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Postpartum Visits, Boundaries & Family Drama

Hi Amy,

I came across some of the question/answer requests on the blog and had to reach out myself.

I’m 37 weeks pregnant with my second son. The last grandchild on my side of the family, and only the second on my husbands’ side. We live several states away from my in-laws and they are busy with having a new home built, so I’m not concerned about them being overbearing like they were with my first son, 9 years ago. Although, that memory has me on high alert these days.

My own family, however has me completely stressed out. A few months ago, my retired father (whom also lives out of state) announced that he wanted to come for a visit when the baby is born. His timelines were lengthy, with a 10 to 15 day stay, divided between myself, my sister, and my mom (his ex-wife). My father and I do not have a healthy relationship. He is a rager, and likes to drink and is extremely negative and combative. Some days he’s great, others not so much and he lacks boundaries. I told my dad during that time that I would not be having any overnight guests.

Then my sister told him that three days was her max for house guests. Then my mom, having talked with my sister about my dad’s bipolar, rage-aholic personality also determined she should not have him stay. So this all went down very poorly. My father really laid on the guilt and had a fit. A lot of it was directed at me and the fact that he wasn’t planning on being a “guest”, but a “help”… well that’s just not how he operates and frankly I didn’t back down. Neither did my mom or sister and we consoled each other as my dad went on to tell us he felt like a pariah. We told him he could stay in a motel, or stay for less time, but he scoffed at these, because of how much it would cost, etc. His reaction and my feelings about that entire situation, solidified my knowing it was the correct decision.

So here we are months later and I’m so close to my due date… and my mother texts me that she felt bad for my father and had reinvited him to come stay at her house whenever he wants. She said it felt better because “he is family after all.” Really this feels like Mom, needing to take care of Dad, and falling back into unhealthy habits. That’s another story. Anyway, needless to say, my father starts group texting about how he plans to come the week after the baby is born and stay for six days, etc.

I was furious! My husband and I already have things planned. Our first pregnancy was horrible. No one respected our wishes and labor was hard because of this. We were happy to finally be free from that. My mom is taking care of my 9 year old while we are in the hospital and then my husband has two weeks off that he will take right away to help me with recovery and bonding… no one is visiting and the following month we will drive through my dad’s state for a two day visit and stay and then drive to visit my husband’s parents before driving back home.

Anyway, my dad can’t seem to grasp this and I called my mom hysterical, telling her she put me in this horrible situation again, by myself now. Having to set this boundary with my father. He texts asking me why I didn’t mention to anyone my 2 week plan? Well because we didn’t think anyone cared. Then he asked if my husband can take the second week off at another time?! I said, absolutely NOT! I wanted to tell my Dad, what a selfish jerk he is to even suggest that! My dad has not invested in his relationship with my family. No birthday cards, no phone calls, no nothing… We group text and he usually starts a fight after a few days and I stop responding. He basically doesn’t care about us or my other son, so I feel zero empathy to change anything to fit his new desire to travel here. He is retired and has no obligations. This feels like a control thing. Frankly, he is a stress in my life that I’m cordial to but feel extremely guarded against.

Anyway, during several text messages trying to explain why I would prefer him to come on other dates which were about a month from my son’s due date, and him trying to guilt me. I ended up texting my mom, and telling her that I felt she should fix this. She said that she thought he understood her offer was for the holidays at the end of the year? So I was annoyed that she wasn’t clarifying this. We went back and forth with her becoming victimized and saying she was trying to do something good, but that she’s going to end it all with my Dad, and if I want to see him, I can invite him and she wont have to see him or be “abused” by anyone again. Sorry but huge eye roll here. Mom is always the abused victim anytime someone confronts her about anything. Communication would have solved this up front. Instead she blamed me and said she was getting mixed messages and went off her intuition. Very confusing, since we had both agreed it would be unhealthy having my Dad, stay with her.

Anyway, mom becomes reactive and writes Dad this text in group text, saying he is no longer invited, after all he is her ex, blah blah blah, and she’s sorry she started this. Then my Dad writes back something about how he cant understand what is going on…. then he sends it to me, telling me that he knows I don’t want visitors but now he doesn’t trust mom… and His door is always open if I would like to stay, no restrictions!

At this point, my mom is no longer texting or speaking. I am having to look for a new person to watch my son while I’m in the hospital. I did not answer my father, because frankly this stuff with my mom is between them… and I have to be very strategic about what I share or say to my father or he could become extremely verbally and emotionally abusive. My sister is kind of on the outside and that’s good because this is a mess. I just can’t sleep, I’m angry at both my parents. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me sort it out? Thanks so much… sorry this is the readers digest version.

Sincerely,
A

Ay yi yi, I got stressed out just reading all this.

Here’s what I think you should do: Find someone else to watch your son — a neighbor, a school friend’s family, your sister (if you can both agree that your parents’ drama is not to be discussed), etc. Put the family group text on mute. Task your husband with sharing any and all news and updates on the baby and running post-birth interference with any potential visitors.

And then please please please try to enjoy the final weeks of your pregnancy and your EXCELLENT two-week postpartum plan with your boys and only your boys.

If your mom gets over her snit and reaches out, well…that reaction is completely up to you. If you guys generally have a good relationship when your dad isn’t involved, you can probably chalk this whole mess up to their toxic relationship and old habits (mixed with the new technology of texting, which always has a high potential for miscommunication and misunderstandings) and leave it at that. I probably wouldn’t expect an apology from her, even though you’re justifiably owed one. I’m assuming you learned a lot of your current boundary lessons (both physical and emotional) with your dad the hard way, so I would let this episode be a similar lesson with your mom: You simply can’t trust her to be consistent or prioritize your wishes when it comes to her ex-husband. Noted! Proceed accordingly, and try to turn any negative, angry feelings you have towards her into something more like benign pity.

This mess IS their mess, make no mistake. You were never, ever under any obligation to change your post-birth plan, or to save your mom from making a bad choice and inviting a drunken rage monster into her home because she “felt bad” or whatever. You’re also not responsible for whatever massive miscommunication snafu went down between them. You got stuck in the middle, like so many, MANY adult children of divorced parents find themselves in at some point or another. It sucks, especially given the timing and the emotionally fraught time that is late pregnancy.

It happened, but it can bounce off you now. It’s not your mess, your circus or your monkeys. You are going to spend the next couple weeks focusing solely on self-care and getting ready for your new baby.

Give your husband a list of numbers or email addresses to build an announcement distribution list and talk about who you want told what, and when. (Like, anyone who might be a risk for showing up at the hospital unannounced probably doesn’t need to get the “she’s in labor!” news.) He can and should make everyone aware of your wishes and set himself up as the post-birth gatekeeper, both in the hospital and at home afterwards. If you do okay a visitor, make sure he knows how long of a visit you can handle and can politely show the guest the door and prevent postpartum couch camp-outs. (Maybe have a secret signal for when you’re ready for them to leave.)

And seriously, mute that damn group text.

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Postpartum Visits, Boundaries & Massive Family Drama

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