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Hi Amy,

I have questions about what to do about my in-laws.

My husband and I are expecting our first child. The problem is from when his parents came to visit. Before they arrived, my husband told them about me and by all accounts, they loved me. The day I met them, I brought them gifts, and we went out together. It seemed to be going well, despite the communication barrier (they are from another country. Husband translated).

During the outing, they suddenly didn’t stand near me anymore, didn’t look at me, and then decided to leave. My husband told me they were tired, but we found out later it was because they had seen my scar.

I had minor surgery many years ago and I am perfectly fine now, but they “researched” my condition and flipped out. Demanded he break up with me, yelled at him for wanting to see me (I could hear them full volume screaming when he picked up a phone call) and were just generally rude and awful. They left early.

He now no longer really speaks to his parents. For how they treated me/us, I have always said I never wanted to see them again, and I would only do so if they apologized. As far as I know, they do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Now that you have context, I guess my question is this: based on what I have heard they are excellent grandparents to his sibling’s children. It seems unfair to prevent my kid from ever seeing them, even if I think they are harshly judgmental.

Do I go back on my decision or does this just seem like opening a floodgate of craziness and criticism? Do I forego the benefits of their culture and language? Especially given that my own mother lives in another city and doesn’t seem like she’ll really be a grandma to my baby? Do I sound like I am being unreasonable?

I really don’t know what to do. I don’t want to stubborn my baby out of possible great relationship with them, but I also want to protect them from (potential) crazy.

Thanks

Based on what you’ve “heard,” they are excellent grandparents. But before you met them, “by all accounts” they loved you.

And look how true THAT turned out to be.

So I personally wouldn’t put too much stock in their reputation as good grandparents, and continue to make in-law related decisions based on your own first-hand knowledge and experiences with them. All of which points to: These are not nice people! These are crazy people! They are rude and scream-y and believe you are “unworthy” of their son because…you had minor surgery one time?

If I could type what my face looks like right now it would basically be just: DA FUQ and ?????????????????

God forbid you ever make a parenting decision they disagree with. God forbid your child ever makes a decision they disagree with.

(Or ever requires minor surgery! The horror!)

(And all this x 1,00,000 if there’s any genetic component to the condition that required your surgery in the first place, and perhaps fed into their freakout.)

You’d be walking on eggshells around them all the time, just waiting for the next inevitable blow-up. (And wondering what they’re saying about you anytime your husband isn’t around to translate, which seems like a special kind of crazy-making.) I wouldn’t open this box of in-law worms with a 10-foot pole of worm poison without a very, very compelling reason. Like a formal and heartfelt apology from them for their earlier behavior, complete with promises of change and declarations of love and maybe the downpayment for a mansion.

You don’t have any of that. All you’ve got is what you’ve “heard.”

So I’d reframe your thinking here. YOU are not denying your child anything. His/her grandparents created this estrangement mess and ALSO (from what you’ve heard) refuse to acknowledge any bad behavior on their part. And don’t seem to care very much, since there’s nothing in your letter to indicate that they’re at all interested in mending the relationship on behalf of their grandchild. If THEY aren’t willing to do that, there is no reason YOU should feel compelled to do so either.

Your husband speaks their language and comes from their culture. He sounds like a good egg who stood up for you and supports your decision to not deal with these people ever again. You can 100% embrace the culture you married into and incorporate as much or as little as you and your husband choose to into your child’s life your own selves. Spend some pregnancy nesting energy on learning some of the language yourself. Add some foreign language baby books to your baby registry.

Instead of viewing this mess as denying your child a relationship with his/her grandparents, realize you are indeed protecting him/her from a potentially toxic relationship with some very cruel people. That’s what’s really important here.

Find more advice articles on grandparent relationships here:
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Hi Amalah,

I just recently found your site and Smackdown column while sifting through the piles of new mother sites and have officially taken it on as my gospel, so this seems the best place to turn to. I just entered my second trimester with my first baby and my husband and I got married this past spring. It’s been an exciting year, but I already kind of seem to be running into some difficult and delicate situations when it comes to my new family.

