How do I forgive my parents for reacting badly to my pregnancy?
December 27, 2013 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My parents are very religious and do not agree with many of my life choices (I'm gay), but they have worked through their discomfort and I thought we were in a better place. They reacted badly to my new pregnancy and said horrible things which hurt me a lot. Where do I go from here?

I have been on a journey to have a child as a single woman since last May. I have kept my parents in the loop each step of the way. They have never mentioned any negative opinions about this choice. I spent a week with them this summer after making the decision and they were fine.

Recently, I had my first IUI and it worked! I'm pregnant!

I live 1000 miles from my family. While I was staying at their house for Christmas, my dad was acting weird - changing the subject when my pregnancy came up, making little jabs at me about unrelated things. I asked my mom what was up and she said it was because they had some ethical concerns about my choice. The term "playing God" came up. They are very religious - evangelical fundamentalists, but they have never had a problem with birth control and never mentioned any problems with assisted reproduction.

I spent the day with my sister and when I got back to my parents' house, I mentioned that the conversation had made me sad. My parents tried to justify their position, but only made it worse. My dad said that he did not endorse my pregnancy, wasn't excited about it, and told me that I would have a very hard life. I was sobbing and he just kept going.

I packed up my stuff while sobbing and listening to him ("Where are you going? I'm not driving you anywhere.") and finally left the house - my sister picked me up and I stayed at her house for the duration of the visit. I bought another plane ticket and left 5 days earlier than planned, but stayed through all the planned Christmas events even though it was very difficult and sad for me.

They apologized on Christmas Eve. My mom said all the right things, but my dad seemed to rewrite the conversation to paint himself in a better light. He said that the pregnancy was so new and therefore still in a risky stage and *that's* why he wasn't excited - but the newness did not come up during the fight, only the ethics of it. I am less mad at my mom as she has been supportive and happy and excited for me, but she is also very loyal to my dad (as I guess she should be). Anything I say to her will be repeated to him.

It never even occurred to me that they would be less than 100% excited for me and supportive. Part of the reason I thought I could do this is that they're amazing grandparents to their other six grandchildren. I had plans to move to their town once the baby was born, but now I feel so traumatized that I can't even contemplate talking to them, much less living near them.

Pregnancy hormones are obviously playing a part in this, but it just feels so broken and hopeless. I feel like I have to rewrite my whole plan for the future. I feel like I have to protect myself from them. They dumped on me when I needed them most. I feel so alone.

I'm almost 40 and financially self-sufficient.

They have both said that they will love my baby once it arrives, but I am feeling so hurt that I don't want to include them. I know this is somewhat vindictive, but I don't know how to change it.

How do I get past this? I don't know how to work through it. What's my next step? How do I make myself *want* to talk to them again? How do I share anything about my pregnancy now?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think give yourself time. The made a big mistake. I would suggest giving it and them space. Hopefully they will turn out to be the amazing grandparents you are counting on. Many reluctant grandfathers-to-be become amazing loving and giving grandfathers once a real baby is in their arms and cooing! It feels like such a betrayal now but allow them the chance to be there for you in this pregnancy and after the baby is born. You may get the result you want and that will help you forget how hurt you are now.
posted by saradarlin at 7:49 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

How do I get past this? I don't know how to work through it. What's my next step? How do I make myself *want* to talk to them again? How do I share anything about my pregnancy now?

I'd suggest two things. The first is time - when you've been hurt by someone in a completely unexpected and deep level, there really isn't skipping over the part where you need to learn to trust again.

Your parents need to be aware that this wasn't a case of misspeaking, but that it hurt you on a profound level, at a time where you probably need them more than ever, and that isn't going to go away overnight. I think it is very reasonable to suggest that you'd like a few weeks away from speaking to them to process what just happened.

