I don't know how to deal with my sister-help?
July 10, 2014 12:35 PM   Subscribe

My sister has not spoken to me since mid-March, presumably over a hormonally-fueled (I think) pregnancy ragefest that she had. I don't think I did anything wrong, but should I contact her?

My youngest sister (sister A) had a baby shower in mid-March. I live 3000 miles away, so I saw pictures. She did not gain a lot of pregnancy weight, but I could tell from the pics that it was going to be a big baby (and it was, 8 lb 11 oz). I had called her to tell her that I liked the pictures, and that gosh, it's going to be a big baby. She apparently took it as I was calling her fat, and she screamed "F*** you!" into the phone and hung up on me. She has not called me since.

She sent me a text on my birthday. It was a group text actually, because my brother-in-law (different sister) has the same birthday. She texted the arrival of the baby. I am one of those people that does not think that texts are appropriate for important life events. I responded with a text because she would not answer her phone.

My oldest sister (sister C) took the photos at the shower. Sister A screamed at her for taking pictures that "made her look fat" and she went into a rage because sister C sent her the photos via a Flickr link that required a password. Sister A took it that the photos were public on the internet. Sister C was really hurt because she did a lot of things for the shower and felt unappreciated.

I was going to call and congratulate her a day or so after, but other younger sister (sister B) said that sister A was having trouble sleeping and was in a lot of pain, so I decided to wait a week or so. My parents called me a couple of days later and bitched me out, how dare I ignore my sister, not acknowledge sister, etc. She apparently had been complaining to my parents that I didn't acknowledge the pictures that she had emailed. I was really taken aback. I didn't even get a 'hello', just a screaming rampage. And I kind of feel like my family doesn't understand how ridiculously busy I am. I am a veterinary student, and I am so very busy having to do this and that and study and clinics... Sister A is the baby and has always been a bit of a 'princess' (gets away with everything). It may also be useful to mention that Sister A also was a bridezilla.

I don't know what to do, if anything. Sister A has not spoken to Sister C or me since the shower. Husband of Sister A does not like sister C, so I imagine he is fueling things. I don't know if I was wrong, or if I should just treat it like other things with my family and enjoy the distance. Any advice?
posted by bolognius maximus to Human Relations (76 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would just suck it up, apologize sincerely to everyone who feels that they need an apology, and put it all behind you. I realize that you don't think you did anything wrong, but in the interests of maintaining some semblance of family harmony, maybe you can just take one for the team. Easier said than done, I know.
posted by alex1965 at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

You made a back-handed comment about her weight and she called you out. Having been pregnant myself, I can't take your comment about her baby shower photos any other way.

Similarly, you are being pretty uncharitable towards your sister concerning the hormones and stress of childbirth.

If you know she was hormonal because she was making another human being inside of her - couldn't you suck it up here and apologize to her, send a nice gift, just be nice?

I don't think the bridezilla or spoiled by your parents details have any bearing on my advice unless we are keeping score "Tit for Tat" style.
posted by jbenben at 12:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [56 favorites]

Send your sister and brother-in-law a congratulatory card wishing them and their new baby all good things. Make no mention whatsoever about the recent tensions. Continue to live 3,000 miles away from them.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [56 favorites]

Wait, so you didn't call your sister after she gave birth to her baby? Every woman who has just had a baby is sleepless and in pain. That's what voicemail is for. If she didn't want to or couldn't answer the phone then you could leave a nice congratulatory message. I think you not calling your sister right away trumps the bad behavior she had at your comment about her photographs. You couldn't take a minute to respond to the email she sent you? Really? You are that busy? I'm sorry but I don't buy it at all. You need to call her and apologize because that is just, well, ouch.
posted by teamnap at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2014 [28 favorites]

Wow, your sister just had a baby and you did NOTHING to acknowledge this. This is totally on you. Everything else about the circumstances do not matter. This is a huge event in your sister's life. You "being busy" does not come close. Write her a letter or phone her. Sincerely apologize. Tell her she looks great, the baby is beautiful. Send a thoughtful gift. Mend this relationship and be a loving aunt to the new darling.
posted by saradarlin at 12:46 PM on July 10, 2014 [31 favorites]

This is Stage 3 of being angry at someone you love:

Stage 1 -- She was angry at you for something you did (or that she perceived you to do).
Stage 2 -- She was angry at you for how you reacted to her being angry at you.
Stage 3 -- She is angry at you because she is angry at you.

The bitch of it is that there is nothing you can do to get out of Stage 3 until she decides she wants to be out of it. She's angry at you, and that's her issue. Anything you do can feed the anger (or not), and you have no control over that whatsoever. So send her a lovely card and something cute for the baby, let it go, and do not let your parents take sides. Next time they start with that shit, tell them, "Mom, Dad, I love you, and I love Sis, and I could probably get better at showing that. And I really need you to not take sides in this, or I'm hanging up."
posted by Etrigan at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

" She did not gain a lot of pregnancy weight, but I could tell from the pics that it was going to be a big baby (and it was, 8 lb 11 oz). I had called her to tell her that I liked the pictures, and that gosh, it's going to be a big baby. "

Just FYI, don't ever, ever, ever do this again. Ever. Even if the women's belly is physically larger than the rest of her body and she has to use a periscope to see where she's going. She is well aware she looks like a beached whale and does not need your helpful commentary on her body.

" I am one of those people that does not think that texts are appropriate for important life events."

You also sound like kind-of a prima donna.

"And I kind of feel like my family doesn't understand how ridiculously busy I am. I am a veterinary student, and I am so very busy having to do this and that and study and clinics"

Okay, but your sister just HAD A BABY. Cut her some damn slack, contact her in whatever her preferred contact method is, congratulate her, and don't complain on the one hand that she texted instead of calling you on your birthday but on the other hand that you're too busy to acknowledge that she had a baby!

This is really, really drama-filled and point-scoring for a group of adults. Yeah, there are a lot of people being badly-behaved here, it's not just you. But if you don't like the drama your sister(s) engage in, then be an adult and don't engage in it, and forgive them their outbursts like you'd forgive a hormonal, sulky teenager. Like an adult.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2014 [92 favorites]

If you want your sister in your life, call her and apologize. I guarantee you're not any busier as a vet student than she is as the mother of an infant. And I say that without having any kids myself. Regardless of whether or not her initial treatment of you was justified, you have now dropped the ball a number of times. Make it right.
posted by something something at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you don't have a lot of respect for Sister A (characterizing what she says as "screaming," going into an unnecessary detail - you weren't involved - about the shower that makes her look bad, "She apparently had been complaining to my parents" instead of "our parents"). Despite how slighted you feel, you should probably just suck it up and apologize. Having a baby is incredibly stressful on one's mind and body. Cut her some slack.

I don't know how your family works, but waiting a week to acknowledge the birth of your niece/nephew seems out of the ordinary.
posted by troika at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you should leave the stuff with your other sisters and this sister's past "bridezilla" behavior out of this, and consider only what you did (or didn't do). So you 1) Made a comment about her body that wasn't received well and 2) haven't called her since the baby was born (I think? Or you did and she didn't answer?) As for the first one, yeah, I mean, I am pregnant and it can be really irritating that all of a sudden people feel like your body is now something they can freely pass comment on. A friend of mine was told by a stranger at a wedding that her unborn baby is "going to be HUGE!" and she was very, very upset. It's a sensitive thing, and although you and others may not feel like it's the biggest deal in the world, to your sister it was and you would be kind to offer her an apology. As for not calling after the baby was born, yeah, you are in the wrong, you need to acknowledge that right away, that's what voicemail is for. Suck it up and make an effort here if you value your relationship with your sister (and new niece/nephew) at all.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:49 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify - she had the baby and you sent a text because she wouldn't answer her phone. Did you do anything else? Send a card, flowers, a gift, tell your parents to make sure she knew you wanted to congratulate her on the birth of your niece/nephew? If not then I'm sorry, but I understand her being annoyed at you.

Ok, she overreacted about the "big baby" comment. I've never been pregnant but I imagine there's a lot tied up with weight, body image, feeling like your body isn't your own etc coupled with raging hormones. I'd let that one slide and apologise for being inadvertently insensitive. But if you have now failed to acknowledge the birth of her first child I kind of think that outweighs her tantrum.

