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Pregnancy & Cross-Continental Family Guilt Trips

Pregnancy & Cross-Continental Family Guilt Trips

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Apart from hormones, moods, gigantic breasts, and a bump- my pregnancy introduced me to your blog. I have found strength, comfort and wisdom in so many simple things from Dr. Browns Bottles to cloth nappies to your sane advice.

To provide you some background- I married an amazing man about 3 years ago and moved to South Africa. I am originally from India- and having been a floater for a fair share of my life- I found home with my husband. In May 2016- I discovered I was pregnant and its been a thrilling journey ever since. I initially wanted to go back to India to have the baby- My parents are in India and the rest of my family and friends. But as time has passed my husband and I found ourselves wanting to have the baby in South Africa. The perks of having the baby in SA include a great medical aid plan, easier immigration requirements (getting a SA visa from India- is quite the task these days), and a great doctor who has knowledge of my history and plus we now have a home here. The greatest perk of all of them being having my husband through the pregnancy and as the baby is born.

If I were to go back to India- I will have to leave SA by my 30th week- which means requesting for a 7 month maternity leave! While my employer is understanding- I sometimes feel I could rather take that 7 months once the baby is here. Indian families tend to take over the baby and mamma care completely- and I do find my husband feeling he might not have any time with the baby if I were to go back to India. An added issue is a nice long 16 hour flight and change of medical practitioners well into my 3rd trimester.

So here is the problem- My parents- especially my mother is very very very hurt and disappointed that I am even considering South Africa for the baby. While she has agreed to come down to help me- I am left feeling very guilty about my choice. I am made to feel that I have not been sensitive to my parents’ needs- as she has to leave my father and the dogs alone for 6 weeks- and my oldest doggie is about 16 years old. She has even mentioned that she does not know if he will survive without her. She feels that coming to South Africa would also take her away from her responsibilities and her job- as she has to apply for leave. I feel extremely guilty that I am making her leave her comfort zone. She has also said that she and my father feel extremely pained for having missed my pregnancy- that they have not had a chance to even make a meal for me! She has turned down an invite for my father to join her in South Africa- stating that the dogs cannot be alone, and there will not be enough space in my home for her and my father and the baby- as newborns need a lot of stuff and space.

As much as I feel like I have robbed them off a piece of my life- this phase has been an immensely precious time for my husband and I. While I have never intended to exclude them- circumstances have shaped out to be that way. I do have a full time job here and cannot visit them as often as I would like and I continue to financially support my parents and family- and I did not want to spend money on travel as I wanted to keep this going till things on their end were a little more secure. The financial support has sort of blown a small hole in my wallet- and the 2 extra months at work which I get- if I were to have the baby in SA- would only help close the hole (a little)- and give me a chance to buy my daughter a few more things! My mother feels that I should not care about the money- and think of the care the baby would get with so many loved ones around. She also feels that childbirth and labour are hard- and in SA I will not get as much support as I would get in India- with my parents, siblings and family around.

Having had a miscarriage in the past, I am at this stage where I am apprehensive about the travel and change of doctors- the doctor here did my D&C last time- he knows my history and has a good rapport with me! But I feel that maybe that would be an easier adjustment than my mother having to come down? Also, in Indian culture the girl always goes to her mother’s house for the baby.. well I have never really followed culture- I prefer to craft my own little traditions along the way! But in this case- am I robbing my parents of a piece of their life they were looking forward to? Do I really need to feel this guilty?

My mother had me when she was 22- and has done so much for me! Am I being unfair to her and my father by deciding to stick on with my husband during this time? Also, am I being selfish for looking at this from the point of view of financial security, immigration and most importantly my baby having her father around and me my husband?

This has been causing me sleepless nights and I don’t want any more stress for my husband, my little bundle and myself- so any advice you may have on this will help!

P.S.- thank you for patiently reading this- it is longer than I thought it would be!

Oh no. Oh no no no no nooooooo. Please allow this neutral third-party Internet stranger to absolve you of your guilt. ALL OF IT. Because, no.