The second is to figure out what it is going to take for them to make it right. Is it a different apology? Is it a thoughtful statement on how, ethically, they do support you? Is it a specific act/acts that will help rebuild your trust? Is it all of the above? By defining clearly what your expectations are of them, it puts them in a better position to choose to meet them or not to meet them.
posted by rutabega at 7:53 AM on December 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

OP, your question made me cry. Big hugs to you. I'm so sorry your parents hurt you so deeply and were so unexpectedly vicious towards you at a time when you are understandably so vulnerable as a first-time expectant mother. Your parents' home should have been a safe place for you to share your wonderful baby news and feel the love at Christmastime. They fucked up, and this is their problem to fix with you. Not the other way around.

"I feel like I have to protect myself from them. They dumped on me when I needed them most." And "… but my dad seemed to rewrite the conversation to paint himself in a better light."

Yes, THIS. You may also need to protect your child from them. Only time will tell, but you're on notice now that they are not a safe place for you, and are not able to love you unconditionally as you had previously assumed. I hope your father comes around, but I would not count on it.

How do I make myself *want* to talk to them again?

Please find a therapist to help you process this very traumatic event. This is a major loss. Take care of yourself at this time.
posted by hush at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your parents did the wrong thing. They were awful. They sort of realized it--at least, your mom did--but they failed to apologize fully because they see themselves in generally a positive light.

And before this, you did too, which is important. You appreciated the way they treated their other grandchildren. They're normally so reasonable that you completely assumed they'd handle this properly.

Since they've probably offered all the apology they're willing to, I would try to suppose for the time being that the crux of the issue going forward is a failure of imagination: your parents aren't visualizing the fact that they'll love this grandchild as they do the others and that they'll have complete respect for how you actually handle the practicalities. Instead, in an unguarded episode, they only saw things from inside their own moral universe and projected like crazy, which was very painful but, thus far, an isolated event.

I think if you keep talking to them about routine, pragmatic aspects of what you're going through, that may be a way to gauge how they'll handle the reality. Give them a chance to build bridges again with routine discussions of everyday details, not big picture thinking. I suspect you'll find you can trust them again with ordinary facts.

Meanwhile, congratulations on your pregnancy--the rest of the world is happy for you even if your folks aren't seeing it yet.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:05 AM on December 27, 2013 [14 favorites]

How hurtful for you. You did the right thing by leaving. Your parents will be excited when you have your baby, and it sounds like they will come to terms with your decisions, given time. I would tell your Mom and Dad that you feel really hurt, and leave it at that. Maybe tell them you're worried about how they'll behave with your child, given their disapproval. Wait and see how they behave - they're likely to come around.

I'm so sorry you have to go through this, and of course pregnancy makes your feelings more intense. Try to find or build a support group of pregnant women who are single and/or lesbian - that can lead to a parents' support group. Good luck with your pregnancy.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 AM on December 27, 2013

First, I want to tell you that I am filled with joy at the news that a very wanted baby is on the way for you. There are so many amazing, thoughtful, and caring things in the delicacy of you asking this heartbreaking question. You will make the best decisions you can with the information you have.

So what I'm going to suggest is that you gather more information. And there are two places I want you to go for that information.

Today, find a therapist. You can pick a social worker specializing in new parents (even though you are financially stable, you might qualify for Healthy Start, or a similar program, in the US. There is a pretty big checklist. "Mother is interested" is enough in some places.) You might pick a developmental psychologist. You might pick a Psychiatrist. You might pick someone who specializes in CBT, or DBT. You might insist on finding someone who has experience counseling single mothers, or LGBT mothers. It probably will take you a few tries to get someone that you fit well with. Do not be disappointed or hard on yourself if the first few you meet don't feel right.

Second, listen deeply to yourself. Your parents might not be a safe contact during or after your pregnancy. Only you can tell that for sure. As painful as letting them go might be, if they are willing to continue to hurt you, it might be best to not be in contact. You don't have to tell them "never," you can just tell them you need some space and time. You have no obligation to give them a time frame, and you have no obligation to forgive them for what they've said, especially given the aftermath. There may be something they can do to repair this. There may be nothing. But listen inside yourself for that.

Keep listening. Listen for what you need to heal, with or without forgiving them. It might be lots of slow quiet walks, gentle music, warm baths. It might be gathering with friends. It might be good deep crying. It might be joining a support group for expectant lesbians, or just expectant moms. You might take great pleasure in preparing your home, with fresh paint or baby supplies. You might want to take some time to just be you outside of impending motherhood.

