pregnancy

"The loneliness I felt was so loud and overwhelming." When my sister fell pregnant and I couldn’t.

My sister and I are six years apart, and although we live on the opposite side of the universe, we have always been very close. 

When she fell pregnant the first time, I was at my happiest; I was starting to dream about having kids, and I was so grateful she didn’t have to struggle to conceive and create her own family. 

I flew home with my husband to be close to her when the baby was born. I didn’t sleep the night she gave birth, as I couldn’t stand the idea that she was going through so much pain alone; I ended up running to the hospital at 5am, so I could at least be close to her husband.

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I was so tired and excited, and the sterile corridor where I was sitting was such a contrast to all the emotions that were swirling in my brain.

They allowed me to see the baby right after he was born. My sister was exhausted and yet so beautiful, and I couldn’t stop staring at her hair - as it looked like she had just been to the hairdresser, instead of having gone through hours of excruciating pain. 

I was mesmerised (and completely clueless) about the birthing process and motherhood.

Fast forward to three years and my husband and I were in a delicate stage, as I didn’t seem to be able to conceive, and so much resentment was brewing in me.

The loneliness I felt during that stage was so loud and overwhelming. We decided to go back home for a family holiday, as I needed time to rest and regroup.

That’s when we got invited for dinner by my lovely sister and her husband. Before dessert, I was handed a little box, and as soon as I opened it and I saw the pregnancy test, my heart skipped a beat.

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I remember that moment so vividly, and for a fraction of second, I wished that pee-stick was mine. Weirdly enough, for a moment in space, I actually thought it was mine, as If I had conceived and I was the only one who didn’t know. 

I started crying, and everyone was cheering, clapping and laughing around me. I looked at my husband and I saw right through his eyes. I cried even more.

I still don’t know if the tears were caused by anger or happiness, as those two emotions were so blended together, I wasn’t capable to discern what was what.

I hated the situation I was in, as I wanted to voice my pain: it’s not fair, what about me! But I couldn’t, because never in the universe would I have taken away the joy of my sister’s pregnancy and ruined her moment with my concerns. 

I was also sure that it had been tough for her to share the news as she knew how much I was suffering. Yet, I was her sister, and we loved each other, and it was only natural to share and be happy for such a special time.

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It took me a while to process all the feelings, but in the end, I had to realise that:

Nothing was wrong with me.

The fact that I couldn’t fall pregnant by simply blinking my eyes didn’t say anything about my worth.

I was a good enough person, and I knew I could be a sensational mother, which is why I was so disappointed that I couldn’t share such an abundance of love with my self-made human being.

I also had the preconceived notion that things were harder for me than for other women; finding the right career, getting pregnant, settling in a country, and so forth. Infertility made me dive deep within and allowed me to tear apart years of low self-esteem; it made me realise that life was pretty sweet, and it was so much easier for me than for tons of other people on planet earth.

The bottom line: I was good enough, as a wife, a friend, a daughter, a future mother, and most of all, I was a good enough human being. Infertility and past experiences didn’t define me anymore, as I was worthy of all the abundance that was already surrounding me.

It had nothing to do with my sister (and all the women on the planet).

She drank alcohol while trying to conceive, I didn’t.

She drank coffee, I didn’t.

She indulged in sugary-everything, she loved dining out and she didn’t eat organic, while I was doing whatever I could to be the healthiest version of myself.

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And yet, she got pregnant within the second try, and I was sick of trying.

How was it fair? It took me a long time to let it go, as it’s not about being fair or not. Lots of women conceive under hardship, war, addiction, as the body works in its mysterious ways. My body wasn’t giving me what I wanted, and possibly it was for the best. 

Maybe back then I was too stressed out and undernourished to carry a viable pregnancy, and I was saved from the pain of having to go through a miscarriage. I don’t know why it took us so long to conceive, but it didn’t have anything to do with my sister’s body, her pregnancy, and marriage, and especially it didn’t have anything to do with our relationship.

Sure, some days I felt angry, and I didn’t want to hear about the constant reflux during the first trimester, but if I listened carefully, it wasn’t about the reflux. 

It was my sister sharing how she felt, how scared and excited she was, and also how sorry she felt that we could not experience motherhood together.

I was missing out on the opportunity to love her child as mine.

Pain and anger were blindsiding me. In the beginning, I was lost in my journey and my tears, and I involuntarily took the love away from what was about to become my first, beautiful niece. 

My husband added to the guilt: "Why can’t you be happy for her?", he asked. I didn’t know. Her first pregnancy was a ball, and I was looking forward to meeting my nephew; during her second pregnancy I was suffering, and I didn’t want to hear it… until I met my niece. 

From the first moment I hugged her, I haven’t stopped adoring her. She was (she is) magical, and although everyone keeps complaining about how full of beans she is, I still do think she is one of the most mesmerising creatures on earth. 

After she was born, I could spend hours looking at her pictures, and I’m so grateful I felt that way, as I could have missed out on the opportunity to give her all my unconditional love.

I had to stop comparing and start living

It came to a point where I decided to move on and stop putting my life on hold. I changed jobs, as I didn’t want to be stuck in an office where they had great maternity leave, but where I felt miserable. I stopped comparing my life to my sister’s life and all my friends with babies. They were going through their own turmoil, and I had to focus on my journey, not on someone else. I went back to fun, joy, and meditation.

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I started to take more liberties and live a little; one coffee here, a drink on the weekend. My husband and I went on holiday together, and we ate freely.

I kept on hanging on the hope of getting pregnant, but it became somewhat less confronting and energy-sucking.

Some days were obviously tough as hell, and the only thing I wanted to do was to cry and yell "WHY" to the entire universe, but it didn’t take me long to change my mindset and move on. There were plenty of babies in the world, plenty of pregnancies, and I couldn’t focus on what I didn’t have.

And yes, it sucked, it sucked hard. The pain is still very raw and vivid in my soul, and it’s time to let it go, as it doesn’t serve me any longer.

In hindsight, the only thing I regret is not having been there for my sister.

There I was, with my unsolicited advice, when she was going through motherhood and pregnancy at the same time. 

I didn’t get it, because my pain didn’t allow me to see through the blinders, or because I had plenty of expectations and ideas of being a mother, and I didn’t understand there were different points of views. 

I also didn’t get her planning in advance, canceling dinners, and constant baby talking. I should have listened more, but I didn’t know any better. I learnt the lesson, and I hope to be a more compassionate sister in the future (I love you so much sis).

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

Claudia is a Qualified Nutrition & Dietetic Clinician (BHSC) and published health writer, specialised in working with reproductive health and hormonal balance, disorder eating behaviors, fertility, weight management, and chronic pain. Claudia suffered from infertility, chronic candida, gut issues, and chronic pain for more than a decade. After a misdiagnosis that proved detrimental for her health and delayed her conception by three years, she realised that conventional medicine wasn’t helping her; she then decided to take charge of her life by working on her mindset, nutrition, and lifestyle. She naturally became a mum of two, and has been living a pain-free, candida free life ever since. Claudia is a supportive mother and wife, and she gets excited by a strong coffee and a good book, she loves spending time in nature, especially in the snow, and she only has cold showers.

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