27 responses

  1. Sarah
    November 18, 2013

    I always love Amy’s Grandparent advice. So many places online seem to do the “if you aren’t nice to me, you can’t be nice to my baby” approach which is fine, but seems so selfish! I love the basis of your advice, which always seems to be: your baby is an individual and you should let others treat them as an individual, not an extension of you and your peeves. Fosters such a better sense of community, building healthy relationships – and there’s always the “so long as not toxic” addendum.

    High five Amy from someone who works in child welfare and agrees that the more people who love a child, the better.

  2. SarahB
    November 18, 2013

    Gosh…as someone who has been hurt by her in-laws, I am not sure I could be so forgiving.  What the ILs have done is create a world of hurt…they held her baby before she did, and now they complain they don’t get to hold the baby enough? They text her DH that she is “mean”?  That the mother of a newborn, someone recovering from major surgery and a first-time mom is mean?  There just seems to be no space given to the OP to find her footing, and it’s all about them and their wants.

    I wonder if things couldn’t be better if the OP could back off and not have to see or interact with them so regularly.  It might be easier to let them hold the baby if they had fewer gatherings than before.

    Going into the holiday season, I think there needs to be a two-pronged approach: DH saying flat out that any kind of nasty talk is unacceptable, and that they’ll be playing it by ear in terms of how many holiday events they can make it to with the new baby.  Especially if the OP just went back to work and is dealing with being separated from her baby…all the IL crap will be easier to deal with if the OP can take of herself and her emotions first.  

    And, having had some bumps in the road in this regard, it got a lot easier after the first year or so.

  3. Christina
    November 18, 2013

    My son is also 4 months old and my in laws drive me bonkers in may ways. This includes my SIL who has 2 children under 2 and refuses to get a flu shot or allow her children flu shots. They’re coming for Thanksgiving. 

    One thing I have done for visitors in the last 4 months is blame the pediatrician. “His doctor says we should be careful about his immunity since he hasn’t had all his vaccinations at this young age. They recommend we make sure our family has up to date shots on tDap and flu.” That way you’re implying you WANT them to see the baby and they’re FAMILY and also protecting the immunity thing. This also has the benefit of being true!

    You better believe I’m baby wearing all day Thanksgiving day.

  4. MR
    November 18, 2013

    OP, ((hugs)). To me, it really sounds like a lot of this is because of your cesarean. Having an unexpected cesarean can cause enough grief of the loss of the birth you were expecting without adding all this other stuff. Add on not being able to see your baby right away, and then to find out that EVERYONE else got to hold him first (and that people told you they didn’t when they did). That is pretty hard to deal with. And to top it off, your mil won’t even give you the pictures she took of that day. It is one more reminder of what all you lost that day. It is ok to be mad at the world for that. I would highly suggest looking to see if you have a local ICAN chapter. There are ladies there who have been through unexpected cesareans and all of the emotional crap that comes with it. They can relate. They can help reassure you that you are not crazy for this. That it isn’t just you. And through processing some of those emotions, you will be able to figure out which of these other issues are colored by that, and adjust (if necessary) appropriately.
    I second what Amy said about the picture, but definitely have your husband be the one to go over and get the pictures, ASAP.

    • JenVegas
      November 19, 2013

      I so so SO agree with this advice about blaming the pediatrician. Our actual pediatrician told us to blame her if we were uncomfortable or worried about germs, non-vaccinated people etc. I made my own mother get her flu shot and the tDap before she came to stay with us after our son was born.

  5. Stephanie
    November 18, 2013

    Great advice, Amy. I have my fair share of horrible in-laws, but yeah, at four months, you should be able to let your mother-in-law take him to the park or care for him for a little while.

    Did they do the right thing when the baby was born? No, but it’s time to try and reset the dial. And I hate to say this, but they probably do think that by not letting them hold your baby, you’re being mean. Should they be snarky about it? No. But if I were that baby’s grandmother, I’d be kind of upset that my daughter-in-law is restricting access to my grandchild.