Whatever you need, do it. And while you're here, have a hug. You have done so many brave things, making a baby, standing up to your parents, letting them (and us!) see you so vulnerable. Defining and defending your boundaries.
posted by bilabial at 8:31 AM on December 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Oh, honey. I am sorry things happened this way. Your job, somewhere ahead of forgiveness, is to do what you need to do in order to have the healthy pregnancy you want so much. If this matter is stressing you out (argh, pregnancy hormones!), feel free to put it on the back burner for a while. Which may not be a bad idea in any case.

It never even occurred to me that they would be less than 100% excited for me and supportive. Yup. You got blindsided here by a response that was a 100 percent not-OK way to treat you. If you're having the typical "oh my God, I'm pregnant and vulnerable" blues, and you need some bucking up, find people who aren't your parents to be excited for you and supportive of your choice. I mean that. You're a thousand miles from your family, and they've shown you ambivalence about your life-changing event? Don't expect anything different, at least for now, and go instead to the other caring people in your life. You need that goodness, especially now.

I cannot judge your parents, or your lifelong relationship to them based on a few paragraphs. Given what you have outlined here, your parents may be wrestling with losing authority over you, seeing medical authorities validate your choices, and witnessing you claim your own autonomy in a way that's deeply challenging to them. If that's the case, your news might have been hard for them to process and they responded badly. In a really sucky way that you don't deserve. Many other people, including me, are glad for you; I hope that knowing that removes your parents as the lens through which you're experiencing these events. And when you're feeling small and vulnerable, it can be tough -- really tough -- to remember to have compassion for those who have wronged you. They're wrong. Love them anyway.

BUT. Protect yourself -- as suggested above, you can keep them in the loop by sharing less-fraught aspects of your pregnancy. That bridge may help reconnect you later. If you're feeling fragile about being judged for, I don't know, hiring a doula, then don't share that. Share more neutral information. You're pregnant -- you don't need additional stress! Things may change (or not) when your child comes. In the meantime, keep a guarded connection if you can. From what you've written here, you can see some goodness in them, despite the shitty way they treated you in this instance.

Ouch. Be kind to yourself. Play a little defensively. Connect with local support and call your friends. I am thrilled to hear your news, and send all best wishes for a healthy, not-too-uncomfortable pregnancy, with a thriving baby at the end of it. Best of luck!
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:34 AM on December 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

i'm so sorry you are experiencing this. i would recommend that you give them a lot of time and space following the holidays, then see how they interact with you, how they reach out and what they say. when you are attacked, belittled, insulted or otherwise treated in a way that leaves you hurt, end the conversation/contact immediately. let them reopen the conversation again in whatever way. basically only reward their positive and supportive interactions. that might mean you hear more from mom than from dad for a while until they come to terms with what you are doing and realize that the more they act like assholes the more likely they are to estrange themselves from a beautiful and amazing grandchild.

nthing the idea of a support group or therapist to vent to, this is really stressful and pregnancy is hard enough already! take good care of yourself. it's ok to feel what you are feeling.

if you don't want to talk to them again, don't talk to them again until you feel a desire to reach out. it's ok to push people away who treat you disrespectfully, in order to care for your mental and emotional health, especially now. concentrate on sharing with the people in your life who do love you unconditionally and were happy to hear you got pregnant. if you don't feel like you can trust your parents again, that doesn't make you a bad person. i don't think i would either given this situation. this part of it is definitely something to talk about with a support group or a counselor of some kind.
posted by zdravo at 8:38 AM on December 27, 2013

It never even occurred to me that they would be less than 100% excited for me and supportive.

Give them time. Given their evangelical faith, it's not out of the question that this might be a huuuuge step for them to address with the level of support that you, as a soon-to-be mom and their daughter, need and deserve. Until now, this situation was theoretical, so they didn't have to face how they truly felt.

