Issue with wife and my parents involving time with grandchild
December 7, 2018 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Fairly new dad here. We delivered premature 3 weeks back in October on the 16th. Spent a week in the NICU and took homeOur boy who is as perfect and healthy as any could be! I want to say I'm fully Overjoyed but I've been having issues with my wife and my parents.

Some background: right agyer we got married 2 years ago I lost my job literally the week after we got home from our honeymoon. (September) I did find a nine month contract that January and then a full time Job the following winter. We live with my parents and have been saving pretty much everything I earn to buy a place. My parents are snowbirds and we basically live alone for 3/4 of the year. This past winter my father had a serious health scare and had to be hospitalized for emergency surgery, including about a month of rehabilitation. Thankfully he survived and is healthy now. That also meant they didn't go back to Florida last winter through spring as usual. The transition to parenthood had been amazing so far!

Now the issue involves my parents and my wife (don't they all!) she basically doesn't let them help with anything and turns down asks to hold him or feed a bottle. They're not overbearing in laws or anything and I try to view it as objectively and unbiased as possible. The kiddo is pretty sturdy and again healthy so there's no logical or valid reason that they shouldn't be given opportunities here and there. (and I do mean here and there as they're not looking to take over or a thing by any means) They offer to watch him (even while he's sleeping in a boppy lounger in the other room) so we can eat dinner quickly for 10 minutes but she always refuses. Since they've been home from the beginning of November they've both held my son maybe twice apiece.

I feel that she's being way overprotective of two adults who raised three children themselves and aren't incompetent. I understand it isn't the ideal Situation to live with them but it ls what we have to do for now. I feel particularly upset that I never hesitate to hand our son away over to Her mother or siblings and offer etc. I of course get plenty of time with him but my parents are not young... They're both approaching their 80s soon, and it kills me to think My son will have a diminished or reduced grandparent experience especially since I only ever had one grandparent during my life.

Part of me wonders if this is hormonal or more a stupid "mama bear mentality" or if she's really truly being unreasonable with this. The way that I see it she's home from work and spends basically all day with him on the couch and the help is sorely physically and mentally needed for us both. Has anyone else dealt with this issue before and what did you do to mediate or help it?

I've tried discussing my feelings multiple times and pointing out I don't want to and don't keep our son from my in laws but that she's not treating the situation equally. What should be the most joyous experience and time of my life has honestly been every soured by this. It's not like they're getting "more" time let alone any time with our son at all. When I bring up that it she has no hesitation to hand him to her mother I get told that we'll. It's HER mother and even then she would. Never ASK she'd respect the boundaries etc. Is it a boundary to NEVER let a grandparent interact with their grandchild?

Suggestions, advice and insight greatly appreciated.
posted by PetiePal to Human Relations (78 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Er, don't you ever hold your child? When you're doing so just pass him off to your parents.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:54 PM on December 7, 2018 [32 favorites]


First off all maybe refrain from calling anything "stupid" as it pertains to your wife's behavior. Have you asked what her motivation is for not letting them help? Is it perhaps that she feels they are already doing too much what with providing a roof over your head while you have a new baby, so she wants to show them she is responsible and capable and will not be a further burden on them?
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:59 PM on December 7, 2018 [31 favorites]


Part of me wonders if this is hormonal or more a stupid "mama bear mentality" or if she's really truly being unreasonable with this.

What should be the most joyous experience and time of my life has honestly been every soured by this.


There's lot in your post about how you distressed you feel but your suggested explanations for your wife's behaviour are unreasonable or stupid mama bear mentality. I think you should reflect on that. She is as entitled to her feelings as you are to yours.

Speaking from experience of having lived temporarily with my in laws (who are great, lovely people) it's incredibly hard to go from an independent life in your own home to trying to fit in with habits and ways of living that aren't your own and it was one of the most stressful times of my life, even without trying to care for a newborn. You may intellectually know that it isn't ideal but it's a very different experience living with your own parents compared to your in laws.

Your baby isn't even two months old. Your wife wants to be his mother and it sounds like she's constantly having to reinforce that while not living in her own home or able to have any personal space. She may be going beyond what's reasonable in enforcing that boundary but she's in a really difficult position.

I think you need to think hard about whether the financial benefits of not having your own home as a new family are worth the toll it's taking on your family and relationships.
posted by *becca* at 4:03 PM on December 7, 2018 [39 favorites]


Your wife could also have postpartum anxiety going on, if that hasn't been considered. It's hard to say from your description, but it's under-diagnosed. I agree on the other comments, too, but there might be a medical reason for her concerns, and if there is, it's important to treat it. Your wife will need a lot of support of this is the case, of the non-judgmental kind, and that's your job to provide.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 4:05 PM on December 7, 2018 [13 favorites]


here's some advice: whatever your wife needs from you right now, listen hard and do it. You... literally, physically, have no idea what it's like to be her right now; you are in no position to judge her; and particularly if you are feeling like her instincts are "stupid," you should really slow your roll and stop talking.

If that means telling your parents that she's having a tough time and to just lay off and wait and not push her for baby-holding time right now while your wife is dealing with being postpartum, then do that, with grace and kindness and love.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:08 PM on December 7, 2018 [45 favorites]


I'm a little confused about the timeline and how old your son in. I'm assuming he was born on Oct 16th and is now about six weeks old. Or perhaps you first brought him home six weeks ago and he's about nine weeks old. In any case:

At six - nine weeks old you may start to feel like "hey, we've been doing this for awhile and we've got this!" And it many ways you do! I'm sure you've both come very far in parenting skills. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not very much time at all and how things are now are very temporary. Your baby is going to grow and change SO MUCH in a year and so will your parenting styles. What seems like rock solid rules/behavior now is probably actually very fluid.

Women's brains are altered by pregnancy and birth; they are literally making new and different kinds of connections. Imagine if your wife was immersing herself in a new language in order to learn a new job. And that job was keeping someone else alive. People offer things like "Hey! Take a break and let me feed the baby!" But when you're a new mom that can feel like someone else offering to do your practice session of conjugating verbs in a new language.

I don't know if this is true or not, but I suspect that your wife does DEEPLY trust her own mother. It's not so much that she doesn't trust your parents, it's more that she needs to have a deep deep connection with anyone she hands the baby off to. For me, it was anxiety based. I felt like the doctors always wanted to know if things with my baby were "normal," a baby I'd known for only a few days (then weeks, then months). How could I know what was normal unless I was with her all the time? And what if I didn't like the way someone else took care of her? It would be much easier to "snatch her back" from my mom than my in-laws. All this is to say: it's normal for this to be a time of high anxiety for your wife (and you) and it's normal for her to have illogical rules to handle this anxiety.

Advice:
- Know that this phase isn't forever. Your wife might get to the point where she's asking someone inline behind her at the supermarket to watch her baby for a second (I kid, kind of).
- Be aware about postpartum disorders. I am DEFINITELY not saying your wife has one. Do not listen to anyone on the internet who diagnosis your wife, but just be aware that there are a lot of hormones and brain chemistry making things difficult for your wife right now on top of all the usual stuff of taking care of a baby.
- Is your wife in mothering groups? Are there any local support groups in town for mothers? Try to find one or get your wife to find one. Or find a dad support group. Talking these issues out with other mothers is really helpful for new moms.
- I don't think you can't talk or argue your wife into this and I personally wouldn't try. She really needs you on her team right now. Ask her about how she's feeling. There are emotions underlying these decisions (in my opinion). I think if you help her (by listening to her and asking her how you can best help her) with these emotions, these things won't be as big of a problem.
posted by CMcG at 4:11 PM on December 7, 2018 [16 favorites]


You've discussed your feelings - what about hers? It sounds like birth was somewhat traumatic and coupled with the cocktail of hormones your wife is experiencing, maybe she is finding it hard to trust comparative strangers with her tiny baby (i.e. she's known your parents as long as she's known you and presumably nowhere near as well) as opposed to her own parents, who she has known for a great deal longer. I know it's your baby too, and I can sense your hurt feelings, but it isn't stupid or unreasonable of your wife to want to hold onto and protect her newborn - it's a biological urge. She isn't really in the wrong here.
Have you asked your wife why she is worried and have you listened to her explanations?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:12 PM on December 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Unless she’s actually physically hurting people or like psychologically abusing them you can’t go wrong with trusting and supporting your wife. Do you know how to do that? Now is the time to get good at it by practicing. You made a promise to do that when you got married. You never made any promises about who gets to hold the baby, because that would be a crazy thing to do.
posted by bleep at 4:23 PM on December 7, 2018 [11 favorites]


oh, and stop comparing how your wife deals with her own parents with how she deals with your parents. Your wife just gave birth. She is in one of the hardest and most vulnerable phases of her life now. The point of her parents is that they're HER parents who love HER and have been taking care of HER when she's needed care, for her whole life. Your in-laws are interested in the baby first and foremost. That's perfectly natural, but if you or your parents try to compete with her parents in terms of your wife's trust, you will lose, hard. Don't go there. Don't make this time harder than it is. Bond with your wife, support her, love her; everything will be ok if you don't fight her now.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:36 PM on December 7, 2018 [19 favorites]


Mod note: Please remember to respond with kindness.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:36 PM on December 7, 2018 [36 favorites]


I have had several school-age clients who were born prematurely and, without exception, their mothers were afraid on some level of letting them out of their sight. Many of them felt that if they had just done something differently during the pregnancy, their child would not have been premature and would not have health or developmental issues. They vowed to never put their child at “risk,” however minor that risk might be, however illogical that risk assessment was. They were going to protect their child at any cost.