Do whatever you have to do to contact her and apologise, and end the feud if you can. My sister and I have a difficult relationship but I adore her children. Consider that it's not just about making it up with your sister, but being able to be part of her new child's life. You're the Auntie and it's a lovely position to have, and you might regret it if the break between you gets too long and too wide to repair.
posted by billiebee at 12:53 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really just want to reiterate that you're mad she "only" texted you on her birthday and you're miffed because you believe "life events" like birthdays should be acknowledged by phone calls or whatever, but you opted not to acknowledge an actual birth day where she gave birth to an entirely new human being, and you are taken aback that she's pissed about this. If nothing else, examine this birthday-related double-standard. You're mad she "only" texted you, but don't understand why she's mad you blew off her baby being born?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:54 PM on July 10, 2014 [53 favorites]

Definitely figure out some way to acknowledge the birth of your new nephew/niece. Card + little gift would be nice. Online shopping makes it all very easy these days if you don't have the time to go out. You don't have to spend a lot; board books are cheap, so are baby clothes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:54 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you have a lot of history with your family of everyone not less than perfectly including you as you can see from the above comments. However, none of this stuff is major cut your family off level of awful.

I sincerely think you need to let go of things that are petty such as getting a text about the baby*, or your sister being a bridezilla, that stuff is in the past and the only way you're going to have a good relationship going forward is to learn to be less rigid and treat them with kindness and compassion. If they do things you don't like that don't have a huge effect on you try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

You'll have a much nicer relationship with them if you decide to act in a way you can be proud of regardless of the minor annoying things they do.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2014

And I kind of feel like my family doesn't understand how ridiculously busy I am.

This is where you lost me, sorry. You should call your sister and plan a trip to see her and the new baby.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:57 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just one small comment because I think everyone else covered the other aspects.

For yourself, I would reframe this and look at your thoughts and judgments:

...hormonally-fueled (I think) pregnancy ragefest

....just a screaming rampage

......also was a bridezilla

It seems like you are trying to frame your sister as crazy. No,your sister got upset with your specific comment and behavior, not an arbitrary hormone activates a receptor = rage.

I would step and challenge your assumptions.

My guess is that for you,your weak spot is sometimes taking the time to pick up the phone, contact people, whatever. You can mend the problem and moving forward, work on this particular difficulty.

But the framing of this, I would work on this above everything else if possible. Especially since all of us, regardless of gender, have hormones. Don't wave all of this away.
posted by Wolfster at 12:58 PM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

And I kind of feel like my family doesn't understand how ridiculously busy I am.

Come on. You have time to call or email your sister and say congratulations. Seriously. Have you stopped for coffee since the birth? Gone out for lunch? Then you had time to reach out to her.

You simply cannot go through life being "too busy" for major family events. I mean, if the baby was born in the middle of your qualifying exams, you can wait until they are over, but then mind your family obligations.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:00 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take the higher road. Life is too short.

I hope everyone you've talked about outgrows these emotional shenanigans. (you included)

And yes you totally should have called.

And these few phrases make you sound supremely self-centred:

she screamed "F*** you!" into the phone and hung up on me. She has not called me since.

you insulted her and she's supposed to phone you?

My parents called me a couple of days later and bitched me out... I didn't even get a 'hello', just a screaming rampage.

ok they're mad, and they're not going to baby you with "hi hows it going" first, and this is totally ok

I kind of feel like my family doesn't understand how ridiculously busy I am.

Your sister had a baby and you have a niece. That's Important Life Stuff right there.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:01 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this is on you to fix this. I don't even *like* my sister, and I still knit her some babies booties and sent them in advance of her son's birth, then sent a card and called her when I heard he was born. Maybe you did those things too, and just forgot to mention them in this screed of a question? But if not, and if you did in fact do... nothing? When she had her kid? That's not quite right. Sure, she should have apologized for screaming at you and being a hormonal bitch, but in the absence of that, someone has to step up.

It sounds like you're the older sister. You didn't get a chance to apologize for your outta-line comment about the "big baby" (man, I've never been pregnant and there is no way that can read as not calling someone fat, sorry), since she rudely hung up on you. Call her. If she answers, great, have a heart-to-heart and give her a sincere apology for being a) rude, and b) absentee sister by not acknowledging her baby's birth. I get why you didn't call because you didn't want to piss her off or stir up drama, but you neither called, nor texted, nor sent a card, as far as I can tell. You should apologize for not doing any of those things, and you should wish her well.

If she doesn't answer the phone, send her a card and a gift, and include an apology in that card. Your sister might be a huge bitch (mine sure is, frequently), but you were still in the wrong here, on several different levels.
posted by booknerd at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm in the minority here in that I don't think everyone in every tribe needs to make the arrival of a new baby a huge deal. For some in the family, of course it is exciting and life-changing (parents, grandparents, siblings who are close), but for those of us who are NOT super-close to our siblings, either geographically or emotionally, I don't think there should be a de facto cultural expectation that we prioritize this particular life event. Especially "just because" we are women, I think sometimes there is an extra presumption that we'll be as over-the-moon about a new birth as others in the clan.

A grown woman screaming FUCK YOU at a sibling is really bad behavior. It's verbal abuse. If my sister had pulled that on me, I'd've backed the hell away from her and her mama-drama pronto until there was an apology. Hormones aren't an excuse (would she yell at a cop that way? No, she'd keep it together, just as she could've with the OP.)

I'd send a nice card, and just drop it at this point.
posted by nacho fries at 1:07 PM on July 10, 2014 [35 favorites]

You don't think your family appreciates that as a vet student, you don't have time to make phone calls or send congratulatory cards to new babies, and you think *your sister* is the princess of the family?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:13 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: To note:

I did send a gift, and an email. I thought I was being respectful by letting her have her space. My train of thought was that if I were exhausted and painful that I would not want to talk to people. I guess I was incorrect.

I tried several times to call her back and apologize/clarify since I didn't mean things the way she took it. But I've also gotten to the point where I can only try so much, and if people don't want to talk to me, I can't force them. Maybe that makes me self-centered and selfish.

And to those that have asked: Yes, I am that busy. I am lucky to get 5 hours of sleep and maybe grab dinner.

Thanks for all of the comments so far.
posted by bolognius maximus at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I did send a gift, and an email.

I would follow this up with a handwritten letter of apology, and then wait and see. Nobody is so busy that they can't do that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you straight-up called your sister fat, at a time when many, many people are very sensitive about gaining weight, not to mention the hormonal issues. Of COURSE she got upset.

It's very, very difficult for new parents to get the info out about births to everyone. She probably had just sent the last 24+ hours awake and in serious pain, and they are not obligated to call every person in their life after that.

It was pretty terrible of you to not awknowledge the birth in any way. If you felt weird about phone calls because she was tired, you could have texted or emailed or facebooked or something -- surely you're not going to argue that going completely without acknowledging an important life event is better than a text about it? Would that have taken longer than, say, writing this askme? You could have fit it in your schedule if you wanted.

You owe your sister many apologies for how poorly you treated her.
posted by brainmouse at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I suggest that "meeting my neice/nephew!" Might be a good re-entry point to this relationship. Can you text her and ask to set up a 10-minute Skype/FaceTime chat so you can "meet"?

Also, please don't compare your 5 hrs of sleep and maybe dinner to being the mother of a newborn... You will lose that "who's sleepier?" competition before you start. It sounds like your feelings are both hurt but you need to be the bigger person here.
posted by samthemander at 1:25 PM on July 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

She did not gain a lot of pregnancy weight, but I could tell from the pics that it was going to be a big baby (and it was, 8 lb 11 oz).

No, you couldn't tell. You happened to be sort of right (8 lb 11 oz is not much above average), but you absolutely couldn't tell. Trained midwives who have spent their entire lives evaluating pregnant women day in and day out still can't guess how big a baby will be by looking at a woman or even feeling their bellies. And even with ultrasound evidence, obstetricians can be off by *several pounds* even at full term. You couldn't tell by looking. Your sister is probably aware that it is not possible to guess how big a baby will by by looking at a woman's belly, and she therefore assumed that your comments were merely an assessment of how enormous her belly looked compared to how you think it SHOULD have looked. This is not what a pregnant woman wants to hear. I was pregnant, I know. I wasn't even sensitive about my weight (I gained just right, thanks very much) but being told you look "huge" or "like a whale" or anything of that ilk is really not fun.
posted by Cygnet at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2014 [32 favorites]

Speaking as someone with family of origin issues, including a distant, but kinda amicable relationship with my sister and a father of a 3 week old baby... I can say (and I mean this in the nicest possible way), you both need to get over it.

