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Familly Politics and Pregnancy - What's the Right Thing to Do?
May 12, 2014 2:53 PM   Subscribe

My sister is pregnant (YAY!). Sister doesn't talk to my aunt but said I could tell aunt that she is pregnant. Aunt would be thrilled to find out. Do I keep my mouth shut?

I realize that the answer to "do I keep my mouth shut?" is usually yes but please humor me. My sister (this sister!) is 29+ weeks pregnant. My immediate family is terrified and excited but I think as the pregnancy continues, the excitement is increasing and terror is decreasing (at least for me, hopefully for others).

My mother was the third of four daughters. My aunt T is the oldest, followed by aunt G. My mother died about seven years ago and the youngest sister died about three years before. Aunt G is an amazing person. G has a husband and five kids, three of whom are married, one divorced, all of whom have grandkids (her 11th and 12th grandchildren are due this summer!).

T is a wonderful person though a little crazy. T is retired, never married, lives alone. She's active in her community - she reads at church, volunteers at the hospital, chauffeurs the really older ladies in her community. She's a homebody - doesn't go more than a few hours from home often, rarely flies. I love T. Part of it is that she is my mother's sister but also she really is a genuinely kind and sweet woman. That said, T can be abrasive and has rubbed people the wrong way, including my sister.

T has a history of using inappropriate language to describe people who come from different backgrounds. I think that she has gotten a lot better but she's the same person. T is also a pro-life, Catholic Republican. When my mother died, T wanted to talk about "the unborn" during the Mass for my mother. I told my sister and walked away. When I came back, I heard my sister say, "No, and you know what? I don't think we should have to say 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance!" I offer this for context, not because this was a huge deal (at least in my opinion).

My sister was pregnant with twins about 18 months ago. The babies were born too early and died the weekend of T's 70th birthday. T asked if my father and other sister knew that the babies were in trouble when they went to T's party. I think they did but I'm not sure. The real question may have been, did someone not tell her something. But I'm lousy at reading between the lines and T isn't subtle so I think she would say that if that was what was bothering her. At a holiday party a few weeks after the twins were born, my sister was sitting between my father and T. T leaned over my sister to ask my father how my sister was doing. T also gave my sister a birthday card where the first line of it said something like, sorry your babies died.

My sister has said that she does not have happy memories from spending time with T so she does not talk to T. I talk on the phone occasionally to T and T has asked me for my sister's phone number. I have demurred. I'm pretty sure T has my sister's address so she can send her a card. I know that T would be over the moon to hear that my sister is expecting. She might be hurt that she's finding out now but I think she'll be very happy all the same. G knows my sister is pregnant and has told all of her kids.

My sister said that I can tell T she's expecting. But I think it would be rough to tell T when my sister doesn't want to talk to her on the phone. My sister lives 1,000+ miles from T so they're not going to see each other any time soon and there's no threat of T popping up at my sister's doorstep. I think that T has tried to get my sister's attention by "like"-ing everything on my sister's Facebook page but my sister may have blocked her. T is relatively healthy so I'm not worried about her keeling over any time soon (knock on wood) so there isn't the pressure of "tell her before she dies!" but on the other hand, there will likely be another person at Christmas so T will find out someday.

Would it be rubbing salt in the wound to tell T that my sister is pregnant when I can't share her phone number? Should I tell T? Admittedly I might be letting my own excitement about my sister's pregnancy get the better of me and I don't want to do anything to cause her any stress. But T is family and I feel like she should know what's up.
posted by kat518 to Human Relations (19 answers total)
 
If your sister says it's OK, and you think T would be over the moon to hear this news, just go ahead. T is going to find out anyway, sooner or later. You're not trying to solve the whole perceived schism here. You're just passing along a piece of information that will make her happy.
posted by beagle at 3:00 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I talk on the phone occasionally to T and T has asked me for my sister's phone number. I have demurred.