Many people’s birth experiences are incredibly traumatic, even without a NICU stay. And the prevailing attitude, in the U.S. at least, is that as long as your baby is healthy, you’re just supposed to accept the trauma and get over it.

I don’t know your wife’s story but I cannot imagine that this whole experience hasn’t been traumatic in some way. I would get her some help, either a therapist who specializes in medical trauma, or a support group for moms of premature babies. I would also refrain from describing anyone’s “mama bear mentality” as “stupid.” It’s incredibly offensive. (Surely your own mother has been a mama bear for you at some point?)
posted by corey flood at 4:47 PM on December 7, 2018 [17 favorites]


"When I bring up that it she has no hesitation to hand him to her mother I get told that we'll. It's HER mother and even then she would. Never ASK she'd respect the boundaries etc."

1) It sounds like your wife doesn't want people asking to hold her child, she wants to be the one doing the offering/asking.

2) When your wife says that her Mother respects boundaries I'm wondering if this means that your wife trusts her Mother not do things with/to/around the baby that she's been asked not to. There are plenty of (otherwise great) people out there who do not listen or respect boundaries when their opinion on what is acceptable behaviour differs from the person who asked them not to do X thing / only do Y thing. This sort of attitude is, if anything, more common from people who consider themselves more experienced (say, a person who has successfully raised multiple children) than the person who set the boundary (say, a new parent with their first child). Can you say with confidence that your parents have shown your wife that she can trust them to respect her wishes even if they don't understand or agree with her reasoning?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 4:50 PM on December 7, 2018 [23 favorites]


This is hard. I can empathize with a new mom dealing with a new baby and I can imagine myself as a grandmama someday with a new grandbaby that I want to hold. I had some similar responses as your wife that I look back on from a new perspective now. I just want to say that you really, really need to be on Team Family here, and by that I mean Dad, Mom, Baby. You need to be on the same team as your wife, now and going forward forever as parents together. It sounds like her first priority is Baby right now and that is ok. Your parents, Extended Family, are important too, but secondarily to Team Family. Good luck and best wishes, transitions are hard.
posted by RoadScholar at 4:55 PM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


my son spent nine weeks in NICU. He was the first grandchild on my husband's side. Of course I had my in-laws hold him and give him bottles. Family is important and family doesn't just mean parents. But due to hormones and exhaustion (and it is exhausting for the birth parent) don't pick this battle right now. but yes, like onerydia notes, share the child when you are doing the childcare. be considerate of your wife but remember that you have full and equal rights and say in dealing with your own baby.
posted by biggreenplant at 4:57 PM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


Your wife said that her parents respect boundaries, implying that yours don't. I don't have children, but still my mother-in-law used to ignore my wishes when it suited her...until my husband talked to her (more than once) about what we wanted. Really, certain things were more important to me than to him, but when he presented certain things as being what we both wanted, it let her know that we were united. But also, he'd been letting things go because he didn't want to hear complaints from his mother. If you're trying to avoid unpleasant comments from your mother, you're going to have put up with it. It probably won't last long -- and if it does, you can set a boundary about how you deal with the negativity.

Ask your wife to tell you what boundaries she'd like your parents to respect. You may want to deal with one at a time, and they don't even have to be about your child. Then plan what to say to your parent or parents. Some things are better to talk about before they happen, and others can be stated when the issue is at hand.

You, your wife, and your child are your primary family now. Grandparents sometimes need help in understanding that. A boundary is really a limit you set for yourself...that is, you can't make your parents stop doing certain things, but you can decide what you will do if they disregard your request. "We asked you to lay the baby on his back/ not feed him sweets/ avoid swearing in front of him/not let him watch TV -- but you've done the opposite. We don't feel comfortable leaving him in your care when you do that."
posted by wryly at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2018 [9 favorites]


You might find it worthwhile to read "How to Have Kids Without Hating Your Husband".

It's written by a woman for women but I've found men can read about the obnoxious things we do (or more likely, ways we're obnoxious for not doing things) and get something out of it.

Absolutely do not give it to your wife to read, or, like, tell her you're reading a book that says she needs to focus on you more! I'm recommending this solely so that you can get an idea of what she might be going through right now. I've found it helpful, maybe you will too.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:43 PM on December 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: So to add some clarity for those who have asked:

Baby was born on 10/16. He's 7 weeks this Tuesday. My wife was a nanny for a dozen years and had kids including infants down pat. She's also come. From. An abusive family where her father beat the mother and molested her younger 2 siblings. (thankfully her and the older siblings escaped this.)

We've gotten a clean bill of health to take him out and about. She's been out to a few doctors appointments on her own, (the first month and a half I took off and too her to every one as she had to have am unplanned last minute c-section.

As for support I've given her plenty and continue to do so. I haven't really pushed that hard until now because nothing is changing. There has been some outright snippiness to. My. Mother particularly which hadn't been warranted. She has support of a close group. Of women who all Recently had their first borns within 2 months. Plus a La Leche league nrwsyfeeding group, plus online support forums and Facebook groups.

I just thought it was pretty unusual that a grandparent isn't allowed to hold their two month old grandchild. If I hand him. Over when I have him I get resentment from her in the moment or. Later on
posted by PetiePal at 5:51 PM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


You mention your wife not letting your parents bottle feed the child and then in your update, you mention she has gone to a La Leche League meeting.

Breastfeeding, especially in the early weeks, can be challenging, intense, and very important. From a breastfeeding point of view, pumping instead of nursing so someone else can feed the baby and mom is stuck to a pump instead is ... not fun. It can actually be harmful to mom, baby and mom's breast milk supply.

I would recommend you read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and increase your knowledge of that very unique and powerful dyad that is a nursing relationship. It might help you better understand where your wife is coming from.

Good luck and congratulations.
posted by jillithd at 6:07 PM on December 7, 2018 [15 favorites]


Thank you for your update. I don’t know if this is true, but I get the sense that you are feeling like you are ready to move on from the birth and get back to normal. You say that she has experience with children through nannying but physiologically/neurologically that is just not the same. Learning new skills is part of motherhood but it’s also about a cultural/emotional/neurological shift into becoming a mother. You mention that you are frustrated because “nothing is changing,” so I just want to re-emphasize again that 7 weeks is not very much time at all in the transition to motherhood. Did you know that physiological alone (not mental or culturally), the postpartum period last until 6 months after birth? Mentally and culturally it can be much longer. For some perspective, I felt back to normal about 13 months after giving birth & I did not have the complications your wife experienced.

I have no doubt that you are supportive and will continue to be so. It is difficult. Your wife has support groups, but do you? I hear it’s quite common for dad’s to feel “outside” of their partner’s decision making at this time.

Do you think that it’s possible that your mom understands where your wife is coming from? What do you think she would say if you asked her about her early days of motherhood?
posted by CMcG at 6:09 PM on December 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: She's not able to breast feed due to much too low supply. We're talking not even 5ml from each side. I've been very supportive of breastfeeding however this may not be in the cards for her. She wants to have time to pump but then laments she has no time even when he's sleeping and can be watched (just watched even) by one of my parents.
posted by PetiePal at 6:10 PM on December 7, 2018


Response by poster: I've also been very vigilant for post partum depression. I wasn't aware of anxiety although to some extent I believe my wife does have anxiety from the abusive father. Her relationship with my father is better than my mother and she loves them both but granted we've been invited to stay here rent free while we save and she was even given what is considered the master bedroom that they expanded and built Onto this house I feel like they've been pretty gracious accommodating and generous to date.

This is more about grandparents wanting to share in the joy of a new member of the family and not in any overbearing, inappropriate or unfair way. I bring up her mother because she shoots back that her mother wouldn't do this or thst but she's let her sister hold him a bunch and the mother HAS asked.

If they had been allowed to hold him even I probably would have felt more comfortable but even them saying hello or waving to him annoys her. Meanwhile I'm doing all a husband should... Taking care of all the bottles, the shopping, night help etc. And I have stood up for her over boundaries that have been reasonable because I DO realize she's my wife first and it's not about being a son of my parents first anymore.

But when they offer even a word of advice or simply a comment that isn't in any way a suggestion or correction she gets very overly defensive which is where the snapping happens. My mother has asked her how she was feeling recovering from a post partum UTI and she's blown up over having to tell her anything.

And no I don't really have a support network. My brother isn't someone I can go to for this I'd worry he'd overreact and just take my side and wouldn't make matters better. My close home Friends most don't have kids and my chruch friends do but I don't feel like I want to embarrass or make her look bad in a negative light so really I just suffer in silence.
posted by PetiePal at 6:21 PM on December 7, 2018 [6 favorites]


My mother has asked her how she was feeling recovering from a post partum UTI and she's blown up over having to tell her anything.

With all due respect, is it possible she didn’t want her mother-in-law to know about the current state and heath of her genitals? This seems like a thing many women wouldn’t necessarily want a non-direct relative to know anything about.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:24 PM on December 7, 2018 [51 favorites]


So I'm gonna chime in with a different opinion. If you live with someone and they only held your baby twice in 7 weeks and are not allowed to say hi to your baby, or watch him for 10 minutes, that is not typical. It's not. You're absolutely right to be concerned about this. (This is assuming your parents are good people and had a normal relationship with your wife before pregnancy.. if there was trouble bbefore hormones then you've got bigger issues).

