Something weird, shocking and infuriating happened to me yesterday.
It plagued me all night last night, and kept me from sleeping or eating. It was even harder to process than the fact I’ll likely not have an egg pick up this cycle. It was one of those things that could just change my life, even though I had absolutely no control over it. And it was caused by my mother-in-law.
In order to properly understand what has happened here, I’m going to need to give you the long and boring back story on my relationship with my mother-in-law Kate, so I’m going to separate this tale of woe into two posts. This first one doesn’t really have much to do with infertility, but the next one certainly does so just stick with me here, ok?
Doug and I met at university. We were part of a tight knit group of about a dozen friends. We were all as close as brothers and sisters, though there were only three girls in the group. We did everything together – worked together, lived together, studied together, partied together, matured together. And of all the people in that special little group, Doug was my very best friend.
Doug and I weren’t romantically interested in each other at all. In fact he had a girlfriend, and I was involved with another boy in the group. When people would point out how close we were and suggest one day we would get married, we’d laugh and laugh and tell them how that could never possibly be – we were like siblings, after all.
One sweltering summer weekend, eight of us (six boys and two girls) decided to head to the little beach town of Torquay. It was just over an hour’s drive, and also where Doug’s parents lived. Despite being friends with Doug for so long, I’d never actually met his mother Kate and stepfather John before. I drove down to Torquay in the car with Doug, his girlfriend, and the boy in our group that I was casually dating at the time.
“They’re cool,” Doug told me, as we drove down the highway. “They never had any problems with me bringing friends home for a party, even when I was in school. You can be yourself in front of them.”
When we arrived, all the boys stripped off to their board shorts and jumped into the pool, so I stripped down to my bikini and did the same. Over the course of the day I barely gave his parents a second thought, but did politely introduce myself.
Doug’s girlfriend, not well liked by the others in the group due to her tendency to put him down in front of everyone, went to bed alone at about 9pm. That left just the six boys and myself out in the yard. All the boys were drinking heavily, so I drank as well. We all laughed and had a great time. In the early hours of the morning I found the spare bedroom that had been assigned to me and collapsed on the bed. I slept alone that night, having not even attempted to invite my fling into the room with me. In fact, we’d never slept together before (and never did after that night either).
A week later I met Doug for lunch as we worked nearby to each other. He laughed and confessed his mother had intensely disliked me. When I asked him why, he’d told me she thought I was a tart for getting around in a bikini and flaunting my body (never mind it was summer and we were swimming!) and hadn’t liked the way I’d “thrown myself” at the boy I was seeing. I was offended but brushed it off. I knew I wasn’t what she seemed to think I was. In fact, I was more of a prude than anything else. I rarely drank or acted up, and never slept around. I was the good girl in the group, which was why Doug found his mother’s opinion so hilarious. I was Little Miss Reliable. I decided never to go back to that house in Torquay.
Fast forward over a year later and everything was very different. University was over, half of our group had moved interstate or overseas to pursue career opportunities, my fling was forgotten about, Doug’s girlfriend was history and suddenly we were seeing each other in a new light for the first time. We’d somehow moved out of the friend zone, and were sitting quite comfortably in the love zone. We’d loved each other before, but now were in love. Serious love. Marriage and babies type love. The kind of love that meant Doug wanted to bring me home to officially meet his family.
I was sitting at a cafe with him when he decided spontaneously to phone his mother and annouce we were coming down to stay for the weekend. They had no idea we’d been quietly dating for nearly six months.
“Hi Mum!” Doug chirped into his phone. “I’m coming to visit, and I’m bringing Sadie.”
“Oh…” I could hear Kate respond sullenly. “That’s nice, dear. I’ll make up the spare room shall I?”
“No Mum,” Doug said slyly. “We won’t need the spare bed. She’ll stay in my room with me.”
And that was the way Doug, in all of his twenty-three year old widsom, announced to his family that we were an item.
There was an iciness between Kate and I at first. She stiffly hugged me when we arrived, but did not object to us sharing a room or to me sharing her son’s life. I made sure to dress extremely modestly, and bonded very quickly with Doug’s stepfather John (who ended up teaching me how to drive a manual car) and his sister Jess.
