It’s no secret that my sister and I are in a weird place right now. Our relationship seems to be on a downward spiral and if I could pick out where it all started to go wrong, I would say it was right around the time I lost Teddy Graham. It’s a story I still want to tell, but I’ll save it for another day. Sis’s latest big news has turned out to be only one more bump in the road. Since she told me she is pregnant, we’ve sent a few e-mails back and forth. In one of them, I tried very hard to make an effort and even asked about morning sickness and doctor appointments. And in the next, I was brutal and blunt in my wording because she had accused me of causing her too much pain. But no matter what we have said, all of our e-mails have lacked the usual friendly, silly rapport that we have developed in the last few months. You wouldn’t know we are sisters by reading them.
Many of you have mentioned that it may be best to take some time off right now — to just give each other space. I know you are probably right. Yesterday, I came across this quote completely by accident:
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” — Havelock Ellis
I think that pretty much says it all and yet… Yet. I have never been good at letting go. Friendships and first loves have continued until all life was drained out of them because I just couldn’t let them go. I want a sister-break (maybe?), but I also fear it. I’m afraid that if we take some time apart, we may never find each other again. And, as of right now, she’s all I’ve got when it comes to sisters.
Recently, Elizabeth over at Bébé Suisse and then Theresa at Journey to the Finish Line suggested that I send my sister an e-mail to explain where I’m coming from and to smooth things over. This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I felt let down and utterly abandoned by her during the dark days of my miscarriage in April — well, smooth things over or just puke out all my hurt feelings and maybe make her hurt a little too. But right now, writing a real, heartfelt letter is not something I trust myself to do, for fear that I may say something I’ll regret and thus cause irreparable damage to our relationship (if it hasn’t been done already).
Instead, I have chosen to write a letter to my sis, not for her but for me, and I want to share it with all of you. Be forewarned: this will be a long one and it won’t be pretty. Please don’t judge me for what I say here. This is my chance to say all the ugly things in my head, so that hopefully I will never be tempted to say them aloud. I have no intention of ever sending this and, if I do (and that is one gigantic IF!), it will be a much-condensed version that I have carefully edited.
And so, here we go…
This is not easy to write. Nothing in my life is easy right now, but especially this. Navigating a relationship that is so new to me, with nothing to use as a compass, while simultaneously grieving the loss of a child, fearing that the only dream I have right now may never come true, AND having to muster up some joy over your special blessing…it’s not easy. Nor is it fair, and I hate it.
And yes, sometimes I hate you.
I hate you because you have made everything hard in my life harder this year. My short pregnancy was filled with even more anxiety because you would chastise me for my “unfounded” worry. And the loss of my pregnancy, and my baby, was even more painful because you were not there when I needed you. And trying again has been made more difficult because you’re pregnant and you lack sensitivity towards the fact that I’m not. For all of this, I feel contempt, resentment, anger, envy, and sorrow. I hate you and yet, at the same time, I am afraid I am losing you. And for something that doesn’t even feel like it’s my fault.
I am not happy with the way our last phone conversation ended, when you told me you were pregnant. I think you were mad and shutting down on me as we hung up, and I can’t fathom why. Because I didn’t give you the happy response you hoped for? Because I did not jump for joy and celebrate with balloons and streamers? Because a simple “congratulations” simply wasn’t enough? Really, I have to wonder, what the hell did you expect??? I suppose, in an ideal world, I would have done so much more. I would have squealed with glee. I would have cried happy tears. I would have been the sister you wanted. But this world is not ideal. Not for me. I just lost a baby. And I don’t know that I’ll ever have another one. And I hurt. While you can you go about your day without worry about creating a family or carrying a baby to term, I cannot. The weight of it crushes me with every breath. And so if you think that I should be nothing but happy for you, if you think I should celebrate your great fertile success, if you think that you deserve my joy and I owe you selfless delight, then we have a problem.
Because while I am trying to be happy for you, I cannot ignore the ache that I carry with me every where I go. Your pregnancy exacerbates the ache, but I do not blame you for that. I do not blame you for wanting a child or for conceiving so quickly. Your fertility is no more your fault than my infertility is mine. But I do think you have handled all of this so wrong.
Let’s not talk about what went so badly when I miscarried in April. Let’s not discuss how you promised that, with God, you would carry me through the darkness, just like in that poem “Footprints in the Sand.” And I won’t tell you how, instead, you left me stranded on a deserted island, alone with my grief. How the sister-friend whom I thought I could turn to turned out to be the only one I could not.