However... everyone is correct that if she's having a tough post partum experience then there's no reasoning with her. After giving birth, I do remember thinking that my son is a human being and not something to be passed around, that I was tired of getting advice from everyone, and that I just wanted my private parts to be private again. At the same time, of course I'd let family and in-laws hold or feed my baby to help out while I took a break. Yes, I thought the in-laws came over too often, but I knew they wanted to help and bond with their grandchild so I let them watch him while he was in the pack n play, let them feed him so I could eat. Something is definitely going on with your wife, but you might need to think about how to deal with it together, and see if she needs professional help. Telling her she's wrong or trying to explain to her that what your parents want is harmless is not gonna work at this point.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 6:30 PM on December 7, 2018 [47 favorites]


This: “My mother has asked her how she was feeling recovering from a post partum UTI and she's blown up over having to tell her anything.”

Does not mesh with this: “They're not overbearing in laws or anything.”

You talk about your feelings, yet when you start to consider your wife’s feelings, you feel the need to suggest her feelings are illogical and wrong. Even if they were, it doesn’t matter because you need to support your wife. She just had your baby. It was an unplanned c-section. Cut her some slack.
posted by kat518 at 6:36 PM on December 7, 2018 [14 favorites]


I have a very different perspective on this than may others above.

I've seen similar behavior to this in my sister in law and my parents, and it never really improved with time. Passively waiting around for it to get better just didn't work in my brother's case. This situation really hurt my mother's feelings deeply, and strained the whole family's relationship (including, indirectly, my wife and children with my parents).

Sorry, I don't have any concrete advice for you, but I really sympathize with the situation you are in and I want to validate your feelings. I think you are the one who needs to be the judge of of how best to interact with your wife, but no, I don't think you're being unreasonable.

What does that mean as far as actions? Maybe not that much. I doubt somehow forcing the issue, or pulling a switcheroo is really going tho make things much better. I think the best you can do is do your best to slowly move things to be more fair, which may or may not be that productive or be met with too much resistance. I do hope I'm wrong and it seems like many folks above are more optimistic about the long term.

Good luck, I really hope it works out for you.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 6:36 PM on December 7, 2018 [11 favorites]


I am sure there is a lot more going on in your wife’s mind having to do with living with your parents and wanting distance from that. But I do think it is really odd that your wife is so averse to having your parents so much as watch your child sleep. I would have the same reaction you are having for sure and I would seriously keep an eye out for possible causes for what I think is your wife’s extreme reaction to your parents’ offers of assistance.

(I say this as a mother who would NEVER and has never let my MIL babysit our son. She has been extremely feeble and prone to falling since he was born 9 years ago. And while I had an absolute “no holding our son” policy with her when my MIL was standing up, I did not hesitate to let her hold and love on him while she was sitting down.)
posted by murrey at 6:59 PM on December 7, 2018 [4 favorites]


I’m going to disagree with a lot of posters and say it isn’t reasonable that your parents don’t get to hold their grandchild, assuming your description of how often they’ve done so is accurate. Is this antagonism toward your parents a change in your wife’s behavior, or has it always been there? If it’s a big change, it seems like it might be some kind of postpartum anxiety.
I don’t have a solution, but I wanted to validate your feelings about this, since you seem to be getting a lot of unwarranted criticism. In an ideal world, your wife would see a therapist, but it might be tough to make that happen.
I had lots of problems with boundary-pushing in-laws after my babies were born and in some ways, I responded by being obnoxious, but I understood they had a right to hold their grandchildren.
And asking how a person is feeling after a UTI is totally reasonable and not the same as asking about the state of her genitals. Assuming the question is, How are you feeling. I dont see how that flags them as overbearing. It seems pretty normal for someone in the same household to express concern about a person’s health.
I hope you guys resolve this. It sounds hard on everyone.
posted by FencingGal at 7:10 PM on December 7, 2018 [23 favorites]


Your baby is 7 weeks old. That’s so little! You guys are still in crazy crisis mode. Make no sudden movements. This situation is going to naturally evolve over the coming weeks. Prioritize keeping the household running and trying to get everyone enough sleep.

What should be the most joyous experience and time of my life - oh please. Having a newborn is a lot of things, but it’s not all joy and fun, particularly for the one who gives birth. Adjust your expectations.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:46 PM on December 7, 2018 [37 favorites]


In your wife’s shoes, I think I’d be feeling a lot of stress over not having my own space. It’s so hard to imagine being comfortable recovering from childbirth in someone else’s home - I wanted nothing more than privacy in those days, because my life was centered around my body in an unfamiliar and frequently painful way, and I don’t think privacy is truly possible in a home that isn’t yours. I’m sorry. This sounds really hard for everyone.
posted by eirias at 7:53 PM on December 7, 2018 [29 favorites]


I had a preemie and terrible in-laws and if I'd had to live with them due to money issues and have them try to touch my vulnerable infant early on, I would have snapped. I barely slept for fear my child would again stop breathing the first few months, plus the guilt of the NICU, not beaing able to breastfeed enough etc. It took about six months to ease and was the same with other preemie moms I know. The dads seemed to adjust far faster.

I had a very trusted housekeeper who adores my kids and I barely let her near my baby back then. I was basically frantic to protect this tiny fragile human who had repeatedly almost died and my entire physical system was primed to protect her with hormones and guilt and well - evolution and experience. Because the damn baby did nearly die several times, and I was the one who went something is wrong and kept track of things. At this point, are your parents so completely reliable and healthy and up to date with infant CPR and childcare that you feel safe leaving your very very tiny baby in their care unsupervised?

Your wife's irrationality makes sense now for protecting a fragile to her baby. Your parents can focus on being supportive to her and you and not resenting what they don't get to have for a few more months. In a year, they'll have a healthy grandson to spoil and a better relationship with their daughter-in-law.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:20 PM on December 7, 2018 [18 favorites]


There are a lot of good answers here, but I don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned: when my baby was born, everyone was trying to get me time to shower or to go to appointments or to sleep or whatever, but I remember thinking I couldn’t wait till people would just let me spend time with my baby. I mean, I needed to sleep and stuff, but I much preferred to have people help by doing chores around the house or whatever, not holding the baby. Holding the baby is fun. Holding the baby feels good. Mamas sometimes need those good feelings more than showers or 10 minutes to eat without babies in their arms.

Can you *and* your parents focus on doing *all* the other things (like, literally bringing her glasses of water or food she can eat with one hand or made bottles so she doesn’t have to get up) and really prioritize *her* bonding time with the baby? The kiddo is still so, so tiny (he’d only be four weeks old right now if he wasn’t born prematurely). There will be lots (and lots and lots) of time for your parents and even you to hold the baby later - and I mean in like a few weeks or months, not when he’s in grade school. It’s not going to impact his bond with his grandparents if they don’t hold him till he’s 14 weeks or 28 weeks instead of 7 weeks old. As someone mentioned above, he doesn’t even know he has feet yet. Right now he and she really need each other in a very primal way, and everyone else kinda needs to try to be patient. As a bonus, the more time she spends with him (and the less stressed she is) the easier breastfeeding is likely to be.

Also, even if your kid is fine now, he *wasn’t* for a week. A week in the NICU plus an unplanned c section three weeks early is super traumatic. Your wife needs lots of support and understanding and patience right now.

One amazing thing my husband said early on is that my job was to take care of the baby and his job was to take care of me. Your wife’s entire being is focused on taking care of this little baby. I think focusing on ways you can support her - not just by doing bottles and chores, but by being patient with her and asking your parents to be patient if she’s not ready to let them hold him yet - is the most productive thing you could do right now. And yeah, get yourself some support too. Friends, church friends, a therapist, dad message boards - whatever you need.
posted by bananacabana at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2018 [40 favorites]


Your wife is trying to breastfeed and it’s not working out like she’s hoped. This is very very physically demoralizing, possibly psychically humiliating. Added to it that it’s not her family, her people, at a very raw time when even without the troubles breastfeeding she’s literally at the tail end of expelling lochia and walking around with gunky stuff coming out of her and feeling pretty far from being normal. The first few months after giving birth are an incredible gift but an incredible visceral blow to one’s self confidence and image. I was sweaty, clammy, smelly, leaking, incompetent, desperate, anxious, terrified to poop, and often hopelessly topless. My ass hurt. My hair was sometimes filthy, I had bad breath. I had stitches and was peeing at the wrong times. I was lumpy and fat. I had night sweats. My joints hurt. My baby wasn’t gaining weight and I felt 100% to blame. In this time there were very few people I trusted at all. And those I wasn’t totally 100% on before the birth I was not ready to just be suddenly totally ok with after. I did not want to chat with my very nice very kind in-laws, let alone spend a lot of time with them, not to mention live in their home with their own standards and preferences about how things should be.
posted by sestaaak at 8:37 PM on December 7, 2018 [53 favorites]


Yes, it would be easier if your wife allowed the grandparents to hold the baby. Yes, it would be nice for the grandparents if they could hold the baby.

I don't know how to say this any other way. It's not gonna happen. All sorts of really intense stuff happens to women's bodies with pregnancy and with their brains as well. Just do what your wife wants. Let her be snippy or whatever. This is hard. You have 18 years until the baby leaves home. There is time.
posted by Toddles at 8:46 PM on December 7, 2018 [7 favorites]


by the way, online groups are generally the opposite of supportive, and La Leche, for women who have low supply, can be absolute ghouls. If that's where your wife is getting her support, no wonder she's feeling attacked.