  6. Beth
    November 18, 2013

    For what it’s worth, my sister-in-law did the same thing with some photos she took of my kids for a college project. She got all weird when I asked for copies, I got miffed and said snotty things to my husband about it and then promptly felt like a schmoo when I got her lovely final project for Christmas. Pollyanna for the win!
    To be honest your in laws seem super sensitive, but your husband seems to be doing his best to buffer for you. I agree that distancing yourself from all the he said/she said is a great place to start. In the end, it’s good to understand that they will be around forever, so if it’s not upset about newborn photo rights, it’ll be T-ball or prom or (yeesh) wedding drama.

  7. Kat
    November 18, 2013

    Great advice from Amy, as always. My MIL can be a bit overbearing and passive aggressive as well. Our son is now 18 months old, and we tried some of the things that Amy suggested where we were able (we do have some deal breakers that we work around, like grandma doesn’t babysit ever), and they do work. I try to let go of the passive stuff and focus on what motivates her rather than her behavior (she is controlling because she wants to feel like she is contributing, she gives gifts I hate because she wants to see her presence in our house and be included, not because she is trying to upset me) I am much happier and I think she is too. As a nice bonus, my husband is happier as well, he feels like I am doing my part to be positive and encourage a nice relationship with his mother for both myself and our son, and he feels better when I ask him to lay down the law on my non-negotiable stuff because he doesn’t have to play referee very often. MIL stuff can be hard, but I have found that being the bigger person and really looking at her as a person rather than an adversary helps our relationship tremendously.

  8. Suzy Q
    November 18, 2013

    As an aunt to an adult nephew and niece, I absolutely consider myself to be immediate family and would go to the hospital for a birth, unless specifically directed not to (in which case I would respect their wishes). Our family is very small, however.  All that other crazy shit? No.

    • Diane
      November 23, 2013

      I am an aunt to an adult niece and 2 nephews and i expected to be included as immediate family in the announcements of their impending births.  

      When they become parents, I absolutely do NOT expect to be considered immediate family as they will have their respective parents, grandparents and siblings to think of.  I surely do not need to be included then. At that time, I become the great aunt to the new child, and that is not immediate family in my view. 

  9. autumn
    November 18, 2013

    Hugs to the OP!  What a crummy labor/delivery/immediate post partum situation.  Learn from the situation and have a plan for a hypothetical future birth, but try to let it go now.  Easier said than done.  

    My MIL is a passive agressive piece of work who conveniently forgot all the boundaries we had worked through prior to having our daughter.  So we started from scratch.  It really is good practice for those toddler temper tantrums.  Stay calm and neutral.  This is how it is.  Take what we offer or leave it.  More scheduled grandma only visits without the whole family might help.  My MIL plays to the crowd, she’s actually likable is there isn’t someone to show off too (how AMAZING a grandmother she is. . .)

    And don’t feel like you have to leave the baby alone with anyone if you don’t want to.  One hard and fast rule is my MIL is not allowed to be alone in our  house.  She is not allowed to be alone with our daughter.  Ever.  Until she has proven her self trustworthy, which she’s not managed to prove in over 2 years. Texting her daughter about bridesmaids dress colors as my kid ran into the street and Finishing her text before running after her is a big hole do dig out of.   

  10. -k-
    November 18, 2013

    Amy’s advice is all very reasonable. Nonetheless, my reaction rema BLAAAARRRRGGGH. His family was thoughtless and selfish at the baby’s birth. That is such a violation, and they should not have needed L&D staff to tell them that. If MIL doesn’t respect your rules (wish there had been more detail in the letter on this point), no, she doesn’t get to babysit. If the rest of the family is anything like the aunt in her total disregard for your boundaries and the baby’s personal space/comfort, the baby stays in the sling. 

    I was in the position of visiting my husband’s family when me daughter was about this age. We arrived late after a full day of traveling. Baby was off her naps, totally overwhelmed, and ready to go somewhere quiet, and this was more than evident, but everyone still wanted to play pass the baby. To some extent this was a self-limiting problem but one actually went so far as to take a crying baby from my arms. We later went to nurse in a dark room and grandma came in, flipped on the lights, and chirped ‘here they are!’ to a newly arrived visitor. Eeeeffff that. 

