Monday, November 16, 2009

The Mother In Law Conundrum

(and to a lesser extent, the Father In Law Conundrum)

Sigh. This’ll be a long one. Bless you if you read it all.

I guess I’ll need to start at the beginning. Hubby and I met and got engaged 2 weeks later, and married four months after that (if anyone else had done this, I’d call that person crazy. But I knew I was going to marry that man before we even met face to face). His parents were sort of shocked, but they were happy for us as well. At that time, they were beginning their big religious awakening, which has turned them, over the past nearly seven years, as we moved around the country and finally settled in their area, into full blown born again evangelicals.

And therein lies one of our main sources of conflict.

Disclaimer: I have no problem whatsoever with religious folk. I went to Catholic school, received all of the Sacraments, went to Mass every Sunday. I get the appeal of religion, and sometimes I do wish that I were a person of faith – I think it would make our journey so much easier if I could just have faith that some benevolent father-like figure in the sky had a plan for us. But I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in god (although Hubby does, and I do find myself praying - to whom or what I have no clue – when the shit hits the fan), and even if I did, I’d have a problem with a religion telling me what to think about complex issues such as abortion, or whether or not my gay friends are sinners simply for being who they were born to be.

Anyway, Hubby and I try not to judge his parents – who raised their two boys to be open to Buddhism, to visit Hindu temples and synagogues and all denominations of Christianity, who brought Transcendental Meditationists into the house to work with the boys – when they proclaim that theirs is the only true path. But they seem to have taken it upon themselves to convert us, and we cannot have a conversation that doesn’t involve god, or them trying to get us to some mega-church related activity. Vomit. I know that Hubby often feels like he doesn’t know them anymore, and that they don’t care to know him.

My main issue with their newfound god-love centers around our babies, and their views on abortion. I hope I don’t get flamed here, but I am decidedly pro-choice, for many many reasons. We have debated the issue ad nauseum, and his parents feel very strongly that abortion is murder. I accept that this is their point of view.

Except it isn’t, at least when it comes to our losses. We are supposed to “get over it” as quickly as possible. I am supposed to chat about their new granddaughter without feeling like I’ve been kicked in the uterus, and attend parties in her honor weeks after another devastating loss. On my 31st birthday (which I found unspeakably depressing, as I was still recovering from the surgery to remove Cletus, my ectopic baby), before said granddaughter was born, I was supposed to chat about how difficult the pregnancy was, and how terrible B, the new baby’s mama, was feeling, even though I would have cut off my arm to get to the third trimester.

A couple of months ago, after my sixth loss, my mother in law asked Hubby and I why we looked so sad all of the time.
His response: We are the parents of six dead babies. How are we supposed to look?
His mother: You’re not really parents, they’re not really babies, and you both need to get over this and move on with your lives.

(Even my father in law had the presence of mind to look shocked as she said this.)

I can’t wrap my head around her belief that it is a baby when it is growing in the uterus of a woman who doesn’t want it there, but it is not a baby when it is her grandchild, desperately loved and wanted by her son and I.

Shortly after that conversation, in an effort to open dialogue and give her some insight into what this journey has been like for us, I printed a shit ton of information from the SHARE and RESOLVE websites, and mailed it off to her. Information such as: how an infertile couple feels when their siblings have children (which we just experienced), how life altering pregnancy loss is, how to talk to a family member who has been through this shitfield.

Her reaction? She called Hubby – not me – and told him, through sniffles and tears, how hurt she was by my actions.

WTF? Excuse me? I am the one who has survived this horror, and I have to walk on eggshells around her?

Another source of conflict revolves around Hubby’s brother, M, and his wife, B. They live in the Southwest, where he is in medical school and she just recently graduated from school. They had the first (living) grandchild. They are hailed as heroes in every conversation, because the in laws “finally” have a baby to love on. Hubby and his brother have always had a close relationship – Hubby even has M’s name tattoed across his back – but the parents consider M to be the “good child.” He has always been studious to Hubby’s rebellious. He never caused trouble in school (can’t say that about Hubby). He graduated from college (Hubby never did, although he’s been supporting himself – and doing a dang good job at it – since he was 17). In short, M is the favorite, and always has been. They rarely try to hide it. I have had independent verification of this by someone who has known the family for many years.

So, the favoritism. Shortly after our sixth loss, when we were looking into adoption and getting the news that our funding had failed, the mother in law said to Hubby “I just wish we could snap our fingers and help you out.” So he asked – which he hadn’t planned to do – if they would lend us the money. Just a short term loan, with interest, until we got tax money back. Believe me, the amount we needed to borrow is chump change to these people. And, after all, they help M and B out financially, and they financially support a church program for unwed mothers.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they said no. But they never said anything at all about it again. I know that it is their money, and I can’t – shouldn’t – resent them for not wanting to lend it to us. What really burns me is that they don’t even have enough respect for their wonderful son to tell us no. The question hangs in the air whenever we are together.

On Saturday, the mother in law tried to pressure me into going to an adoption information meeting at their church. I politely said no. She kept pressing, wanting to know why, and so I explained that since we won’t be able to afford it for several years, I would prefer not to get myself super excited and then be stuck in a holding pattern, unable to move forward with it because of money.

She just doesn’t get it.

I could go on forever, but this is long enough. The fact is, I feel the doors closing on our relationship, and while I used to want Hubby and I to have a good relationship with his parents – for the sake of our future child(ren) if not for ourselves – I simply no longer care to inflict heartache upon myself.