Intentions aside, (Perhaps you have never been pregnant, or you don't have as many body image issues as your sister), you hurt her feelings. Hormones or no, prima donna or not, her feelings are/were hurt.

Still, her response is a bit over the top. I mean, you don't have to like eachother, but at the very least, if you speak or see each other on a regular basis y'all should know how the other person ticks, including idiosyncrasies and cut each other some slack.

My advice to you would be the same to her. Apologize. If it helps, you mentally can add "... that you feel this way." to your "I'm sorry."

You don't have to be scraping and beg her for her forgiveness, nor should you include her faults and character defects, current and past, in your apology.

Saying something along the lines of: "I'm really sorry, I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I totally didn't mean that you were fat when I said that, but I can absolutely see how it could be taken that way, and I feel terrible for saying it." might be the best.

A talk where you own your side of the street and keep her issues out of the conversation make for the best type of apology, and keep the anger from reigniting.

Of course, all of this assumes that you want to put this behind you and try to start from a clean slate. I'm a firm believer in the personal fact that just because someone shares some DNA with me, doesn't mean we should be friends. Still, if you're thinking about it constantly, fantasizing about conversations where you can shut her down once and for all, and generally bothered by it, apologize. Whatever she says in response is what she says. Your side of the street will have been cleared, and if she wants to continue to hold on to the resentment, that's her God-given right to do so. I have long ago given up trying to dictate how someone should feel in response to something I said or did... good, bad, or indifferent.

"It is plain to see that a life filled with deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that may have been worthwhile."
posted by Debaser626 at 1:28 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is the time when you transition from old family power dynamics to healthy adult relationships with your family members. You can't control whether she is angry, upset, hormonal, raging, or whatever else. But you can control your involvement in the drama. I would write a heartfelt handwritten note to her - think about what it means to you that she's your sister, say you're sorry for all of the tensions that have arisen in this past year, acknowledge you are at fault for improper comments you've made and also being less present than you'd like to in their lives, express excitement for the new niece/nephew, ask her to call you when it's convenient for her. I'd wait a few weeks after mailing the note; if she hasn't called, then give her a ring (leave a voicemail if no answer).

If phone calls start erupting into anger or whatever else, just say something like "I'm not interested in rehashing the past. I've apologized for my actions and I hope we can move forward." If she continues to talk about it, say you'll call her at another time and end the call.

Do not talk to your family members about your relationship with Sister A; do not talk to Sister A about Sister C or mom or dad. Your relationship with each member is to be dealt with directly with that family member, not through triangulation.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You know, I could easily see saying "I bet it's going to be a big baby" when I specifically meant "it looks like there's a high baby-to-pregnancy-weight ratio going on there" and was thinking of that as a neutral observation. Granted, that would be a stupid thing to say, and I'm glad you said it first so that I will never.

Are you sort of a science-y person who makes these observations thinking they're neutral? I get that a little bit from the "hormonal" remark - like, are you thinking "I know that there are hormones involved here, that is an explanation not an insult"?

I also think that screaming "fuck you" at a sibling is really bad form, and so is starting a phone call with yelling.

It sounds to me like people in your family have a habit of not being very nice to each other. (And I think the bridezilla stuff is a bit important - if one child is favored, that can create a really bad dynamic - not because the favored child is terrible, or the parents are terrible, but just because it can make things weird and off kilter.)

If I were you, I would rise above. Tell yourself you're doing it to gain power and become a suave and sophisticated person, unlike certain other yell-y people. (I find that a little bit of snotty self-talk like this helps me when I need to do something that makes me anxious or frustrated.) Send a card with an apology and a nice note, and maybe some other present, depending on your budget - maybe something for your sister rather than for the baby, since you've already sent a baby present?

In the future, just don't let yourself get het up about this stuff. Create and hold a mental image of yourself as someone who is Miss-Manners-level correct regardless of how others act, and concentrate on performing that role.
posted by Frowner at 1:34 PM on July 10, 2014 [23 favorites]

(my point being the if you're a certain type of oddball, you may think "this is a neutral observation" when it is totally not experienced that way, and you - like me! - need to watch that so as not to hurt others.)
posted by Frowner at 1:37 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think it might be good to pen (literally, or email) an apology to her. No clarifications or qualifications, just an apology. Maybe you could also write something you appreciate about her. My family is kind of similar to the way yours sounds. Recently my one of my sisters has sent me some mail-- some of it actually hand-written-- about positive things in our relationship, and it's really helped me see things in a better light. The fact that she wrote also helped me because I was not on the spot for a reply.

You're playing a long game here and you need to play to get the results you want. What kind of a relationship do you want with these people down the road? It's OK to want a cordial but distant relationship. Or maybe you want something more. If you can clarify that in your own mind it is easier to cut out distractions.
posted by BibiRose at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2014

Are there planes which fly over this 3,000 miles? If healing this is a priority for you then ask to come see your sister and welcome your niece. Some riffs need to be healed in person.

They are all together and you are far away. I live a similar distance from my family. It's important to recognize that their family dynamic is evolving while you are away. It's unrealistic to believe that their relationships were as they were when you left home.

The other alternative is to decide that you aren't in the game any longer. You're simply not going to engage on their terms. It doesn't sound like your anywhere near that choice.
posted by 26.2 at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another data point. I can totally imagine myself making, to a close friend or family member, the "big baby" comment. If I did, it wouldn't be code for fat, I wouldn't mean any harm, and I would be surprised if it were badly received. Maybe the people here are right that it's tremendously tactless, but still: I think a reasonable person would cut you some slack based on your intent being innocent. Screaming "fuck you" and hanging up seems .. over the top.

For the other stuff, blah, this question catches me on a bad day. I'm busy too, and am currently annoyed because my mother has been in the hospital for the past week (she is elderly: it's not serious) and apparently etiquette requires me to check in daily about test results, what the doctor is saying, what she has eaten, etc. I am doing it, and it is tedious. I also don't generally care about babies, birthdays, etc., and I resent that as a woman I'm expected to do a bunch of emotional caretaking and relationship management that men mostly get off the hook for. Blah.

That said, you need to suck this up, because it's a big deal to people who -at least theoretically- you care about. Apologize to your parents and to her, and take five minutes today to buy her something on Amazon. In the end it'll be less work :)
posted by Susan PG at 1:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Wow, I strongly disagree with the (almost) consensus view here. Regardless of your faux pas, I think someone, anyone, screaming at you to fuck off and then (apparently, according to your re-telling) studiously avoiding your attempts at reconnecting is very out of line.

All the other details you have included (about your parents haranguing you, as well, and about feeling that she was the “golden child”) paint a very dysfunctional image. Your role in this is not apparent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel that the 3,000 miles between you is a blessing.

I’d decide what kind of relationship I want with them and how much I (possibly together with sisters B and C?) want to play black sheep in the family drama, and proceed from there.

Personally, my instincts would be to keep a distance (geographical, emotional) from sister and parents, at least temporarily, remaining far enough for dysfunction issuing from them to not affect you too much, but close enough to still be able to share in the love you all have for each other (that includes your newborn niece or nephew). I would send sister a really nice congratulation letter (not just a card – something really heartfelt, drawing on the bond between you rather than on the most recent ugliness), and then proceed as though nothing has happened. Give up the hope to be vindicated in your family (and/or to be recognized as equally valuable as sister A in ways which are meaningful to you). If it happens, it happens, and if not - well, you have your own life, just focus on making that rich and full.
posted by miorita at 1:50 PM on July 10, 2014 [24 favorites]

Are people reading the latest update? OP did send a gift and did attempt numerous times to contact her sister - via email, phone, and text.

As a student, it just might be possible that she doesn't have the funds for a 3000 mile trip.

You've done what you can, and it sounds like your sister wants drama. Call once a month to say hello, hope you're well, how's the baby, and keep it at that. If she chooses not to answer, that's her choice.

It sounds like your family is ganging up on you. I'm sorry that they're treating you this way.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2014 [20 favorites]

I think you're getting kind of piled on here, asker, and I don't see anything in your question indicating you went too far out of line in any way. Your family, as described, sounds like kind of a headache.