Over the coming months and years, Kate and I slowly built up a relationship. She told Doug she approved when we made the decision to move in together because I was tidy, polite and clearly we loved each other. A year later in a moment of weakness after we’d had a disagreement, I overheard Doug call and ask his mother if he was doing the right thing by marrying me. I heard her tell him that yes, without a shadow of doubt, I was the one for him. I was fantastic, loved by his family and complemented him perfectly.
Kate and I began regularly chatting on the phone, we both helped Jess when she found out she was unexpectedly pregnant, and I was there at the hospital standing next to Kate when my niece was born. Doug began joking that he had successfully outsourced his family to me.
But there were always a few weird niggly things that bugged me. Sometimes at family dinners when I was talking, Kate would suddenly cut me off and ask a mundane question of someone else. For example, I was once telling everyone about a car accident I’d witnessed when she cut in mid-sentence with “John you need to buy more cereal tomorrow.”
Then she redid the photo wall in her house. She assembled a beautiful collection of photographs. Photos of her and John, Jess and Doug, Jess and her husband Rory, Jess’s daughter, Jess’s dog (!!), Doug by himself…no photos of me. There was no reason for it, we’d never had a disagreement. So Doug just dismissed it as carelessness and insisted if someone pointed out to her that I’d been left off the photo wall she’d have been most humiliated.
Nonetheless, I thought our relationship was strong. Kate is a trained psychologist, so I relied on her support heavily during my first round of IVF and my FET. She was only ever a phone call away. She would talk me through my darkest moments. I’d confess to her my feelings of bitterness, hopelessness, sadness and exhaustion. She would tell me I was being too hard on myself, that I was doing a good job, that everything would be ok.
Things got a little weird again after my miscarriage. Jess was pregnant again, and our pregnancies were only a few weeks apart. When I lost my baby, hers continued to grow and thrive. For Kate, the thrill of a new grandchild outweighed her need to help me. Suddenly all she could talk about was the baby. How it was going to be so sweet and beautiful, how she couldn’t wait for it to arrive.
When we found out Jess was expecting another girl she started sewing frilly dresses and sending me photos of her creations. Why? I don’t know. Then she gave all of Doug’s baby clothes to Jess. Clothes she’d saved for 27 years, to give to Doug when his first child was born. She had known I wanted them. It made me bitter and depressed. Doug became furious that his mother was constantly and inexplicably rubbing Jess’s pregnancy in my face and reminding me of my own loss.
Yet again, I bit the bullet and brushed her behaviour aside. I reasoned with Doug that she was just like any new grandmother – thrilled and excited. We couldn’t blame her for feeling that way. She was just happy, and we shouldn’t begrudge anyone their happiness. Weeks passed and I was too busy at work to even give the situation another thought. So busy I hadn’t even spoken to her since early June.
Then it happened.
Yesterday I got a text message from her that made no sense to me. That threw me completely. That made me so surprised I actually dropped the phone.
Hi Sadie, just checking to see how your scan went this morning? Doug mentioned that I had upset you. So I need to apologise. I am really, really sorry. Please accept my apologies. I understand if you don’t wish to include me in this treatment process, or speak to me in the future. Just sending my love and hoping for the best. Kate.
What. The. Hell.
My heart started pounding, a lump formed in my throat and I scrambled to pick my phone up off the floor. The blood was pumping so hard through my veins I could hear it echoing in my ears.
Doug has been traveling for work. He is the manager of a short term industry fund, and is often away from home meeting clients. This week he’s been traveling as part of a superannuation convention and giving presentations down south. He had been at Torquay yesterday. He had seen his mother yesterday.
I started to panic. That text was too blunt, too shocking. Why would I never want to speak to my mother-in-law again? Our cordial relationship, even if it was mostly for show, had been completely shattered. How could I pretend I wasn’t perplexed by her behaviour, now that she had said such things to me? How could I see her again, and smile and hug her and pretend like nothing was the matter? Clearly, something was the matter. And it was definitely a stress I didn’t need to deal with mid-IVF cycle.
With shaking hands, I dialed Doug’s number, hoping desperately that he would answer.
It connected on the fourth ring.
“Doug!” I shrieked. “What the hell have you said to your mother about me!”
“Why?” he asked, clearly confused.
“She has just texted me something bizarre and shocking!” I said, still the opposite of calm. “She is sorry for upsetting me and understands if I’ll never speak to her again??”
There was silence for a long time on the other end of the phone.
Then came Doug’s angry voice. “FOR FUCK’S SAKE! I’m going to kill her.”
(to be continued………………..)