Dude, the more you start telling us about how her boundaries aren't reasonable, the more sympathetic I am to her. And to you too, in the sense that I know this is hard, and I know you're embarrassed because you'd like your wife to be more gracious to your parents, who are kind enough to have you guys living in their house -- but really, you ought to listen to what people are telling you here. What you're asking - that a postpartum woman hand off her premature infant, when she doesn't want to -- isn't reasonable. Judging a postpartum woman isn't reasonable. Not only is it not reasonable: it is bad for your family. She'll remember this. So just support her now. Just ask your mom, kindly, to back off. And if you can, get out of your parents' house. It's obvious your wife craves privacy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:02 PM on December 7, 2018 [13 favorites]


Just to offer another perspective - my brother and his wife have five kids all of whom I am very close to. I haven't held any of the kids before 2 months even though I saw them several times a week and sometimes spent the night. Kiddos and I have a very close bond and I don't think our relationship suffered in any way.
I also think that the more you let it go for now and the more space your parents give your wife the sooner will your wife trust them to hold the baby.
The "stupid mama bear" comment was neither kind nor smart. Mama bears are not mama bears for fun. There's literally a survival advantage to it.
I also wonder if your wife thinks that your parents are doing something unsafe and is afraid to tell you.
posted by M. at 9:55 PM on December 7, 2018 [13 favorites]


Holding a tiny baby is such an important part of bonding with a child.

Here's the thing though- a tiny baby is also a 6 month old or a 9 month old. A newborn? doesn't need to be passed around so much. You have to focus more on the keeping baby alive thing. I was adopted at birth and didn't even meet my adoptive grandmother until I was about 9 or 10 months old, because she lived on the other side of the country. And until her death in 2016 she was the closest relative I had beside my parents. Like- we bonded in a way no one else in my family has, and any daughter I have will be named after her. She was my everything. And honestly? It didn't matter that I didn't get physically held by her until I was nearly a year. We still bonded!
What matters right now is a) is your baby healthy and b) is your wife healthy (mentally and physically) as long as these two things are ok, any future thing will be ok. I swear to you your parents will bond to this child and your child will bond to them just as well if they don't get full holding rights for another month or two (or three or four) while your wife recovers from an unplanned c-section, seeing her child in a NICU and holding things together while her body doesn't produce enough milk.
You need to be kind, nothing about this is easy, and it should all be ok.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:05 PM on December 7, 2018 [8 favorites]


I also wonder if your wife thinks that your parents are doing something unsafe and is afraid to tell you.

I wonder about this. Do your parents smoke maybe? Maybe your wife is concerned about third-hand smoke and SIDS and shower-and-put-on-clean-clothes-first just feels more touch to say than "don't touch the baby"? I don't see what else could be dangerous about them just holding the baby, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:15 PM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


The way that I see it she's home from work and spends basically all day with him on the couch and the help is sorely physically and mentally needed for us both.

Either you are drastically misrepresenting her day or she's having a very unusual experience.

I'm also not clear on the timing of your parents trips to Florida - are you saying that you've actually lived in the same house as them for the past 18 months, and they aren't in Florida for this winter either? It sounds like at least one of them is very frail, if they can't go to their normal winter home in Florida. When did you and your wife learn that they would be in the house with you when the baby was born?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:41 PM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


I’m the kind of person who needs privacy, and when I’m anxious that feeling intensifies. Living in someone else’s home while trying to bond with a baby would be tough, and even normal interactions with my hosts might feel like an interference and a reminder that I’m trying to do a super personal thing on someone else’s turf.

Sure, they’re being super kind and generous to let you live with them, but being a guest can be challenging in its own right. There’s a sense of being observed that can feel invasive. With that as the backdrop, asking Mom if they can hold the baby can seem invasive as well, since Mom already feels like she doesn’t have full control of her turf. She’s already sitting on someone else’s couch in someone else’s house. Give her a chance to cocoon and bond on her own terms.
posted by delight at 10:54 PM on December 7, 2018 [12 favorites]


Coming out of the NICU where everything is sterile, she might feel that the wider world isn't clean enough.

Any chance your parents have any visible skin conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, herpes, shingles, nail infections, rashes, sores, etc? Even though many of those are not actually contagious, your wife might not know that, or not be sure what the condition is, so perhaps she's taking precautions about transmission to the baby, but doesn't want to sound rude by saying so.

Do your parents have extremely clean hands, mouths, and clothing? Do they offer to wash their hands before holding the baby? Do your parents have their flu shots and up-to-date vaccines? Do they smoke or handle any kind of chemical that's not baby-friendly? Do they cough a lot or have runny eyes or noses from allergies? Do they wash their hands after using the toilet? Do they make a habit of kissing babies on the baby's mouth? Some people think that's ok, and some are horrified by it.

Many people think that all adults should wash hands before touching a baby, and that everyone except maybe the parents should also avoid touching & kissing the baby's face and hands.

If germs are the issue, perhaps addressing those issues would help (or maybe it would make things worse if they did those things and she still didn't want them to hold the baby so now they're salty about holding the baby AND insulted that she implied their hygiene was lax).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:59 PM on December 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Your baby is really tiny and vulnerable. Your wife spent her first month as a mom dealing with the NICU and recovering from major abdominal surgery and her second month trying so hard to breastfeed without success (BTW, I just went through this and holy fuck was it hard. I cried and cried). One top of it, she is living with her in-laws and doesn't have a lot of privacy or space to stake out her own rules. Yes, it is shitty that the grandparents are getting shut out right now but you gotta give this sleep-deprived new mom more time. Two months feels like forever when your baby arrives but it is a very short time in comparison with the relationship your parents are going to build with their grandchild. You gotta be patient and you gotta tell your parents to be patient. This problem may not go away but you aren't going to negotiate successfully with the woman your wife is at this time. She has a lot on her agenda right now and she's got more important things to deal with each day. New moms often feel completely inundated with unsolicited advice, it would have driven me nuts to get it daily from my mother in law in the living quarters that I shared with her. And I am not saying your mom is showering her with advice but, ugh, I would not enjoy the situation she is in right now and I really sympathize.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:13 AM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


she was even given what is considered the master bedroom

Do you have separate bedrooms? If so, where does the baby sleep?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:29 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


+1 to flu shot question. It's flu season with an infant. Do your parents have medical appts or spend time around other flu vectors?
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:59 AM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of the answers above are being really unsympathetic to your position and that of your parents. It is really hard to go through everything your wife is going through and recover in someone else's home; it's also hard to have your son and his wife move back in with you when you are pushing 80 and refuse to let you interact with your new grandson, especially when one of you is in the aftermath of dealing with some scary health issues. And it's hard for you to be stuck in the middle between them. Your wife's aversion to your parents does not sound typical to me, and I am guessing they must feel very hurt. Has your wife really not given you any indication as to why she feels this way?

It is early days yet though, with them only having been home for a few weeks. Maybe you could have a chat with your parents and the three of you can agree to back off through the holidays. (I know it's really hard, they must be dying to hold him!) Then, if it's still a problem when the new year rolls around, maybe sit down with your wife and try to figure out what's going on and how you might fix it.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:10 AM on December 8, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think you are really really underestimating how rough it is on your wife to have to raise this baby in your parents' house. I'm sure this varies by personality, but for many adults (especially introverts), having to live in somebody else's space 24/7 gets pretty exhausting after a few days, and you're saying she's had to live in your parents' house with your parents there for pretty much all of her first pregnancy and her first weeks with your young child.

You frame it as "Oh wow, they're doing this great thing for us, she should be grateful!" That may be so intellectually; I'm sure you feel it more since it sounds like the expectation was you would be the primary breadwinner, so your end of the bargain is the one being propped up.

But frankly, if I were your wife, I would be heartbroken over the loss of the chance to bond with my child in my own nuclear family space. No matter how much I loved my inlaws, it would be crazy irritating to have to spend those newborn days with someone always, always around, asking politely about my UTIs, sitting in the den when I walk through all scruffy, choosing the brand of granola bars to buy, quietly listening to my every single interaction with the baby. Under those conditions, I think it's 100% understandable if normal new-mama protectiveness crystallizes into being extra defensive about boundaries surrounding the baby.

You appeal to fairness in her behavior with her mom, but I suspect for her it feels as though the situation is already hugely tilted in favor of your parents. After all, they see the baby every day, all day, and they intrude into her life in a thousand maddening ways every day solely by being the ones whose house this is. If I had to wake up every day for a year in somebody else's mom's bed, you'd better believe I would be feeling a little irrationally rejecting of additional intimate contact with their mom by the end of the day.

I think it'd help to be a little more understanding/sympathetic for the territory hit she's taking here-- taking a "look, I know this sucks that we're in this house, but we will be out SO SOON, here's what I'm doing to work on it" tack rather than "my parents are being so wonderful and generous, why can't you reward them with their due???". If she feels like you're on her side in seeing and understanding the boundary around your nuclear family, and in wanting time free from your parents, no matter how you love them, that could go a long way. Some of the odd details you include in your question (why is it relevant that her siblings were molested as kids?) make me worry that you may be a bit defensive of your mom vs. hers, and any counter-territoriality from you is absolutely going to make this situation 100x worse.

