I’ll never forget it. I was in a bedroom nursing my son, Henry, who was about two weeks old. My husband was in the living room talking to his mom, who lived across the country, on the phone. I could hear bits and pieces of his side of the conversation as he shared the latest on our son’s first weeks of life.
“Yes. He’s breastfeeding every two or three hours.”
“The milk is in, yes.”
“Yes, really big.”
Is he talking about the size of my boobs to his mom, I wondered absently.
“Yes. Both sides.”
“Oh, good idea. I’ll tell Monica.”
“Special bra. Uh-huh.”
Wow. They’re really going to town talking about my boobs, I realized. Their conversation continued.
“Latching. Uh-huh. Whole mouth on the nipple.”
My nipples. They’re talking about my nipples. My husband is talking to his mom about my nipples.
“Serge,” I said loudly, in a warning tone that he didn’t hear. Their discussion about the state of my nipples continued. “SERGE.” I tried again.
“Yes. Cracked and bleeding a little bit.”
“SERGE!” I barked so loudly my son flinched on my chest, losing his mouth-hold on the aforementioned nipples. My husband realized I wasn’t thrilled with all the nipple talk and immediately changed the subject. I settled back into nursing my baby and thanked my lucky stars that my husband had understood the importance of delaying his mom’s visit to meet our child until he was six weeks old. If she demanded to know the state of my nipples in great detail from 2,000 miles away, can you imagine how in-my-grill she’d be while staying in the same house — as I attempted to welcome my son into the world and our lives those first few weeks?
My nipples invert thinking about it even now.
That’s why it’s imperative that men do everything within their power to keep the in-laws at bay if the new mom isn’t comfortable having them around. A thread making the rounds on Reddit highlights just how dicey the situation can become if dad doesn’t deal with situation head-on from the outset. The 35-year-old pregnant woman has an older son from a previous marriage, but this is her first child with her new husband. At 40, it’s his first child, so his parents are understandably excited. However, his mom has become a problem. As the Reddit user notes in her quest for advice, “Our plan was to invite parents, sibs and friends to visit the hospital, and invite his parents and brother specially to stay in our home for those few days. Then, we would have them back to stay for a long weekend after five weeks when we get together with my folks for our annual joint-Thanksgiving.”
Mother-in-law is unhappy with that plan, wants to stay at her son’s home for the first week of the baby’s life and is causing huge problems, whining and inflicting guilt on her son because of it. The pregnant woman ends her story with a request for advice and the following sentence; “Partner once again is full if anxiety trying to keep ‘everybody’ happy. I’m just keeping quiet — not sure how to handle and worry this is a red flag for the coming years.”
While I subscribe to the theory that keeping quiet where mother-in-laws are concerned as generally being the wisest course of action, the events surrounding the birth of your child are one time when that’s not an advisable policy. If you have a pushy mother-in-law you need to calmly state your feelings to your spouse thusly: I think it’s awesome that your mom wants to be a part of the baby’s life but the first few weeks of a newborn’s life are really stressful and while I get that she wants to help, I feel like having house guests at that point will bring mores stress than help. Also, it’s a really special time for our family to bond so maybe she can come a couple weeks later.
Constantly reiterate how sweet you think it is that she wants to be involved but stand your ground! Your spouse needs to take action. He or she isn’t a child and should make his case to the parent in a calm but firm manner. If they don’t set boundaries now, it’s setting you up for a lifetime of mother-in-law interference, approved by their inaction to handle things. If your spouse sticks his head in the sand and doesn’t take action, you need to calmly but firmly say the same thing to his mother. A Reddit user posted the perfect script when talking to mom: “Mom and Dad, we appreciate your offer to stay and help when the baby comes. However, we really want to spend time as a family of three and get to know our child one on one. While we are adjusting, we would prefer no long term guests. We are so happy our child gets to have you guys as grandparents! We hope to have you stay for a long weekend when we are feeling settled in and adjusted to life with a newborn.”
If your spouse can’t do that you may have a bigger problem on your hands than a pushy mother-in-law.
Image: Monica Bielanko