What kind of relationship do you want with your sister? It sounds like you a) gave her space when she appeared to want space and b) responded in kind to the text announcement of the birth. I don't believe you're under any obligation to apologize for failing to acknowledge the emailing of a Flickr link. Speculating about how big the baby is going to be based on how the mother looks may be tactless, but doesn't really merit a "fuck you!" response so I'd call that a wash.

Keep your distance, focus on your life, and don't spend too much time worrying about how to appease people who try to keep you wrapped up in petty family drama.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:54 PM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: And not to threadsit (while working on papers for school) but I tried to be a supportive sister as much as possible throughout the pregnancy. I got her info on doulas and different things, sent her things I thought she could use.

And I didn't call her fat. The words I got out of my mouth before she screamed were, "That's going to be a big baby." That's all. I wasn't trying to be offensive. Maybe it's the clinician in me. Maybe that makes me a giant asshole.

And I never said that having kids isn't work. I have acknowledged that.

Frowner, you have it. When I was accepted to vet school, my parents literally did not even congratulate me. It was, "Oh...that's nice". When pregnancy was announced, you would think that they won the lottery. I tried to not let it bother me. But the comments from my family continue on. "Aren't you done yet? That's a two-year degree, right?" "Why don't you do something normal like be a teacher or a secretary?" (yes, my dad really said that).

Yes, I am one of those socially sometimes very awkward sorts. I had no mal intentions towards my sister. I was trying to make converstation, and I failed. I am feeling, after reading a majority of the responses, that dedication to medicine and career is a waste of time and not respected. I try to give pregnant women and those that are already moms a lot of credit because it sounds absolutely exhausting, yet am frustrated by the lack of same consideration that is given to someone who chooses an intense career over children. And yes, it is that intensive. It's the same as medical school, except you have to learn several different species instead of just one. I understand that she is up all night and constantly going, taking care of another being. Yet being up all night on rotations and with patients and in surgery isn't the same?

I will send an apology, as many have suggested. I am not really hopeful for anything. And yes, miorita, the miles are a blessing. It has always been dysfunctional, I gave up on any hope of 'normal' years ago.

thanks again for the responses.
posted by bolognius maximus at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2014 [27 favorites]

She did not gain a lot of pregnancy weight, but I could tell from the pics that it was going to be a big baby (and it was, 8 lb 11 oz).

Even if this was not a comment about her weight, how could she have possibly taken it?! I got some of those comments followed up by ". . . so you'll probably need a c-section" or "there's no way you'll be able to have a natural birth." So it's either hurtful body policing or hurtful fear mongering. Yay?

In the future, please say nothing about pregnant bellies except that they're beautiful.

Someone in another askMe question recently linked to this theory: comfort in; dump out. It's really helped me to understand why so many social situations go wrong. My husband likes to talk about certain situations not being about person x. You are making your sister's birth and pregnancy about you. Also, apologizing for her taking your comment the wrong was is not really apologizing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:02 PM on July 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

OP this is path you should not follow:

Maybe it's the clinician in me. Maybe that makes me a giant asshole.

You are not her clinician. In fact you are not a clinician for humans. Commenting on other people's girth is not helpful.

If you're clinging to some belief that vet school gives you standing to make that comment, then I encourage you to rethink that.
posted by 26.2 at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2014 [20 favorites]

dedication to medicine and career is a waste of time and not respected.

One thing I hope you can take away from this incident, and from the responses you've gotten here, is that your self-worth is inherent and no one gets to sit in judgment of you, or compare-contrast your lived experience with that of another woman in order to treat you as lesser-than. Vet school is a high achievement, and vet work is a higher calling -- to heal those creatures among us that can't heal themselves. Don't let any haters suggest that making a new human life is inherently a higher calling than saving a non-human one (I'm not suggesting making a baby is a lesser calling -- just a different one). Apples and oranges, my dear.

Enjoy your fascinating career, and let the haters roll off your back like water off a duck's ass.

(I grew up in a family where my accomplishments, including admission to a super-duper-competitive graduate program, were pooh-poohed in favor of the golden child in the clan...who ended up in jail eventually. I feel ya.)
posted by nacho fries at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

Frowner, you have it. When I was accepted to vet school, my parents literally did not even congratulate me. It was, "Oh...that's nice". When pregnancy was announced, you would think that they won the lottery. I tried to not let it bother me. But the comments from my family continue on. "Aren't you done yet? That's a two-year degree, right?" "Why don't you do something normal like be a teacher or a secretary?" (yes, my dad really said that).

None of this is your sister's fault. I get that you're frustrated and that you didn't intend to be hurtful, but it sounds to me like you're letting these problems with your parents poison your relationship with your sister. If marriage and childrearing are things that make her happy, you, as a sister, should be there to celebrate that for her, just as you'd want her to be there celebrating your achievements with you. The fact that she's a princess or favored or whatever makes her no less deserving of happiness.

Honestly, I think it's time to stop letting your parents get between you and to start working on a relationship with your sister that's about the two of you. If your parents try to interfere, tell them that you and Sis are grown-ups and can talk things out yourselves. And then do it. Your relationship will be much better for it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:19 PM on July 10, 2014 [17 favorites]

I don't understand how everyone in this thread (and your sister, apparently) is interpreting your original comment as an insult; I don't see it that way, but then again, I have zero experience with pregnant women.

I think ThatCanadianGirl said it best. Acknowledge it, send a thank you card, and continue to live 3,000 miles away from them.
posted by tckma at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

I guess I'm also in the minority here, but I can't stand it when women pull out the I JUST HAD A BABY card as an excuse for bad behavior. I also call bullshit when people are all like "you can't possibly be more exhausted than a mother with a newborn because BABIES TRUMP EVERYTHING!!!"

Your sister sounds like a spoiled brat. Your family sounds toxic. But if you want to retain some sort of amicable relationship with your them, apologize and tell them you'll visit as soon as you can. If they don't accept it, it's their loss.

Kudos for following your own path and staying far away.
posted by phoenix_rising at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [34 favorites]

I'm not even going to begin to address the particulars of your question. I just want to say this...

You have got to stop letting your parents dictate your relationship with your sister. I think you have a lot of baggage (not that this is your fault) pent up about your sister(s) because of the differences in how your parents and the rest of your family treat you all. It will really, really help you if you completely re-frame your relationships with your sisters as adults, entirely separate from the way you related to each other as kids, and just refuse to let the rest of the crap come into the picture. Seriously, fuck your parents and the ways they might try to compare you guys to each other.

My brother and I are best friends now, after an entire childhood spent hating each other and fighting constantly, and a large part of it was because we both decided to just not engage with the rest of the family when they tried to badmouth one or the other of us. Our relationship as siblings is separate and special and completely independent (by our conscious choice) of anything anyone else in the family has to say.

So, do whatever you need to do (apologize profusely, visit her home and sit on her porch until she comes out to talk to you, etc) to start talking with your sister again. Don't talk to your parents or your other sister about this any more. Just keep talking to your sister until you can both move past this and get to know each other again, as adults.

p.s. I am totally the weird one in my family, so I absolutely feel you on this. My brother thought I was the weird one, too, until we learned how to see each other as separate from our family. Now I'm not "weird," I've just made different choices than the rest of them.
posted by phunniemee at 2:46 PM on July 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think you should probably rise above, because your sister is truly surging with hormones, and as someone who has to do a lot of health maintenance to keep my mental health straight (not anxious/depressed)... pregnancy seems like a nightmare.

I totally get the feeling underappreciated part too-- my parents would love for me to have stayed at home and had a baby instead of going to college. And I'm not saying your sister is perfect, because yelling FUCK YOU is fucked up.

However, everyone has some entitlement going on:

I am one of those people that does not think that texts are appropriate for important life events.

This is not really an appropriate attitude. It was her pregnancy, her baby-- she chose to share it with you. A lot of people find texting just as intimate as calling in today's world. Would it have been better if she'd emailed? Or sent a letter? Telegraph? Was calling the only OK choice? Why? I ask these questions to highlight the fact that different forms of communication have been considered intimate/necessary/the only option when separated from loved ones over time. Texting is not the most expressive medium but it is at least an immediate one.