This might be a scary time for them. They might be worried about you having to support a child on your own so far away. They might be worried about the challenges you will face as a non-heteronormative mom. They might be worried your child is missing a father figure or other masculine presence. They might worry what the neighbors or other family will think. These fears may or may not be fair or valid or sane, but they are things that might matter to your parents, and might be what's getting in the way of loving you and supporting you the way they should.

Be kind to yourself and your baby. And know that they might not come around at the same time -- sounds like your mom may be starting to come around, and that might be a good path to your dad.
posted by mochapickle at 8:46 AM on December 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

My parents also had a hard time with my decision to have a child on my own, and I was very upset and hurt about this through most of my pregnancy. We had a lot of difficult conversations, and then my son arrived and they fell in love.

There's a lot more to this that I don't want to detail publicly, but I'd love to offer you support via MeMail, and to encourage you that it's possible for your family to come around.
posted by judith at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2013

You have my sympathy. I would say that as a father of girls, I would be deeply concerned and worried about them becoming single parents regardless of how it happened. It's really, really, really difficult being a single parent regardless of your financial circumstances, and I only do it part-time.

I would interpret at least some of this as the kind of fears any parent or grandparent has for their children. Pregnancy can be a time of fear and trepidation and a time of excitement for those that care about the mother and children.

Kind of what mochapickle said.
posted by idb at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2013

My parents have been kind of turd-like about my first pregnancy and miscarriage -- 100% heteronormative and scandal-free -- which is why we're waiting to tell them about my current pregnancy until we can hand them a squirming infant.

The short answer is that you can choose to forgive them, but they're guaranteed to screw up and hit the same nerves, again and again. Eventually, you have to just accept that they are from a planet where the emotions and automatic responses that come naturally to you (and other normal people) are just not there. Once you realize that, it gets a bit easier... kind of.

I just... I feel you, so deeply. It's a mixture of hope and grieving for what you can't have and deep, deep sadness, mixed in with all of the other normal emotions of pregnancy. (Are there any normal emotions in pregnancy? Good lord.) We will be fighting these thoughts for years to come, hoping that things will get better but hitting new frustrations when good times suddenly sour.

The fact that they've apologized -- the fact that they actually realize and admit what they've done -- is HUGE. My parents, who should have been excited about their first grandchild, never got that far.

I have no doubt that there WILL be good times for you. I just wish you strength and courage and resolution to be who you are, bringing up your child in a world where it is loved by whoever is near it. It's SO HARD to think about a child potentially missing out on some of the things you loved when you were growing up... but you have a chance to create new memories, too, whether you choose to do that with your family of birth or not.

I know this probably hasn't been very helpful for the short term, but I mainly wanted to offer my love and support. There are so many of us out here who send all our best wishes, and our hopes that your heart will heal. I am sure that just getting to this point has taken the kind of strength and resilience that not many people possess.

Please feel free to MeMail me, any time. You and your precious baby are in my thoughts.
posted by Madamina at 8:56 AM on December 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your folks are having a very hard time with your being gay and choosing to have a baby. Their faith is informing their actions. I suspect that they believed that there was a way that you could be saved, but now that you've cemented your choices by having a baby, they're concerned about your soul.

You and I know that nothing could be further from the truth. But our faith is inclusionary, not inclusionary.

Fundamentalists are going to have problems with homosexuality and babies out of wedlock. They view you as the embodiment of some failure on THEIR part and they're projecting their frustration on you. Here you are, a person who was brought up in a strict faith, by God-fearing parents and everything that they believe (that sexuality is a choice and homosexuals are the product of unGodly families) is flung back in their faces. You and your pregnancy are the imperical evidence that their faith is wrong. That's a lot to deal with.

Of course you deserve to be loved unconditionally, and you have that expectation which is fabulous.

You did the right thing in leaving, and were I you I'd let them come to you. You have time to see how this develops. I believe that your folks love you and will love their new grandchild. But it will take some time. And they are going to be praying for understanding.

If your faith encourages this, I suggest that you pray that they open their hearts to accept you and your baby.

