Dads & Dads-to-be

Dealing with estranged parent during pregnancy

My wife and I are beginning to think through how and when we tell our parents she is pregnant. We are 5 weeks right now, and are looking at Thanksgiving (week 9) as "the week."

The big issue we're trying to work through - and it's mostly me - is how/when to tell my mom.

I currently have no relationship with my mother - and it's been that way for over a year. The truth is we believe she is bipolar and/or manic-depressive. Over the years (going way back to before I was born according to my dad who divorced her 20 years ago) it's gotten worse and worse. Since I started dating my wife, my mother at one point or another has accused my in-laws of being anti-Semitic, called me some of the most abusive names imaginable, verbally attacked me, my sister, and my father, and most recently called me on the phone to call my wife a liar and a few other names - which led to the cutting off of communications.

She even walked out of my rehearsal dinner when I got married and threatened to not come to the wedding. Cliche, I know.

After cutting off contact I asked her to get help, talk to a professional, anything to which she told me I was full of it, and had a few other choice words.

As you can imagine, this has been difficult for me, but I'm thankful I have such a supportive wife.

Despite all this - I think she deserves to find out my wife is pregnant through a means other then Facebook or word of mouth from my sister. I'm thinking about a letter to her as I think it's more personal then an email. I thought about calling her - but I am allowing myself to be selfish as I don;t want her to have the opportunity to ruin this for me.

Not sure if anyone else has gone through anything similar - but if you have, I'd love to hear what you did and any advice you have.

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Re: Dealing with estranged parent during pregnancy

  • I don't have any experience with this, but I like the idea of a letter.  It sounds like a phone call has a high probability of turning sour.  I wouldn't want that when I am trying to share my excitement and joy.  I was pretty crushed when my grandma didn't get excited because she got confused and thought our dog was pregnant.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I was being verbally assaulted.

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  • I think that you are obviously a very good person to still want to give her the big news personally.

    I also wholeheartedly agree that you shouldn't let her ruin this for you - I like the idea of a letter or a card.

    I have a little experience with bi-polar disorder and I'm so sorry -- it ruins lives when not treated. :-(

     

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  • Female lurking here: My mom is anorexic and bipolar. I live 750 miles away from her and have a very limited relationship with her. I've been dealing with this my entire life, so I can kind of gage what kind of mood she is in, and talk to her about stuff when I know she can handle it. She too has the tendency to make everything about her and ruin significant events in my life. I restrict what she knows about my life, and I've been much better off for it. 

    The best advice I have for you is, suck it up and make this about her, not you. Make it about her being a grandma, fawn over her for a few minutes, and then back off. You do not have to tell her things about the pregnancy. After you tell her in person your wife is pregnant, then do the rest of communication by email, text, or FB. It's hard at first to create such boundaries, but you will be better off in the long run.

    FYI, just as a heads up, when dealing with an ill parent like this, you may go through a lot of emotions and fears now that you are about to become a parent. It's completely normal and going to a therapist can help you sort through those emotions so that by the time the baby is born, you will have worked through these emotions and gained confidence in yourself that you will not make the same mistakes she did (I'm speaking from personal experience). Good luck! 

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  • dkaplan76,

    Email me about this, don't want to completely put all the details completely out there but let's just say I know exactly what you're going thru.

     anthcasale @ aol . com

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  • I am dealing with the exact same thing. My mother is an alcoholic and has been absent from my and my husband's lives for well over a year now. Oddly enough, when she was pregnant with me she went through the same thing and cut all ties to her own mother. I finally decided to write a letter to my mother several weeks ago (I am 25 weeks now). Nothing really changed, but I do feel better that she knows considering she brought me into the world. I don't plan on having her involved too much in the baby's life, but I do feel better that she heard it from me.
  • I appreciate all the feedback. An in-person tell is not in the cards as I live in MN and she is currently in Florida, and I am frankly not willing to risk a phone conversation.

    I am hoping that a hand written letter will at least open up some minor lines of communication so we can figure out how/if she will play a role in their life down the road.

    Thanks you all again for your input - helps to bounce this off other folks who are not so close to it.

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  • image rakle99:

    The best advice I have for you is, suck it up and make this about her, not you. Make it about her being a grandma, fawn over her for a few minutes, and then back off. You do not have to tell her things about the pregnancy. After you tell her in person your wife is pregnant, then do the rest of communication by email, text, or FB. It's hard at first to create such boundaries, but you will be better off in the long run.

    FYI, just as a heads up, when dealing with an ill parent like this, you may go through a lot of emotions and fears now that you are about to become a parent. It's completely normal and going to a therapist can help you sort through those emotions so that by the time the baby is born, you will have worked through these emotions and gained confidence in yourself that you will not make the same mistakes she did (I'm speaking from personal experience). Good luck! 