Look, I absolutely understand you’re bucking some very deep and important cultural traditions, but believe me when I say that unnecessary parental guilt trips are a universal phenomenon, and I am not a fan of them.

Because that’s exactly what your parents are doing. Yes, they are completely entitled to some disappointment. No, they are not allowed to guilt trip you into a generalized anxiety disorder WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT over that disappointment.

You laid out an incredibly strong and detailed case as to why having your baby in India would be a burden on you and your husband, and why South Africa is preferable. Meanwhile, I would have settled with “I want to have my baby in South Africa because I want to have my baby in South Africa” and I’d STILL be on your side. Your pregnancy, your baby, your choice.

This is going to sound harsh, but your mother is being flat-out cruel to you. Putting an elderly dog’s possible death on YOU? Complaining about applying for a few weeks’ leave while expecting you to apply for SEVEN MONTHS? (From a job that you already use to support HER financially?) Guilting you over the fact that they feel “left out”  while basically demanding a scenario that will shut your husband out of his daughter’s birth and the first months of her life completely??

No. No to alllllll of that. You have your baby where you want to, with a doctor you trust and your husband by your side.

Again, your parents and extended family are allowed to be disappointed. But they need to sack up and accept the reality of the situation and make the best of it. No, you will not be having the baby in India. Full stop. They can either make a visit work or not, but they are not allowed to blame you or shame you for it any longer. If your mother continues with the guilt trip, then perhaps it’s best if she not make the SA trip, and she (and her DOG) can stay in India until you are able to arrange a trip back home when your daughter is older. I’m sure that suggestion would shock her — all the excuses and reasons she’s hemming and hawing about are simply her thinking she can guilt you into changing your mind. Once she realizes that she can’t, I imagine she’ll grudgingly apply for leave and book a plane ticket. (And maybe eventually drop the B.S. about why your father can’t come by booking a pet sitter and remembering that newborns are actually pretty tiny and won’t really crowd out the presence of one extra adult.)

The next time she starts up with the excuses and the guilt, you are going to SHUT IT DOWN. “Mother, I understand the situation is tough and not what you expected or wanted, but it is what it is. I am having the baby here and I am not changing my mind. When you start talking like this it makes me very upset and anxious and that’s not good for me or the baby. So I need this kind of conversation to stop happening.”

Note: don’t ever say she’s making you feel guilty. Because that’s 1) what she wants, and 2) implies that you are admitting some level of betrayal or wrong-doing. She is making you UPSET. Distressed. Anxious. Unhappy. You know, bad feelings that a good mother doesn’t want to make her daughter feel.

I am so sorry you are feeling all those bad feelings (which you are, even if you keep referring to them with the umbrella term of “guilt”), because again, you’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve been a good (excellent, even) daughter. You ARE a good daughter. But now it’s time for you to also be a good wife and good mother, and make the best choice for your new family. And for what my opinion is worth, I genuinely believe you are.

Photo source: Photodune/mybaitshop

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • DJ

    Something Amy didn’t really touch on: your rapport with your doctor. Many people don’t realize how important this is to having a “good” L&D experience. Things around L&D don’t go as planning but having a medical professional you trust goes a long way towards you feeling best about the experience. This is not to say that horrible, horrible things will happen, but I didn’t “plan” on having a C-sec with my first and I certainly didn’t plan on having my second at home. But I feel much better about my second’s L&D because I trusted the people around me (doula, DH, and my mom) than I ever did about the C-sec.

    Recognize that if you go to India, your mom won’t stop there with the guilt trips. Time to start putting up healthy boundaries.

  • Roselyne

    “I am so sorry you are feeling all those bad feelings (which you are,
    even if you keep referring to them with the umbrella term of “guilt”),
    because again, you’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve been a good (excellent,
    even) daughter. You ARE a good daughter. But now it’s time for you to
    also be a good wife and good mother, and make the best choice for your
    new family. And for what my opinion is worth, I genuinely believe you
    are.”

    +++ this, and +++++++ the rest of the advice.

