I was talking with my MIL the other day about my plans for giving birth. She asked if my mom was going to come, and I said I wasn’t sure. I had invited her but she hadn’t given an emphatic yes. My MIL insinuated that she thought my mom was being unsupportive and basically a bad mother for not coming. When I mentioned this to my husband, he agreed. I was really hurt by their reactions and tried to defend my mother’s hesitancy to them, but neither one of them seemed to get it. So I’m going to try and explain myself here, and hopefully somebody out there will get it or at least sympathize.
First, my mother hates traveling. She pretty much refuses to fly, and she lives just over 1,000 miles away, so taking a car or train is very time consuming. She has done both to come visit me over the years, and has offered to do so again this summer to come visit me before I give birth and then again after the birth, but she has to psych herself up for even a 4-hour trip to southern California (and frankly with L.A. traffic I don’t blame her). One time she was so nervous about driving home after visiting me in San Francisco she forgot to give me a hug good-bye, which definitely hurt my feelings but she NEVER forgets to give me hugs so I could tell just how nervous she was. She has acknowledged getting overly anxious on adventures she is in charge of, even if she’s done them before, and doesn’t understand why she’s like that but just is. She blames it on her parents and brain chemistry, which is probably a good starting place.
She has also expressed how she doesn’t want to invade my space during what she sees as a very private, vulnerable, stressful time. She doesn’t want to be a burden or have me focus on her when I should be focused on giving birth and my new child. I have told her I would find her more of a support than someone I had to entertain, but I think that idea of having someone there just for support is very foreign to her.
Her inability to grasp that someone would come to a birth JUST to be supportive led me to another realization. I think another reason she doesn’t want to come, and this is something I didn’t share with either my husband or MIL, is because child birth was so traumatic for her. Both times she became pregnant she became moderately to life-threateningly ill for at least a month before giving birth. Both times she had caesareans. The first time she had been in labor for over 13 hours and the baby (me) was “in danger” and as a completely new mom with an unsupportive new husband and a pregnancy that hadn’t been entirely planned, she was scared and unsure of herself. I was fine, but her own wounds, both physical and emotional, took a long time to heal (and in some ways never did). She was also not able to breastfeed me, which back then resulted in her getting a lot of grief from other mothers who were supposed to be supportive but instead suggested she go to grief counseling and was less of a mother for not giving birth vaginally OR being able to breastfeed. The second time she gave birth, the anesthesiologist fucked up the epidural and she could feel a lot of the caesarean operation but was unable to cry out in pain. That alone would make anyone shy away from labor and child birth.
My mom also suffered from postpartum depression with both her babies, enough that she even considered ending her life when my sister was only a few months old. Thankfully the fact that my sister was so small and Mom didn’t trust her alone with my dad saved her and she has never seriously considered taking her life again, even when my sister died.
She also was witness to a friend’s birth experience, which was done at home attended by midwives and friends, which my mom described as “lots of people just going in and out of the room all the time, very casually,” much too public for my mom’s tastes. My mom was there to take pictures of the birth, but when she offered them to her friend the new mother she said she never wanted to see them because the birth experience was so painful and to be reminded of that day would just be too awful. My mom still has those negatives and contact sheet in a storage box in the hallway closet.
So, all of that combined I believe makes my mother very reluctant to drive over 1,000 miles to sit around for a few days (or longer) until her first-born daughter suffers in (what she imagines to be) excruciating pain for several hours in a potentially dangerous non-hospital setting, and then try to stay out of the way for several more days while I sleep and struggle with my newborn baby, because of course she wouldn’t want to offer advice as that would be seen as overbearing and imposing on her daughter’s knowledge. (GOD sometimes I wish my MIL would think like that!).
I love my mom. I understand my mom is human and has hang-ups. We all do. I am also used to being an adult and pretty much responsible for myself since I was 12 and not expecting too much of my parents. And if that includes not wanting to come to my birth, sure I’m a little disappointed but I am okay with it, I understand why. And I wish that the support system that will be around and isn’t 1,000 miles away would fucking get that, or if not understand to then keep their fucking mouths shut! (Love you!)