Finally, is there any way she can get out of this space for a little bit, just to reset and relax and center? Could she take the baby to visit her own mom for a week or two, for instance, even if you had to stay back at the house with your folks?
posted by Bardolph at 3:19 AM on December 8, 2018 [27 favorites]


My mother wanted to be at the hospital for the birth, if not in the room. I didn't want her to come to the hospital at all. Much less my in-laws. I didn't want anyone visiting when we got home for a couple of weeks. I had experience with kids, but as someone prone to anxiety the whole thing left me feeling very exposed, and being raised in an abusive home I inherited some perfectionism leading to tons of pressure on myself to do things right/well.

The end result is that I wanted a lot of space and I cannot imagine how it would be trying to wrestle with breastfeeding, pumping, feeling like a failure for having low supply, coping with recovery from an unplanned C-section, poor bladder control where you pee when you cough or laugh which is humiliating, trying to have some privacy to bond with my baby, and having in-laws in my shared space all the time.
I don't think I could do it. But I will tell you when it came to dealing with hospital visitors, or people wanting updates/to visit when we got home, you can bet that my spouse was fully supportive and as much of a people pleaser as he can be normally he did not hesitate to help as a gatekeeper for visits as well as when actually seeing his parents, enforcing with them any preferences I had as a new mother.

You are clearly not understanding the gravity of what your wife has been through and the opportunity to choose your current family over your family of origin, the opportunity to be a source of comfort and support rather than resentment.

If she was abused then parents aren't safe on some level, no matter what her logic says. You need to stop putting your parents first. The kid is only 7 weeks old!
posted by crunchy potato at 5:10 AM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


I’d like to politely offer that the comments from your parents that aren’t suggestions or criticisms may (for various reasons) feel like criticisms to her. I mean maybe your folks have a history of giving her loaded comments and she never mentioned it to you or you just never picked up on it. Maybe your folks are offering comments throughout the day so any conversation she has with them doesn’t offer her recognition as a person and instead is just about her as a walking vehicle for their grandchild.

People tend to get really swept up in baby fervor in the early weeks and that can be really hard when moms basically are re-evaluating their entire identity and where they fit in the world. Have your parents been doing anything with your wife that has to do with her individual interests as a person or has it just been baby talk?
posted by donut_princess at 5:15 AM on December 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, I will add, I have a distinct memory of my MIL coming from the "don't coddle" camp, she would resist giving my infant to me if he started crying. I get that she wanted to be able to comfort him, but I was not ready to give up that role. It was for the mother and father only, and I deeply resented her for not listening to me on that. It erodes trust. The new mother is judging anyone that wants time with her infant quite harshly in some cases, because biology tells her to. My MIL didn't respect my wishes so I didn't feel like she should have access for a bit.

That was a perfectly normal, biologically driven decision on my part, and my birth experience was totally uneventful if not perfect in most ways it can be. I can't imagine the trauma of premie/unplanned c section layered onto it.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:16 AM on December 8, 2018 [7 favorites]


Do you want to save up for the house (and thus live with your parents) or does your wife, too? I don't think this has been addressed.

If I were your wife in this situation, I would strongly prefer to live in a rented small apartment so I could get some privacy. This is all the more true because you sound especially concerned about your parents' reactions (particularly your mother's) and not your wife's. Things have changed since you got married: your obligations and your concerns should be with your wife and your baby now, not your parents.
posted by luckdragon at 5:36 AM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


Your baby is not a prize nor an object to be handed over. Your wife desperately needs privacy and sounds like she isn’t getting it.

You need to focus on her and not on your parents. I wasn’t “myself” for several months after delivery and having anyone else in the house would have been pure torture. I didn’t want to hand off my baby, and I put him in a bouncy chair in the bathroom when I needed a shower. He loved the white noise.

All your responses are painting your parents as saints and your wife as “stupid” or irrational. Both may seem true to you, but you really need to communicate with your wife to find out what her actual feelings are.
posted by 41swans at 6:01 AM on December 8, 2018 [12 favorites]


I can't tell exactly what is going wrong here and I don't think anyone here can, because so much depends on your wife's reasoning/motivations here and that's a big blank unknown space in this situation as you set it out. Possibly because you don't know, possibly because she can't even articulate it to herself at the moment.

But it does seem clear that something is going wrong, and it is not a great situation for anybody involved here (with the exception of the baby who won't care now but will still benefit from having close loving family members as he gets older). If the situation has deteriorated to a point where your wife gets annoyed if your parents even say hello or wave at the baby, that's pretty extreme. You aren't wrong to be concerned about this.

So I'd suggest you change tactics slightly. Instead of taking the approach that this could be fixed if your wife loosened up a bit and asking why she won't, ask instead what it is she needs in order to make this situation better. She might well need to not be living in your parents' house with a newborn right now, no matter how kind they are or how nice her bedroom is.

Another point - your parents don't have to be bad people in order for something about the dynamic here to be going wrong for your wife. My own in-laws and immediate family are great and were all supportive and wonderful when I had my first baby, but at one point when she was 6 weeks old several of them from both sides of the family came to stay at once and suddenly it was AWFUL. They still meant well, but the way I experienced their good intentions was very very different when it was one of me against four of them and they had some very firm ideas about what I should be doing with the baby. After the first day of me+them+baby I was on the phone to my husband at work in tears, it got that bad. I would have absolutely lost it if I had to live with them for months. And they are not bad people at all it's just really easy for family dynamics to get warped in that kind of situation.
posted by Catseye at 6:38 AM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


Response by poster: We discussed before and after marriage as well as before and after baby. We have to live here for now to save the money and not move 2-3 times and spend 5x the money.
posted by PetiePal at 6:39 AM on December 8, 2018


Response by poster: To add some background my parents -they are sweet people. They’re gone for 3/4 of the year to Florida. It’s at a point where they’re afraid to even talk to her because it’s like walking on eggshells and feel she’ll get offended or defensive. To me st least that doesn’t seem like normal behavior. I’ve been around enough to witness and hear the comments (as well as her interpretations after the fact) and if he cries and they even say aww it annoys her.

They’ve gone out of their way for us for meals, free rent, gifts for the bay etc. maybe I’m wrong but at 2 months isn’t not alright for a grand parent to want to hold them? My view is that since they will have diminished time yearly anyways and have not much left in their life that minor changes should be given before theyre gone forever.

It’s also not like she’s giving her mother tons of time either. She’s held him like once since birth so the whole thing has seemed to me not a family vs family thing but an issue overall.
posted by PetiePal at 6:50 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Dude, you're a father now. It is time to be on Team Us - which means your wife and child. Your parents' desires are a distant notion.
Your wife doesn't want others holding the baby. She's feeling suffocated by your parents. Let her be!
posted by k8t at 7:08 AM on December 8, 2018 [20 favorites]


The way you phrase it ("We discussed...") doesn't really clarify whether your wife wholeheartedly agreed that you should be staying with your parents instead of getting your own place, or whether you expressed your own reasoning and she went along.

Regardless, I think you need to genuinely reopen the discussion in an updated way now that she's experienced what it's actually like to live with your folks + baby. It sounds like she's at the end of her rope, in a way that's completely understandable for a new mom trying to deal with hair-pullingly difficult circumstances.

In periods of stress, some people can deal with lots of constant intrusive social contact and no personal space; some people just can't. It seems like your wife is one of the latter. Thus, your priority should be not on pressuring her to "loosen up," as someone said upthread, but but on figuring out how to rework the situation so she can stay sane. Your description of the money logic ("not move 2-3 times and spend 5x the money") makes it sound like this is a financially prudent course of action, but not necessarily the only possible course of action available? If so, then please consider seriously whether "wasting" some money on a temporary cheap apartment might be worth it for the sake of your wife's mental health, her relationship with your parents and the survival of your marriage.
posted by Bardolph at 7:10 AM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


Aside from the dynamics of living with your parents, it's possible your wife's experiences in her family of origin may be coloring her responses now. You say your wife "escaped" her abusive father -- she 100% did not. Seeing people you love get hurt and not being able to do anything about it is a huge psychological scar. She now has responsibility for this tiny little person; it's not surprising that she is really really wary of letting anyone else touch him. That's on top of the usual hormonal shifts, survival mode mothering, and the trauma of delivery and NICU stay.

You say there's no logical reason for your wife's behavior, but here's the thing: trauma doesn't produce logical responses. It's deep deep lizard-brain stuff -- the stuff you dismiss as "stupid mama bear mentality." Yes, it's maladaptive in a ton of ways, and your wife may even not want to act this way, but please be supportive of her.
posted by basalganglia at 7:32 AM on December 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


There’s an awful lot of discussion about how your wife isn’t pleasing other people and how she owes it to them because of what they’ve done for her.

Meanwhile, people are telling you in so many words that you owe your wife a peaceful, restful recuperation period after she just gave birth and had major abdominal surgery. Your parents should not be intervening with her or making demands of her. You should not be intervening with her and making demands of her on their behalf. Would you be insisting that someone wasn’t being a good enough guest if they were recovering from a heart attack or a serious car accident? Then why are you saying that she’s being irrational and ungrateful when she’s recovering from something just as physically injurious and mentally difficult?