    Also something I learned having a kid: setting boundaries begins early, or it continues for a WHILE. The person with Strong Opinions about where you give birth will have equally Strong Opinions about how you give birth (natural? C-section? Gonna hear about it…), and strong opinions about painkillers after birth, about formula vs breastfeeding (about endless guilt if you can’t breastfeed, ask me how I know…), about how to convince baby to sleep, about appropriate clothing, appropriate stimulation, how to potty train, where to daycare, where to school, appropriate friends, appropriate dating age, etc, etc, etc… it NEVER ENDS. People have opinions. People who feel entitled to enforce the first part of those opinions tend to be a lot more open about the rest of them. At some point, either you’re going to add your mother as a third parent to this child, or you’re gonna have to set boundaries.

    What I’m trying to say is: there is value in including your mother and her emotions in your decision-making (which you are!! OMG would my mother never be staying with me for 6 weeks!). There is ALSO value in recognizing that she is a SEPARATE HUMAN BEING from you, and that, going forward, the decisions about you/your pregnancies/your children are actually YOUR responsibility (partially because you’re an adult, but also because they’re your responsibility to make and your consequences to bear) and to set yourself up in a place where you can ask for advice when needed but you can actually make the decisions.

  • Brooklyn

    Amy delivered the smack down I was craving as I read the letter. I absolutely cannot believe that mom and dad were prioritizing the health and well-being of their pets over that of their daughter and future granddaughter. Nope, nope, nope.

  • fearcutsdeeper

    The time you spend bonding as a family is so important and precious. If for no other reason (and you have plenty!) stay with your husband in South Africa.

  • Elaine

    You can also straight up throw your doctor under the bus if you feel the need to justify to your mom why you aren’t coming, and she doesn’t buy any of your previously stated, legitimately good reasons. If she doesn’t respect you and your wishes (!) maybe she will respect the medical authority of the doctor.

    • Watashi Zenaku

      So. Much. This.

      I avoided a lot of bullshit guilt trips from many people by throwing my OB/GYN and Pediatrician under the bus so many times they probably have “Greyhound” tattooed on their backs. Want me to drive 8 hours to visit you for Christmas when I am 7 months preggo? Doc says no. Want me to fly cross-country 2 weeks after giving birth. Docs say no. Want me to let you just bottlefeed the baby because I’m selfish for breastfeeding? Doc says no.

      If you’re not cool with respecting my boundaries, I’ll pull the Doctor punk card. 🙂

  • Lily

    I so agree with Amy, and you are definitely doing the right thing! It would have broken my husband’s heart to miss the birth and early days with our two daughters… your husband is looking forward to the baby as much as you are. And that sweet baby needs her dad, too! Stay strong and know that you are making the best decision for your family.

  • Christy

    I completely agree with everything here….you need to do what’s right for your family and it is pretty clear that means staying in SA. I’d be curious to hear from other Indian women (particularly those who have moved to other countries) on this issue…I married into an Indian family and have been regularly shocked by the sort of honor/guilt thing that seems to be so prevalent in Indian parenting, particularly when the parents are still in India (not the case with my husband’s family, thankfully in this case). Seriously, my brother in law did an entire PhD that he didn’t want to do because of family pressure. When I read what you wrote I can see how completely unreasonable your mom is being, but at the same time I can see that because of cultural expectations and convention of life in India, she wouldn’t think she is being unreasonable at all…that IS how things are done and its a point of dishonour that your daughter wouldn’t come home to have her baby. I’d love to hear from others but to me finding an “out” that allows your mom and dad to preserve their honour seems like a good way to go. I’d probably do what a previous commenter said and tell her that the doctors won’t allow you to travel. That way it’s not you rejecting her (and her values and her honor and everything else). And then plan a nice long visit when the baby is like six months old, you and your husband are established in your parenting, and it feels right to go.