You don't have to feel the same way about texting, but it's not about you.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:50 PM on July 10, 2014

You obviously haven't given up hope on "normal". That's TOTALLY FINE, by the way.

Fuck them, ok? You're doing great. Just let that shit slide right off your back. You're kicking ass, you are doing great, you sent a gift which is way more than most people figure out how to do.


Ok? Now, go, and care about your family's dumb and sexist opinions no more.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:51 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh also I've had a baby and screaming "fuck you" at someone might have been something I would do post-baby but eventually I'd apologize because, you know, having a baby does not render you emotionally incontinent until the end of time. Calling someone big when they're, you know, big, is not some kind of character assassination. Sensitivity to it is fine but jesus fucking christ.

Just move on and let these people be ridiculous and miserable and keep rockin' it in your chosen life path which is awesome, BTW.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:55 PM on July 10, 2014 [33 favorites]

I'm really surprised at some of the harshness you're getting in this thread, OP.

Being pregnant is not an excuse for your sister (or anyone) to be a jackass. I'm sorry, but that's what she was. Unless you straight up told her "you are a fat moo-cow because of your butter eatings", there's no excuse for her to scream "F you" and hang up. That's what children do.

I get that pregnancy is stressful, I really do, but so is a death in the family, and so is losing your job, and so is a severe sickness, and no one in this thread would excuse anyone in those situations if they said "F you" after an innocently meant comment that happened to come out wrong.

That said, you have two options that I can see, depending on the outcome you want:

Outcome 1: Your family relations continue as normal, but they also will continue to expect things from you.
Action Plan: Swallow your pride a bit and apologize to your sister, even if you don't mean it. Call her and leave a voicemail if she won't answer, or apologize directly to her if she does. You will probably have to visit her and coo over the baby. Continue to call her regularly to check up on her.

Outcome 2: Your family will probably not look upon you favorably, but they will no longer expect emotions that you don't want to give.
Action Plan: Call her and explain that your comment was not meant to offend, wish her well, then don't talk to her for a while. Keep the family at arm's length and celebrate your stress-free life.

To be honest, this question sounds more like "how to deal with my family" rather than "how do I deal with my sister" the more I got down the page. Good luck.
posted by Verdandi at 3:00 PM on July 10, 2014 [16 favorites]

One possible way to look at it: the way your family members treat you may have something to do with feeling you don't need to be propped up because you have this wonderful career going for you. If they are jealous or threatened by your success, it wouldn't be the first time this happened in a family where someone is a doctor. You don't want to be one of those people who walk around thinking people are jealous of them, but on the other hand I don't think you have to assume that they believe your achievements don't count. It may be more like they think your career puts you on a different plane. And/or, indeed, they may resent you some; your father's comment suggests that. So maybe have a little bit of hope that they can get over it once they get used to having a doc in the family. (I'm guessing that already, despite what your father says to your face, he sometimes pulls that out to brag about.)

But otherwise, I agree with concentrating on your sister. She will be in the picture for much longer.
posted by BibiRose at 3:12 PM on July 10, 2014

Wow, there is a lot to unpack here, and frankly, I think that a fair amount of the posters here are taking your question in a pretty uncharitable light.
I had called her to tell her that I liked the pictures, and that gosh, it's going to be a big baby. She apparently took it as I was calling her fat, and she screamed "F*** you!" into the phone and hung up on me. She has not called me since.
As you stated, you meant the statement as "your bump to body ratio is large." Was that the best comment to make? No. Is it worth the vitriol you're getting in this thread? No. You said something that could be taken in a very bad light, and it upset your sister. You made an innocently ignorant mistake. It happens to us all. If you have apologized and explained what you meant to say, than the situation should be over with as far as you're concerned. She has a right to her anger, and can decide if she wants to forgive you, but that's on her, not you.
She sent me a text on my birthday. It was a group text actually, because my brother-in-law (different sister) has the same birthday. She texted the arrival of the baby. I am one of those people that does not think that texts are appropriate for important life events. I responded with a text because she would not answer her phone.
You tried to call but she didn't pick up, so you texted her your thanks and well wishes instead. Maybe it wasn't your preferred method of communication, but you answered in the same way that she initiated. Nothing to see here.
My oldest sister (sister C) took the photos at the shower. Sister A screamed at her for taking pictures that "made her look fat" and she went into a rage because sister C sent her the photos via a Flickr link that required a password. Sister A took it that the photos were public on the internet. Sister C was really hurt because she did a lot of things for the shower and felt unappreciated.
I generally think that the reason a person chooses to include a piece of information is just as important as the actual content. Sister C tried to do something nice for Sister A and was treated badly. Do you feel that your family has been going out of their way to make sure that Sister A is showered with appropriate amounts of attention and praise for her life events, but that she isn't appropriately thankful for it? Do you think that she has an entitled attitude towards the family? That seems to be what you're trying to indicate, but I'm not sure.

Here's the thing, I had to think about your question for a while before answering because it struck me as being a bit of an XY problem. Are you really asking if you were inappropriate towards your sister? Or, are you actually wondering how much attention is appropriate to give to someone who you feel is pretty spoiled and entitled? The thing about coming from a family where all the members are predisposed to rallying entirely around a single children, is that it's hard to vocalize in a paragraph what amounts to an entire life of accumulated minor slights. The best way that I've found to describe it, is to say that one member is the lead singer while the rest are expected to be the very best back up singers that they can be. I would imagine that it's pretty hard to be struggling through graduate school, while your family is expecting you to be a fully available member of the Sister A Show.
I was going to call and congratulate her a day or so after, but other younger sister (sister B) said that sister A was having trouble sleeping and was in a lot of pain, so I decided to wait a week or so.
My general understanding of etiquette is that calling someone within a week or so of a major life event is acceptable. Most people expect that the first few weeks after they are married, have a baby, or graduate, will include receiving well wishes. The only time that I've seen a couple expect immediate praise is when they're from a family where promptness is equated with love. As in, if the baby was born on Tuesday, the people who call on Wednesday love the couple more than the people who call on Saturday. Is that the situation in your family?
Sister A is the baby and has always been a bit of a 'princess' (gets away with everything). It may also be useful to mention that Sister A also was a bridezilla.
Again, do you feel that your sister is entitled? Do you feel that you've given all the praise and attention that you have the time resources to give, given the responsibilities that you have in your life right now?
I don't know what to do, if anything. Sister A has not spoken to Sister C or me since the shower. Husband of Sister A does not like sister C, so I imagine he is fueling things. I don't know if I was wrong, or if I should just treat it like other things with my family and enjoy the distance. Any advice?
How do you feel about your sister's attitude and behaviour? Do you want to apologize, or just let this go? If you apologize, would you be doing because you're actually sorry, or to regain standing in the eyes of your parents?

My main point is this: If you are too busy to engage your sister to the level that is demanded by your family, then you really need to stand up for yourself. You seem to have made every attempt to make sure that you praised your sister's big life moments, even if they weren't as prompt as your family would like (but still within proper etiquette). At some point, it should be accepted that you're doing the best that you can to interact with your sister within the bounds of what your own life goals will allow, and you're allowed to say that to them. Stand up for yourself and your own life, you're just as much of a child of your family as Sister A is.
posted by Shouraku at 3:19 PM on July 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

For those who do not understand why comments like "That's gonna be a big baby!" is hurtful:

Being pregnant renders your body "public property" in that people feel perfectly free to offer their commentary on it all the damn time. Most people are nice and are happy for you, but some are jerks, and in any case, it gets wearing. None of your clothes fit, you are leaking fluids from unusual orifices and inconvenient times, your body is changing literally daily in ways that are very difficult to deal with emotionally -- collecting stretch marks and blown capillaries and varicose veins and God knows what else, and nothing fits, and your ass is showing, and you fart incessantly, and some day food won't stay down, and you find that you spilled stuff all over your belly and that was your LAST SHIRT and you're constantly covered in crumbs and chairs hurt and beds hurt and standing hurts and your shoes don't fit and the whole thing is a giant pile of frustration, body image issues, and -- yeah -- feeling not very pretty.

I am a small woman who carried GINORMOUS even though I had pretty average-sized babies, and people in the grocery store line felt perfectly free to offer their opinions on the health of my pregnancy. "How far along are you?" "Six months." "You must have gestational diabetes, that isn't healthy for your baby." ... "How far along are you?" "Seven months." "Oh my God, are you having TWINS? I've never SEEN anyone so huge!"

