It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Betrayed DIL” whose initial letter appeared in one of the top 30 columns of last year. She originally wrote in about not wanting her MIL anywhere near her kids (after she blabbed to everyone at the baby shower that baby #1 had Down Syndrome, among other indiscretions). She updated us here and now, nearly a year later, she has a new update.
First off, I need to clear a few things up for the readers:
1. My aunt had asked if I was having a shower in their city and offered to host it. Since I wanted to give my MIL the opportunity to host a shower before accepting my aunt’s offer, as I didn’t want her to feel left out or like her toes were being stepped on, I asked her if she wanted to host one. I meant no offense or bad manners as some readers suggested. She did not tell me that she wanted to host for her side of the family only. She gave the impression that she did not want to host a party at all, which I was fine with. I was upset when she appeared to reverse her position just four weeks before a party that my aunt had been planning for months. It was a very small detail and in hindsight I should not have included it at all as it seems to be all some readers focused on.
2. I did attend the party (sore readers mistakenly believed I did not attend); DH talked me out of leaving at 1 AM to drive 5 hours back to my home city with a 2 month old in the car. I enjoyed myself immensely talking with DH’s aunts; I just refused to speak to MIL.
3. Some readers wondered if I was ashamed of my DD for having Down Syndrome or if her features were severe, but I have sent a photo of A to Wendy who can let the readers know whether she looks like she has Down Syndrome, or if it was something that we could get away with not saying anything about. [Down Syndrome children are beautiful and, although A doesn’t have the typical features of a Down’s kid, she’s super cute. – Wendy]
4. I am not psychotic or depressed or controlling or anything else that was suggested. I didn’t grow up in an abusive home and I am usually much more thick-skinned than my letter suggested. However, I have had a real run of it over the last 7 years. Highlights are:
2007 Dad diagnosed with Cancer
2008 DH diagnosed with Cancer
2010 Dad Passes away (6 days before my 1 year wedding anniversary!!)
2011 Daughter Arrives with Down Syndrome and massive hole in heart
2012 DD Hospitalized in February, March and April, and has to be on oxygen 24/7. I have to turn down AMAZING job offer due to second pregnancy and DD has open heart surgery.
Anyway, since I sent my letter to you, we bought a new house. I started maternity leave on March 1, 2013. I fell on March 7th and broke my foot. I was not allowed to walk and I had to use crutches. Ever tried that at 38 weeks pregnant? I don’t recommend it. I had my DS on March 15, via C-Section, and then had surgery to repair my foot on March 21st. We moved into our new home on May 15th and have been trying to renovate since then. OH, did I mention I decided to try and open a home-based business and have been taking esthetics classes?? Yup, I’m extremely busy!!
My relationship with my MIL is much better. My in-laws came to help us with some of the renos shortly after we took possession, and have been here on a semi-regular basis since then. When they came in August, Mom and I sat down and had a nice talk. She was honest and said that they were very hurt that we had not been to see them. Since we were being honest, I gently told her it felt like she was blaming me for having a sick baby. She said that was absolutely not the case and so I asked her when we could have gone to see her. We were there in November 2011, and then did not want to travel 5 hours in the snow at Christmas that year (she agreed). The next long weekend we could have gone was the “Family Day” weekend in February (the third Monday in Feb is a Stat in my Province as well as in theirs). “A” was in the hospital for this holiday. She was home for 2 weeks and then hospitalized again on March 5th. She was in the hospital until Good Friday, home for the Easter weekend and then back in for three days. (Mom agreed that we couldn’t travel). A was on oxygen for her heart, we had an oxygen generator at the house and a few 10-hour tanks (that could be 8 hours and could be 11 hours depending on how each was filled) for required outings like doctor appointments. Mom agreed that we would not have been able to travel. A’s Surgery was September 27. She was discharged on October 10th and I went back to work on October 25th. Mom again agreed we couldn’t travel that soon after surgery. I explained to her (and I’m explaining to your readers just for clarity) that in Alberta, Canada where I live you are allowed 52 weeks of maternity leave, PROVIDED you have 600 insurable working hours (not sure how it works down in the US but in Canada it is law that your employer deduct employment insurance premiums from every cheque). If you have 600 insurable hours you are eligible for maternity leave. The government of Canada pays me to be home with my children (for the person who accused me of fraud, there is NO requirement that I return to work after my maternity leave, but, after 26 payments, they stop paying me.) I was not able to take ANY vacation time at Christmas last year due to the need for every available hour I could possibly work. I had 644 insurable hours on March 1.