First of all, we planned and had a beautiful, intimate wedding and reception- I’m talking like 20 people- that absolutely none of his family was invited to. My husband has a very strained relationship with just about everyone but his older brother. This, as well as the fact that he was in the process of getting a divorce when we met made him feel that they would more than likely protest and criticize the news that he was getting remarried, rather than share in our newlywed joy. It’s been stressful to keep under my hat and just pretend that we eloped when I really like my new brother and sister-in-law and wish they had at least joined in the festivities. I’m also frustrated, as my sneaking suspicion that it would come back to bite us in the ass when I gradually met more of his family started to come to light- particularly with my new mother-in-law.

I didn’t actually meet my MIL until after we were married, as my husband always felt it was better to “shield me” from her while we were dating. The gist is that she’s always been a little bit of a wild card; leaving her two kids to be raised by their grandma, taking on the “woe is me” attitude towards her divorces, job hopping, and essentially leaning on family for just about everything. She was also very chummy with my husband’s ex and made no effort to hide the fact that she thought he was making a huge mistake getting divorced (pot calling the kettle black, etc). In fact, my husband actually didn’t even want to tell her about the baby OR that we were married until I said “just get it over with” because I really didn’t think I could do the whole sitcom belly coverup thing when I was eight months along.

They ended up in a huge fight that I thankfully wasn’t there for, though now after she’s cooled off, she feels that she has the right to be more involved and demanding to have my cell number so she can ask me lovely questions about breastfeeding and childbirth. I understand to a point, as in her eyes I’m this lady that came seemingly out of nowhere and HEY now I’m carrying your grandchild, but before this news she honestly didn’t want anything to do with me.

On top of all this, my best friend wants to throw me a baby shower in the next few months and my sister-in-law not-so-subtly suggested that I’m required to invite my MIL and his Grandmother because it would be “weird if they weren’t there.” I mean…would it, though? My close group of friends and my own mother are polar opposites of the women in my husband’s family and while they have a few redeeming qualities, I just can’t help but feel my anxiety flare up thinking about all of them in the same room. His mother is a classic pot-stirrer and his Grandma, nice as she is, just sits and defends her actions as it’s her own daughter. I’m already dealing with the issue of not inviting an old friend, who in the past has elected to steal the show at all mutual parties and who I honestly have barely spoken to or seen since since she kicked me out of her bridal party year back (LONG story). To save the last shred of my sanity, I threw around the idea of having a separate baby shower for his side of the family but I’m worried now that my sister-in-law has got the word out before we’ve even sent invitations and it’ll look like I’m trying to hide them away.

Any advice at this point is welcome, as my husband does not see this as a problem and only shrugs with “they’re all grownups, they can handle it.” Is it fine to have two baby showers? How do I keep my MIL at arm’s length without her playing the victim? What’s the best way to say to someone “dude we don’t talk anymore, why did you assume you’d get invited to my shower?” without actually saying that? I fear my baby is going to have Woody Allen levels of anxiety when he arrives because of all the things swirling around in my head.

Thank you,
Frazzled pregnant maniac and disappointing new daughter-in-law

Yikes. This is definitely quite a mess.

Your husband needs to take responsibility

But you know what? It’s not your mess to clean up! Your husband made the (questionable, but we’ll get to that in a minute) decision to spring you on his family and create a not-exactly-true backstory about your relationship and wedding. He obviously doesn’t care about their hurt feelings or injured pride and they’re HIS FAMILY, not yours! But you seem to be taking on all the emotional labor (pun not intended, my poor pregnant lady) of smoothing things over with everyone when he, clearly, could not give less of a shit.

And again, he’s also a grownup and can deal with his dysfunctional family how he sees fit, but he owes you the decency to shield you from the fallout from his decisions. He went so far as to LIE to them about eloping because he didn’t want them at his wedding, but now “doesn’t see a problem” with you being guilt-tripped into an anxiety attack over having them at your baby shower? Dude, make up your mind. If you don’t want a relationship with your family, don’t put your pregnant wife in the position of feeling like SHE needs to have a relationship with your family and then refuse to intervene when the (absolutely predictable) drama ensues.

I do think it was a bad idea to start things off with a lie about eloping and trying to hide the fact that no, you actually had a wedding that they weren’t invited to, but what’s done is done. But you can’t be the only one carrying around the guilt and worry of it crashing down. He should probably come clean with his family and adjust their expectations about their continued involvement in his life (and yours, and your baby’s).