Is this your choice or your sister's explicit request? I only ask because you seem to think it will be awkward to give out some information but not other information but it may be that you're turning this into a situation that you are gatekeeping even though there is no need to. Everyone's a grown up, your sister not wanting to talk to T is sort of her own deal.
posted by jessamyn at 3:01 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Stay out of it.
posted by kinetic at 3:05 PM on May 12


To clarify, my sister has asked me not to give her phone number to T. It wasn't dramatic - I just asked and she said she didn't want T to have it. It would not have surprised me if T asked my other siblings for my sister's phone number. It was actually kind of funny - before my sister said she did not want T to have her phone number, I told T I would give it to her and T was like, yeah, you can just write it on my Facebook wall like, "T, here is that phone number you asked for." Very stealthy.
posted by kat518 at 3:05 PM on May 12


I have strained relationships with some relatives. The grapevine is how I get a lot of my news. It is often handled very nicely, not in a mean or gossipy way, just keeping me in the loop in spite of the fact that x person and I almost never talk but I am still family. Also, I had to tell my sis I was pregnant AGAIN with baby #2 when she was STILL going through fertility treatments and had yet to conceive (on-going since before I, whoops, turned up preggers with the first). And that was hard but she was happy to hear the news and very nice about it.

I would tell her. I don't think it has to be a big deal. If the whole family knows these two don't get on well, that doesn't mean others need to make a big freakin deal about family news. Since sis seems okay with it, just stick to the boundaries she has stated like not giving out the phone number.

Sometimes, it is really hard to love other people but that doesn't mean that friction needs to be made into more than what it really is. Just figure out how to say it diplomatically without rubbing salt in the wound. It can be done.
posted by Michele in California at 3:13 PM on May 12


Nthing stay out of it. If your sister wants T to know about the kid, she can let her know this herself.
posted by brujita at 3:16 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Are you not understanding that telling Aunt T will do nothing but add drama? I mean, sure, you're going to make T happy for about 15 seconds, but not the kind of happy that's worth paying for with the drama that will commence when you won't give her your sister's telephone number. DO NOTHING.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:18 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


It sounds like your sister vaguely feels like it would be kind to tell T. But, at the same time, she wants you to not give T her phone number. T is going to escalate attempts to contact your sister if you tell her. So, unless your sister WANTS you to tell T, don't, because it won't help you.

If your sister wants to be in touch with T, she knows what to do.

Congrats and good wishes to your family.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:27 PM on May 12


My sister was pregnant with twins about 18 months ago. The babies were born too early and died the weekend of T's 70th birthday. T asked if my father and other sister knew that the babies were in trouble when they went to T's party. I think they did but I'm not sure. The real question may have been, did someone not tell her something. But I'm lousy at reading between the lines and T isn't subtle so I think she would say that if that was what was bothering her. At a holiday party a few weeks after the twins were born, my sister was sitting between my father and T. T leaned over my sister to ask my father how my sister was doing. T also gave my sister a birthday card where the first line of it said something like, sorry your babies died.

This paragraph together with the incident at your mother's funeral where your sister strongly and vocally opposed T's desire to talk about the unborn during the Mass for your mother, have me wondering whether T thinks something she would consider morally wrong (and perhaps a mortal sin) took place around the deaths of those two babies; not that they were aborted, but something to the effect that one was sacrificed to save the life of the other, or that early birth was induced to spare your sister's life or health-- something that has been gnawing at T ever since and colored her view of your sister, but that she hasn't been able to bring up because it would be such a dire accusation in her eyes.

I think you could bring up the deaths of those babies with T, allay any fears she might be harboring about what really went on there, and in the context of that conversation tell her that your sister is expecting again.
posted by jamjam at 3:46 PM on May 12


I would mention this to your aunt because she is going to find out sooner or later. This is not something like a quick medical procedure that she will never know about if all goes well! Although there might be a little awkwardness now, it seems like WAY LESS awkwardness than there will inevitably be down the road when an infant appears and aunt is like...um, what? New baby in the family that literally no one told me about for months?

I speak from experience -- my parents were not told about a neice's baby until 2 or 3 months after the birth, NOT because of a family conflict but because everyone in my family is literally that spacey/lame at relaying news/spread out around the world. Even in that less negative context, there were a lot of hurt feelings.

Also -- it sounds like T has already asked you for the phone number, and you have already had to say no. So, she may have already gotten that message. If not, in the case that she asks again, just repeat what you said before! Another option would be to say something like, "You know, sister really hates talking on the phone, but I know she would LOVE to recieve a card!" That seems like a good compromise since you said T already has the address. And, sister can always choose to not open/read the card if she would not like to.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:46 PM on May 12 [7 favorites]


Your sister has given you permission to tell T: so yes, mention it during your next call. It sounds like your sister is okay with T knowing about the baby, she just doesn't want to have to talk to T herself.