Just stop. Give her a break. Everybody take a step back. You have the rest of the kid’s life to hang out with the kid. Your wife needs some peace and quiet, and to quit having people on her case. Does she owe it to your parents to let them hold the kid and have grandparent time? NO. She fucking does not. Your parents did not buy that privilege by allowing you to stay with them, this is not a quid pro quo transaction or a contract. This is your marriage and your family, and right now she has 3 people telling her how she’s messing it up, and 0 people who are realizing that she’s smack in the middle of a huge life adjustment while healing from surgery.

The focus on money, on previously made agreements, on the wife’s “irrationality” and “unreasonable” behavior, and all the comments about what the parents have done in the form of material support, makes this all sound extremely transactional. Your life isn’t a business contract. Your wife isn’t an employee. She has shit going on with her, and it seems like the focus of your concern is entirely what other people are getting from her, and not at all on whether she’s doing well. It sounds like you’re giving her a low performance review and thinking about writing her up.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:34 AM on December 8, 2018 [56 favorites]


Here's another way to think about it: the need for privacy and autonomous control of one's space are legitimate biological drives (think of how many wild and pet animals instinctively stake out private little dens to retreat to within their wider living space). Like many other types of needs, privacy/space needs change with childbirth and parenting; and just as human beings can act out when they're starving or sleep-deprived, it is absolutely natural for a new mother to become irritable/ defensive around unwanted minor social contact when she's starved of the privacy she needs to bond with her baby and establish her space as safe. That may or may not be what's going on here, but it would certainly be plausible, and it doesn't sound as though much inquiry has been made to find out.

If this does turn out to be partly a privacy/space issue for your wife, then I think you need to regard that as a valid thing that needs to be addressed with changes in lifestyle/ situation, on a par with her other changing postpartum needs. It might seem expensive, inconvenient or irrational to you, but in the same way that you wouldn't complain about buying more food for a hungry pregnant lady (even if you yourself aren't hungry and can't understand how anybody else would be either), you may have to be a bit flexible about prioritizing your wife's needs over your instincts to save money.
posted by Bardolph at 7:48 AM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


Everyone has different priorities. It sounds like yours are: saving money and having your parents hold the newborn, your parent’s priorities are to hold the newborn, your wife’s priorities are to physically recover, mentally adjust to being a mother, have privacy, feel ownership over her life, and keep her newborn alive.

It sounds like you need to shift your priorities away from being a son, and take on the role, responsibilities, and priorities of being a husband and father. She has had to recalibrate expectations of being together as a family because of the bait and switch of your parents planning to leave and then choosing to stay last minute. It isn’t anyone’s *fault*, but the situation has changed so your plans and living arrangements need to change. I agree that you need to look into getting your own place as sooon as possible. Meanwhile, can you encourage your parents to go to Florida to give her a respite before you move? Until they leave, please arrange for your parents to be out of the house everyday while you are at work so she gets her private time (since her surgery has she had ANY private time?). You can also see about a parental leave for yourself so you can stay home with her in the first weeks of moving into your first place together.
posted by saucysault at 7:50 AM on December 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


A few things:

(1) Her irrational protectiveness of your newborn is instinctive and it's not something you are going to change by criticizing it.Yes, she is being "irrational." Likely she is being totally and completely irrational. That is because women evolved to be CRAZY about keeping their newborn babies safe. This is particularly true when there is something that goes wrong with the birth or pregnancy. Being irrational is not just something women do: think of all the irrational shit men do, like become convinced that camgirls are into them! We're all irrational! It's how people are. But you cannot reason someone out of irrational behavior, and in the case of someone who just experienced a trauma---which is what a premature birth and NICU stay is for many parents---it's a bit cruel to try to do so.

(2) Your parents need to back way way way way off and give her space, even if it's not "fair." You can argue until you are blue in the face that she "should" be doing x or "should not" be doing y. It will not matter. This is an instinctive thing that will not get better until she feels safe and in control, which means that you need to respect her preferences even if they seem irrational to you. Part of that is having your parents give her space. If they (or you) can find somewhere else to be for a few weeks so she has some time to re-center herself, that would be ideal. If not, they need to make themselves busy in other areas of the house, be out of the house for scheduled times, etc.

(3) She needs to see a psychologist and, frankly, you probably do too. Ask your hospital's NICU social worker for recommendations. A premature birth and NICU stay can be traumatic, and this kind of issue is really, really common afterwards. You and your wife both need more support.

(4) Backing off for a few weeks and letting her get better will be better long-term. This situation is not workable now, is it? It needs to change. I know you parents are older and you feel like they have limited time and that you, therefore, don't have time to back off. But they're not getting anything good now! If you focus on supporting her and making her feel safe and in control, they will get time with your child, I promise, and that time will be much higher quality.

(5) If there is something wrong with your wife, it needs to take priority over anything else---postpartum mental illness can be life-or-death. Again, if you truly feel that there is something wrong with your wife, I hear you, and I believe you. In that case, though, you need to treat this as an emergency that takes precedence over, for example, your parents' feelings. I know it's hard and disappointing. You want your family to get along! I get that. But if there is something really wrong you need to get it fixed first, so you can move on in a healthy way.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:08 AM on December 8, 2018 [28 favorites]


This whole discussion make me really angry on your wife's behalf. These are some of the most emotionally and physically sensitive, raw, and vulnerable months in an adult woman's life, and instead of being understanding and "how can I help?" you're calling her instincts and needs stupid and siding with others. I know you're in an awkward situation with your parents, but siding with them isn't going to make it easier. You're not listening to us, it seems, and it's clear you don't know what's going on for her (which is why you're hearing people say that her point of view is a blank space in the question). You need to recognize that she's going through something unique and intense. Let her be "irrational" -- it's only irrational because you don't understand it, but unless you are feeling the crush of hormones she is, you just can't. So just be respectful.

I mean, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em is right that there's a chance she could be suffering from either the general aftermath of a traumatic birth or from post partum depression or anxiety. But neither of those is a diagnosis where you can just "fix" her and have things suddenly be how you want them. She'd need therapy, maybe medicine, and support in creating a comfortable living space and social environment. Her needs would have to come first; it still would not allow you to get her to change to better meet the needs of your parents. That change would still occur over a few months at best.

You're very focused on the needs of your parents, which I understand, but the stakes are actually much higher here. Siding with them could hurt her relationship with them over the long run or even her relationship with you. I personally wouldn't stay married to someone who was as disrespectful and closed to discussion as you sound in this question, but maybe we're just hearing your frustration talking. What's also is at stake is whether your baby has a healthy mother. The baby's relationship with its primary caregiver is very important to its cognitive and emotional development, and I'm sorry to say that preemies are at extra risk due to the various things (like separation to the NICU) that happen (although I think NICUs are getting better about this). Seven weeks is not much, especially as the baby's adjusted age is just four weeks. The most crucial things to happen at this time are (a) keeping the baby alive, (less of a risk in our modern era, but the instincts are very much still there), and (b) forming a strong bond between the baby and its primary caregiver. It's natural and good for the baby that your wife wants to hang onto and be ready to rush to the baby at its first cry.

You guys are in a tough situation here, and as the one in the middle between your parents and wife, you have your own challenges that I respect are not easy. Maybe talk to your wife to learn more about what she's feeling and wanting and then try to ask a question along the lines of "how can I help my wife gets what she needs in this situation? how can I help my parents understand and not have their feelings hurt?" Assuming that most of the change should come from her is putting the burden in the wrong place and going up against a huge biological imperative.
posted by slidell at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2018 [14 favorites]


I just thought it was pretty unusual that a grandparent isn't allowed to hold their two month old grandchild.

Your thoughts are okay. But your thoughts about what is "unusual" or "usual" don't win the game right now. Your thoughts are about what's generally true, or what might be true for somebody. But you have a real family with a real wife and real baby. And they may look different and do different things than you expected. That reality is what matters now.

I hear that you had a dream about how this time would be. You pictured your parents holding the baby, everybody gets along, they are filled with joy. It's okay that was your dream. I suggest you picture yourself placing the dream somewhere in your mind -- like a box in your mind. Place it there, put it lovingly on a shelf. Can you place it away, and decide not to try to live that dream right now?

THEN take down another box. This is the box of your actual life. Where things may be unusual. Where they may be unexpected. Where it may not be your preference.

The SECOND box is a SECOND dream -- it's a BIGGER dream than the first one. It's the dream where you support your wife, where you create a strong family. And it will be hard to reach for that second dream. But it's important that you try. I think that is your real dream. It's a dream that is so much bigger than who holds the baby in these months. It will surprise you and give you joy! But first you have to let go of the FIRST dream, where things look just as you expected.

When your wife has a preference you don't understand, think: "I wish it were different. But something is more important than my wish. It's my commitment and desire to create a strong family with my wife and baby. My preferences in this moment are not as important as my desire to support what my wife is asking for." If you don't know what she's asking for exactly, make sure you understand and can repeat it back.

It's okay to feel frustrated and feel that it's unusual. This is all so hard to do. Find someone to talk to about that. Or journal about how you feel and think. And then make sure your ACTIONS support your wife, ask what she needs, and honor her desires. Look out for her health and the health of the baby. Follow Rock 'em Sock 'em's steps. Find gratitude for the health of your wife and baby. Find appreciation for the fact your wife cares so much for your child and has so many skills to do so.

