister-in-law’s pregnancy in the way that you could anyone else’s as your entire family is likely to be caught up in the excitement. You will find it difficult to react in quite the same way as the others to the news, but don’t blame yourself for this. It is absolutely normal to feel conflicted about a relative’s pregnancy – you know you ought to be happy for them, but your honest reactions may feel more like jealousy and anger. If you can accept that this is a natural reaction and not something to feel ashamed about, it will help.
Bear in mind that it is these early days that will be the most challenging – for many people who experience fertility problems other people’s pregnancies are far harder to deal with than their children. Once you have a niece or nephew who you can see as a person in their own right and start to build a relationship with them, things will be very different.
Looking to the future
Whatever happens on your own fertility journey and no matter how you become a parent yourself, the role of an aunt is a very special one in a child’s life and can be hugely rewarding for you. Although you may initially feel that your emotional response is not entirely positive, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy your niece or nephew once he or she arrives.
Don’t forget that women who don’t have children of their own often make the best aunts because they have more time for their nieces and nephews and can become a great friend and confidant to a youngster – and that’s something you can look forward to and enjoy.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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