  • Myriam

    If I were to take all cultural considerations out of it and keep only the practical, I would say : 1) stay in SA 2) keep working for as long a you want and keep your time off for once the baby is here 3) labour and delivery is hard, but I don’t see that siblings and extented family would help that much with that specific part of it (my family is only 2 hours away, and I had no intention of having them around while I was pushing that baby out!. I didn’t even want visitors at the hospital. Everybody was welcome to visit once we were back home) 4) Stand your grounds with your mom, and let go of the guilt, all of it. Once baby is here, you will “create” so many reasons to feel guilty over… don’t let your well being be one. If it reassures you, you are not coming across as selfish or ungrateful. Good luck!

  • Madhu

    I’m Indian…so I understand exactly the situation you find yourself in. And I’m with you…you should absolutely do what YOU think is best for your little family. Parents are trying to guilt trip you into coming to India to have the delivery there and while there are many wonderful things about that as well, in your current situation, I don’t see how thats going to work out at all! You are not at all being selfish. Prioritizing your own family and finances is not selfishness.
    Have the baby in SA. Plan a trip to India later when the baby is a bit older ( I would highly recommend making that India trip before you start solid food for the baby…your life will be a million times easier. Else EVERYONE is going to try to tell you what to feed the baby and no..just no).
    If your mom/parents can make the trip to SA at the time of delivery…wonderful. If not, you’ll figure things out yourselves and will be absolutely fine. Good luck and I hope you enjoy the rest of the pregnancy without all this stress.

    • Christy

      Oh man I laughed so hard at your “bring them before they start solids” comment – it’s one of the reasons we haven’t gone with our kids yet and why I seriously hesitate bringing them to weddings and things even here….two of my punks have anaphylactic allergies to dairy and eggs, and the number of times I’ve asked some well meaning Aunty if something has dairy and they have said “no no no, no dairy, is ghee.” (So um….clarified butter? Still a problem.). Anyway – good luck OP! Such and amazing and beautiful culture but like all of us, not without issues. Be strong and good luck to you and your lovely family! What a lucky baby to be born into a family with so many people who clearly love him/her already!

      • Madhu

        Christy…May I just say…how nice it is to see someone from a different culture have such a good understanding of ours. It can’t have been easy adapting to a whole different way of doing things. We have fantastic parental support in India…but it comes with it own downside of expectations. I wish the very best to your family. I’m sure they will get the best of both cultures 🙂

        • Christy

          You are so sweet Madhu, thank you!

  • SuzyQuzey

    Also, try to imagine doing to your daughter what your mother is doing to you. This might help you understand how wrong your mother is for her guilt trips on you. Be strong, for yourself, your child, and your marriage. Your little core family is what matters most now. And congrats!

  • Watashi Zenaku

    Switching OB’s towards the end of pregnancy can be done, but why put yourself through that when you have an OB you love? Another thing to consider is that some OB’s won’t take patients on after a certain number of weeks. I had my first child with a stellar OB in a great practice in the PacNW. I started my second pregnancy in a different state with an OB team that I really, really, really disliked. Thank goodness, we moved back to the PacNW and I went right back to my original OB. Having a great Dr./patient relationship – especially during your first pregnancy and post-miscarriage – and valuing your own health is paramount.

    The other issue that jumps to mind is that if the OP is supporting her parents, then her time and money have some say as to arrangements of the birth. My MIL had tried to guilt me into having my husband and I pay for a plane ticket, hotel, meals, and rental car for a post-birth visit (so I wouldn’t have to cook for her or have her stay at the house…!) because she found out my salary and my husband and I “could certainly afford it.” Yeahhh… No. It’s our family’s finances, and while we can help, it doesn’t mean that the visitors should be calling all the shots and making unreasonable demands of time and money that isn’t theirs to control.

    The time you spend with your husband in those first few days post-birth is important and very necessary: it is a rite of passage that turns you from a couple to parents, it allows you to figure things out together that work for your new family, and it allows you to be more confident in your role as a mother. While having help from family is important, being able to work together as team with your husband is important, and it’s often difficult to get on the same page when being bombarded by advice and care-taking from “well-meaning” family members.

    I know you value the advice and wisdom of your parents, but you, too, will also be a parent: finding your Mum voice and setting limits and boundaries on what values and methods you have in raising your children is so very important.