Emotionally disconnect to ease your anxiety

You don’t want your MIL at your baby shower. You don’t have to have your MIL at your baby shower. I know you’re terrified of being painted as the horrible second wife who stole her precious baby boy away, so again, your husband needs to SPEAK UP here on your behalf. He should tell your SIL that he thinks it’s better to keep the family groups separate, and if she has such strong opinions about who needs to attend your baby shower she’s welcome to host one herself.

But I do think the root of this problem is that your husband is trying to have it both ways: He wants to basically stay estranged and disconnected from his family (no judgement on that part), but he’s sending confusing/muddled messages to them. They have no idea the lengths he’s gone to break away from them. If they knew they weren’t invited to your wedding, I’m 99% sure none of them would feel so entitled to attend your baby shower. But as far as they know, you guys eloped, and now you’re here and desperate to please and have a relationship with them, completely clueless that you’re really only doing it because GUILT GUILT ANXIETY AHHHHHHH.

Your husband needs to work through his feelings about his family

It’s tough that you’ve ended up liking some of his family, but for your sanity I would follow your husband’s lead and emotionally disconnect from them. Stop trying to please and fix and compromise. This isn’t your mess to clean up. 

As for your husband not seeing any of this as a problem, well, tell him that while his family’s feelings might not carry much weight for him, YOUR FEELINGS DO. And right now you are feeling an incredibly amount of stress and guilt and anxiety over this situation, and you really need him to step up and shut it all down for you. No, you can’t come to her shower. Because I said so. Blame me, not her, and please leave her alone because she’s the innocent third party here.

And then I’d really suggest your husband see a counselor to work through his feelings about his family, and either come to a point of forgiveness or total estrangement, because this half-and-half charade is simply not sustainable in the long run.

Photo: Depositphotos/Maridav

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Dear Amy,

You’ve answered my question about my sister before, so now I’m back with my own question.

My husband and I started trying to conceive extremely recently, so I joined a couple of groups attached to an ovulation tracker that I use. And I find the terminology nauseating-more than PMS, even! And then I went to other websites and joined groups at THOSE sites. They have the same problem, and often the same terms.

Baby dance? It’s sex! Call it sex! You’re adults! If you can’t use the word sex, you are not mature enough to have children!. Baby dust? I accept your good hopes and wishes, but baby dust? Gag me with a spoon. And then, they apparently need to have initialisms and acronyms for everything! POAS rather than peeing on a stick (or, better yet, taking a pregnancy test). BFN for a negative test, BFP for a positive test.

Is it just that I’m new to all of this and I’ll become inured to all of it, like these women apparently have? Is there a forum for women (and men!) who don’t want the cutesy stuff, who just want to commiserate?

I just don’t know anymore.

Not Cutesy

I cannot believe — and by that I mean I 100% totally believe — that absolutely nothing has changed in the TTC (Trying To Conceive) community since I was once a reluctant member. FOURTEEN YEARS AGO.

I no longer have my finger on the pulse for where the “cool” TTC kids congregate — in MY day (smacks gums) we all just up and started blogs about it. I, like you, found the endless acronyms and *~*~baby dust~*~* and MySpace-era web design to be absolutely unbearable. I could not do it, not even a little bit. I eventually found my people among the infertility bloggers — smart, snarky women who said words like sex and pee and vagina. Because that’s the stuff you’re talking about when you talk about this stuff.

But it’s a different age now, and just about all of those bloggers have packed up and moved on with their lives (and raising their children, in most cases, I’m thrilled to say). But I still believe that you are not alone. Just like there will (apparently) ALWAYS be women who are perfectly happy to adopt an entire second language while trying to get pregnant (see also: the cloth diapering community), there will ALWAYS be women like you and me, who…just sort of….want to back away slowly from all of that. But who also DO want a community of support and advice and maybe online friendship. Who will toast your “BFN” with a shot of vodka and let you curse from the disappointment.

So, dear readers, I am throwing my advice torch to you for this one: Do you know of a good TTC community that doesn’t indulge in all the cutesy talk, or at least keeps it to a minimum for easier typing purposes? (Like: WHYYYYY all the acronyms while also typing “baby dance” instead of “sex,” which has fewer letters and is thus faster to type? These are questions I am still asking more than a decade later.) A Facebook group? A message board? A solid group text?

How did you find support and advice during the TTC period?

*********

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Hi Amy,

I am 34 weeks pregnant. This past Saturday was my baby shower. As the night was almost coming to an end, everything that was great ended up bad.