When Mom heard it broken down like this, even though she had lived through it with us, it seemed to get through. I also explained that with the new house, the cost to go visit them was prohibitive. I WANT to go back. I have aunts and uncles who have not seen A since November 2011 and no one has even met my DS!
Now that Mom understands that I am not not going back to being bitchy or punishing her and it is simply a function of time and finances, she has eased up on the guilt trips she lays on DH. We Skype with them every Sunday night and sometimes more often if we can find the time and the kids are in a good mood. Photos are DH’s responsibility and Mom knows that. Since Facebook created drama last year, I made the decision (as noted in my last update) to delete her and have not re-added her. I don’t want to constantly worry that malice or mal-intent will be seen in every post. DH knows that he needs to share any photos and videos of the kids I post so that Mom gets to see them.
All in all, I agree that my reaction was extreme. I still feel it was justified – to a point; however, I was letting my emotions cloud my better judgment and there was no reason the drama needed to carry on for 14 months!! My MIL truly loves my children and I know that not having the stress of his wife and mother fighting has had a calming effect on my DH. To those readers (and to you, Wendy) who showed compassion, it was so incredibly appreciated and I read your replies with an open heart and an open mind. To those readers who felt an attack was warranted, I have this to say:
Some will, some won’t, some do, some don’t, SO WHAT, NEXT.
Moved on and Much Better!!
Well! Very good, then.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 1:38 pm
There’s something really sad about having to send Wendy a picture of your daughter to I guess prove that she looks…I don’t even know. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. I hope.
Best wishes that your children are healthy going forward.
the_optimist January 6, 2014, 2:03 pm
That also made me a little uneasy. And all of the abbreviations messed me up to the point where I couldn’t really read anymore but…sounds like a fairly positive update, so best of luck!
CatsMeow January 6, 2014, 2:51 pm
Everyone hated hubby, so she switched to DH.
iwannatalktosampson January 6, 2014, 3:05 pm
I hate DH too so she’s really screwed.
TaraMonter January 6, 2014, 5:36 pm
I’m not the only one, then. It’s so saccharin-sweet that it makes me want to throw up. Even more than hubby did.
Lucy January 7, 2014, 3:35 pm
Why are people so averse to just typing “husband?” They don’t seriously think they’re being more efficient, do they?
Tax Geek January 6, 2014, 3:14 pm
I always thought DH was what a woman wrote if she was mad at him or something he did.
zombeyonce January 6, 2014, 8:06 pm
And who was DS? Was that the daughter who was also A? I am so confused.
actiasluna86 January 7, 2014, 9:56 am
I think DS= Dear son (The baby) DD=Dear Daughter (“A”) and DH= Dear Husband
iwannatalktosampson January 6, 2014, 2:17 pm
I think the LW just felt really misunderstood in her prior letter and update so maybe wanted to further clarify that she’s not a delusional monster? Like she was in the right for wanting to wait for people to meet her daughter before hearing the diagnosis because she really could pass as not having downs? Not sure, I want to give her the benefit of the doubt though because I’ve had a MIL share some fucking personal shit after I specifically told her not too, so I will hate all mother’s who do so. In summary, I’m biased, and projecting, and kind of okay with that.