    I get that they were excited to meet her, but the point is- I’m responsible for my child’s security and wellbeing. Those things take precedence over the feewings of adults who are too caught up in their own desires to take the actual individual child’s needs into account. I can’t imagine people steamrolling an unhappy adult in that way, and I can’t stand seeing it done to babies.

    ANYWAY. Yes, look for ways to encourage togetherness where you can, but don’t compromise on the things that are important to you. Keep inviting MIL to stuff; stop caring if she’s an asshat like she was at the pumpkin patch. Let her take pictures in the future, but book actual sessions with other photographers so the copies aren’t available for the power play. Make ‘you’re mean’ a drinking game. And give your husband a big, sloppy kiss, because this kind of thing is a lot harder when you have to face it on your own. 

  11. Rachel
    November 18, 2013

    Okay, so this advice isn’t going to sound cheerful, but it comes from practical experience. I find that with questions like this, there’s usually more to the story. With such passive aggressive in-laws, there’s usually not much room for compromise and olive branches. I’ve found that with family like this, firmly standing up for yourself is the only way to deal. You don’t have to let your in-laws  babysit or hold the baby if you’re not comfortable with it. I know the baby didn’t get sick this time, but the OP is clearly uncomfortable with it, and it doesn’t matter if others think she’s being “mean.” I know a lot of people with nicer families don’t understand this, but if you have relatives like this, sometimes there aren’t options for compromise. These people will probably always consider you “mean” unless you give them exactly what they want. What worries me most about this letter is that it doesn’t seem like the OP’s husband is standing up for her and their parenting decisions at all.

  12. Liz
    November 18, 2013

    I would be really uncomfortable allowing MIL to take the baby unsupervised. If she can’t respect you and your boundaries to your face then what is she going to do when you’re not there.

    I think you also need to be careful that you and your husband appear as a united front. If your husband’s family thinks they can bully him into doing what they want it’s going to keep getting harder to enforce boundaries.

  13. z
    November 18, 2013

    Wait– if I’m reading this correctly, did they all deliberately deceive you about what happened in the first hours of your baby’s life?  Amy kind of glossed over that, but what exactly does the OP mean by “hid this from me”?  Lying to a mother about anything related to her newborn is a real problem–  even about trivial things, because the coverup is worse than the crime.  If that’s what actually happened, I would find that very hard to forgive, and I would certainly never, ever forget or fully trust them again.  Especially after a not-as-planned birth experience, I could see how that loss of control would be just devastating.  And withholding the pictures is a really messed-up thing to do after you completely missed out on the first precious hours of his life.  

    I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding and lack of clear communication here, and maybe their complaints about you being “mean” reflect their lack of understanding of why you feel violated.  Maybe they didn’t understand how betrayed you feel, if holding a newborn and taking pictures is normal in their family.  Could it be that when they realized you were unhappy about the hospital visit they fibbed about the aunt, and then couldn’t figure out how to undo the lie?  I really don’t know what to do about this other than actually talk it out with them, but they sound like such nutters that it might not work.

    I have so much sympathy for you, especially if they really did lie to you.  I would suggest a gradual re-building of trust.  Like, first they come over and hold the baby on the couch while you are sitting right next to them.  Next, they hold the baby while your husband supervises and you are in another room.  Next time, they hold the baby on their own while you go upstairs and take a shower.  If they manage to do that without violating your boundaries, you could progress from there.  As he gets older he will seem less fragile and it’s a little easier to loosen your grip.  

  14. Kacy
    November 18, 2013

    I think the advice to learn to compromise is true, but I strongly disagree that the family gathering that took place at the hospital was the responsibility of the hospital or its staff and that they deserve a reprimand. It’s great if you can discuss your preferences with your nurse and if they have the time to help you field visitors, but it’s not their priority or their job. If you don’t want visitors, don’t send them a message inviting them to your room! Plus, I can’t imagine a scenario where the baby is handed to family members without the presence/permission of the parents. It sounds to me like the husband took the baby to meet the family while she was in recovery. Obviously this wasn’t the best choice since it really hurt her feelings, but it sounds like it was more a miscommunication with her husband than anything else. 