It all started with my husband wanting to leave the baby shower and me starting it by screaming out loud why he was leaving that we needed to open presents. That all escalated with my mother getting loud and my father rushing my husband to take away the car keys so he wouldn’t leave because he was supposedly drunk (which he wasn’t).

I’ve been in a very depressed mode where I don’t know what to do. My husband called me today telling me I had no option and saying that he doesn’t want my parents in the hospital when the baby is born. That he would be in the delivery room and after the baby birth he would sign the birth certificate and leave because, he doesn’t want to be around my family.

I am the only daughter and I have two other brothers. I have always been mommy and daddy’s little girl and I have always sacrificed everything to make them happy. I am stuck and in need of some serious help! What do I do? How can I not have my parents there but then not my husband there! I am going crazy and falling into such a deep depression! I really need this advice. What do I do?

Please help me.

Oh dear.

I have so many follow-up questions here. Why did your husband want to leave the baby shower early? Was he actually drinking and maybe more intoxicated that he (and you) would like to admit? Does he have a history of over-indulging? Or do your parents have a history of fanning the drama flames and made a weird situation purposely worse? What’s the larger history between your husband and your family and why is it just NOW becoming a Huge Major Ultimatum thing?

(And why do you say you “started it” by asking your husband to hey, the shower isn’t over, don’t be rude, sit back down? All reasonable requests, even if you didn’t deliver them as calmly as you’d like; he WAS being rude and shouldn’t have tried to leave without a really good reason.)

I want you to call your doctor and ask for a referral for a therapist or psychologist RIGHT NOW

But even knowing I’m missing a lot of background information here, what your husband is doing now — emotionally blackmailing you right before you’re about to GIVE BIRTH TO HIS CHILD — is so, sooooooo not cool. There’s a right way to make requests to the mother-to-be about delivery room and hospital arrangements, but “I will abandon you and my newborn child if I don’t get my way” sure as HELL ain’t it.

You should NOT be navigating this mess alone right now.

I’m really, really sorry you’re going through this. Unless there’s really some awful, AWFUL things your family has done to your husband (beyond just…embarrassing him at a baby shower?), I’m coming down pretty hard as anti-husband right now. The way he’s chosen to escalate HIS problem with YOUR parents, while threatening to abandon you in the delivery room (and it sounds like he isn’t even living at home since the shower incident?)  is pretty emotionally abusive, and I will not have that shit. Not when you’re 34 weeks pregnant, not when you’re newly postpartum, not ever.

I don’t care, frankly, if he’s got a valid case against your parents and family and has valid reasons for not wanting them at the hospital right away. (Lots of couples ask for a few hours or even days just to themselves after giving birth!) The way he’s gone about “solving” the problem is vindictive and cruel.

I initially wrote that you should call his bluff and tell him your family will be present, but upon more reflection, I don’t think any sort of confrontation is wise. There’s just too much risk for this situation to escalate into something unsafe for you. (If he’s not at home right now, you should ask someone — a parent or sibling or friend — to come stay with you in case he does show up demanding answers to his ultimatum.)

And, I want you to call your doctor and ask for a referral for a therapist or psychologist RIGHT NOW, because you REALLY need some good neutral third party support and more advice. Someone who you can tell the whole big picture to and help you sort out who is being the bigger asshole here (hint: it’s not you) and –if I’m right here — help you plan a SAFE exit strategy from an emotionally abusive situation. Or get out from under your parents’ control, if that’s the case! Anything is possible I suppose, but you should NOT be navigating this mess alone right now.

And since you twice mentioned depressionHere is the direct link for contact information for Postpartum Support International which also provides assistance for prenatal mood and anxiety.  Their depression helpline phone number is 1-800-944-4773. They offer free and anonymous info sessions. 

Good luck, and I hope you and your baby are deliciously happy together, with or without him.

*********

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Hello, 

I recently discovered that I am pregnant (YAY!) and have only disclosed the information to my significant other, his immediate family, and my immediate family (excluding my sister).

Some background: My sister and I were at one point very close. She is eight years older than me (31 & 23) and I’ve always looked up to her. Recently she’s been on a slippery slope and has kind of gone insane. Her boyfriend is in jail (whom she’s leaving her husband for) and the boyfriend is my age and has been very jealous of me and my relationship with my not-so-jailbird significant other. She is my half sister and my biological father adopted her at age 6 and has been a loving caring father to her since.

