“I can’t be around her right now. She just has to understand…” was what a friend of mine, let’s call her Ivie, said to me, when I tried to mediate in the rift that had happened between her and her sister-in-law.
But I don’t know if I should even call it a rift. It was more a case of having drifted apart in the months following her sister-in-law, Onome’s pregnancy announcement. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out why Ivie had pulled back. Having been trying to conceive herself for the past 7 years, it was understandable that she would take the news badly. Onome had anticipated this, and had done everything in her power to break the news as gently, and sensitively, as possible. After sharing the news with her husband, she had gone online to research the best ways to share the news with her TTC sister-in-law, who had become her best friend over the years. Everywhere, she’d read that it was best to share the news as quickly and directly as she could, and even before she told the rest of her own family, she’d taken Ivie for lunch, and, without beating around the bush, had told her she was 5 weeks pregnant.
Onome told me how Ivie had smiled and offered heartfelt congratulations, which had made her so relieved. She was thankful that her fears had been for nothing, and answered all Ivie’s questions happily; when she found out she was pregnant, how she felt when she found out, how she was feeling, if she’d had any scans…Ivie had seemed genuinely interested, and Onome got comfortable, and was soon singing like a bird, telling Ivie everything! In hindsight, she says she might have even over shared. So happy was she that her best friend wasn’t uncomfortable by her news.
Alas, that had been the beginning of the end, as after that day, Ivie seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. When Onome tried to call her by 5am the next morning, for their daily morning prayer, her calls had gone unanswered…all 9 of them. Her texts also went unreplied. When she eventually called her brother, Ivie’s husband, to try to reach her, she was shocked when he had asked her to just give his wife a little space…a little time to process the news. She told me how she was shocked to hear this, especially as Ivie had seemed accepting and understanding. She realized her sister-in-law might have just put up a brave front, or was possibly experiencing a delayed reaction to her news. So, she gave her a few more weeks, before reaching out again. She was shocked to find that, by then, her phone numbers had been blocked, and she had been deleted from Ivie’s BBM and Facebook contacts.
“She has even blocked me on WhatsApp!” Onome complained.
Yep, she had been ‘ghosted’ by her best friend…and understandably so.
Ivie and Onome were not those sisters-in-law who were friends before marriage made them family. Neither of them had set eyes on the other before that day in 2006, when Itse, Onome’s brother, had brought home his new girlfriend. Ivie has told me of how worried she was about meeting her boyfriend’s family, especially considering he had just come out of a long-term relationship, and that his ex had been very friendly with his folks, his mom and sisters especially. But, surprisingly, they had welcomed her with open arms, and she had immediately connected with Itse’s younger sister, Onome, who was a year younger than her. She found herself looking forward to their visits to his parents’ house, and it didn’t take long for her and Onome to take their marathon gisting sessions outside of these family meetings. They soon found themselves spending the better part of their days on the phone together, and soon started hanging out during the weekend, without Itse. Onome had been job-hunting at the time, and Ivie had put in a good word for her at the engineering company she’d just resigned from. Onome got the new job around the same time Itse proposed to Ivie, on Valentine’s Day, 2007. As they planned the wedding, Onome had been the sister Ivie had always wished for, running around with her, inspecting venues and aso-ebi samples with her, and generally helping her to keep sane. Her wedding day, a few days after Christmas of 2007, had been the best day of Ivie’s life, as she knew she had gained not only a husband, but a life-long friend.
When one year turned to two, and then three, but still no baby, Onome’s had been the shoulder she’d leaned on. Itse, in his carefree nature, didn’t see the need for any panic, but Onome understood why his wife would be worried. When in their fourth year, her mother-in-law had tried to be difficult, Onome had been the one who’d fought with her mother on Ivie’s behalf. It had been Onome who’d convinced her overly-cavalier brother to go for tests with his wife, and it had been Onome who’d helped her research this PCOS condition the doctors said she had. Onome had been her rock.