I didn't SAY "fuck you" because that would have been inappropriate and rude, but I definitely THOUGHT "fuck you" in my head, because, hello stranger inappropriate people, I do not need your commentary on exactly HOW MUCH OF A WHALE I LOOK LIKE. If a family member had said something like that, my feelings would have been really, really hurt.

Really the only appropriate comment to a pregnant woman about her body is "You look great!" You can vary this with "You're glowing!" or "What a cute top!" or "You are the cutest pregnant person!" but people have been commenting on her body for months, she has mixed feelings about this, and it is going to be fraught.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:22 PM on July 10, 2014 [33 favorites]

I'm really surprised at some of the harshness you're getting in this thread, OP.

Wow. Me too. I can't imagine someone in my family screaming "F*ck you" or my parents yelling at me, as a grown woman, for how I treat my sister. I don't think that's okay. Personally, I understand wanting to keep some space. However--even though I don't think you've done anything wrong--I think you'll feel better if you focus on forgiveness. Forgive your family for screwing up, and if they do again, forgive them again. Apologize if you have to. In the long run, it's the best course.
posted by three_red_balloons at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Another one who thinks you don't really merit the pile-on, OP. I had a baby 4 months ago (my first) and I emailed the news to my family. I got congratulatory emails back from a couple siblings, and talked on the phone/saw others in person when I was ready. We aren't a super close family so this wasn't a weird way to do it. I can't say I'd have taken the "that's going to be a big baby" comment well (I might have thought it was a coded fat comment and I was super worried during my whole pregnancy about gaining too much weight) but I still wouldn't have screamed at anyone about it. (This is why I have a therapist, so I can unpack those things.) (But yes, in future, the best thing to say to a pregnant lady is "you look so great!" and keep it at that. I translated all those comments anyway to "you look so pregnant!" in my head and didn't believe anyone that I looked OK at all, but that's me being neurotic.)

Given your follow-up posts - that you've reached out since - I think you can keep reaching out to your sister if you want, but be clear with yourself on what you hope to have happen. It doesn't sound like a really solid relationship with your sister or your parents is possible right now.

Just one thing:

I try to give pregnant women and those that are already moms a lot of credit because it sounds absolutely exhausting, yet am frustrated by the lack of same consideration that is given to someone who chooses an intense career over children. And yes, it is that intensive. It's the same as medical school, except you have to learn several different species instead of just one. I understand that she is up all night and constantly going, taking care of another being. Yet being up all night on rotations and with patients and in surgery isn't the same?

Speaking as someone who worked 60 hours a week all through her pregnancy, yeah, they are kind of equivalent. (I'm not in a medical field but it's intense.) But I wanted to note that it's not an either/or: I wouldn't want to be pregnant WHILE in vet school, but it's totally possible to have a baby and an intense career (because now I have both!) (Also every single vet at our practice has kids, which was awesome for us because they all gave us great advice about how to get the cats ready and how to handle baby-cat integration. And also how to handle baby-litter box incidents.)

Note: my 8 weeks of maternity leave really felt like a vacation to me, even with all the getting up at night and feeding issues and crying. I am not exaggerating when I say that.
posted by data hound at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Your sister sounds like the pregnancy hormones drove her slightly psychotic. They do sometimes and of course if your sister was a personality before it can make her even more so.

I would take steps to make sure that you stay close to your other family members. Call, chat, comment on how beautiful the new baby is, what ever you would usually do if there was not this issue between you and your sister.

I would send your sister a not expensive but useful new baby gift, no matter how late, with a short scribbled note "He looks absolutely precious!" or something like that. I wouldn't comment on it being late. She knows its late.

I would continue to make light contact that way from time to time, birthday cards, Keep it short, gentle, affectionate and... keep your distance.

You don't need to hang out with a sister who is psycho. You don't want to burn any bridges but you definitely don't need her to yell at your or rage at you especially over stupid little things. The best thing to do is wait it out. With luck and patience she will probably get over it when the hormones settle down. If she doesn't then she is toxic enough you need to keep her at arms length. Getting into it with her will probably fan the flames. So don't try and have it out with her. Don't apologize either. When someone is channeling rage an apology can serve only as a reminder that you exist and that you committed the crime.

If she ever calms down and is friendly you can certainly give her an apology but really, since you didn't insult her, the apology isn't needed. She's the one who perhaps needs to apologize to you for screaming at you and going into such a rage at you, but rather than try to get an apology from her let it ride. Pregnancy hormones can be a real train wreck.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:29 PM on July 10, 2014

I can definitely imagine myself saying something like you did about the bump-to-body ratio, fully intended to be a compliment but sadly misinterpreted. Ok, lesson learned.

That said, I think the pregnancy/baby/hormones thing is a huge red herring. Also, it sounds like this isn't really between you and Sister A, it's between Sister A + Parents + potentially Sister A's hubby vs. everybody else. It's an engrained family dynamic. Sibling rivalry really sucks combined with parents fueling it. I wish I had better advice, but it's something I'm just beginning to work through in my 30s. With my own siblings, I can kind of slide back into their good graces by resuming normal communication and not bringing up the drama. I don't know if it's the most healthy approach, but sometimes it's all I can muster. But seriously, live your own life, and stay 3000 miles away.
posted by karbonokapi at 3:32 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen this addressed yet, so I'll just add: you are actually butting heads with your sister because you are too alike, and you are too close to the problem to see it.

Saying inappropriate things? Check.
Ongoing poor communication skills? Check.
Nursing a grudge like it's dying? Check.
Star of your own show (you: academics; her: the wedding, and now the baby -- that your parents value her choices over yours, and like to stir the pot, just feeds into the dysfunction)? Check.

Do keep trying to stay in touch, and just be low-key about it; with any luck, the two of you -- or, rather, the four of you, all of your siblings -- will be hanging out in a few years' time during one of your visits, drinking margaritas and laughingly ganging up on your folks re: their lousy, divisive parenting style.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2014 [21 favorites]

Okay, first of all, I just want to validate that your parents attitude towards you and your sister really sucks. If there really is that much favoritism going on, then I can see how you would have built up resentment towards both your sister and your parents. I also think you are getting piled on here, and I imagine that might be very hurtful since it's (in a small way) replicating the kind of dynamic it sounds like you were subjected to growing up and as an adult.

Based on your family's response, I imagine you've dealt with a lot of invalidation about your own lived experience. Your accomplishments deserve every bit as much recognition as your sister's, and it is really awful that your parents have poisoned these relationships through their bias. I would take a huge step back from them. It sounds like the geographical distance is already a good first step.

I could also see, if I were in your position, how nursing anger towards your sister, including about her past bad behavior, would help validate your own lived experience, and that can be really powerful, especially with your parents behaving the way they are. That kind of injustice can be very hard to take.

The tough part about this situation is that while your parents deserve a huge amount of blame for this kind of poisonous favoritism, I feel like you could cut your sister a little more slack. She is absolutely responsible for her behavior as an adult, and temper tantrums are not really acceptable at any age. Granted, being pregnant/giving birth should be taken into consideration (as should a crazy work/school schedule or health problems, death in the family, etc), but she should still have ultimately owned up to her overreaction.

If you wanted to also take a huge step back from your sister, that is understandable. However, if you think there is something in that relationship worth salvaging, and if you think your sister might be amenable to some sort of reconciliation, then it might help if you see your sister as a victim of your parents treatment just as you are. It's obviously different when you're on the "favored" side of things, but it seems like she has also been shaped in negative ways by your parents' attitude. This may not be something that you feel up to right now, but anger can be poisonous in its own way, and maybe having a bit more compassion towards your sister and acknowledging your role in this series of events might help you and her move on from this.

Now if you do reach out to her and continue getting this kind of response, then I would cut your losses and stick with family and friends who treat you with the caring and respect that you deserve. Everyone makes mistakes, and I believe in cutting people slack especially under difficult circumstances, but that is also dependent on their willingness to acknowledge their part and to make changes. If your sister isn't willing or able to do that, then I think you should just behave in a way that fits with your values and focus on building a life and career that make you happy. You deserve it.