She’s always had difficulty with his love for me and my full biological brother and seems to be very jealous. I want to tell her because I will always love her, but throughout my life she has made many comments about how mom and dad will love my babies more than her two children. I’m very close with my niece and nephew, they are my world. I was even in the delivery room for my nephew. How should I tell her I’m pregnant without upsetting her? Before all the craziness, my sister would have been the first person to know. I’m just having a really hard time with this and any advice would be helpful.

Thank you so much.

Pregnancy Announcement Drama is Common

The important thing to remember is that this news was/is 1,000% your news to share, and all the who/what/when/where/how details that go along with sharing that news are also decisions you get to make as well.

But you’d be far (farrrrrrrrr) from the only pregnant woman who gets guilt-tripped over those decisions. You waited too long, you emailed instead of called, you told so-and-so before me, I found out on Facebook…I’ve heard it all during my years writing this column.

So another important thing to remember: You are NOT responsible for your sister’s jealousy or feelings of insecurity about her standing in the family. You are NOT responsible for taking on emotional labor to convince her, once and for all, that her children will still be loved and cherished as much as yours will be. You are not responsible for “not upsetting her.”

If she were, say, an older sibling struggling with infertility, then sure. I’d probably advise you to tread a little carefully and allow her to have whatever reaction she has in peace. (Like emailing instead of calling or face-to-face, and letting her know you understand if she needs space to process.) But this seems more like someone dealing with Her Own Shit (and not very well, it sounds like, given the general chaos going on) So you know what? She can continue to manage Her Own Shit.

Specific Recommendations for this Type of Relationship

I would personally tell her in some way that allows YOU to have some space from HER reaction. A phone call vs. face-to-face. (You can even text her a heads’ up like, “Call me! I have big news!” to maybe clue her in and give her time to put her proper Happy Big Sister pants on). If she makes dramatic comments or laments about her children’s lost place of honor, say, “Sis, you know that’s ridiculous and nothing will replace your children’s place as the first grandchildren. I’m going to change the subject now to “ultrasound/shower date/hand-me-downs/etc.)”

If you don’t think you can even handle that much, go for email or whatever your usual “not in person” means of communication is. Whatever you choose, remember again to not let her emotional vampire all over your happy news. Hang up, delete, hide from timeline, mute, block the number for a day or two.  Whatever you have to do to remind yourself that she’s an adult who does not need her younger sister to solve her issues. Or for her younger sister to downplay her own happiness because of her unhappiness.

As for the fact that you’ve told a lot of other people before her, well, will she even really know, given how focused (I assume) she is on everything in her life? You can always fib and say you were waiting to tell the news until X milestone, or even that you hoped you could tell her in person but it wasn’t working out (SO BUSY!), etc. But I don’t think you even owe her that much. Break the news, and then disengage if needed. As needed.

More articles on Pregnancy Announcement Drama here

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So I am pregnant and my due date has come and gone. Not my first pregnancy but this one I chose to not post right away on social media until my husband and I were ready. Status posted that I was due with our son any day now followed by a few congratulations and some details. Then I get a notification from my aunt. Literally a woman I have not seen in almost 4 years. She uses my first and middle name demanding to know if it’s all a joke. At this point I feel like a 5yr old who just got in trouble. Needless to say my husband is upset. So I PRIVATELY message her “No, it’s not a joke and Yes, her comment was offensive.” To which one of her multitude of replies was “If someone would have told me I wouldn’t have made that comment”… Seriously how hard is it to read previous comments or message me personally?

Now my question to you is am I rightfully upset (borderline livid) or am I maybe just super hormonal and pregnant? Would really love to hear back from you.

Hmmm, yeah. I think you’re overreacting here.

You did something that many people would consider “unusual” by waiting so long to announce a pregnancy on social media (which is totally your right do! I’m not saying it’s wrong, just not exactly “typical” these days). And despite not having seen your aunt in a few years, there’s also the “usual/typical” expectation that members of your family (barring actual estrangement) would be told about a pregnancy at some before “surprise! I’m due any day now.”

Sometimes our first reaction to a big surprise isn’t necessarily our best or most measured reaction.

