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Pregnant for first time and relationship with my mum breaking down – please help.

(20 Posts)
CaptainTookie Mon 24-Mar-14 12:20:15

Hello, I am new to the site and 30w pregnant with my first child. I am in my late 30s and it has been a stressful pregnancy as I have some major health issues going on, in addition to ante-natal depression and high BP. This isn’t the issue though; the problem is with my mum. I am an only child and for as long as I can remember she has been controlling, critical and, at times, downright cruel. However, she can also be incredibly supportive when she wants to be, I just never know which version of her I am going to get. But it has led me to be very insecure and confused and these feelings have been magnified during my pregnancy.

Typical behaviour includes: if I say something she disagrees with she explodes with rage and rubbishes my views. This makes me feel small and worthless. She will make comments about how I do things but dress it up with a little laugh as though it was only a light-hearted comment. She tried to control my behaviour when I was younger, usually by threatening to withhold something. She is always trying to force her opinions on me as well as her Daily Mail-driven anxieties. She doesn’t trust my opinion, and will check up on things I have told her. She regularly talks over me, ignores what I am saying etc. She fusses constantly and can be incredibly overbearing. She wants to know the micro-level details of my life.

Some more concrete examples: when I was planning on getting married a few years back I wanted a small wedding and carefully planned the guest list so she would not feel ‘alone’ (my dad had died a few years previously). I included her best friend, close relatives etc. However, she didn’t like one relative who I had invited and said, “I would like to think you would consider me in all of this”. The thing is, I really had. I just hadn’t done exactly what she wanted.

When I had my family hen do, a small affair, she called me selfish when I fell ill (on-going serious condition I have had for most of adult life) and said it was ‘all about me’. She tried to drag me off the settee when I went for a lie down, blasted loud music and told all my other relatives that I was not ill but sulking. The next day, she ignored me. All my relatives did too. They believe her.

When I told her I was pregnant with a girl, her first response was ‘now you’ll know what it’s like.’ When she asked about any names we liked at about 12w I was nervous to tell her but also excited to share something positive in this stressful pregnancy over which I had some control and could be excited about. I told her one name that both dh and I really liked and she turned so nasty, telling me how awful it was. She stormed out of the room, and came rampaging back into the room spouting further vitriol. When she asked about names again last week I refused to discuss the matter with her, and apparently I am being cruel for withholding this.

I have tried repeatedly to discuss with her how these kinds of behaviours negatively impacted on me as a child, and continue to do so as an adult, but her usual responses are:

•It is just the way she is and she doesn’t mean it
•She is too old to change now
•I am being overly sensitive
•She has already apologised for it
•It (insert hurtful event) happened ages ago.

Why is she like this? I know it is not normal behaviour, and being pregnant seems to have brought into sharp focus how much of this is not the behaviour of a mum who gives a shit. But then maybe I am not being fair; she has been so good to me in many ways. She has been there emotionally and financially through previous ups and downs. Always encouraging in my education and career. Should I just put up with the other stuff? It is all so confusing. Am I just feeling this more because I am pregnant and feeling extreme emotion?

I have gone into self-protective mode and just don’t want to see her. She has got an opinion on everything pregnancy-related and most of it is negative. I don’t want to be around her. It makes my already sky-high BP go up. I dread to think what she will be like when the baby is here. So controlling, so critical of everything I do. I don’t know what to do. I have reached a point of feeling so resentful and I am starting to feel cold and detached towards her.

I am seeing a mental health team as I may need to go back on ADs and she knows I may well need practical help from others when the baby arrives due to all my other health conditions, and I think this is the kind of thing she will use to maintain her position.

What do I do in the short and long term? The more I back off the more she will get upset and portray herself as the victim. She is e-mailing and texting all the time, she knows something is up.

Thank you if you’ve managed to read this. I just don’t know how to move forward in a way that is in my and my baby’s best interests and any advice would be welcome.