I suggest that you work on forgiving them. Because the best way we can lead is by example. If and when your Father calls to apologize, you can say, "Daddy, I love you. I know that this is difficult for you and I want you to know that if you have any questions or concerns I'll be happy to address them."

As much as we want our parents to love us unconditionally, it's not always possible for them to do that. Hang in there kiddo. It's going to be fine.

Don't make any permanant decisions about anything right now. Time can heal all wounds.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:25 AM on December 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry! What an awful thing to happen! How scary and sad to want to protect yourself from people you were hoping would help you.

And how weird! After you've kept them in the loop every step of the way? My first thought was "well, maybe they were taken by surprise and had to get used to the idea." But they've had months, it sounds like! And they could've expressed concerns at any point. Ugh!!

I am glad they apologized... kinda. I wish you had gotten a real apology from your dad. Apologizing while not admitting to his actual behavior would be frustrating to me. It totally sucks he can't say something like "I'm sorry, I did X, and that was hurtful and wrong, and I'm so sorry."

I suppose one way to look at it would be to think that he is trying to rewrite history to what he WISHED had happened, to why he WISHED he had reacted the way he did. To that extent, at least, he is trying to ...undo the pain he caused. It sounds like he is sorry, even if he has to save face and still be "a good person" by not admitting to the behavior. It would be better if he could say "I did X, and I'm so sorry it hurt you. I wish I had done Y." But not being able to admit to it is another way of him revealing how awful he knows it was. Not only does he not defend it, he has to pretend he didn't even do it.

And, in a way, there's a kernel of truth to what he said. Part of why he could react philosophically was probably that the idea is currently super-abstract to him, because it is so early in the pregnancy. (I'm assuming you're not showing?) It sounds like he realizes that there's a big difference between the theoretical idea of a IUI pregnancy and the actual joy and reality of your wonderful baby, conceived in any way at all.

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm making excuses for him. To me, the lack of apology would be a big deal, and it would bum me out to not be able to have a real conversation about what had happened. But if a real apology never came forth, to have a relationship with that person, I'd have to go through this kind of thought process to explain to myself why the lack of apology doesn't prove that he's not sorry and doesn't prove that he'd do the same thing again.

Overall, I'd give yourself some time, I'd try to put this event in the bigger context of their behavior over time to evaluate the likelihood of it happening again, and I'd build up the other pieces of my support network to reassure myself that I'd be okay without them. I'm so sorry about this. And congratulations! You'll figure this out, just like you figured out how to build your own successful life and navigated the process of getting pregnant.
posted by salvia at 9:37 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I promise you, once the baby comes not only will you need them more, but that people's attitudes and behavior changes drastically.
Let them sit through their weird emotional shit (they probably figured that you'd never have kids and are dealing with adjusting to that, worried about what their friends will say, etc.) -- but they'll get over it.

Focus on you and your pregnancy. Keep the plan to move close. You can do this.
posted by k8t at 10:18 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, congratulations on your pregnancy!

Second, I know they're your parents, but screw them. For real. If you're 40, your parents are probably too old to change their deep-seated religious views after one or two heart-to-heart chat. I've had an alternate-sexuality conversation with evangelical Christian parents and yes, it sucks. You've got to live your own life, as you clearly do and I applaud you for it.

They have both said that they will love my baby once it arrives, but I am feeling so hurt that I don't want to include them.

I don't think this is vindictive. I think it's a healthy maternal instinct, in fact, to shield your baby from people who have already expressed a disdain for her journey to this world. I would not be having a lot of contact with them for the next many months and would probably not be very inclusive when it's baby-time. And I would make very honest statements about why -- "You told me you didn't endorse this baby (because oh god, what is an early pregnancy if it's not a baby) and you consider this baby my "hardship". I'm not going to let that attitude color your relationship with my child." (I'd also throw in a few barbs about immaculate conceptions, but that's just me.) Seriously -- what if they say this kind of stuff in front of your child? To their other kids, who talk about it in front of their kids, who lit slip insults at family gatherings? What if they treat her differently and she has to sit there and wonder why Grandma and Grandpa like her cousins so much but forgot her birthday last year?