I hear that you're doing so much to try to keep everybody happy and calm. Hoping you get enough support for yourself.
posted by ramenopres at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2018 [14 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. Folks, let's dial down the heat, and dial down the arguing/pleading with OP. If your point's been made, just leave it at that. OP can read the answers and take what's helpful for them and leave the rest.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:20 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


You've come back with explanations about how living with your family is the rational thing and how you feel her behaviour is irrational or outside what is normal. I understand that's how you feel but it sounds like its not how your wife feels and at this tough time in her life rational may not be the most important consideration.

The period when we lived with my in laws was one of the hardest times of my life and it was not at all good for our marriage. Not because it wasn't the rational choice (it was) and my in laws were lovely and welcoming but I desperately needed privacy. Just being able to sit by myself or with just my husband in peace would have been heaven. And he intellectually knew it was hard for me but it was his family and he's not as introverted as me so I don't think he ever really fully understood how bad it was for me.

Unlike your wife I wasn't recovering from what sounds like easily the most traumatic events of her life both physically and emotionally. An emergency c-section and a week in NICU means that at least your baby and possibly your wife too were genuinely at some risk of dying or being permanently injured. I don't say this to be unkind or to try and scare you but to emphasise why your wife might find this period a really really hard time and not something she can easily put behind her. The breastfeeding must also be incredibly hard for her, it's an extremely polarising issue and women can feel like they are utterly failing to do the one thing that is supposed to come naturally and that they are constantly told is the best start in life for their baby. She may feel even more pressure on that point because your baby already had a tough start being premature and in NICU.

It is a bit unusual that your parents and in laws haven't held the baby very much but I think it's very likely a signifier that your wife is still having a really rough time and that's the thing that needs to be addressed, not persuading her to hand over her baby. If its really truly not possible to live by yourselves could some clear physical space be carved out for your wife to help her feel more sense of privacy in what is (for the time being) her home too? Has she had any counselling or any other form of support (apart from La Leche League who as a previous poster suggested may be fairly biased) and if not could you help her to get some?
posted by *becca* at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


Is it possible for you to move out? You say it's 5x what you're paying now, but since you're getting free rent, 5x that might still not be very much. I know it's tempting to save for tomorrow, but there are times in our life when we need to use the money for today, and in my experience, the newborn days fall into that category.

If not, then it might help to have a clear endgame. What's the light at the end of the tunnel? I know your parents are gone 9 months of the year, but since they skipped their trip this year, won't they be around much of this year? Are you close to being able to buy a house? I understand wanting to save (I'm all "maybe we can go camp in the woods for a month this summer so we can rent out our house!"), but now that I have a husband and child, I have to really think about what's best for the family unit. It may well be that living in your own apartment for 3 years before you're able to buy would be better for the family than living with your family for 1 year before you can buy.

Part of being rational is taking into account emotional realities rather than trying to pretend they don't exist. It will probably work better for you to accept what your wife is feeling and wanting, with respect to your parents, than to get her to change her feelings.
posted by slidell at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


Your life has changed and your life is hard. Your mother (whom you love dearly and will love and support until her dying day) and your wife (whom you have chosen to be the most important person in the world) are at odds. You had expected your wonderful and experienced wife to be able to handle all this baby stuff and do everythng you can't do and teach you how to do everything you can. And stuff has gone wrong and now that baby isn't getting the care it needs and your wife is needing help and there is only so much help you can give her because you are working and there is not a lot of money and it is awful. Your wife is exhausted and in pain and miserable and scared and you WANT SO MUCH TO HELP HER but you can't, and if only you, and your family could take some of the burden off her it would be so much better.

And then everyone is ganging up on you and saying, be nice to your wife! When you are trying your hardest to be nice to your wife and support her and any idiot can see what she needs is rest, and the ability to walk around freely and be interested in other things and stop worrying. You are trying to help her, you are trying to coax her to let you and your parents help her, your family is all living together so that you can help each other and it's not working!

And it's very much not your fault, you are already doing a ton, and instead of support and reassurance you are being accused of being a bad husband, a bad father, and a baby snatcher.

So the first thing perhaps you need is to get every anxious and worried member of your family in agreement that you are all being good, all doing your best and all enormously appreciated. If your wife had died in childbirth, you and your parents would be frantically overburdened. If you walked your parents and your wife would be devastated. If your parents gave you the boot, you and your wife would be fucked. If your wife's girlfriend convinced you and your wife and the baby to all move ten states away so that your parents never saw that baby again they would be devastated.

You've got a good thing set up here. It just needs tinkering with and patience until the emotional stuff starts working.

Talk to your parents about any anxieties they had about their own babies. Ask them to talk about what was difficult then. Get them to reminiscence.

Systematically figure out some stuff that you guys can do, that everyone is happy about that will provide support for each other. if your wife is saying, "I can manage" and not making suggestions for what would help, then you need to come up with stuff you can offer to do, that she can reject or accept.

If I can't hold the baby, what can I do to show it love? May I sit beside the baby while you sit on the other side? Can I hold you while you hold the baby so I am holding the baby too? Can we both bathe the baby, even if all I do is warm up a towel and hand it to you? Can I make the formula for you and warm it so that some day if you want me to feed the baby I will have practiced it?

If your wife is not ready for anyone to get within touching distance of the baby and those things are impossible it will be so hard for everyone!

If she still wants to try nursing one thing you can try is to give her a full body massage before she nurses to try to raise her oxytocin levels. This is a comfort hormone she is supposed to be getting from nursing which encourages the milk flow. It might help the milk-flow although it is a long shot. But it should help her feel more secure and relaxed around you. So if she wants a massage that's one thing to try.

Your wife may also be totally overwhelmed by too much body contact from holding the baby all the time, and yet feel compelled to hold the little mite from the instinctive fear that someone will take the baby away again. They already stole her baby once from the best of motives, so she is dealing with that trauma and trying to regain trust in the world. I think it would help a lot if you agreed and kept to the agreement that your wife gets to pick how much contact the baby gets with the rest of you, and then the rest of you don't ask and don't offer. Ask your wife to choose some opportunities for your parents to have contact with the kid and let her pick the where and when. She might be up to letting one of your parents stand outside the closed bedroom door listening for the baby to wake up while she takes a bath, and when and if the baby wakes up, the parent on duty goes to the bathroom door and knocks and tells her the baby is waking up and does NOT go into the bedroom to try to comfort the baby.

Also, when it is time to pass the baby back once you do have contact - even if it is watching and not picking the baby up, you make a strong effort to physically return the baby. In other words, when your Mum finally gets to hold the baby she walks to your wife and puts the baby into her arms without any show of reluctance. And when your Dad gets to sit by the baby while your wife is in the bathroom, he meets her at the bathroom door and escorts her back to the baby's side, walking behind her sort of symbolically shoving her toward the baby. Your wife should at first never have to walk towards her baby and take it, she should be being urged to take it back.

The baby is first and foremost its own baby. It is next of all your wife's baby. Therefore if you are referring to Our Baby or The Baby your parents might reassure your wife by referring to the little one as Your Baby meaning HER baby. They should also ask questions about him or her. "Did Your Baby wake up before midnight for a feeding?" "Are you going to put Your Baby down on the coffee table?" "Can you drink your coffee safely while you hold your baby or would you like me to put a lot of milk in it to make it cool in case it spills?

The baby is not just its own baby or your wife's baby it is also your baby, and then after that your parents baby, and after that our baby, other relatives, other kid and friends and further and further out until it includes strangers like me - I have a stake in your baby too, and I am working on that by trying to help you be the very best father you can be. I don't know how much use I am, but I'll go back to the very basic advice, love your baby, love your wife, love yourself, love your parents, love, love, love, help, show affection, treasure, value, tell them you treasure then, tell them what they want is important, plan for them, make room for them, enjoy them. Tell the baby, "I am so glad you were born." Tell your wife, "I am so glad you married me," Tell your parents, "I am so glad I am your son." Approve of them, compliment them. "We got a pretty fucking nice kid here." "The way you are holding your baby I am convinced you'd both survive an attack from a zombie horde." "It looks like you would do anything for that kid, including sleep sitting up in a chair if it made her a wee bit more comfortable." "you have been so very patient, I don't know how to thank you." Remember the ratio that at least eighty percent of all contact with other people, at least eighty percent of what is said should be approving and supportive, and try to keep any negative things you say to each other below ten percent.

These days go fast. They are hard to get through but they go fast. And because they go fast you can get through them. Perhaps that is why time goes so fast for adults compared to kids? Because babies need a long infancy and children need a long childhood to grow up in, but we adults need to endure?
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


I just thought it was pretty unusual that a grandparent isn't allowed to hold their two month old grandchild.

FYI, "during the first 2 years, using [a premature baby's] corrected age will give you a better idea when she should reach common developmental goals.​" So you might think of your baby in many ways as being "one month old."
posted by slidell at 4:43 PM on December 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


When I bring up that it she has no hesitation to hand him to her mother
...
It’s also not like she’s giving her mother tons of time either. She’s held him like once since birth so the whole thing has seemed to me not a family vs family thing but an issue overall.

It sounds like you are too worked up about this to be fair, but you still think you're the rational calm one and she's being stupidly emotional. You need to step back and act like you both have valid opinions and want to understand each other, not like you're right and want to argue her round.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


It’s reasonable for your parents to want to hold the baby. It is reasonable for you to feel frustrated that your wife doesn’t want your parents to hold the baby. But. Your wife is the most important person in the baby’s life, and vice versa. Unless she is at risk for harming the baby, herself, or someone else, she should be given the space to do what she thinks is right.