Again, not saying you did anything wrong by keeping things under wraps, but I think your aunt was justifiably surprised and maybe just…rushed to comment without thinking too much about it? Thought the first/middle name thing was a funny way to express her surprise? Or I don’t know, maybe her feelings were hurt because you didn’t tell her personally in the first place. You can disagree with her right to hurt feelings since you two aren’t super close, but maybe it has more to do with an assumption that her sibling (whichever one your parents she’s related to) wouldn’t have kept such big news from her. That doesn’t have anything even to do with you, so, like, whatever.

Either way…I really don’t think what she wrote was so egregiously offensive to the level of “borderline livid.” Social media is…well, it is what it is. People sometimes say dumb things there, tone gets misinterpreted, some people have strong feelings about other people’s usage of it. (Examples: posting kids’ photos vs. not posting kids’ photos, making major life announcements vs. calling/emailing/texting close friends/family members individually, letting all your annoying dumb game apps post status updates every time you finish a level aaaaaaahhhhhhstopppp, etc.) There’s ample room here to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was just genuinely shocked and made a comment that rubbed you the wrong way, but isn’t worth picking a big Facebook fight over. (Which are, in terms of pointless drama, second only to Twitter fights.)

Given you submitted this a couple weeks ago, I’m assuming (nay, HOPING FOR YOUR SAKE) that you are not still pregnant. But I’m answering this anyway in case you’re still upset or the whole episode caused lasting tension with your aunt. If so, please try to let it go.

This wasn’t your first pregnancy and you implied that you previously have shared the pregnancy news earlier on social media. So again, you did something unexpected this time! I’m not surprised that other people were…well, pretty surprised. And sometimes our first reaction to a big surprise isn’t necessarily our best or most measured reaction. Give your aunt a pass here. And, enjoy that baby!

More on Pregnancy Announcements and Family Drama:

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Hello Amy,

I recently came upon your column and was reading some of your postings.

I have a baby shower question that is bugging me.

My sister, who has been pregnant for about 5 months, recently had a friend send out a baby shower invite (via evite.com). I have known and have helped her throughout her IVF process but when she finally was successful after many years she decided to hide her pregnancy from everyone except my mom and forced my mom to lie about it to everyone in the family. Even when it was obvious that she was pregnant she still denied it by ignoring the questions and eye-contacts.

Once my mom revealed to her that my older sister and I knew, she told my mom she would tell everyone in the family. We thought it would be in the form of a phone call at the least, but two weeks after that conversation with my mom, we all received an evite from her friend announcing a baby shower with a gift registry at her new house (which she recently bought and kept a secret from everyone also). Everyone, including myself, did not know who the evite was from and did not make the connection that it was a baby shower for her. All my nieces and other siblings thought it was spam and deleted the evite.

I researched the email and discovered it was my pregnant sister’s friend and told everyone who then RSVP’ed to her evite invitation. She still has not personally talked to anyone in the family about her baby. I believe that her style of announcing her pregnancy to her family via a baby shower evite with gift registry is very tacky. I have declined the invite mainly because I think she’s been very rude to treat her family this way but have used my twins’ school performance as the reason why I have declined. My mom is complaining to my other siblings that I’m wrong not to attend.

Am I wrong? Am I wrong to be offended by her action and my mom’s action in hiding my sister’s pregnancy from her whole family and especially me who have helped her throughout her IVF process?

Any insight will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

I do think you have a right to some hurt feelings here, but I am going to really, really encourage you to put those feelings aside and forgive your sister.

Infertility and IVF is a very, very tough road and it’s not at all uncommon for a kind of PTSD to set in, even after a successful pregnancy and birth. Your sister’s almost pathological determination to keep her pregnancy a secret (even well after the first trimester and once she was obviously showing) probably had NOTHING to do with you or your other siblings and was more rooted out of a terrible, all-consuming fear of losing this super hard-fought-for pregnancy.

I’m guessing here, of course — your sister didn’t write me with her side of the story, obviously — but I think it’s as likely an explanation as any, and one that’s worthy of some gentle understanding for how she handled things here.