I don't mean to sound flippant; I understand that this is a terrible place that sucks and I'm sorry you're going through it. But when people are terrible to you, to this extent, the answer (in my book) is to always put them back at arm's length with an explanation until you can be certain you won't be treated poorly again.
posted by mibo at 10:37 AM on December 27, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm with mibo here: "screw them." What they did to you is really shitty. You have my permission to not forgive them (that's what they have Jesus for, after all).

Allow yourself to be rightfully angry for a while. For me, this would be a looooong while (possibly forever). You are 100% in the right and they are 100% in the wrong here. Religion is not an excuse to be an ass (or at least to expect to be an ass without consequence).

|They have both said that they will love my baby once it arrives
Any sentence that includes the phrasing "I will love [person] once [person does X]" is not an expression of unconditional love. If it were me, I would cut them completely out of my life until they were ready, willing, and able to love my child unconditionally. Full stop. No negotiation, no wiggle room, no special arrangement for their religious views. Love my kid, or you're out of both of our lives.

You know the saying "blood is thicker than water" - well, the full saying is "blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb." Your family is made up of those who support and protect you, not of those who share your ancestry. Treat them like family when they're ready to act like family.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:14 AM on December 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

they're guaranteed to screw up and hit the same nerves, again and again.

This is super not necessarily true in my experience. They fucked up, no doubt about it, but - and you will discover this for yourself soon enough - every parent fucks up with their kids; it is how they react to it that matters.

You should lay the guilts on them. Tell them how disappointed and sad you are. Tell them how great you think they are as grandparents and how you feel they don't want to be a part of your nascent child's life. Tell them you were going to move but don't trust them now. And by all means tell your mum that you won't be seeing or talking to dad until you get a proper apology. They will melt like butter I guarantee, especially if your sister is giving them the hard errors, as well.

Don't worry op, I'm sure they will come around well before your due date, and bee the kind of grandparents you hope.
posted by smoke at 12:08 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do not move back to these people. This was not an overreaction because of hormones. I'm kind of appalled at everyone saying that they will "come around" as if that is a good outcome given the abusive way your father treated you. He verbally harrassed you out of his house, while you were pregnant and weeping; he did not stop verbally assaulting you; he tried to make you feel powerless to leave the situation. Please protect yourself from this kind of violence, and think seriously about whether or not it's something you would be OK exposing your future child to, should that child do something that triggers this kind of "misspeaking."
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:19 PM on December 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

Please protect yourself from this kind of violence

There was no violence - claiming so here dishonors victims of actual violence.

There are no future upsides to a life after "screw 'em" because, these are your parents. There is no other relationship such as a parent and child. There are many upsides to lean towards forgiveness. Your mother has slightly inclined towards regret and apologies to you - it would be worthwhile waiting and seeing how things progress before closing the door on them.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:56 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

What they said was horrible and the feeling will linger for a long time. However, most of the time, when there is a baby, a real and sublimely adorable grandbaby, they will come around to being in love with it. I think you will have to be the big person and take it or leave it.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:44 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, sweetie. This is awful. I'm so sorry you are dealing with this, especially around something that should bring you so much joy. I'm going to share a personal somewhat similar situation in hopes you may find some comfort in it. This really resonated with me:

It never even occurred to me that they would be less than 100% excited for me and supportive. Part of the reason I thought I could do this is that they're amazing grandparents to their other six grandchildren.

Years ago, my husband and I decided to adopt children rather than get pregnant. The reasons aren't super important except that we didn't have specific, known fertility issues. This really threw my family for a loop. All of them, my mom, my dad, and my sister, who were all living in different places. And I was pretty shocked by their reaction. In my mind this was like announcing I was pregnant -- a time of joyful celebration. But I have learned since that this isn't an uncommon reaction to adoption -- families often focus way more on the potential problems rather than being all new-baby-happy! about it.

Granted, mine was an adoption, and you are pregnant. However, my guess is that the same force is happening: some people have a certain way of thinking about how families grow, and something different than that really throws them for a loop, even when they know about in advance and even though they are generally pro-baby (or pro-adoption in my case) people.

