Hi there, Keeping Calm! Commander Logic, here.
First of all, congratulations! And allow me to pat you on the back for keeping quiet about your pregnancy; I just recently announced my own pregnancy, and yup, we waited for the all-clear 12-13 week finish line and ultrasound before telling family and friends. (WeeLogic: hitting the stands in March 2013!) And yup, my mom was a little put out that I didn’t tell her the instant the little peestick turned color/positive/whatever your own peestick did.
I didn’t tell my mom for the same reason(ish) that you didn’t tell your mom: I didn’t want to take her through the emotional roller coaster if this pregnancy didn’t “take” AND ALSO I didn’t want her to bathe me in her own anxiety, however well meaning and loving. I had plenty of my own anxiety, thanks!
So be reassured: you’re doing everything right. And if you’d done it differently? You would also have been doing it right. Because being pregnant is just like anything else in life: you are the expert on what is right for you, so do what feels natural and makes you happiest.
Now, where your mom is concerned, I need you to take a loooong step back with me. Let’s step back so far that we’re in the past! With your grandparents! Or Aunties. Or whoever was an older-than-mom person who took up grandparently duties. How much of an effect do you feel they had on forming your worldview? I’m going to guess less than your mom. A lot less. The lesson we’re going to take from this is that your mom will PROBABLY not pass on her issues to your child with remotely the same intensity that you experienced. I say “probably” because I can’t see the future, but I’m pretty confident that once-weekly visits or even daily baby-sitting in the early years won’t have as much of an effect as you fear.
Let’s step forward to the present and how mom’s acting with your niece. While her anxiety is super annoying to the adults right now, it’s really not having much of an effect on the baby. Babies don’t really give a shit. Toddlers either. UNLESS she is needlessly interrupting sleep, feeding, or other baby procedures. Then it’s MamaBear vs. GMaBear times, and until that is your personal child being prodded, you need to step away and out of that fight. It’s for your sister to have, and then vent to you about. You two are lucky to have each other to vent to!
But what you’re most concerned about is the conversation you feel percolating around your relationship between you, your mom, and your fetus, and to a certain extent your partner. But mostly the people connected by uteri, so I’m going to focus on that.
What this is really about at the core is loss of control. Your mom was once the boss of you, when you were a child. She is no longer the boss of you. You are the boss of you. And when you have your baby, you will be the boss of that baby until it can be its own boss. BUT LETTING GO IS SO HARD. For many reasons, including love and attachment, but also because you get comfortable in the role of Boss of Everyone and having a child become their own boss can feel like a diminishment of some kind to a parent. Plus, nothing says “I’m my own boss now” quite so strongly as having your own children. So your mom is consciously or subconsciously trying to assert her bosshood, and it’s not going well because hey! She did a great job raising her girls to be their own bosses. Too good a job, in her (subconscious?) opinion. Now you might not need her. THEN SHE WILL BE USELESS. Cue the passive aggressiveness, wailing, gnashing of teeth.
And I understand how much you want to – in turn – control your mom’s anxiety. SOMEONE has to control it, and if she won’t, then by golly her logical daughter ought to! Right? Wrong. You cannot be the boss of your mom. You can’t alleviate her anxiety, so I don’t think you should try. Do not carry that burden. I think you should try to let her anxious comments wash over you like a faintly acidic ocean breeze, then vent to your sister about OMG that last thing mom said, can you believe? Let her be the person she is, even if that person gets on your last nerve. That’s stuff for you to hash out, between yourself and the series of nerves between her and your last one. Practice the following sayings:
“Everything is normal, but thank you.”
“This seems to make [baby] happy, so we’ll keep doing this.”
“I appreciate the offer, but we’re okay like this.”
“Oh, mom, I don’t want to worry you about that. It’s nothing.”
That doesn’t mean let her get away with things that are actively harmful, like poking sleeping babies, feeding them dubious “herbal” shakes, shaking them to “encourage vigor,” or my personal favorite, while babysitting scheduling surreptitious screenings for rare diseases. Do not allow that business by any means. But if she’s just hectoring people to pay more attention to the baby, that’s totally normal first-time grandma behavior.
So let’s talk about what kind of prenatal talk you want to have with your mom. If you want her to be less anxious, I’m sorry to say that you will not get your wish (99.999% chance of fail). But what you both seem to need is some clarity about how she sees you and her own place in your growing family. So DON’T bring your partner in on this. Have a lunch, just the two of you, where you frame it as “family history time.” Our moms are enigmas. They are so intimately intertwined with us, but so unknown, too. My mom has so much history that I both shared and know almost nothing about, since I was an infant or child at the time. I bet your mom is the same. Maybe she’s worried about someone dropping the baby because she dropped her cousin once. Or maybe she had a miscarriage that she never told anyone about. Maybe HER mom messed her up but good. I don’t know, maybe her mom wasn’t there for her at all, so she’s trying to make up for what she perceives as something she missed. But I am not a therapist! And neither are you (er, right?).
So instead of telling her to tone down her anxiety – which is the job of a professional – just settle in and start asking questions. This is not a conversation titled “Mom, be less anxious” it’s about “Being pregnant is weird and different for everyone, and I need your help to make it easier for me.” This conversation may not “work.” This conversation may just be the first of several on this theme. But the goal is to find out what you both need from each other. Prepare for evasions (“that’s so personal!” and “what do you think I felt?” do not be dissuaded) and prepare to listen. A LOT:
- What was it like for you when you first had [first born kid in your family]? Did you have a lot of support? What was that support like (i.e. did your mom drive you up a wall? how?)?
- Was it different when you had more than one kid? How?
- Did anyone ever make you feel like a bad mom or pregnant person? How? What did you do about it?
- You raised me and [sibling(s)] into such independent people! Does that make you proud? How did you do it?
- What was your biggest fear for me and [sibling(s)] growing up?
- Do you see anything of your personality in me? Good things? Bad things? (be prepared for this answer to shock the hell out of you – either in recognition or outright lunacy)
- (Here’s the doozy and your finale.) Do you think I’ll be a good mother?
If she says “no” to your final question, then that is actually on her for not seeing the amazing, thoughtful woman who wrote in here today. She may try to evade with “How could you ask me that?” but don’t let her turn it around on you. You don’t need her to know what you think (you’re 100% going to rock this mom thing), you need to know what SHE thinks. If she says “no” or “maybe” you are hereby allowed to discredit any mothering advice, hectoring, or insisting she bestows upon you. If she says “yes” then you have a bulletproof answer if she’s ever anxious about your baby. “Mom, you already raised a good mother, so I’m sure you know I’m raising my baby right.”
TO RECAP with your mantras:
1 – You are the expert on you and your fetus and baby, and ur doin it rite.
2 – Babies don’t really give a shit.
3 – “Thanks but this is working fine.”
4 – “You raised a good mother, so please let me do it my way.”
Keep calm, and carry on. You’re going to be a wonderful mother.