  15. MR
    November 19, 2013

    Here is the biggest problem with getting so upset about the in laws all holding baby before OP did – it wasn’t their fault. Either the hospital let everyone hold baby, or (more likely) OP’s husband did. People cannot just go in and hold baby’s just by saying they are relatives. So, to me, it sounds like the person OP really is upset with there is her husband, because he let everyone hold the baby first, but she is blaming his family for it. While it is easier to blame your relatives than to deal with the anger you have at your husband, at some point, it comes down to the fact that you have to deal with the source. And this will bubble up at some point, no matter how much you tamp it down. Even the lying about who held baby may have been husband’s thing. He may have been so excited to show everyone baby, that he let them all hold baby, and then when able to see OP and find out that she wanted to hold baby first, tried to spare her feelings and limit the stories of who held baby. Definitely a misguided attempt to spare your feelings, one that did not go as intended. But, it is important to recognize the intention. But, really, this all comes down to the cesarean again. In a situation like this, where baby doesn’t stay with mom in recovery, mom misses out on moments in baby’s life. And that SUCKS. It is a difficult thing to process when you thought you were going to get a vaginal birth.

    My first daughter was born via an emergency cesarean. My husband and mom held her first. The spinal started to travel upwards and make me feel like I couldn’t breathe, I started to panic, so they pushed something that knocked me out completely. I remember seeing her right after she was born, and asking if she was ok. I vaguely recall seeing my mother as they wheeled me back to my room. My most vivid memory of my daughter’s birth is being in recovery for over 45 minutes literally itching to hold my baby. I kept telling the nurse to go get her, that I wanted to see her. She kept saying I had to wait until she was done. It was awful. By the time my baby was brought to me, she was almost 2 hours old. It made the first year of her life hard. If affected everything. Because it was my first, I didn’t even realize how much it affected me until I was going for a vbac with my second daughter, and then when I got that vbac and felt the difference. But, my cesarean did affect me. And, knowing other people held my baby first, kind of made me not want to share her. In a way, I felt like I had missed out on that time, and I wanted it back. Logically, it is not ever something you can get back. But, the months after baby is born are not always entirely logical. And that’s ok. Because you have to be emotional to process what happened. ((hugs))

  16. Jennier
    November 19, 2013

    I’m also wondering if the recovery room issue wasn’t a bit of a communication problem.   If everyone wasn’t invited then why text everyone? Immediate family is a subjective term, maybe the aunt didn’t know she wasn’t in that group until she was there (not sure why she would LIE about it though).  The sister said she saw her leave, but you didn’t say if she actually got to hold the baby.  Maybe she got there and someone else said why are you here? and she felt bad and left.  Did you tell anyone before you went into labor that you only wanted certain people there right after the baby was born?  We told our immediate family that we would tell them what was going on but asked them not to show up to visit until invited, we wanted time for just us first.  Then I, like you, ended up with an emergency c-section and apparently my husband panicked a bit and told our immediate family to GET HERE NOW! (which I can’t really blame him for, as I and the baby were going in for surgery, and in the end I was glad he did so they were all there and he wasn’t alone if something had gone wrong.)  Though I didn’t know they were there until my aunt who I was lucky enough to catch as my L&D nurse was asking me about showing the baby to the family before she was sent to the nursery for her checks and I said ‘why, who’s here?’ and she said ‘everyone’.  There isn’t a lot of time to chat when you’re being prepped for surgery.  Wasn’t a big deal for me, but we’re all very close so it didn’t matter to me that she was passed around to all of them before I got to do much but get a brief cuddle and a quick attempt to breastfeed (which because i was still completely prone was more of a utilitarian effort by the nurse than mama baby bonding time).  Honestly, that was the hardest part – for me – about the c-section: being in recovery mode myself and not being able to have the baby and me time the way I had envisioned.  Letting go of those dreamed of moments can be very difficult.
    I also thing you might be being a tad overprotective of your new baby and needing to protect him from everyone and everything. I understand you have some trust issues with your husbands family, but not allowing family members to hold the baby at a family event because you’re worried about exposure to germs?  Seems a bit harsh.  I’m not saying take him to the store and let every stranger give him a cuddle, but it is good for babies to be exposed to people and germs and outside and allergens to help build their immune system up.  My husband’s mother was very strict, kept him inside and away from people for the first few months of his life.  He ended up with horrible, horrible allergies and asthma issues when he was a kid.  Luckily he’s grown out of them.  He’s been told by doctors that he probably had issues because of his lack of exposure when he was a baby.  His body wasn’t used to any of it when he was finally exposed, but eventually did get used to it and grew out of it.   That’s not to say that will happen to you or that you can’t be careful, but realize that being too careful can be detrimental  too.  Believe me when you kid is a toddler you will have to adjust anyway, you’ll be amazed at what they get their hands in, put in their mouth, or decide in general to lick.  You just have to learn to be ok with it and not come running with the sanitizer every other minute.  Its tough to let go but you can do it!