    Another lady lurker...

    I'm going to respectfully disagree with the first part. Unless you want your mother to feel she's going to be an active part of your child's life, I don't think you should fawn over "her being a grandma". That's definitely going to give her the vibe that she has rights to your child and that you want her to be a part of your child's life. If she has tendencies to make things all about herself, then making this about her from the get-go is a recipe for disaster in the long run. This is about you and your wife and your child. Nobody else should be fawned over. Not in this situation.

    Also, I think that 'making this about her being a grandma and fawning over her' then backing off and restricting her to texts, facebook, and email will send mixed signals and cause you more trouble in the end.

    I feel like this should be presented as "wife and I are going to be parents, and we are so very excited!" in a letter to your mother.

    As for the second paragraph above, I agree completely. I've been estranged from my (abusive) father since 2004. After therapy for some PTSD and some anti-anxiety meds, I thought I had a good handle on things where he was concerned. Then I got pregnant. I realized that I was still harboring fears of turning into the kind of parent that my father was, and fears of my father wanting to be a part of my daughter's life. For our situation, it was best to just not contact him about my pregnancy. I know that he found out about my pregnancy, but he made no effort to contact me. It's worked out fine so far, and I don't forsee him wanting anything to do with me or my daughter. Hubs and I have decided that we'll cross that bridge if we ever come to it.

    I know that my situation is different from yours, but I just wanted to offer my $.02. Dealing with problem parents can be hard. I wish you the best of luck! Smile

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  •  

    I understand that this won't work for everyone. This is what we decided to do because regardless of how we put it, she was going to make it about herself. After 10 plus years of setting boundaries and limiting contact, making the announcement about her was the best course in our situation. It was only when telling my parents, not about anyone else. The due date is two days before her birthday, so we talked about how we had her bday present for her. It did not send mixed signals, because she is so wrapped up in herself most of the time that she's not really noticing that I'm spoon feeding her information. I am always vague when she calls and asks how I am, do not tell her anything I do not want to be repeated 20 times to every single person she knows, and tell her I have to go when she gets into things I'm not willing to go into. 

      She came up for my baby shower, which I had to admit was very stressful, but with all the work I've done over the past decade dealing with our relationship, I'm in a place now that I can set aside some of my feelings and allow her to be involved to a certain extent. She knows she is already going to have a limited relationship with my child (she thinks it's because of geography), and really wanted to be part of this, so I sucked it up and dealt with it for a couple of days. Again, being able to do this only after years of finding a way to make it work.

    10 years ago I probably would've just told my dad and let him tell her, and avoided contact with her altogether. 

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  • Lurker here, but I had to respond because I have been on the sidelines of a similar situation.

    My husband's brother and his wife had a very cool relationship with my H's family.  His wife really disliked my MIL; my BIL and my FIL have had a tense relationship since my BIL's teen years.  On top of all the family tensions that existed, BIL and his wife moved to China for several years for his job and her Ph.D. research. 

    They rarely kept in touch while they lived in China, so my ILs were surprised one day to get an envelope that contained a CD of pictures.  The CD contained a slide show of pics of them in China.  Interspersed with the pictures of the two of them were these random pictures of bread in the oven, peas in a peapod, etc.  The last pic was a belly pic with the two of them holding a sign with the baby's EDD.

    That was all they did.  No phone call, no other contact until the baby was born.  Under the circumstances, it actually worked pretty well.  It shared the news in a way that was personal and gave my ILs a nice keepsake of pictures, but that required no conversation and gave no opportunities for conflict.

    Secondary English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 9th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 4th grade
  • I saw this and had to answer. My husband and I recently got married,and his relationship with his parents in non-existent now. The wedding was hard and with all the hurtful words that were said and the mean glares, we were nervous to tell them. We knew at the wedding, but speaking face to face was out of the question. We told them in a letter a few weeks later. Nothing was said. They never replied, and frankly our lives have been better for it. As sad as it is, sometimes you have to cut people out of your life. Even family.

    If you find it's too difficult to actually have a conversation, I highly suggest writing your mother a letter.It's still personal, but you avoid any nasty words that may ruin your happy time.  

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  • Similar situation - my MIL and FIL have not been involved in our lives for going on six years now.

    Guess how they found out about our newest addition to the family? Yeah, Facebook.

    My husband said they haven't bothered to talk to us or to our son or even attempt to connect with us for years, so they don't deserve any kind of special treatment. Fine by me. You reap what you sow.

    Oh yeah, they didn't respond to any of our FB posts or send any congrats or anything, either. Not surprising.

     

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