Julesoola January 6, 2014, 2:44 pm
I genuinely don’t understand where anyone got the impression in the first letter that she was trying to “hide” her baby because of her condition or pass her off as not having it. To me, it came across that she wanted to prevent other people from forming prejudices or treating her differently before they even met her or simply because it’s a fucking difficult and personal thing. That she was trying to hide her never crossed my mind. So few people can appreciate how truly difficult it is to accurately express an all encompassing situation like this in writing, nevermind the flood of manic feelings that must go along with it.
People are reading too much into things and are way too eager to look for awfulness in others…quit it.
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 3:02 pm
What Iwanna said is possible, which is why I said maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I just can’t imagine sending Wendy a photo of a baby to show or prove something. Of course, I’ve never had a baby with Down’s Syndrome, so who knows what my reaction would be, but if the goal is to treat the child like any other child, I don’t see why you would have to send a photo. It was just…weird. Could’ve just been on the defense I guess. Idk.
As to the original letter, I really did get the impression she was hoping no one would see anything so that’s why she didn’t want anyone to say the child actually had down’s syndrome. I think a good way to handle a situation like that would be setting the example–treat your child like you would any other child and hopefully people will follow. I just think if say, my baby had a mouth defect or something, I would just acknowledge that while not treating him/her differently. Trying to pretend something else or hope no one notices is too much in the wrong direction if you ask me. In any event, sounds like the lw has a lot on her plate so I understand frantic writing.
Julesoola January 6, 2014, 3:13 pm
I think when you’re accused of something so awful as “being ashamed of your baby”, you’re probably going to feel a little cornered and probably try to overshoot in an effort to prove that it’s not the case. There’s -never- any winning with people when you have to prove you didn’t mean something a certain way.
A pretty good rule of thumb in life is to not publicly accuse (or even suggest or imply) someone of really terrible things unless you’re pretty goddamn sure it’s true.
iwannatalktosampson January 6, 2014, 3:16 pm
Are you publicly accusing LBH of being insensitive and looking for trouble?
Julesoola January 6, 2014, 3:34 pm
I just find it frustrating how some letter writers can never win, no matter what they do. This woman dealt with her specific issue in a very mature and honest way and yet the first couple of comments are throwing away that apparent maturity and honesty and putting out some pretty sour replies to what sounds like a successful conclusion with her mother in law.
iwannatalktosampson January 6, 2014, 3:38 pm
Haha I know I was just giving you a hard time. I think people are being harsh on this LW, which is pretty fucked up considering all that she has gone through – but I also know LBH is curious about everything, she’s kind of like a 4 year old, so I know she meant no harm.
Julesoola January 6, 2014, 3:47 pm
Gotchya! 🙂 There’s a small amount of my motivation that is selfish because I love the updates and I suspect we don’t get more of them because of stuff like this.
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 3:52 pm
This is certainly true about me. Haha.
Again, I agree this LW has been through the ringer and I get why she was defensive, I just don’t understand why she would’ve sent a photo other than to see SEE, my baby looks normal, which is sad to me. But I also have never been through what this lw has been through, so what do I know.
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 3:49 pm
That would be a first for sure! 🙂
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 3:50 pm
I still don’t get how sharing a picture of a baby with Wendy says anything about being ashamed or not ashamed. I get why she was defensive though, which I already said I got.
Breezy AM January 7, 2014, 1:27 am
I get this. I have a son with severe autism and his therapists and educators and us (his parents) have discussed regularly how frankly, not “looking” autistic has benefited him significantly. If people treat your kid like a “regular” kid, the kid gets more feedback, more input, and the kid does better, so it’s a “thing” that many parents want their kids to get “regular kid” feedback so that their kid progresses better. I get this I really do. It’s not a shame thing. It’s a “we want our kid to be treated like regular kids because then our kid will succeed better, and for our kid that is imperative” thing.
lets_be_honest January 7, 2014, 10:39 am
kerrycontrary January 6, 2014, 2:30 pm
I’m glad everything is getting better. I agree that we as readers focused too much on the baby shower. it seems like real honesty has made your relationship with your MIL a lot better. Congrats on the new baby btw!