I would appreciate any words of wisdom, advice, or similar rants :)


  1. I think everyone has complaints about their mother-in-laws, though most are probably not as horrific as what you've described.

    My mother-in-law is very much all about herself, and very, VERY dramatic. I have many fun stories I could tell about her (like when she and my father-in-law stayed with us during an ice storm last year, two days after my 2nd m/c, and she had a tantrum about something my hubby - her son - said and told my father in law that she would rather FREEZE (their electricity was out) than be spoken to like that.) There have been many other altercations, but she's so passive aggressive that usually I just end up stewing over things that she says and never confront her. In her defense, she has been pretty good about the losses. She hasn't pried (at least directly to T and I) and she hasn't made reference to the fact that we should be over it. Of course, she has four grandchildren to lavish her affections on, including our son, so she basically ignores that the miscarriages ever took place.

    There have definitely been times when I have thought that it would be easier if they were not in our lives, but for us, that's not the right decision. I wish I had some sage advice for you, but it seems like you've put in a good amount of effort to build a relationship and some understanding of what you're going through. Maybe it's time to call it quits and cross a couple of names off of the Christmas list...

  2. My MIL/FIL clearly favor my hub's brother. They have loaned him tens of thousands of dollars for everything from buying a new house, financing vacations, and even fertility treatments (way back when). When my husband asked if they would be willing to do the same for MIL told him: "We've been burned before, and don't want to do it again." She was referring to when he was 7 and stole some money from her purse (25 cents).

    MIL/FILs can be crazy, and it sounds like yours have a particularly big dose of crazy going on.

    I wish you all the luck in the world!!! I know how frustrating it is.

  3. My in-laws also became a bit conservative after marriage and I find it interesting that those who are supposed to be most "connected" to God are often the least compassionate.

  4. Uhhh...I feel your pain.
    I have nothing good to say. I am in a similiar situation though I currently try to have as little contact as possible with my MIL. It's sad but true.

  5. We had a full term stillbirth in May. We'd had problems with the inlaws when they found out I was pregnant with the baby in the first place, they weren't fans of me in general & the news that their son was having another baby with the evil shrew he married wasn't taken well. They announced they didn't care about the baby & didn't want to talk about the pregnancy ever. We basically cut them off during the pregnancy. I asked my husband to call them the night we found out our son had died.

    Instead of taking that as a time to make things better, they wanted to jump back into life however they wanted. They just wanted to come to our houses & hang out, like nothing ever happened, like they never said cruel things, & like our son never died. They didn't think we should be sad. They used our sons funeral as a family get together, the took family photos at the funeral & after, with our dead sons ashes in the background. They also brought Christmas gifts to my older son, because they were too cheap to mail them to him 6 months before over Christmas. So after my sons funeral, I had to load up my other sons Christmas gifts & be reminded about how our dead baby would never have Christmas gift. I cried all the way home. Later found out that they told his entire family our baby died because I refused to get medical care & never saw a doctor. Please note, I used a midwife who worked with a doctor, but to them that didn't count. They were telling family this at the hospital, while I labor with our dead son for 26 hours. Other family members mocked our sons service even, made fun of the fact that "it was nothing but a pity part for poor Adam & Jessi." Damn right it was.

    Anyway. Once all of these things came out it was done. It's weird not having family when you think you should, but with family like that why even try? Even after what I went through with my inlaws, I couldn't believe the things your MIL has said to you. You don't deserve to be treated like that & you shouldn't put up with it.

    This topic obviously hits home with me. Sorry for the long rant. It just drives me nuts how "family" can be so ridicules about this type of situation & loss.

  6. Ok, this is what I don't understand. I'm actually furious right now and had to stop reading your post to come down and comment. NOTE: My comment doesn't necessarily reflect my views on abortion and isn't meant to stir up a debate. I'm just commenting on your situation.

    WTF??!?!?! If they feel that abortion is murder because it's ending a life, the how on EARTH would they expect you two to feel? YOu had one of the most painful things that I truly ever believe anyone can endure happen to you, repeatedly. Your DH handled it best (IMHO) with this exchange:

    His response: We are the parents of six dead babies. How are we supposed to look?
    His mother: You’re not really parents, they’re not really babies, and you both need to get over this and move on with your lives.

    This is absolutely absurd and insensitive. Even if they don't get what you're going through, they should respect it!

    I'm sorry. This just hits a little too closely to home for me. I'm so, so sorry for what you're dealing with.

  7. Ok...I'm finished reading now. :) Your last line was "she just doesn't get it". You're right. She doesn't. She's not going to. Don't feel as though you bear the burden of explaining it to her. You don't. Unfortunately, very few people get IF/RPL. It just sucks, plain and simple.

    I wish there were more that I could say. (((HUGS)))

  8. I think you've done all you can to try to make her understand. She clearly is never going to understand, and as crappy as it seems to cut out a family member, for your own well being, I think it's time to cut the ties. Maybe limit your contact to major holidays or something...that way once you have a baby, you can increase the contact or continue to keep it minimal.

  9. Hugs

    OMG, I just can't believe your MIL. How can she say on one hand it's murder if it's abortion (and therefore it's a life and a real baby) but it isn't when it's RPL???

    WTF? Your hubby handled it so well. You must have tons of strength to deal with this woman.

    I don't really have any advice - just empathy.