No, instead let’s talk about that phone call a couple weeks ago. I hated that phone call. That you somehow thought you were doing me a favor by calling me. That you got pissed when I told you it would have been easier to handle over e-mail. That I hung up feeling guilty for upsetting you. I had been expecting your news for some time. Anticipating it and dreading it at once. And in my head, I had a careful response planned out. It probably would have been a lot of what you wanted to hear, if you had allowed me to say it over e-mail. Instead, you blindsided me with a phone call that I had no control over and forced me to respond when I wasn’t ready. I don’t blame you for getting pregnant, but I do blame you for the way in which you told me. For not respecting my own comfort level. For the perkiness, and absence of sympathy, in your tone. For lacking any sensitivity to how much it hurt me to hear. For failing to show me the same compassion and tenderness I have shown you through everything, all your dark secrets and deep pain, until now.
Do you know what I wish you would have done? Well, I wish you would have told me over e-mail, for one. Or, I wish you would have somehow reached through the phone and held my hand. I wish you would have made me feel loved and cared for and understood instead of like the worst sister ever. I wish you would have attempted to make all of this easier for me, rather than letting your anger show when it was nothing but hard.
And do you know what I wish you would have said? I wish you had said, “Cassie, I know this is hard for you and I’m so sorry. I know you just lost Teddy. I know you still miss him. And I know you are afraid that might be the last baby you ever have. I know I’m hurting you and you have every right to feel what you feel…I’m just sorry I’m the one inflicting the pain…and I will be here every step of the way, if you’ll let me.” Or something like that. And I wish you would have said it gently, tenderly, sweetly, with hope and remorse and understanding.
My cousin Faith* struggled for ten years to conceive. And do you know what her sister did when she (her sister) learned she was expecting twins? She cried. She was so happy to have two babies on the way, but she was so sad for Faith. So angry at the unfairness of the situation. She had such sorrow that her big sister, this wonderful woman who wanted to have children more than anything, could not have her same great fortune. She felt guilty that it was her and not Faith who was pregnant, and with twins no less. Of course, I do not expect that from you. I think a reaction like that probably only comes from having a relationship and history with your sister that spans many years, not just a few mere months. We say we love each other, but do we? I’m convinced that, right now, it’s all an act…or at least an obligation. Because when you really love someone, you feel their pain. You ache with and for them. You hold them in your heart and lift them up when they are down. You are strong for them when they cannot be.
And you have done none of this for me.
Maybe you think this is a two-way street. That I should celebrate with you while you mourn with me. But I’m sorry, I’ve got news for you: this road only goes one way. Pain trumps joy. Every time. Especially when it is your pain and someone else‘s joy. I reserve the right to be sad, to cry over your good news, any time I need to. In a recent e-mail you asked if you should still come visit me next week because you don’t want me to be sad all day long — “that wouldn’t be any fun,” you wrote. But, excuse me? Since when do you have jurisdiction over what I get to feel? Is there an expiration date on grief that I don’t know about? Are you saying that I have to pretend to be happy if I want to spend any time with you? Because I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve spent my whole life pretending to be someone and feel things that I’m not and I don’t. Sometimes I may be happy. I may laugh. I may forget. And sometimes, I won’t do any of those things no matter how hard I try. And that’s life.
Live with it. Or move on. It’s your choice.
How is it that it has come to this? That we have come to this impasse so early in our relationship? It seems unfair that this is our cross to bear already. One of the many unfairnesses of life, I suppose.
You have now decided that you won’t be coming to see me next weekend. That I have hurt you too much. I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize this was all about you. I also didn’t know that this is how sisters behave. That they run away when things get tough or too uncomfortable. That they aren’t expected to deal with their sister’s grief and pain if it infringes upon their own joy. That they need only be there when their sister falls neatly into their life circumstances. Believe me, since I lost our baby, there have been times where I have thought about walking away from you. Because of the pain you have inflicted upon me. Because frankly, my life was easier and I hurt less when I didn’t know you existed. We will always be sisters, but we don’t have to have a relationship. We are not so far in this thing that we can’t give in and give up. It’s not too late to turn back the hands of time.
But it is. In my heart, it is. Because in order to spare myself one sort of pain, I would cause another. In order to save my broken heart, I would sacrifice my soul. I am loyal. I am strong. I do not give up! Losing you would be just one more death in my life, one more loss — one more casualty of my infertility. I have already lost so much. And so I will fight. I will try. I may not ever be glad that you are pregnant. I may not always like you. Right now, I’m still not sure I have it in me to love you. You may hate me, or wish you had a different sister, or think I have done everything wrong. Our relationship will sometimes suffer. We may not always be friends. But I am okay with that. Because what sisters are? I know not a single pair of sisters who have never had their fair share of disagreements, hurt feelings, and unspoken jealousies. It is what it is and I will accept it. Because you are the only sister I have.
I think I’m in it for the long haul. If you are.
*Name has been changed