As for your sister's phone number: she's made her decision here too --- never pass on anybody's phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses or any other contact info without that person's express permission.
posted by easily confused at 4:39 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


The fact that your sister gave you permission reads to me like she wants T to know, but does not want to have to talk to her herself. I have family members like that, and I am happy for them to know about my life in general, but would prefer never having to see or talk to them. It's not that I'm trying to shut them out -- I just don't enjoy their company or attention. So perhaps your sister has that state of mind, where she doesn't want the personal communication, but doesn't care what T knows or doesn't.

Also, I have perhaps an usually gossipy family, but I don't really know how you would ultimately "prevent" T from finding out about the pregnancy -- so the sooner the better. She'll be more likely to cause drama if the information is deliberately withheld from her.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:53 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I don't see a problem with telling Auntie T but withholding your sister's phone number.
If Auntie asks for it again, you can gently remind her that is not possible.
posted by calgirl at 8:49 PM on May 12


Given that your sister said it was ok for you to tell your aunt about the pregnancy I don't understand what more there is to consider. Just tell her.
posted by The Monkey at 9:21 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


Your sister doesn't want T to be blindsided, but she doesn't want to have to deal with her directly, either, which is certainly easy to understand. I think you should just mention it to T when you talk to her and if she asks again for your sister's phone number, just tell her that your sister wants that information to remain private for awhile, that Sis will get in touch with T when she can, and let it go at that.

I wouldn't consider keeping the information to myself since your sister explicitly mentioned telling T about the pregnancy.

And congratulations to your sister and to you, Auntie, and best wishes for a healthy, happy new addition to the family.
posted by aryma at 10:33 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I'd mention it in conversation and kindly remind your Auntie T that right now, your sister is very nervous and doesn't want to discuss her pregnancy. "We wanted to wait to talk about it, until we were sure, but Sissy is pregnant. As you can imagine, after the death of the twins, she's very apprehensive, so she doesn't want to discuss it directly with anyone, but she did want you to know."

That way, you're off the hook, and you've expressly told T not to call.

Mazel-Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:38 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I personally wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole.

Wait until your sister has given birth and everyone is recovered and healthy, and then have your sister forward an extra copy of the birth announcement to you, which you can then forward to your aunt. God only knows what your aunt might send her between now and the birth that would only add to your sister's stress.
posted by vignettist at 10:14 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


(Aunt) G knows my sister is pregnant and has told all of her kids.

So if your Aunt G, plus 5 of your cousins, all know your sister is pregnant again, it could certainly be that your Aunt T (who is on Facebook presumably with all of these folks) also already knows it, too. In which case, yay, problem solved. Maybe reach out to Aunt G and family to see if Aunt T already knows.

Anyway, you should absolutely feel free to tell her because 1) your sister said you could, and 2) it sounds like you care enough about Aunt T's feelings to spare her the potential pain of being left out of hearing such good family news. Your gut read on Aunt T seems to be one of realistic compassion for your lonely Auntie - she's sweet but says the wrong thing. Your boundaries w/r/t your sister's phone number sound strong and correct.

I think the right thing would be for you to check that Aunt T has been let into the loop about this news while continuing to maintain the boundaries you already have in place. Ideally, Aunt T would be told this news after your sister has had her 20-week U/S.
posted by hush at 10:42 PM on May 13


Thanks for your feedback, everyone! Based on your responses, I'm inclined to tell T next time we talk. I might have an opportunity to see her soon so that might be a good chance. T can cause drama but she also knows she's in a precarious position because she knows that if she pushes on my sister, she's pushing away my sister and her baby. T is a little crazy and says things that she shouldn't but she loves my sister, wants her to be happy, and will love her baby to pieces.

I know my sister was a little annoyed that G told all of her kids but surprisingly, everyone has been pretty good about keeping this off of Facebook, fortunately. Part of my concern with telling T is that my sister doesn't want this on Facebook so I have to make that clear to T.

I think the right thing would be for you to check that Aunt T has been let into the loop about this news while continuing to maintain the boundaries you already have in place. Ideally, Aunt T would be told this news after your sister has had her 20-week U/S.

Part of the reason that I am getting so excited about this news is that I think today, my sister is at 30 weeks! I looked at my sister's Amazon registry recently and got teary-eyed thinking about the little person who is going to wear those diapers and onesies.
posted by kat518 at 2:00 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


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