  17. Lrj
    November 19, 2013

    I have CRAZY inlaws so I totally sympathize with you. I agree with PP though. You do need to create some civility in this situation because they clearly will not. I think CLEAR and ENFORCED boundaries are in order here. I had a daughter to a previous marriage thus a previous delivery and I am pregnant again with my new husband and this is his family first grandchild. His mother is her own special brand of nutcase (opiate addict who drinks in excess of two bottles of wine an evening) She took to “threatening” me early in my pregnancy. I simply stated in a calm even tone what type of behavior would be or wouldnt be tolerated. I repeated it as necessary. Currently she is not allowed around us or the children AT ALL because her addictions cause unpredictable behavior should she choose to reevaluate her lifestyle we would love to support her in her recovery till that time sorry she isnt allowed around the children. We get weekly texts that range from bizarre to threatening. All are ignored. I find this approach best when dealing with absolute chaotic members. I think its important for you and your husband to be on the same page and clearly outline behavioral expectations “shit talking will not be tolerated and will cause me to do xy and z (that could be ending the convo or simply leaving)” People respond better with clear consistent boundaries and when they know what to expect! Good Luck

  18. Marnie
    November 19, 2013

    I wanted to speak to an element that hasn’t really been brought up but could be related to the immediate post-birth experience. Has the OP considered that post-partum onset depression and anxiety is at play? I ask this because I wonder if the OP’s interpretation of the IL’s actions is being distorted by how the OP is processing things. That is NOT to say I’m dismissing the OP’s feelings or family’s behavior, not at all. Just suggesting a different angle to look at. Especially with the strong germaphobe anxieties for a baby that is now post-NB phase, just give it some thought. I have had 3 children and experienced PPD and anxiety after number 3. It wasn’t the general “I’m so sad” type that I would have thought. I realized that something wasn’t right with me after my own overblown reaction to my own dear passive aggressive ILs.

  19. B
    November 19, 2013

    A baby isn’t a toy that has to be shared or passed around to make others feel good. If the mom wants to wear her baby and have others look in, that is her choice. She’s in charge of the well-being of her child. Grandmothers aren’t given the right for trips to the park, especially at 4 months when they don’t even know what is going on. She may be over protective, she may have fluctuating hormones due to just having a baby, or she just may not feel comfortable with others near her baby yet, but that’s not for family to interfere with. If his family doesn’t get that a new baby isn’t about their own needs, then maybe they don’t get what a family is all about.

  20. Hope
    November 19, 2013

    My motto in situations like this “Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be happy?”

    Happy usually wins out. :D

    Battling things out with the in-laws sounds exhausting and soul-crushing. At a time when you’re already exhausted and stressed out. Sure, you’d be in the right to lay down the law. But it will make your life so much easier if you can figure out a way to compromise.

    A lot of the problems sound like communication issues, to be honest. The in-laws might have no idea that it bugs you when they randomly show up. I think you need to stand up for yourself when you don’t want a visit, but then you need to figure out how to be pleasant if you decide to let them in. You know that you don’t want them there, but they are probably scratching their heads and wondering why you’re being so cold to them when all they want is a nice visit. 

    It sounds like you have every right to be annoyed with them. But it also sounds like you’d be a *lot* happier if you could figure out a way to let some of this go, and compromise on the other stuff. 