katie January 6, 2014, 2:38 pm
Honestly, I’d ask if someone wanted to throw a shower for anything, actually. Isn’t that just honest communication and being a kind person?
iwannatalktosampson January 6, 2014, 2:41 pm
God katie it’s like you’ve never read an etiquette cover to cover. How are you even able to feed yourself properly?
katie January 6, 2014, 2:51 pm
Jake feeds me, you know this.
bethany January 6, 2014, 2:48 pm
I’m pretty sure I told my mom she was hosting my bridal shower. 🙂
I don’t really care if that was the “right” thing to do or not. We have that sort of relationship. I don’t think I would have ever said that to one of my aunts of my MIL though.
GatorGirl January 6, 2014, 3:00 pm
Etiquette aside, I’d hesitate to ask if someone wanted to host a party for me, because I wouldn’t want them to feel obligated to say yes and therefore incur the cost they may or may not be able to handle. Yes, ideally a close family member would be honest and say no if they couldn’t afford it/didn’t want to, but that’s not something I can control. So I’d rather just not ask and go with out the parties unless it’s offered.
katie January 6, 2014, 3:05 pm
Well that I get, but i mean as a logistical issue. If I got pregnant tomorrow, I’d ask if my mom wanted to do it, if we would want to do it in Colorado or Chicago, and then if jakes family wanted to come to that one or host one in Vermont, what would be the easiest, most fun for everyone, bla bla bla. That’s what I mean, not literally “who’s going to throw my party?” But more of “this is a logistical nightmare and I need organization”
GatorGirl January 6, 2014, 3:08 pm
We had the logistical conversation after the offer was made, but they def need to happen. And they totally suck, I hate figuring out that kind of stuff across multiple families.
theattack January 6, 2014, 3:11 pm
Marriage in general is a logistical nightmare.
GatorGirl January 6, 2014, 3:24 pm
Haha, yes. Two families is a nightmare too- planning for the holidays sucked.
bethany January 6, 2014, 3:26 pm
Try having your family and then 2 sets on in-laws!!! It makes things crazy sometimes.
GatorGirl January 6, 2014, 3:29 pm
Then throw in 900 miles and like 7 sets of grandparents! Seriously I’m going to start just staying home alone. It’s easier.
lets_be_honest January 6, 2014, 4:00 pm
I say that every year…hasn’t happened yet. There’s always next time I guess 🙂
katie January 6, 2014, 3:26 pm
Ha, it seems like it- probably another reason I’m not yearning for it.
Breezy AM January 7, 2014, 1:30 am
I need this to be my sig line quote
theattack January 6, 2014, 3:17 pm
Like GG, I would worry it was pressuring someone too. I would ask if it was someone really close to me, like my mom or MIL, but I would be SUPER careful about the wording. It would have to be something sly like “hey cousin alice asked to throw me a shower. Do you know of anyone else already planning one, or is it cool if I tell her yes?” I would never say something like “Hey MIL, we’re trying to figure out who’s throwing us a shower, and you have first dibs if you want to. Let me know!” Because that would seem like a lot of pressure to me.
katie January 6, 2014, 3:27 pm
Oh yea see id totally say that.
theattack January 6, 2014, 3:36 pm
You’d say the second one you mean?
I don’t think there’s anything innately wrong with that if everyone’s honest with each other. It probably just depends on how your family and friends are. Mine would never be honest that they didn’t want to throw one, and they would strain themselves to do it if I asked like the second way. If yours would be honest and wouldn’t care, I see no reason not to. I just don’t think most people are that honest.
rachel January 6, 2014, 2:47 pm
Well, that was….a lot of information. Best of luck, LW, I hope life calms down for you.
bethany January 6, 2014, 2:48 pm
Thank you for saying what I was thinking but in a nicer way than I could have…
kare January 6, 2014, 2:59 pm
Wow…I feel like the LW really needed to vent. However, after the experiences she’s had, I don’t blame her! It sounds like she’s in a good place, and she truly loves her kids. Yay!
