“Kill her?” I gasped into the phone. “Why would I want to kill Kate? I feel awful! You never should have said anything to her.”
I was standing in the hallway at work, trying to keep my voice down so my colleagues inside wouldn’t hear. I’d just received an alarming text message from my mother-in-law Kate, letting me know she was extremely sorry for upsetting me and she would understand if I never spoke to her again.
“Let me explain,” my husband began cautiously.
“No Doug!” I cut in angrily. “I know I was annoyed at her carrying on about your sister’s pregnancy, but that was personal. It was something I told you in confidence! Poor Kate! You’ve upset her for no reason!”
“No.” Doug said firmly. “I haven’t. You don’t know what she said to me.”
“Wait….what did she say?” I asked, my voice dropping conspiratorially low.
And over the course of half an hour, my loving husband divulged to me the truth of my mother-in-law’s opinion of me. A truth that shocked me to my core, and an opinion I knew was completely and utterly undeserved.
Doug had gone to visit Kate and his stepfather John while he had business in Torquay. He’d planned to stay for dinner before joining the rest of his team at their hotel. But according to Doug, his mother had spent almost the entire meal gushing about his sister Jess, who is twenty-five weeks pregnant, and her husband Rory. Finally, Doug said the rage that had been building inside him over the past few months overflowed and he couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
“Mum,” he said, holding up his hand to stop her. “I have heard enough. I don’t understand why you constantly talk about Jess’s baby. You know Sadie and I lost a pregnancy that was only a couple of week’s behind hers. It’s hard for us to hear about it constantly. Can’t you understand?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kate had dismissed his comment with a laugh.
“Yes you do!” he argued. “And while we’re talking about this, why do you treat Sadie so differently to Rory?”
“I beg your pardon!” Kate spluttered. “I treat Jess’s husband and your wife exactly the same.”
Doug, not willing to let the matter go, proceeded to provide a handful of examples that proved just how much Kate preferred Rory to myself. To drive his point home, he pointed out the fact I was the only family member missing from the photo wall in their house.
“I don’t understand,” Doug said in exasperation. “Sadie is smart and reliable. She has two university degrees, a great job, she bought her own home when she was twenty-two years old, she doesn’t drink, or smoke or do drugs. By comparison, Rory is always in and out of work, he’s covered in tattoos, he drinks heavily and he almost certainly did drugs in his younger years. Why is it him and not my wife who you keep on a pedestal?”
I knew Doug’s words were very true. Rory is a nice guy and we all get along well with him, but he is certainly from the other side of the tracks than Doug’s posh upper middle class family. It had shocked me when they so readily accepted Rory into their lives, given he didn’t fit their mould. Whereas I certainly fit easily into their world, or at least I should have.
And that’s when Kate slipped up and finally divulged the truth. Once the flood gates had opened and she started to talk, she apparently hadn’t been able to hold back. What ensued was a mammoth four hour argument, peppered with screaming, tears, and moments where Kate stormed off into the bedroom to calm herself before returning for another round.
She told Doug that whilst she had heard that Rory drinks a lot and maybe used to do drugs, she personally had never seen that side of him. All she saw was a good husband to Jess and a good dad to their toddler. But she had witnessed me drunk, inappropriately dressed (according to her ridiculous standards) and acting like “tart” on one occasion six years ago at that pool party in her backyard (the one I spoke of in my last blog post).
Doug immediately pointed out it was unfair to judge me for being a drunk twenty-one year old, when he himself had been drinking heavily at that party. So drunk, in fact, he’d burned his hand when he lit a pizza box on fire in their backyard. But she refused to accept that. Her first impression of me had lasted and she’d never been able to shake it. In her mind I’d always been a floozy with loose morals. Never mind the fact I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over three years and act like the perfect wife and daughter-in-law. I was automatically the bad spouse. Even when Doug argued that this whole thing was grossly unfair, she refused to concede.
Then Kate took it further. She went on to say she was concerned that I wasn’t the “girl for her son”…
“Excuse me!” Doug had exploded, standing up from the dining table. “What the hell are you talking about?”
It was at this moment that John turned bright red, confessed he didn’t share these opinions and quickly excused himself. He must have known what was coming next.
Kate started to tell Doug how over the past few years I’ve changed so much and now she was worried he didn’t love me anymore. She noted that when we came to stay with them at Torquay on weekend visits, I’d sleep in until after 9am (shock horror!) and then sit around the house all day being lazy. I didn’t enjoy playing family games with everyone after dinner and I was always so sullen. She didn’t doubt my love for him, but felt that perhaps he didn’t love me and was only staying with me out of obligation.
“She’s going through damn fertility treatment!” Doug shouted. “She works full time, she was studying a masters degree full time, and going through surgeries and IVF. She’s allowed to sleep late on Saturday mornings and skip a game of Pictionary! For Christ’s sake Mum!”
“But you never tell me you love her.” Kate continued her campaign against me. “You’ve never once called me on the phone and told me you love her.”
“What???” Doug gasped, completely thrown. “I’m not that kind of person! You know that I’m not! Do you expect me to call you constantly and profess my love for my own wife? You’ve never called me to tell me you love John! Does Jess call you and tell you she loves Rory?”
“No,” Kate admitted. “But Rory is a good dad, so I don’t worry about him. Whereas I do worry that Sadie won’t be a good mother.”
And that was the biggest bombshell of them all.
Kate proceeded to tell Doug that she’d listened to me countless times on the phone over the past six months confess to her how I often felt depressed, hopeless, bitter and alone. I’d done those things of course, because she told me how much she supported me. How much she wanted to help me. And I’d trusted her because she was my mother-in-law and has a degree in psychology. I felt safe telling her my problems and deepest fears.