Boomeranggirl Mon 24-Mar-14 12:50:56


I could have written your post! We are in the same boat. The only difference is I have a sibling whose relationship with our mother also broke down years ago, so he detached a long time ago.

Pregnancy seems to have brought out the worst in my mother. Our relationship has been going downhill for many years but it has gotten a lot worse recently. I am heavily pregnant and due in a few weeks.

Superficially she has 'been there' for me but its always been at a cost. As in how my problems impacted on HER, how much stress it has caused HER. She put us through a lot when we were kids and has never acknowledged any of it, yet expects us to sympathise with her about how terrible her childhood was. She tells me I lie about things that have happened to me (she even said I lied about having a miscarriage, which was a disgusting thing to do, but will never ever apologise for it- my DH is furious about this, I'm just suppose to brush that under the carpet). She has tried to sabotage the relationship between me and my dad on numerous occasions throughout my childhood and into my adulthood. There is so much baggage that I do wonder why I still maintain contact with her. I think its because I am the last relative in this country that she is in contact with her. Everyone else has been alienated. She does see my brother every few years because he lives abroad but they don't really have a very good relationship.

Now she is making assumptions about her contact with the baby, how she'll have the baby over at her house, etc. She has already started bad mouthing me to my brother about how she isn't involved enough and feels left out. I know it's all going to come to a head soon. I have tried to involve her by taking her to appointments but it always ends badly. I just don't want to be alone with her anymore because I'm frightened of what's going to come out of her mouth. She seems to think that I should be some kind of emotional punchbag who should just take it. Last time I tried to detach she got ill and told me it was all my fault, which she also told everyone else

Sorry! Didn't mean to hijack your thread! Basically I know where you are coming from and the conclusion that I have come to is that I am going to be a mum soon and I can't enable this behaviour any longer. I need to put strong boundaries in place and accept that it will cause problems in the short term but long term is the safest for all of us. I don't want any of her bile being spilt in front of my child. I am going to to ensure I am never alone with her that DH is always with me because she never does this in front of him. How about taking this approach with your mum? What does your DH think? Can he act as a buffer for you?

Boomeranggirl Mon 24-Mar-14 12:51:41

Sorry I meant Tookie not rookie! Darn preemptive spelling!!

Evie2014 Mon 24-Mar-14 12:56:26

I am so sorry you are going through this. It seems very obvious to me as an outsider that you need distance and space from your mother. To me she seems toxic. I don't want to jump to conclusions but I certainly think she has all the signs of a toxic parent (possibly narcissistic- though again it's not my place to decide based on one post). Perhaps have a look at the Stately Homes thread and see if it rings any bells?

She may be reacting badly because she can no longer count on being the centre of attention with you, now that you have another priority. So it seems she is trying all sorts of different tactics to get the attention she craves.

I think it's completely normal that you've gone into self protective mode. Look, if you don't want to see her, then don't. Or at least limit the contact. Text back instead of answering the phone. Make excuses not to be there if she is going to call. Don't engage with her- that's really important. If she picks a row and wants to rant at you, walk away, saying firmly and gently "I'm sorry but I can't deal with this right now".

Your first priority now is your baby and your own wellbeing. Anything that interferes with that will have to be put into the "Some Other Time" box. Focus on building a protective cocoon around yourself, your DH (can he help?) and the baby for the next few weeks and the first few weeks after the birth. Your serenity is the most important thing- staying calm and serene will help you to keep your blood pressure down and therefore benefit your baby.

Hoping everything goes really well.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Mar-14 12:57:49

I think what you have here is a golden opportunity for a fresh start. In a way she's right, once you have your little girl in your arms, you will know what it's like to be a mother. You'll also wonder how in the hell a mother would want to make their darling child's life a misery.... hmm

Here's what I've discovered about being a (in my case single from birth) mother. Show a hint of indecision and other people will be in like Flynn with unwanted opinions and advice. It's vital to be assertive. So yet another reason to take a fresh approach. Self-protect away. Find people you can rely on who won't interfere with 'we know best' ... even if you have to pay them to be reliable. Choose just one or two trusted friends to talk to about baby problems (or MN of course!) It doesn't just apply to your Mum but if you don't want to see someone, you really don't have to see them. If you don't want to listen to other people's opinions, don't listen. It's your life, your baby, your decisions.... anyone and anything that doesn't fit can be safely kept at arms' length.