So, how will you forgive them? Well, you just will. You will because babies who are cooing in front of you are easy to love, and because you will want your baby to have a relationship with his or her wonderful grandparents. You will because your mom worked through this and will be a great support. You will because your dad will be able to have a relationship with your baby that's even better than the relationship he has with you because your baby won't have to know about his original reaction.

You can forgive them because holding onto this anger will hurt you, your parents, and your baby, and then everyone loses.

It sounds like you've got a great support in your sister. Maybe she can be your support to work through your hurt. I say give your dad some space (in talking about the pregnancy) until the baby is born, and then see how it goes from there.

My parents are good grandparents to my kids. My stepmom, who I've always struggled to have a good relationship with, has a particularly solid relationship with my older son. And this is good for all of us, you know?

Good luck. This hurts, but babies heal a lot of wounds.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:51 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry that this happened to you.

Honestly? I'd call your mom and give her the business. It's ok if you're crying the whole time. Tell her how shitty they were and how terrible they made you feel. Ask her if she remembers being pregnant and how hard it was emotionally to have those hormones going and tell her to imagine that her parents had said such terrible things at that time. Tell her that this innocent baby inside you deserves loving grandparents and that you're a loving daughter and YOU deserve decent parents. And tell her you want an apology from her and from your dad.

With any luck, she'll give it to you, and you can start healing. And by the time the baby comes her attitude should be good and adjusted.

Good luck and enjoy your pregnancy and your precious baby!
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:47 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can add little but this strikes me as typical religious/generational family differences that are like little Christmas volcanos. I wanted to cheer for you when I read that you'd stayed through the festivities and then deliberately cut your visit short. I think you held their feet to the fire by staying and they caved because they love you; staying for Christmas kept their error right in their face. You are an adult now and your father needs to man up and be a loving father. I think he will. Keep on expecting him to do better until he does the right thing. Just give him time and, in the end, perhaps let him save face a little, just not yet.

As for unconditional love, that's a huge expectation--perhaps it is what people expect of god but we are only human. Sadly you probably will discover that all parents make mistakes--your father made a mistake and I think he'd like to walk it back. Also, if he thinks you 'played god' then he is doing the same thing by speaking so judgmentally to you. He could use a little lesson here. Older people don't catch up with the world without being exposed to it. You expose him--keep on doing it. They have to work through this and I think your mother will be your ally. Not overtly, perhaps, but she can help him get to the right place.

Of course when the baby comes they will be proud and happy but that doesn't mean he won't ever say a crass and thoughtless thing again' he probably will, even to your child, and you will have to handle that wisely. Take a break right now and let him stew for a bit but you can win in this situation. If you make it your business to lay a foundation for diplomatic relations with your father, you can develop some boundaries and techniques for keeping grandparents in your child's life. That would be a win.
posted by Anitanola at 6:18 PM on December 27, 2013

Pregnancy hormones are obviously playing a part in this, but it just feels so broken and hopeless. I feel like I have to rewrite my whole plan for the future. I feel like I have to protect myself from them. They dumped on me when I needed them most. I feel so alone.

I am totally sympathetic but I just want to point out that you are pregnant and everything in pregnancy can feel very immediate. But really, it isn't; pregnancy is long so people have time to adjust, evolve and yes even grow. You are the one puking over the loo every day; to others, early pregnancy can seem very theoretical and unreal. I would not make a Forever decision about your family today because things will very, very likely change after your baby is born.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:02 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with DarlingBri. By the time your due date is here they may have offered you a real apology without qualifications/hedging, helped you set up your nursery, and thrown you a lovely shower. Maybe not, maybe they'll continue to be on the fence and occasionally make hurtful comments or try to give you speeches about saving your soul or god knows what else. I hope not, but one thing I am sure of is that people can change.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:09 PM on December 27, 2013

How do I get past this? I don't know how to work through it. What's my next step? How do I make myself *want* to talk to them again? How do I share anything about my pregnancy now?

First of all, congratulations!

I agree with some of the other posters about giving your parents the business, but I'd actually go even harder than just a guilt-trip and give them (namely your father, your mother seems to basically be on board at this point?) a full-on reality check.