  21. liz
    November 20, 2013

    Wait, OP said MIL is a L&D nurse. Did OP’s husband take the kid to meet the family, or did the L&D Nurse MIL do it on her own initiative? And is that why MIL is holding on to the pictures, because OP is already so upset about everyone holding the baby before she did, and the photos show that – and maybe even more people than OP knows about?

    I’d love for it to be because MIL is making a lovely Christmas present, but I’m getting an oogy feeling about it.

    That being said, I do think that letting the relatives hold the baby more (in a supervised setting), would be good for relations between them and the baby. The relatives may not deserve it, but the baby sure does deserve to have people who love it uncomplicatedly.

  22. betttina
    November 20, 2013

    I am totally with the OP. My husband graduated from college when our baby was a week old and we went out to dinner to celebrate with his parents and siblings. My MIL held the baby for the entire dinner, “so that the new mom could eat in peace.” It’s nice of her, yes, and I realize that she wanted to hold the baby, but that was three years ago and I still remember how much I missed my baby for that hour!

    I would be SO RESENTFUL of in-laws holding my child before me if I were still unconscious from a c-section!

  23. Sam
    November 20, 2013

    I completely sympathize! My in-laws barged into the hospital after the birth and brought everyone they could find. They bickered among themselves and were loud and obnoxious but barely acknowledged me! Since the birth (our baby is almost 2 months) they insist on seeing the baby in person or skyping constantly and when we tried to set boundaries by asking if we could have one weekend to ourselves, my father in law actually told my husband that we “couldn’t deny them their visitation rights.” EXACT WORDS!  So I get your frustration. Here’s my question: How does your family interact with the baby? Do you give them unfettered access, worry less about leaving the baby with them, generally feel okay passing him around with them? I often find that there are some anger issues with his parents that make me want to set more boundaries with the baby, even though I don’t set those same boundaries with my family. I guess my advice for you is to sort through your feelings about your in-laws and ask yourself if it’s how you feel about them, or about them around the baby. If it’s how you feel about them and it’s being exacerbated by the baby situation, try to pull back a little. I let my husband deal with his parents: he does the skype appointments and I make sure I’m relatively busy when they come over- that way they see the baby and I stay out of the way and don’t get annoyed with them as people.  If I don’t watch them like hawks with her, I don’t get annoyed.  Also, they yell at our baby too because they want her to wake up. DRIVES ME BONKERS!

  24. Amy
    November 23, 2013

    My advice is to just keep offering positive alternatives, like, what you would like to have happen, and hope your MIL bites.

    After years of fine relationship I just went through/am still going through a big falling-out with my MIL – I was at her house and expressed a boundary about my kids and guns. She FLIPPED OUT over my having the nerve to say such a thing while a guest in her house and so I apologized (while silently thinking “guess who’s not coming back to your house”), but it wasn’t enough and she started sending nasty, angry email. We just kept calmly replying that we didn’t want to argue about it but we wanted to support her getting to see the kids, would she like to come over, would she like to meet somewhere, etc, and for awhile she was like “impossible! I need to rant some more about how terrible you are” and then very recently she was like “… so could we meet somewhere”. We haven’t actually met up yet but I am optimistic that my maturity is about to triumph over her ridiculousness. Anyone else, I would have written off ages ago – anyone else who wrote me that kind of email would be filtered right out of my inbox and into a little folder marked “caution, toxic, do not read” – but I figure if she can be nice to the kids, and not mean to me in front of the kids, I can roll my eyes at her on the inside until the kids get old enough to decide for themselves what kind of interaction they want to have with her. If she really behaves herself for awhile we might even let her do something with the kids unsupervised again. (But not at her house, because of the afore-hinted-at problem where she feels that all boundaries are off there.)

  25. mary
    November 28, 2013

    I was a first time mom about a year ago. I admit, I was super protective of my daughter…I wanted to do things right and wanted her to stay healthy and bond with me and I guess I kinda wanted to prove that I could do it myself. I don’t know why I felt so defensive but – my bad. My in-laws and parents love this kid and I did kind of ice them out at the newborn stage. In the end, a little break from the constant demands of a baby – even if its just sitting across the room while someone else coos and falls in love, is a very nice thing even if you aren’t super close with that person.

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