One last thing: I'm kind of surprised this hasn't been mentioned already, but if you've never been to therapy before, this is the kind of thing that can be really useful to discuss with a therapist. I get that time and finances might not make this a feasible option at the moment, but it might be something to consider at some point.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:44 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

OP, I also think your actions can be viewed much more charitably than how your family and a number of responders here see them. I read your responding with text to the birth announcement as trying to meet your sister on her communication terms (and some people don't like or listen to voicemails, so not leaving one could have been a further consideration).

I've never had a baby or been in grad school, but I've heard people refer to both as "the hardest time in my life" (some people who have done both!) and I think there should be a bit more understanding on both sides of the family. However, since you can only control your own actions, I agree that you should send her an email/letter of apology, heartfelt and without condition or excuse. And then take under consideration some of the other good suggestions about figuring out how to have the best (for your own health and confidence) relationship with your family going forward. Good luck in school!
posted by tyrantkitty at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better, OP, when I was pregnant I not only endured my boss repeatedly asking me "how's the fat person today?", my mother gleefully informing me that my brother had commented on how much weight I'd put on before he even knew I was pregnant, and my entire family saying "Crikey, are you *still* eating? No wonder you're that size!" all through Christmas, but I did so without even wanting to say "F*** you" to anyone (well, no more than usual, anyway; we do a lot of benign swearing in my family). The thing is, people can be outrageously dickish when you're preggers, but they can also treat you like you're deeply special and be terribly excited for you, and I think you just have to take the rough with the smooth. I'm not at all sure your sister's reaction should be accepted as readily as it has been here, and I can totally see why you're hurt by it; as others have already said, pregnancy hormones are no picnic, but they don't give you a free pass to total ass-hattery.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know you're really busy, but do you think that you might be able to carve out some time for therapy? It sounds like you come from a very intense family that has a lot of drama in it and disengaging from that is really, really hard. Incredibly hard. It might really help you to see someone to talk through this stuff, and to talk through a lot of the things you mentioned in your update.

You've apologized, you sent a gift, you've tried to keep in touch. It might be time to disengage. That doesn't mean cut her or your family out, but together with a therapist you might be able to figure out what level of contact keeps you happy.
posted by sockermom at 4:50 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am also going to dissent from the consensus a bit-- I would have made the "that is going to be a big baby!" comment thinking it was a neutral observation on the size of her baby bump. I would have been wrong, and you were wrong in action but not intent. This is what apologies are for even if their reaction "does not compute" for you.

I am also one of those people who completely does not relate to those AskMes that say, "My sister on the other side of the country is having a baby. I am so excited. How can I be the BEST AUNT EVER to my future niece?!?!????!" I suspect you are just as befuddled by these sort of reactions and, so you did what I would have done: sent a gift, then called and if no one answered after a couple of times, figure they were too busy to answer the phone, and wish them well over voicemail and hope they received the gift and/or flowers rather than get desperate to congratulate your sister by phone (I suspect your sister and your parents expected you to make ever-more-agitated attempts to get in touch with them and when you didn't after your initial unanswered contacts, they got angry).

I think this is one of those situations where you start to realize that you are the odd man out in the family-- the aunt who the nieces and nephews see over holidays who has a completely separate life. The advantage is that if any of them turn out to have a temperament more like yours, you will be the one they turn to when they're adolescents.

So yes, send a handwritten note with an apology and some flowers. Bring the baby a nice present for Christmas. And once you've done that, you will know that no one in the family has anything to hang over your head-- you did all the "right" things, so any additional complaining on their end is just extra-petty.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 4:59 PM on July 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

Wow. Me too. I can't imagine someone in my family screaming "F*ck you" or my parents yelling at me, as a grown woman, for how I treat my sister.

I can see how this dynamic would occur. It happens when one child is the crazy one and the parents want to stay on that child's good side, especially because the child controls access to the grandchildren. The parents have likely spend most of the child's life (and ESPECIALLY now) tip-toeing around the child's craziness, and when the child lets loose on you, they blame you and resent you for not treating your sibling with the kid gloves that they have had to for many years. How much this bothers you depends in how much you prioritize having your parents' approval, particularly having as much approval and attention as your sister does. Since my educated guess is that your parents will never do that, you should let it go and stop trying to convince your parents that you are right.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 5:12 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Mod note: Comment removed. Please keep it constructive; this is AskMe, not JudgeMe.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:55 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

My goodness OP, don't listen to anyone telling you you're in the wrong. I'm knocked up myself and if I end up screaming at anyone during this thing let the record show that hormones are no excuse and I'd better be apologising, and fast.

In hindsight the big baby comment probably wasn't a great idea. Oh well. Given that she's screaming blue murder at people (and not just at you) maybe she can just effing deal with it. If someone made that comment at me I would not be offended that it's some coded fat thing, more that I'd be super freaked out at how I'm meant to get something that size out of my vajayjay. To each their own.

I'm no fan of parents who enable some of their kids (but not others) to be brats but you can't really fix that other than to shut them down if they try to berate you about it again. Cite your past efforts. It probably won't change things but you'll have done it.

It's hard to deconstruct family dynamics but if it were me I would make one more minimum gesture of gift+good wishes+compliment on cute baby/post baby figure, make a phone call and leave a message. I'd visit in person if there's some family gathering but not for the sole purpose of making an apology/validating her screaming behaviour. She's lashed out at your other siblings - she's the common denominator in this, not you.

I really love my friends' kids but I would never expect other people hold a parade just because I had one myself. I mean, yay me, but that's my thing.
posted by scuza at 5:57 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Some of the responses answers you're getting are downright odd. What you said was awkward, at best and as your sister was pregnant and not say, actually in labor at the time you said it, there's no excuse for her response.

To be honest, I wouldn't even apologize for what you said. I would, however, let it drop. Just send a handwritten follow-up card congratulating them and asking about the baby and wishing them well.
posted by bgal81 at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You've gotten many comments regarding the conversations with your sister and the relationships in your family, so I won't comment on that further. But I did have this to add:

I have been through medical school and residency, so I know how it is to be about as busy as a person can be. Two things I learned:

1. Not to try to compare my hardships/achievements with those of others. I can see where you're coming from that your parents don't appreciate your career choice. Your achievements are great. Your sister having a baby is still special. Don't fall into the trap of comparing how easy moms have it compared to career women, etc - it will just lead to strife. What moms do is hard. What career women do is hard. Being a mom is great. Being a career woman is great. Try not to let yourself get caught up in the mommy wars rhetoric.

2. Don't expect people to understand how hard it is, and try not to let your career take your life and family away from you. Things like medical school and vet school are their own cultures and they are experiences few people will have - they aren't near universal types of difficult experiences so it can be hard for other people to really identify. (I mean, I went to med school, I'm sure it's actually quite similar and I thought it was pretty life-crushing, and still I read your post and thought "you're just a vet student, how hard could it be?" - even me! Just being honest.) You want to have people you can vent to at times. I've found some of the best people to vent to are other people who have been through the same things. I can't expect my brother to understand how I felt after I had to do a cricothyroidotomy on someone. He'll just never understand how hard that was, and I'm OK with that because I have other people I can talk to who know exactly what I mean and can really talk to me about it. Then, even though at times I have a million things to do and am running low on sleep, I still need to devote time to both taking care of myself and spending time with family/friends, staying socially connected. If you keep telling yourself you are too busy to be more connected, you'll just end up burned out and with burned bridges instead of a strong support network when you need it most. Or you might just turn around one day and realize that you missed out on relationships you could have had with your family/events that will never happen again. Life is short. Your career lasts for years, but your family lasts forever. It sounds like your family can be tough to deal with, but I hope you can all move past this and enjoy each other's company again.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:54 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are the black sheep! Enjoy it. You can do no right so just keep doing wrong in their eyes. Ignore the drama, don't play into it. You have a niece now who, as she grows up, will think that her black sheep aunt is super cool. Decide what you will do for her consistently throughout her growing up years that will set you apart. I have a friend whose daughter received a new purse every Easter from me until she was old enough to buy her own purses. What can you do to develop a relationship with your niece? Whatever it is, be consistent. The moment you forget, your family will be all over it. Choose something easy and make your life matter more than theirs. Cool Aunt Black Sheep, stay cool.
posted by myselfasme at 11:13 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

As myselfasme says...stay cool. get on with your black sheep self. From one black sheep to another:

I'm in my late-twenties and those around us, family and friends, are entering different stages of their lives. Obviously, priorities are shifting, and the priorities of others aren't necessarily going to be yours and vice versa. Don't let people try to dictate your priorities, either. Believe me, they will try. Don't let them. Yes, babies are awesome, mothers are AMAZING, but not even motherhood is a free pass to act a fool.