But she’d taken my dark and private thoughts, twisted them, and somehow formed the opinion that I was going to be a negligent parent. She now feared I was going to end up getting post natal depression if we ever had a child, and then Doug would be stuck looking after a newborn and a depressed wife. He’d have to parent us both. She went on to say that once we have a child together, he’ll be burdened with me for the rest of his life. There will be no escaping me, and I would sap his happiness for the rest of his days. That was when Doug completely lost his cool and started screaming at his mother. She, in turn, had burst into tears and stormed off to the bedroom.
As he relayed these things to me during our phone call, I was too shocked to make a sound, or cry. I was surprised I was even still breathing. I was absolutely stunned. My mother-in-law, who I had a cordial relationship with, who I trusted, who I thought had my best interests at heart….thought I had loose morals? Thought I was sullen and lazy? Thought I wasn’t good enough for her son? Thought I was going to be a bad parent? Thought the best thing Doug could do was escape from me?
I was, and still am, completely devastated.
First of all, it is grossly unfair to assume I will be a bad parent because I have been depressed about my infertility and my miscarriage. As someone with a background in psychology, Kate should know better than that. There’s no telling whether I will get post natal depression or not. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. The happiest girl in the world can end up with PND, through no fault of her own. PND does not discriminate.
To also say I will be a bad parent is equivalent to shooting an arrow through my heart. All I desperately want, more than anything in the world, is to be a mother. To suggest that I would do a bad job if I ever were to have a child understandably upset me. I am 100% completely and utterly certain that I will be a good mother. No one in my family or circle of friends thinks otherwise – in fact I’m usually the designated babysitter in our group. I am calm and patient with children, and can get the fussiest baby to sleep. I love having my two year old niece stay for the weekend and she often calls me Aunty Mummy instead of Aunty Sadie. I’m not at all worried about my ability to be a parent, and more importantly neither is Doug.
Furthermore, IVF and fertility treatment is mentally, physically and emotionally traumatic and exhausting. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life. Doug has been my knight in shining armour through all of it. We’ve gone through this together.
What Kate also did was speak out loud my deepest fear of all – that Doug would be better off without me. I am dragging him down. I’ve been fooling myself by thinking these infertility problems are ours to share. They’re not. They’re mine. If Doug had married someone else, he would be a daddy by now. I’m holding him back and he’d be better off without me.
I won’t even bother to address Kate’s assertion that I am a tart, or a drunk, or whatever it is that she seems to think. Most young people drink alcohol and let go of their inhibitions when they think they’re in safe places. A lot also do those things when they’re not in safe places. That is something I never did. I never slept around (I’ve only ever slept with Doug and one other previous long-term boyfriend), I’ve never done drugs, I’ve never done anything stupid.
Doug placated my fears. He told me how ardently he had defended me. He told his mother repeatedly that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. I have made him stronger, healthier, wiser, calmer and happier. I have enriched his life in every possible way. I felt proud and relieved that he had defended me. He completely allayed my fears that he believed in any way that I was dragging him down, or that he would be better off without me. More than anything he just regretted his mother had dragged me into the whole mess by texting me her apology. He had preferred I never know any of this.
He calmed me further by telling me that after Kate composed herself in her bedroom and came back to the dining table, the two had talked for a further two hours and the truth behind her truths (if that makes sense) had come to the surface. She didn’t really dislike me. She disliked anyone who she thought had replaced her in her son’s life. You know those mothers who cling so desperately to their grown up sons? She’s one of them and I never even realised. It wasn’t that I’m not good enough for Doug, it’s that no one is good enough for Doug. And once we have children, he’ll be gone forever. He will always belong to someone other than her. Her opinion had been driven by jealously.
He talked her through how harrowing and awful infertility and IVF really is, and she began to sob. She started to feel guilty and awful. She began to realise how terribly she’d twisted everything in her mind. All she really wanted was for us both to be happy, and she understood the many ways I have improved her son’s life in the years since we’ve been together. She confessed she hadn’t even noticed the ways she treated me differently to Rory, but now they were suddenly so obvious. Doug left her house feeling satisfied that Kate’s opinion of me had changed for the better and her attitude towards me would improve in the future.
What he hadn’t banked on was Kate not sleeping all night because she felt so awful and guilty, then eventually caving the next afternoon and alleviating those feelings by texting me an apology.
For the past few days I’ve felt so very torn. I have felt incredibly angry at the things Kate said about me. I am hurt and furious. I can’t possibly understand how she could say those things about me. But I also understand that Kate is going to be my mother-in-law for the rest of my life. She will be the eventual grandmother of my children. We need to maintain at least some type of relationship, for their sake and for Doug’s. I also know she feels terrible, and like she has wronged me. I appreciate those feelings and also her apology, but I desperately wish she’d never involved me in this debacle.
I guess I just don’t know what to think or do. I know that Doug will support me, whatever I decide. I also know from past experience that I don’t tend to hold grudges against people. What I do unequivocally believe is that Kate should never have done this while Doug and I are in the middle of a cycle of IVF. This is most certainly a stress I don’t need. I’m going to take the weekend to think everything over, and see how I feel. I spent the day today just relaxing around the house, and already much of my anger has dissipated. I think I’m still just in a bit of shock that anyone could think those things about me for any length of time, no matter what the real reasons were. I think I’m kind, introverted and good natured.
Doug hopes that time will heal all wounds, and Kate and I will be able to rebuild a new relationship, maybe even stronger than our previous one. I’m still not sure.
Has anyone else had to deal with a horrible mother-in-law before? Were you able to move past it all? I’d love to hear your opinions.
(Also, if you’ve made it to the end of this post congratulations! I know it was extremely lengthy and probably boring, but venting has helped me to organise my feelings on this matter.)