I was going to text Natalie about this instead of making it a public post, but this blog is about things I wish I knew, and this topic is definitely something I wish I knew. After talking to other new parents, turns out I’m not the absolute bitch monster I assumed I was, and many people have experienced the same. I know many pregnant people right now who don’t have the great relationship with their in-laws that I do, yet this still happened to me, so they may need a double heads up. If you are one of my in-laws reading this, hopefully you’ll realize the point is that you never did anything wrong! My brain just decided you were scary thanks to the insane amount of who-even-knows-what pumping through my new mom self.
I have a great relationship with my in-laws: they’re lovely people, I want my son to love and have fruitful relationships with them as he grows, and hopefully in a post-COVID world they’ll be a reliable source of occasional childcare… basically zero reason to expect anything would be different I gave birth. And yet! While I was comfortable with some of my own family being around the baby, something inside of me became very anti-my partner’s family. They never did anything wrong– if anything, they were far more respectful of our new parent boundaries than my own family. But thanks to postpartum hormones, it felt like the baby was mine, and they couldn’t get it on it.
What was I afraid of? Nothing that could be well articulated. That they were going to steal my baby? Push me out? Overstay their welcome? None of the above, and yet all of the above. Like most things postpartum, it’s hard to describe– it was just a strong motherly urge; another feeling that made me feel absolutely crazy on top of the sleep I wasn’t getting.
I read a theory that this happens because your primal parent instincts come rushing in, and even though your in-laws might be the warmest, most respectful people on the planet, they’re not your tribe. When the cavewoman hormones flood your brain, your family is safe while the clan you partnered into is unknown. They’re not your blood; they might eat or steal your baby. Is there any science to this? I have no idea! But it makes a little bit of sense to me, and I hope you read this in time to know it might very well happen to you.
So what do you do. If you have truly overbearing in-laws– the kind that are wildly inappropriate or don’t respect your boundaries for COVID protocols or anything else– you are completely justified in drawing a hard line and not budging. I’m not saying you have to keep your baby away forever, but this is a fragile time for your new family, and if trying to force time with them is going to put you over the edge, please prioritize your baby and your mental health. If it’s too much for you to be around but you value your in-laws getting to meet baby, consider having your partner take the kid for a visit, or you going out for an errand while the in-laws come over. If the in-laws are over and it becomes overwhelming, you can either exit the room solo for some downtime, or you can excuse yourself with baby to go nurse, put them down for a nap, or just get your mom hormones back down from “internal rage” by taking the baby to snuggle yourself. Does this sound selfish as I type it out? Yeah, kinda. But you’re already giving 145% of yourself to someone else; your mother-in-law can deal with not getting to hold the baby for her entire visit.
This is a great time to lean on your friends who are already parents. They will 100% understand if you send a text “sister-in-law is here plz help.” You both know your sister-in-law is only excited for you and over the moon to meet your kid, but a great friend will respond, “SHE’S THE WORST” even though they’ve probably never met. You can do a lot of loving kindness meditation towards your in-laws later once the hormones clear and you realize they’re actually extremely helpful to have around (hopefully.)