If all else fails, try to kill 'em with kindness. In the spirit of kindness, since your sister is not answering her cell phone, automatically leave a voicemail on her cell using slydial.com. Boom. You've done your part-- ball is in her court.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 11:36 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

My perspective is not so different to others, but for data's worth: your comment was off. I appreciate that people think that those comments are nuetral and not insulting, but as a formerly pregnant person I can vouch for the experience of many others which is that LOTS of people make these sort of comments. And so it gets very trying. Also-- people do gain quite varying amounts of weight in pregnancy-- I gained quite a bit, and so when people commented on how big I was it was in fact because I had gained a lot of fat. And I knew that. So that was what people were commenting on. This is not unusual. Also, your thing about not texting for a baby seems out of line too. They had the happy occassion, so it is your job to do the calling. Having said that, you did call-- kudos to you, but I would not die on the hill named 'they shouldn't have texted their important life news'.


Her response to all of this was outrageous and completely OTT. There is no hormone that 'creates' that response to the comment/insult. Your parents also sound heaps annoying.

Your comments re: vet school seem...irrelevant atm. If you have issues with the way your family views your chosen career path, then that is the case regardless of whether you accidentally insulted your sister, or called her enough times, or whatever. Try not to conflate it all because if you do this then every minor dispute will become about your deep-seated and long-held resentment. This is a recipe for constant conflict. Either deal with those issues or, as you say-- enjoy the distance.

Personally, I would go with the approach of ignoring her crazy drama and continuing to act in a way that you think, and all along though, was appropriate. Try to focus on mainting a standard of behaviour that you feel is fair and even generous and don't expect that back in return. Get your validation over your career path and experiences outside your family. Not appreciating the hard work you do in your career is like family drama 101, I think. Really really common. Annoying but try to just ignore.
posted by jojobobo at 12:24 AM on July 11, 2014

My mom's family is like this, keeping score, talking about each other behind their backs and drama, drama, drama. She hasn't spoken to my aunt in almost a decade over some tiff at my sister's wedding.

If it were me, the less time you spend thinking about it, the better. Don't comment, don't prostrate yourself apologizing. Just get on with your life. IMO, you may have made some social faux-pas, but their reaction was completely out of proportion to the offense
posted by empath at 1:42 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

All families are dysfunctional, so acknowledge that yours is as well.

I agree a handwritten, sincere letter of apology is in order.

Dear Sis,

Thank you so much for sending photos of little Anglea, she's gorgeous and I'm so excited to be an aunt. I really want to apologize for what I said to you. I didn't intend to upset you and it was really thoughtless of me. I love you and I want nothing but the best for you and your family.

Honestly, is that so hard? As for your birth order issues, and sibling rivalry and all of that...rise above it.

I eat so much shit when I'm with my family, mostly to keep the peace. I love my family, and I love them a LOT more at 800 miles away from me.

So eat some shit, make peace and get to know your niece.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:44 AM on July 11, 2014

In between the two extremes I think you both behaved kind of badly and your best bet is to simply call her up and chat without anyone having to apologize. She's your family, she's not going anywhere. Make an effort to be part of her life by just chilling out and talking to her about the kid, your studies, and everything else. Sometimes loving someone means being able to just move on past bad stuff.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:44 AM on July 11, 2014

Next time you hear from anyone in your family, tell them, "I called, I emailed, I sent a gift, I apologized, the ball is in her court, I'm not going to discuss this anymore." And then don't discuss it. You made a well-intentioned, innocent comment that is of a nature that is widely interpreted in the worst possible light for complicated and valid reasons that have nothing to do with you. Now you know this, you've apologized, and you shouldn't ever do it again. Your sister, on the other hand, screamed "fuck you" in response, and has given you the silent treatment for four months while she holds a grudge and stirs up drama. Even if pregnancy hormones caused her to lose all control over herself in the moment, she's had four months to apologize or at least move on and she hasn't. You are not the one in the wrong here.

On the congratulatory phone call, while some people here think that's an "of course, duh" thing, I understand why you didn't call. All you hear about new parents is how exhausting it is and how sleep deprived they are. A phone call seems like the most intrusive and demanding way to communicate, short of showing up at their door. Maybe all new parents turn the ringer off as soon as they get home from the birth, but your, again, innocent and well-intentioned act is being interpreted in the worst possible light and used to harangue you.

You've done all you need to do. At this point, you would be completely justified in refusing to get sucked into an escalating series of apologies and phone calls and texts until your sister has had her appetite for drama and appeasement satisfied. "I called, I emailed, I sent a gift, I apologized, the ball is in her court, I'm not going to discuss this anymore."
posted by Mavri at 7:13 AM on July 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh, I just saw your follow-ups. You sent a gift, an email, and tried to call her already? You're FINE. Just continue to keep lines of communication open when possible and don't hold a grudge over it, but I don't think you need to fret over it. She'll come around when she's ready... and if she doesn't, that's not your fault.
posted by booknerd at 7:20 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Without trying to dissect the tit for tat's, I think there are a couple of reasons a lot of people reacted less than sympathetically to you OP.

1) You use a lot of very judgmental, dismissive and (possibly overly?) dramatic language: hormonally-fueled pregnancy ragefest, "I do not think texts are appropriate", princess, bridezilla, screamed, went into a rage, screaming rampage.

2) You read as extremely defensive and unable to reflect on your own actions, motivations and feelings, or to accept the idea that you might be wrong: how ridiculously busy I am, maybe that makes me self-centered and selfish, maybe that makes me a giant asshole, And to those that have asked: Yes, I am that busy, I am feeling, after reading a majority of the responses, that dedication to medicine and career is a waste of time and not respected.

This defensiveness is understandable considering your parents unloving, unequal treatment, but it's not healthy, won't contribute to your happiness and it (as well as the judgmental language) makes it hard to believe that you aren't contributing to the drama.

And this from treehorn+bunny a million times:
Not to try to compare my hardships/achievements with those of others.

You never know what someone else is going through, you only see the surface. As long as you think you know what someone is going through and judge them for that, you probably will act like an asshole.

In that vein:
I understand that she is up all night and constantly going, taking care of another being. Yet being up all night on rotations and with patients and in surgery isn't the same?
No, no, it's not. At least not in the early weeks. The biggest difference is that for most women the birth itself is a serious physical trauma (for a decent number including major abdominal surgery) which they are recovering from while going through the sleep deprivation/work. As well as the difference between getting little sleep, but getting it in one block (5hrs) and not getting more than a few consecutive hours of sleep for weeks on end (which was my personal experience, lovely). In my experience not all sleep deprivation is equally soul crushing.

This is not to say that what you are doing isn't very hard, just to illustrate that you don't know everything that could be going on with her and don't compare your hardships/achievements with those of others.

Btw, for solutions: in the short term, just let it all go. Be generous and assume your sister is having a REALLY rough time, and reach out to her as best you can. Don't rehash any of this shit, and if she brings it up, if it's honest try to genuinely say that you are sorry you hurt her feelings (or made her feel unloved or whatever her complaint is). But don't get into tit for tat discussions. Don't defend yourself just redirect and focus on the positive (baby!).

As for long term: maintain your physical distance, establish boundaries, disengage from the drama as much as you can and try to work through the issues causing your defensiveness so you can treat yourself (and whoever you choose to love) with love and compassion. In short, therapy, therapy, therapy. You've got work to do, but you've got the potential to have so much more happiness and peace in your life at the other end of it.

And congrats by the way, I know it's damn hard to get into Vet school, it's an impressive achievement (whatever your oblivious parents think). Go you on accomplishing that!
posted by pennypiper at 11:15 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Dare I say that I have some of those family and thank God for Facebook. I can "like" things, make sure they are alive and never actually have to talk to them. I may love them but I do not have to like them....God gives you relatives and you have no choice....but in fairness to your parents I would bet that they just would like to have you all quit telling them who is fighting with whom....done.
posted by OhSusannah at 11:04 PM on July 13, 2014

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