For the first two years of Jack and I’s marriage, my MIL had made it known that she wanted grandchildren. She’d built a “grandchild’s bedroom” off of her bedroom at her lake home. She’d dropped numerous “hints,” like setting up a crib at her house, inquiring about my periods and trying to set me up with an OB/GYN.
I ignored or politely rebuffed her hints, but she was unrelenting. She put the full court press on Jack as well, telling him things like “it’s your duty to give me grandchildren” and “the Bible says you need to honor your father and mother.” She also enlisted her friends to harass us about having grandkids, whenever we saw those friends at get togethers (which was often).
Over time, Jack and I got really tired of the constant “hints.” It felt very much like harassment. Jack, who is usually very conflict avoidant, even lost his temper with one of the family friends at one gathering.
After enduring about a year and a half of this, Jack and I realized this topic wasn’t going to go away. So I decided to tell my MIL that I suffered from a chronic health condition that causes infertility. I hoped that this might elicit some compassion from her, that she might realize it was a sensitive topic and back off.
I brought it up in an organic way, over email. I used some previous health issues I’d had, which she knew about, as an opening to discuss it. She asked me some follow-up questions, I sent her some links where she could read more about my condition, and the conversation died out after a few emails.
Or so I naively believed.
About six months after I had that conversation with her, Jack approached me one night as I sat watching television.
“Um, I got an email from my mom,” he began, standing next to me and looking a bit embarrassed.
I looked up at him, slightly concerned. When Jack begins a conversation this way, the outcome is usually not good.
“She asked me to tell you that there are certain drugs you can take to get pregnant. I’m supposed to tell you which ones. I’m not supposed to let you know she’s the one who gave me this info though,” he said, letting out an exasperated sigh.
I stared at him like a deer in headlights for a few seconds.
“WHAT?!?!?!?!” I finally sputtered in disbelief.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I don’t understand…” I said, struggling to make sense of what was just said. I opted to temporarily ignore the part where Jack was ordered to lie to me about where he got this info. “How does she know what drugs I need to take?”
Jack cringed a bit. “Well, my parents hosted a dinner party the other night with their friends, Dr. Anderson and his wife. During the dinner, mom asked Dr. Anderson to tell her more about your condition. So Dr. Anderson did, and he told mom what drugs you can take to get pregnant. I’m supposed to give you the list so you can talk to your doctor about them.”
I stared at Jack in stunned silence as he flopped down next to me on the couch.
“Oh, and Dr. Anderson also told mom that you need to get pregnant before you turn 30. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get pregnant, ever.”
A million thoughts were racing through my head as I continued to stare in disbelief at my husband. Ok, first off – I didn’t believe the last sentence at all. Both my husband and I were both born to mothers who were well into their 30s when they had us. (Not to mention the million other women over 30 who have babies every single day!) I did not believe Dr. Anderson, a medical professional, would say anything so obviously untrue. Why my MIL thought we would believe that little bit of fiction was beyond me.
The other thing racing through my head was that I couldn’t believe this woman. She threw a dinner party with her friends, who I barely knew, to discuss my personal medical details?? The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I’m generally a very private person, only sharing information on a need-to-know basis. I felt like I had just been laid out on her dinner table and told to spread ‘em so her doctor friends could dissect me like a slaughtered pig.
I had shared personal, vulnerable, intimate information with her in the hope it might prompt some sympathy from her. Instead, it had just been used as further ammunition to try and get what she wanted.
I was not okay with this. This was a huge violation of personal boundaries. Jack and I discussed it. He decided to respond to her over email, letting her down gently.
But Jack’s response was brief and did not address some topics that were important to me. So, after much thought, I emailed my MIL. I told her that Jack had informed me about her email, and about the dinner party. I told her that I was not happy that she had shared my personal health information with her friends. I told her directly that Jack and I were not ready – financially, emotionally, physically – to have kids and that I would not be taking drugs to get pregnant any time soon. I sent the email.
Days passed and I heard nothing back from her. This was abnormal, because my MIL usually emailed every day, often multiple times a day. Finally, I asked Jack if his mother had said anything to him.
“Well… she was pretty devastated,” he responded. He didn’t seem to want to say more than that, so I didn’t press him for more details.
It was not how I wished things had gone, but it finally ended the discussion. She didn’t harass us about kids again after that, and neither did her friends.