My anti- stance on including gift registry information with invitations (weddings, baby, housewarming, etc.) is well documented, though I fully understand I’m fighting a losing etiquette battle and it’s rapidly becoming an accepted convention. But your sister isn’t even the one who sent the evite — her friend did, and we could even give her the benefit of the doubt that the friend was going rogue and pushing her into a shower she’d honestly rather not have. Or she just felt silly making a ton of one-on-one phone calls announcing “news” that she realized everybody probably figured out already, or included the registry information without your sister’s explicit blessing. Or your family has a pattern for being extremely intrusive and all up in each other’s private lives and she didn’t want to field a ton of unsolicited advice or questions or belly pats and figured this was just easier. OR she’s just a walking ball of hormones and emotions and had a temporary lapse in judgement and didn’t really think through how a “pregnancy announcement via shower invite” would play for friends and family vs. telling them over the phone.

Again, I’m guessing. But if you care about your relationship with your sister (and your soon-to-be nephew/niece), I think you 100% absolutely need to Let This Go, put your hurt feelings aside and be the bigger person for your big sister. (And your mom, who was put in a REALLY tough position here, because it REALLY wasn’t her news to tell and she didn’t have much of a choice but to obey your sister’s explicit wishes. In the world of tell vs. don’t tell, telling would’ve been the bigger betrayal of trust, honestly.) Maybe someday you can tell her that yeah, it really stung to not hear the news of her pregnancy directly from her, but for now…well, it’s just not really about you. For some reason — maybe for one of the reasons I listed above, maybe not — your sister opted for extreme privacy for the first half of her pregnancy. Like it or not, she has a right to that privacy.

And while we can certainly raise an eyebrow or two over the shower invite etiquette, I again encourage you to put all that aside and try to see it as your sister’s awkward way of announcing that yes, she’s ready to talk about and even celebrate this much-wanted baby. Forgive her and join the party, and congratulations on becoming an aunt!

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Hi Amy,

I came across some of the question/answer requests on the blog and had to reach out myself.

I’m 37 weeks pregnant with my second son. The last grandchild on my side of the family, and only the second on my husbands’ side. We live several states away from my in-laws and they are busy with having a new home built, so I’m not concerned about them being overbearing like they were with my first son, 9 years ago. Although, that memory has me on high alert these days.

My own family, however has me completely stressed out. A few months ago, my retired father (whom also lives out of state) announced that he wanted to come for a visit when the baby is born. His timelines were lengthy, with a 10 to 15 day stay, divided between myself, my sister, and my mom (his ex-wife). My father and I do not have a healthy relationship. He is a rager, and likes to drink and is extremely negative and combative. Some days he’s great, others not so much and he lacks boundaries. I told my dad during that time that I would not be having any overnight guests.

Then my sister told him that three days was her max for house guests. Then my mom, having talked with my sister about my dad’s bipolar, rage-aholic personality also determined she should not have him stay. So this all went down very poorly. My father really laid on the guilt and had a fit. A lot of it was directed at me and the fact that he wasn’t planning on being a “guest”, but a “help”… well that’s just not how he operates and frankly I didn’t back down. Neither did my mom or sister and we consoled each other as my dad went on to tell us he felt like a pariah. We told him he could stay in a motel, or stay for less time, but he scoffed at these, because of how much it would cost, etc. His reaction and my feelings about that entire situation, solidified my knowing it was the correct decision.

So here we are months later and I’m so close to my due date… and my mother texts me that she felt bad for my father and had reinvited him to come stay at her house whenever he wants. She said it felt better because “he is family after all.” Really this feels like Mom, needing to take care of Dad, and falling back into unhealthy habits. That’s another story. Anyway, needless to say, my father starts group texting about how he plans to come the week after the baby is born and stay for six days, etc.

I was furious! My husband and I already have things planned. Our first pregnancy was horrible. No one respected our wishes and labor was hard because of this. We were happy to finally be free from that. My mom is taking care of my 9 year old while we are in the hospital and then my husband has two weeks off that he will take right away to help me with recovery and bonding… no one is visiting and the following month we will drive through my dad’s state for a two day visit and stay and then drive to visit my husband’s parents before driving back home.

Anyway, my dad can’t seem to grasp this and I called my mom hysterical, telling her she put me in this horrible situation again, by myself now. Having to set this boundary with my father. He texts asking me why I didn’t mention to anyone my 2 week plan? Well because we didn’t think anyone cared. Then he asked if my husband can take the second week off at another time?! I said, absolutely NOT! I wanted to tell my Dad, what a selfish jerk he is to even suggest that! My dad has not invested in his relationship with my family. No birthday cards, no phone calls, no nothing… We group text and he usually starts a fight after a few days and I stop responding. He basically doesn’t care about us or my other son, so I feel zero empathy to change anything to fit his new desire to travel here. He is retired and has no obligations. This feels like a control thing. Frankly, he is a stress in my life that I’m cordial to but feel extremely guarded against.