In 2013, Onome’s longtime boyfriend, Deji, proposed, and Ivie was only too happy to return the favour, helping her run around for the wedding, even though Onome had 3 sisters doing the same thing.
Ivie hadn’t expected Onome to get pregnant so quickly. She thought she would have to start bracing herself for a pregnancy announcement in about a year’s time.
“I thought she would wait.” Ivie told me. “I thought she wouldn’t rush to get pregnant, out of regard for me.”
Poor Onome wasn’t aware of this expectation, and when she got pregnant the 2nd cycle into her marriage, Ivie was heartbroken.
“I knew I had to put up a brave face, but when she told me, I died inside!” Ivie admitted. “What I really wanted to do was to run out of that place, screaming! But she looked so happy and excited, I just had to play along…That lunch couldn’t end early enough, and when it did, I knew the only way to retain my sanity was to withdraw. There was no way I could participate in our morning prayer devotion. How could I have been praying for the same thing, for so many years, and my prayer partner gets that same thing, without even blinking?! I knew that if I saw her, spoke to her, or even chatted with her, my resentment for her would only grow…which is why I pulled back. I can’t be around her now…she just has to understand.”
I knew exactly where Ivie was coming from. I have written before, about the struggle to keep a happy face when everyone around you seems to be getting pregnant at the drop of a hat. When Ivie and I had this conversation, that article, my first for Bella Naija, had just been published. Even though I knew she’d read it already, I didn’t think referencing it in our conversation would help the situation. I knew Ivie didn’t need theory. What she needed was time to come to terms with her sister-in-law’s news…and accept it.
I had to explain to a desperate Onome that she needed to give Ivie even more time. My heart broke for her, because I could tell she missed her dear friend, very very much, but I had to explain to her that, at a time like this, there was nothing she could do to force-change the situation. She just had to ride it out, and be patient.
“What if things never change? What if she stays distant forever?” Onome asked me.
Even though I wanted to tell her this would never be the case, I couldn’t, because everyone’s coping mechanism is different. For some people, it takes longer than most, and I was in no position to ascertain just how long Ivie would need to accept it.
In May 2015, Onome’s son arrived. Ivie had sent the perfunctory congratulatory text message, but had delayed going to visit for as long as she could. When she had tried to wriggle her way out of attending the baby’s dedication, her usually cool-as-ice husband, Itse, had blown his top. He was fed up of her behavior, and felt she was being childish and petty by her continued avoidance of his sister. So, reluctantly, she had gotten dressed, and attended the ceremony.
And that had been the salve she’d needed all along.
“When I saw Juwon, my heart just melted!” Ivie gushed. “The minute I carried that baby, the love I felt for him was overwhelming. Gone was the ‘why not me’ anger and resentment I had been carrying for almost a year. I was face-to-face with God’s goodness, with His miracle of life. And seeing Onome again made me realize how much I’d missed her, and I knew I’d been wrong for blaming her for getting pregnant. It wasn’t her fault that God blessed her before me. Instead of hating on her, I realized, then and there, that it would be best for me to wait for my own, rather than wasting energy keeping malice.”
Today, Ivie is in her 9th year of marriage, and still in God’s waiting room. Thankfully, she and Onome were soon able to repair their relationship, and are closer than ever. Even though she is not Juwon’s Godmother, Ivie has usurped the role, and dotes on her nephew, without any restraint.
“What if Onome gets pregnant again soon?” I asked her recently, as we discussed the recent Hangout With Tade, which she’d wanted to attend, but hadn’t been able to. “Will you be able to handle it?”
“I hope so. I really hope so. I’d like to tell you, yes definitely. But I also know it might be a bit hard. If it happens, I’ll just have to pray for the strength to take the news. But one thing’s for sure, I won’t withdraw like I did the last time.” Ivie assured me.
“No more ‘ghosting’, abi?” I teased, trying to make light of the situation.
She laughed back. “No more ghosting oh, Nicole!”
‘Ivie’, as you prepare for another IVF cycle, here’s wishing you the best of luck, babes! God be with you!