The thing with you having a kid is that it means you're an authority figure. Your dad especially seems like he can't deal with that. But he's going to have to, because you are going to be *the* authority figure in your kid's life regardless of how he feels about it. Your dad seems to be seeing this as you being uppity, and that his job is to reassert his own authority and push you back into your place. Parents can turn very weird when their authority is threatened, of course you were blindsided -- try not to take it personally (I know, I know, impossible. But do try). He's probably not going to give a real apology for trying to assert his authority, as inappropriate and nasty as it was, because if he's a religious traditionalist there are probably all kinds of gender issues going on that are just not tackle-able in the abstract at this point. But, at least how I see it, that doesn't truly matter, as long as he gives you, personally, respect from here on out. Respect as an adult, as a woman, and as a mother.

So that's what I would talk to him about -- filial respect, respect for women, and respect for you personally. Demand that respect from him, communicate to him that you are not to be trampled on and will not back down in this. You need your kid to trust and respect you, and if your dad is going to undermine that trust and respect by being controlling, dismissive, and disrespectful of you in front of your kid, then how can he have a positive impact on your kid or family? Does he think it will ever be possible for him to give you the trust and respect you need in order not to be undermined as a parent? He doesn't need to answer immediately, but I would say that his relationship with you and his grandchild is contingent on him eventually being able to answer yes.

Before starting a real conversation with your mom, I would get things with your dad sorted first because she'll probably follow his lead to an extent. If you get it through your dad's head how important it is he show respect for you (which is also a way of honoring concepts that he no doubt believes in, like filial respect and respect for mothers), then he'll probably go quite for a bit while he chews things over. At that point, you can start a softer conversation with your mom, letting her in on whatever completely innocuous, boring, low-stakes bits of your pregnancy you feel like. I wouldn't expect any support from her, but you can maintain friendly relations, which will probably be enough until the baby comes and the status quo readjusts. By the time the baby is born, your dad will eventually start inching back, keeping up a facade like nothing happened, but acting a little more gingerly around you -- that's OK, let things slowly warm up and nip problems/disrespect in the bud as they occur.

If you're still interested in moving to your parents' area once the baby is here, I wouldn't necessarily write off that idea. Things might not be as hunky-dory as you'd wish, but your sister and maybe at least some of your nieces and nephews are in the area, too, so I think it's still worth thinking about. It might still be good for your child to grow up around extended family, and that might still be a support network, albeit not the one you necessarily envisioned.
posted by rue72 at 2:18 AM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your troubles. I'll admit that I have no idea what is the best way to deal with this, but I thought of something to keep in mind if you decide to follow some of the advice above:

If you decide that you are going to wait until THEY apologize, you might have to talk to your parents and state clearly that you are waiting for that. It is very possible that it would never occur to them that they are the ones that have to initiate that apology (in their minds, they already apologized to you). If you can't find the nerve to have that expectation conversation, maybe your sister would be willing to be a go-between to let them know that is what would help ease the relationship along.

I just don't want all of you (you and your parents) to be sitting at home (separately) for the next 9 months thinking that the other one hasn't reached out to make a gesture, but each one thinking that if the other starts it, we could maybe mend this whole thing.
posted by CathyG at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

This happened to me, and was so, so painful. Not at all the reaction I had been expecting, when it took me years of blood, sweat and tears to finally conceive.

> your parents aren't visualizing the fact that they'll love this grandchild as they do the others

This. They were stupid, and you have every right to be hurt, and they need time to process this news and once the baby is here it's likely that they will get over themselves. They will want to see the baby, and that will incentivize them to keep their concerns to themselves.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I know how painful it is. It's hard to realize, too, how foolish and flawed parents can be, if you grew up thinking they knew it all and could do no wrong. Try to balance how hurt you are with how much it will hurt you to not have them around at this momentous time in your life. For many people I can see how it would not be worth it to forgive them and move forward, but for many others it would cause more self-injury to do so.

Take care, and congratulations.
posted by ravioli at 8:21 PM on December 28, 2013

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