I think you are seriously underestimating your wife’s state right now and you are at risk of causing significant long term damage to your relationship with your wife if you continue to treat her feelings as unreasonable and irrational. My daughter was born six weeks early and spent 16 days in the NICU. I felt shame, like my body betrayed me. I felt guilty and helpless - the most important thing for me to do was to carry the baby to term and I failed. I felt envious of parents who had pregnancies that went smoothly. Every day when I visited my daughter in the NICU, I walked past happy family members excitedly waiting for news while I shuffled off to be buzzed in so I could wash my hands and hold my tiny baby. I felt very sad. One of my fears was leaving the hospital without my baby and that happened. Not being with her ached. A part of me was surgically removed and taken away. And I felt so lonely because I couldn’t talk about these things with anyone, because I didn’t have the words or bandwidth. I couldn’t process, I could only do what was immediately in front of me.

This is all aside from the side effects of the surgery which, remember, is major abdominal surgery. Have you ever had major surgery? Physically a c-section takes six weeks to heal from, assuming things go well. So your wife is barely healed. I felt exhausted, sore, foggy from exhaustion. I had to be careful about sitting up. I just wanted to rest in bed but I couldn’t because I needed to pump and visit my daughter in the NICU. Plus my body was totally different and changing daily. My poofy stomach made me look pregnant. I struggled to find clothes that fit. My boobs swelled, ached and leaked. I was too scared to look at my scar for months. I was still hungry all the time.

For months after, I couldn’t talk about my experience without crying. I was jumpy. You know how you think your cell phone is ringing and it’s not? I felt like that but with the baby crying. I was terrified that people were going to take my daughter away again, and terrified that she’d get sick or lose too much weight. And this is before I came to terms with the fact that holy shit, I could have died.

I encourage you to spend more time asking your wife how you can help her and less time talking to her about how your parents want to hold the baby. Your feelings and your parents’ feelings are important but if you care about your baby and your wife, your baby and your wife need to come first, period. You need to be the best possible partner you can be right now to your wife. She needs you to be on her side.
posted by kat518 at 10:56 PM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


I was your son. I was born six weeks early, quite a few years ago. Like you, my father had expectations for his wife, my mother, that weren't met. Presumably like your wife, my mother had expectation for her husband, my father, that also weren't met.

It broke their marriage. Rightly or not, my father believed my mother was unreasonable and irrational. My mother, in her turn, believe that my father failed to show her (and me) support when she needed it most. I picked up on their resentment, on my father's distance, interpreted it as disinterest and dislike; and blamed myself. It cost me hugely and, to this day, we still aren't close.

Please prioritize your relationship with your wife, the mother of your child, right now. She has just given you an incomparable gift, and need you to be on Team Her, in a way she may never again. Please listen to her, hear her tell you what is going on with her, and act in a way that supports her. Even if you think she's wrong. Even if you think she's unreasonable. Even if it would be SO much easier if she would just play ball, make nice, or whatever.

You are risking sowing the seeds of resentment that could well undermine your marriage, lead your wife to refuse having any more children with you, or your son to spend years paralyzed by self-loathing, and self-doubt.

Is being right really worth it? I hope your answer is no.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:29 PM on December 8, 2018 [17 favorites]


You need to move out.

Ask yourself: is the money you are saving worth permanently damaging your relationship with your wife? Which would cost less, moving now, or a divorce?
posted by medusa at 5:26 AM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


We discussed before and after marriage as well as before and after baby. We have to live here for now to save the money and not move 2-3 times and spend 5x the money.

It may be that you’re just doing a very bad job of explaining yourself here but when I read this my impression was that you talked and she acquiesced. And even if you both feel that rationally, living with your parents is the only sensible solution it may still not be compatible with the happiness of your new family. It may still be that the reality of her experiences over the last two months have caused her to change her mind. Perhaps she has, perhaps she has not. It is really irrelevant. What matters is, that she clearly does not get to feel heard and supported as much as she needs to right now. And not having your space adds to the stress. If she doesn’t get the support she needs soon, you may well find that a divorce is much more expensive than moving a few times. All the savings in the world will not save your relationship, if you cannot get to a point where you empathise with your wife and put her needs first in this.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:31 AM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


You might get something out of listening to the Sawbones episodes about their first birth, which was traumatic, and Sydnee's depression. Their experiences aren't identical to yours but it sounds like there are a lot of similarities, and maybe hearing how they got through it would be helpful.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2018


Are there ethnic or cultural issues that make your wife and your mother see things differently? In some times and places a woman would expect to spend the first six weeks pretty much isolated, theoretically (often not really) in bed, letting herself and her baby be looked after.

On the other hand, there is really a lot of work here for a woman who is pushing 80. Is anyone helping your mother to manage the household?
posted by SereneStorm at 7:00 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


>it’s like walking on eggshells

Your wife MADE A HUMAN AND IT WAS CHOPPED OUT OF HER BODY AND THEN IT ALMOST DIED AND SHE IS TERRIFIED AND TRAUMATIZED AND TRYING TO KEEP IT ALIVE WHILE HER BODY IS STILL BLEEDING AND HURTING AND SHE'S FREAKING OUT.

If ever a person deserved some eggshells, she's the person and now's the time.

Just chill and let her settle down.

I promise your kid is not going to graduate highschool never having been hugged by his grandparents.

Wife will loosen up... when she's good and ready... if she's given an environment of love, safety, and patience.

Your first duty as a father / husband / protector / provider is clear: to PROTECT your WIFE from the judgement of your parents (and yourself for that matter) and PROVIDE her with what she says she needs to care for your CHILD. Quit arguing and judging her, quit putting your parent's wishes before her NEEDS.

Honestly, you really need to just stop arguing and give her what she tells you she needs.
You and your parents can have what you want too... but later. Give Wife another month, maybe more, of no pressure.

If it helps, pretend you adopted a feral cat with kittens and you're trying not to spook them. Just provide her with space, nutrition, calm, emotional acceptance, safety, and love.

Sample phrases you should say:

"I brought you some water"
"I sliced up some fresh fruit for you"
"Here is a nice hot plate of [meal you like]"
"I'm getting groceries, any requests?"
"Need anything?"
"You are beautiful"
"Thank you for making this beautiful baby"
"I love you"
"You're a wonderful mother, our baby is so lucky"
"I love seeing you hold the baby"
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:34 PM on December 10, 2018 [14 favorites]


I feel so badly for your wife and want to carve out a nice, cozy, warm little space for her that doesn't require her to interact with anyone (including you!) except the baby. I can't even imagine the situation she's in! In-laws asking about her UTIs!
posted by valeries at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


I think you are right to be concerned, and it's not too soon to try to address this. As parents, you are establishing patterns that will be hard to change down the road. Yes, she gave birth to the baby and is nursing, but this is your child just as much as it is hers. You do have a say in who holds the baby! I know families with kids who are 6 and 8 years old where the dad is totally detached and has no say in anything having to do with kids, and I'm sure it started in infancy. I know grandparents (always the parents of men, sadly) who have no relationship with their grandkids because the mom "hates" them. Don't let this happen to your family.

Here's what I would do if I were you:
--Try to get out of the house with your wife and baby and give her the emotional support that she clearly needs right now. Whatever's going on inside her head, she needs to have your unconditional love and partnership.
--GENTLY try to get her to open up to you about how she feels about your parents, about living with them, etc. Don't tell her what you think, just try to get her to share what she thinks. They may be annoying the fuck out of her, and she needs to know that she can air her grievances to you safely.
--Try to get to the feelings behind the behavior. Sometimes feelings can be expressed outwardly as anger or dislike when the "inside feelings" are actually fear, confusion, or exhaustion.

This is the hardest part, but I think it's necessary:
Work on her little by little to let you take the baby out yourself without her. Or her go out and leave you with the baby. I know that so many posters are saying that it's healthy and good that she is completely absorbed with a baby this age, but I disagree, and I think it's very important that mothers take a break and focus on themselves from time to time. Just an hour walk outside the home while she showers and focuses on her own needs. The thing is, you, as a father, need to bond independently with your child *without her even within earshot.*

What you should be working toward is a partnership of equals as parents where you are both attached to the baby and make decisions together about what's best. I hope she can see that this is desirable for your child's healthy development.

Oh--also, I would completely dial back any comparison between your two extended families. Present your parents relationship with your son as something that's important to you regardless of what's going on with her family. Try to turn the conversation from "logic" and right/wrong and fairness to feelings and a sense of nurturing the understanding and bond between you and your wife and what you both want out of parenthood.

Good luck! I would also recommend that your and your wife go to some counseling sessions, but I don't know if that's possible given your situation.
posted by tk_zk at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I haven't read all the rest of the comments, so I'm sorry if I'm reiterating someone else. But I think what's happening here is this: you underwent the ordeal, you went through the unpleasant scary surprise of the e-c, and the NICU, and now you see the outcome. You're all home and safe and healthy! And the scary stuff is now in the past. All's well that ends well, right? Right!

Unfortunately I think your wife is still within the ordeal to some extent. Trauma can work like that. Grief can work like that, even if everything turned out all right in the end. I'd say you guys should consider separate or couples counseling. It helped me and my husband when we went through something (marginally) similar, and it helped me see a way out of the ordeal and onward.
posted by pepper bird at 6:53 PM on December 20, 2018


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