If you do this and she gets upset and portrays herself as a victim your response is - and you'll need this for when your baby is a toddler smile - you can be included in my life when you're behaving yourself. Start as you mean to go on.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 24-Mar-14 13:25:19


re your comment:-
"I have tried repeatedly to discuss with her how these kinds of behaviours negatively impacted on me as a child, and continue to do so as an adult, but her usual responses are:

•It is just the way she is and she doesn’t mean it
•She is too old to change now
•I am being overly sensitive
•She has already apologised for it
•It (insert hurtful event) happened ages ago".

These are actually all typical responses of a toxic parent. I think posting on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages will help you. These people NEVER apologise nor accept any responsibility for their own actions.

The following equally applies to you Boomeranggirl re your mother -

Such people do not make for being good grandparents either; she will try and criticise your parenting as well given any opportunity. Do not give her any opportunity; if she cannot or will not behave she does not get to see you. End of.

If your parents were not good parents and you are considering whether or not to allow a relationship with your children, consider the following factors, as well as others, before deciding:
•Have they fully addressed their issues in SKILLED long-term therapy? (A few weeks or months is nowhere near adequate if your parents regularly mistreated you).
•Have they been treated for all the root causes of their dysfunction or abuse?
•Have they sincerely apologized and made amends for the hurtful things they did? Not just said, “I’m sorry”, but really talked it all through with you over many hours’ time?
•Are they very different people to you from the ones you remember?
•Do you currently have a healthy, functional and stable relationship with them?
•Do they respect your choices and boundaries as a parent? Do they follow your requests about how you want your children to be treated and to behave?
•Would you recommend your parents to your best friend as babysitters without any hesitation or worry, and feel comfortable giving your word that they’d never harm your friend’s child, without any doubt?
•Have you worked through all of your feelings about the mistreatment you experienced through your parents?

These are just a few of the important questions to answer. The best plan is to work through the matter with a therapist of your own, who has no bias toward trying to “keep families together” despite the presence of mistreatment.

It is extremely hard to be at all assertive after dealing with someone like this since childhood (because you have been taught to put your own needs last) but it can be done. At the very least you will need to reassert your own boundaries with your mother as these are set far too low currently.

I would say that if she is too toxic/difficult for YOU to deal with, then she is far too toxic for your both vulnerable and defenceless child. Do not expose your child to such malign influences.

Meerka Mon 24-Mar-14 16:34:36

Can you find the practical help from any other source? this is vital. Like you say, if you have to rely on her she'll use it as a lever to browbeat you.

You don't mention a partner / husband. If you have a good relationship with the father of your baby, he could be a very good help in standing up to her. Because you have to stand up to her, or become even more under her thumb, and it'll only get worse when your child is born.

The downside of standing up to her is that you're going to have to face her fury, anger and nastiness. But the alternative is that she walks all over you.

the price of her niceness and support is very, very, very high. To speak bluntly, you're being kept a child yourself. But you're not; you're a woman and soon a mother yourself. She's wrong in trying to control you so intensely.

Why is she like this? Hard to say. Some people just cannot accept other people unless they fall into line with their every whim. Control over their surroundings and people around them is vital. There's all sorts of on-line diagnosis goes but the core of the problem is that she's trying to control you and using the nice times to keep you indebted to her. It's ruthlessly manipulative and it makes your life not your own. I'd make a very strong guess that some of your depressoin is due to the effect she has on you. Everyone needs the ability to be themselves and make their own decisions independently and she's taking that away from you - and it will only get worse once your baby is born.