Anyway, during several text messages trying to explain why I would prefer him to come on other dates which were about a month from my son’s due date, and him trying to guilt me. I ended up texting my mom, and telling her that I felt she should fix this. She said that she thought he understood her offer was for the holidays at the end of the year? So I was annoyed that she wasn’t clarifying this. We went back and forth with her becoming victimized and saying she was trying to do something good, but that she’s going to end it all with my Dad, and if I want to see him, I can invite him and she wont have to see him or be “abused” by anyone again. Sorry but huge eye roll here. Mom is always the abused victim anytime someone confronts her about anything. Communication would have solved this up front. Instead she blamed me and said she was getting mixed messages and went off her intuition. Very confusing, since we had both agreed it would be unhealthy having my Dad, stay with her.

Anyway, mom becomes reactive and writes Dad this text in group text, saying he is no longer invited, after all he is her ex, blah blah blah, and she’s sorry she started this. Then my Dad writes back something about how he cant understand what is going on…. then he sends it to me, telling me that he knows I don’t want visitors but now he doesn’t trust mom… and His door is always open if I would like to stay, no restrictions!

At this point, my mom is no longer texting or speaking. I am having to look for a new person to watch my son while I’m in the hospital. I did not answer my father, because frankly this stuff with my mom is between them… and I have to be very strategic about what I share or say to my father or he could become extremely verbally and emotionally abusive. My sister is kind of on the outside and that’s good because this is a mess. I just can’t sleep, I’m angry at both my parents. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me sort it out? Thanks so much… sorry this is the readers digest version.

Sincerely,
A

Ay yi yi, I got stressed out just reading all this.

Here’s what I think you should do: Find someone else to watch your son — a neighbor, a school friend’s family, your sister (if you can both agree that your parents’ drama is not to be discussed), etc. Put the family group text on mute. Task your husband with sharing any and all news and updates on the baby and running post-birth interference with any potential visitors.

And then please please please try to enjoy the final weeks of your pregnancy and your EXCELLENT two-week postpartum plan with your boys and only your boys.

If your mom gets over her snit and reaches out, well…that reaction is completely up to you. If you guys generally have a good relationship when your dad isn’t involved, you can probably chalk this whole mess up to their toxic relationship and old habits (mixed with the new technology of texting, which always has a high potential for miscommunication and misunderstandings) and leave it at that. I probably wouldn’t expect an apology from her, even though you’re justifiably owed one. I’m assuming you learned a lot of your current boundary lessons (both physical and emotional) with your dad the hard way, so I would let this episode be a similar lesson with your mom: You simply can’t trust her to be consistent or prioritize your wishes when it comes to her ex-husband. Noted! Proceed accordingly, and try to turn any negative, angry feelings you have towards her into something more like benign pity.

This mess IS their mess, make no mistake. You were never, ever under any obligation to change your post-birth plan, or to save your mom from making a bad choice and inviting a drunken rage monster into her home because she “felt bad” or whatever. You’re also not responsible for whatever massive miscommunication snafu went down between them. You got stuck in the middle, like so many, MANY adult children of divorced parents find themselves in at some point or another. It sucks, especially given the timing and the emotionally fraught time that is late pregnancy.

It happened, but it can bounce off you now. It’s not your mess, your circus or your monkeys. You are going to spend the next couple weeks focusing solely on self-care and getting ready for your new baby.

Give your husband a list of numbers or email addresses to build an announcement distribution list and talk about who you want told what, and when. (Like, anyone who might be a risk for showing up at the hospital unannounced probably doesn’t need to get the “she’s in labor!” news.) He can and should make everyone aware of your wishes and set himself up as the post-birth gatekeeper, both in the hospital and at home afterwards. If you do okay a visitor, make sure he knows how long of a visit you can handle and can politely show the guest the door and prevent postpartum couch camp-outs. (Maybe have a secret signal for when you’re ready for them to leave.)

And seriously, mute that damn group text.

*********

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