Also, I appreciate the info on Canada’s maternity leave. I always think it’s interesting to see how benefits, healthcare, etc compare across different countries.
MissDre January 6, 2014, 3:02 pm
I feel incredibly grateful for Canadian maternity leave, especially when I hear how shitty mat leave is in the US.
bethany January 6, 2014, 3:07 pm
I should totally move to Canada before I get knocked up. If Canada wasn’t so cold, I’d be all about it.
MissDre January 6, 2014, 3:09 pm
Where in the US do you live? Most parts of Canada aren’t much colder than half of the States. Plus if you move to B.C. it doesn’t get very cold there. Winter is mostly just rain. Also summers here get very very sunny and hot!
bethany January 6, 2014, 3:25 pm
Pennsylvania. I refuse to ever move further North than I live now. I just can’t handle it.
Lemongrass January 6, 2014, 8:28 pm
Bethany, I live in BC and I have had one light frosting of snow all winter. It has been an average of 45 F all winter here. And yes, our maternity leave is amazing (and paternity too!) I’m so grateful for it.
escapehatches January 6, 2014, 5:39 pm
Arizona. Womp womp.
bittergaymark January 6, 2014, 6:25 pm
This update made me glad that I am single and have no kids. Just drama. Drama. Drama. At any rate, I stand by what I said in my original, measured response to this letter. I really thought the LW was way out of line and — frankly — even with all this endless handwringing and explaining, I still do. I’m glad the LW managed to mend the fences, but she really needed to as SHE smashed them all to pieces to begin with.
Guy Friday January 6, 2014, 6:51 pm
Here’s what I don’t get: she updated us once before, and talked about mending the fences, and it was a really nice update that really made it seem like the issue was resolved and she was listening to the advice given (especially the “step back and distinguish what is real and what is amped-up hormones.) And then she updates us again here — clearly a while after the fact, given the time line she states — to . . . what? Point a big middle finger at the community? To mock the people who gave her advice she didn’t like or called her out for things? To brag about surviving? To go back and say “Well, I said I agreed, but what I really meant is I didn’t” and bash her MIL some more? I mean, what the hell is the point of this follow-up anyway?
I’m assuming it’s been a little while since the birth of her second child, but maybe the hormone imbalance from that is causing this behavior again. That being said — and please remember I am in no way a medical professional OR a woman — I’m wondering whether, given the tone of the course of these letters, the hormones are amplifying mental health issues that she’s otherwise able to keep suppressed for the most part. I don’t mean that in a “Wow, she’s mean, so she must be crazy” way; it’s just that her responses seem SO bipolar that I wonder if something else is the reason, you know?
CatsMeow January 6, 2014, 10:12 pm
Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything because I didn’t want to come across as mean. BUT. Now that you mention it… (ha)…
What stuck out the most to me was that she has clearly been ruminating on what internet strangers said to (and about) her 2+ years ago, which was based only on the little information she provided us. (And I re-read it all, and most of it was nice and compassionate, even if we didn’t understand her desire to keep her baby’s diagnosis a secret). Even if Wendy reached out to her for an update, she chose to use it as an opportunity to tell everyone how wrong they are. This is exactly what she did with the mother-in-law in the first place: Took a perceived insult (no apology) and blew it up to the point where she was going to keep her kids from their grandparents. I’m not saying that the MIL did no wrong, just that the LW seems to dwell on things to an unhealthy degree.
I’m happy that she has been able to develop a better relationship with her in-laws (and continues to do so), but given that she has some REAL stress on her plate, you’d think she’d learn how to drop the small stuff. (Plus, everyone knows that if you mention a shower of any sort on DW, there’s going to be a shit storm, amirite?). :p
Addie Pray January 8, 2014, 6:50 am
What GF and CM said for sure.