I am 3 months pregnant and I am 26 years old, married, monetarily stable and living near, but not with, my parents. Their marriage is not a happy one and hasn't been in a LONG time. My mother and I have always had distance between us... she was married at 18 and I always felt more mature than she was, especially now that we're older. I feel responsible for the family's reaction to my pregnancy, which will be negative due to my mother. She is over-protective, over-bearing, and immature. I had a miscarriage 7 months ago and she made me feel terrible about being pregnant. She tried to be supportive when I lost the baby at 10 weeks but she kept saying things like, "It was for the best." She didn't want to be a grandmother. She didn't want me to be a mom. She said having kids is like dying... you're life is over. And she cried for my dead life when I told her last time. She doesn't like my husband; she doesn't like "outsiders" in general. She is very possessive.
How do I tell her I am pregnant now? I am SO happy about having a baby. I am a very maternal woman who has wanted children, to be around children, for a long time. I am a teacher, a profession my mother respects only for the time off and the pay. She would never want to spend her time with children willingly. Honestly, as a daughter this hurts; to have a mother who never wanted to be a mother and who resents you for living. She says she doesn't mean to be cruel but she doesn't try to hide her emotions, even if she knows how much they hurt me and my brother and sisters.
Michelle (26 year-old woman) from New Jersey
I'm glad that you wrote. Congratulations on your long awaited pregnancy. It's a shame that such a happy time in your life is being clouded by your mother's reaction to your pregnancy. The situation does provide you, though, with an opportunity for growth and some practice at separating yourself from your mother. Once you gain the skills necessary to deal with your mother regarding this issue, those same skills will help you in dealing with her in the future. They will also be of help to you in a more general way - at any time that you need to be assertive and to stand up for yourself.
You asked a number of questions and I will answer them one by one:
Q: How do I tell her I am 3 months pregnant now?
A: In whatever way will make it easier for you. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and no magic way to convey the news to her that will make her have a more positive reaction. It's the news itself that is going to cause the problem, not the way in which you deliver the news. So do it by phone call, in person, by letter, e-mail, or any other way that is convenient for you. Maybe you'd like to have your husband with you when you tell her if having his support will make it easier.
As to how you present it, I would suggest being firm and direct. You can say something like, "I know it's not what YOU want, but this is a decision that WE have made. We are very happy about it. We would like it if you were happy too, but if you're not, then we prefer that you would just stay quiet about it." (Assuming that you do prefer that she keep quiet.)
Q: How do I deal with her reaction?
You need to be aware that she is entitled to her reaction, even though it's not the reaction that you would like for her to have. You mentioned feeling responsible for your family's reaction - you are not! If they can't be happy for you at this news which you are so pleased with, then that is THEIR problem, not yours. After all, are you supposed to not have the baby you've been wanting to have just so they don't get upset about it?! Of course not.
At the same time, though, it's important to acknowledge whatever you feel in response to your family's reaction. Are you sad? Hurt? Angry? Bitter? Whatever it is that you feel, the feelings need to be expressed in a way that feels right to you. Maybe you'll need to cry, to talk it through with your husband, a friend, or a therapist, or to write about your feelings in a journal. It is normal to become more emotional than usual during pregnancy because of hormonal changes in your system and because of the enormity of the life change you are going though. If it becomes overwhelming to deal with it all on your own, find a good therapist who can help you through the experience.
Q: How do me and my husband tell her without getting into a fight or defending our decision to have a baby?
A: It takes two to fight. Your mom can't fight all by herself, no matter how good at it she may be! You may need to bite your tongue to not say what you're really thinking, but if your goal is not to be drawn into an argument, then you can always simply walk away, saying something like "I really don't want to talk about this anymore" as politely as possible.
I think you're wise not to defend your decision to have a baby. You don't have to - it's your decision, not hers. So you can just keep repeating, "I understand that you're not happy about this. As tough as it may be for you to believe this, I'm thrilled to be having a baby."
A final point: it's a lot easier to not get into a fight or get drawn into defending your decision if you just accept right now that your mom isn't happy about it, and you let go of hoping that she will change and become happy about it. It's very normal for you to want her to show some happiness about your baby, but you are setting yourself up for further hurt if you have unrealistic expectations of her. It's realistic, though sad, to think that she disapproves of your decision.
Q: I want her to know before my extended family knows, out of respect for her position as my mother, but I don't feel like I can stand her reaction. What do I say? How do I approach her?
A: Again, there's no magic formula here. If you really feel that you can't stand her reaction, you can ask her to keep her reaction to herself. She may respect your wishes, and she may not. You do need to prepare yourself, though. It may help to explore in your own mind your worst fears. What's the very worst thing that could happen when you tell her? Can you imagine it? Can you see that you would survive, and that you and your husband will go on to have a wonderful baby without your mother's blessing? Often when we realize that we can survive the worst case scenario, then it becomes easier to face something like this that you've been dreading.
You may want to think about pursuing counseling either now or at some point in the future to talk more about your mother and your relationship with her. There are many unresolved issues for you regarding your mother, and they are likely to continue to emerge now that you are on your own journey to becoming a mother. Counseling can help you sort those issues out so that your past doesn't intrude in a negative way on your life now and in the future as a mom.
Best of luck to you, Michelle.
Susan Maroto, LCSW