Have you got good friends who can support you emotionally through this, or a counsellor/therapist?

I do think that if you want this to stop, and the alternative is a life lived in subjection to her, then you have to keep on having your own opinions and standing up to her and taking the fall out. Plan through how to deal with it with someone from the MH team or a very good friend. Planning out what she is likely to do / how she will react and then planning how to deal with that really does help.

good luck. It's so so hard to break free of someone like this, but you can do it and now, with your baby coming, is the best possible time to choose for your and her future.

CaptainTookie Mon 24-Mar-14 18:34:23

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and reply.

Boomeranggirl I am sorry you are experiencing similar difficulties. I had a look at the stately homes thread and it seems that, with various permutations, there are many of us in a similar position. Trying to deal with it when pregnant and all the ensuing emotions is particularly difficult, but as has been mentioned by Evie, Cogito & Meerka above I am starting to see that this is actually an opportunity to start afresh, lay down new ground rules and to stand my ground - yes, there will be fireworks and it will be difficult, but there is something much more important at stake and, as you say, this behaviour can’t be enabled any longer.

My DH is very supportive and lovely but has never witnessed any of this because my mum is way too clever for that! I have told him I am finding things difficult but I need to sit down with him and say actually this is a bigger problem and that I need a plan/to set specific boundaries – something I feel more able to do now with everyone’s advice.

Thanks, Attila – that’s cemented a few things in my mind. I think I have to accept that mum will never take ownership for how she is; it will always be my problem – and it is sad that this will remain the barrier to us trying to move forward in our relationship. The only option I have is for me to redefine our relationship and take the consequences. Thanks for posing those questions too.

Meerka – thank you for your insights. My DH is very supportive and wants to be extremely hands on when the baby comes; the difficulty will be when he goes back to work. I have some really good friends but they will also be at work whilst I am home in the day so it is this period that will be difficult. I am just going to have to get on with it though as the price IS too high to ask for her help. Emotionally, I can lean on DH and friends and also seek a therapist as the situation can’t continue as is – apart from the resentment and insecurities this has caused me from the past, I can’t let mine or my daughter’s future wellbeing be damaged too. This is a new chapter.

So, what I am going to do is:
•Sit down with dh and talk through how we are going to deal with this – set boundaries as to what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour/contact, and how to manage keeping a reasonable distance
•Foresee and discuss what kind of scenarios the above boundaries will cause
•Ask the MH team to be referred for counselling
•Brace myself that it will be a very difficult period but that there is a higher priority at stake.

Thank you, all. I can’t tell you how much it has helped just to get this off my chest and the advice above has been invaluable in helping me to see things much more clearly.

Meerka Mon 24-Mar-14 18:51:51

i hope you dont mind me saying but it is lovely to see that you have such a good husband and can make such practical plans. Its very hard indeed to break free when you are beign given teh nice/nasty treatment from someone so influential in life as your mother.

it won't be easy but with your determination and support from DH and the mental health team Im sure you can do it.

wish you all the very best.

CaptainTookie Mon 24-Mar-14 19:12:29

Hi Meerka, I don't mind at all. I know I am lucky to have that support; tbh I don't think he realises quite how bad it is affecting me, but that's because I have internalised it mostly, as everything has been so jumbled in my mind. I have a bit more clarity now. Thank you!

hamptoncourt Mon 24-Mar-14 20:11:04

Captain you have been given good advice here and I agree with PP that it sounds as though your mother has NPD. She sounds just like mine so I very much sympathise.

The constant criticisms and put downs, all her nastiness got ten times worse when I had my DC. Please minimise the amount of access she has to your DC. She will try to turn them against you, I know it sounds awful, especially to anyone who hasn't had a toxic parent, but it is what they do.

In terms of managing her effect on you, tell her the absolute bare minimum. Eventually she will blow up as she won't be able to cope with you taking back control but you have to protect yourself. I am NC with mine, best decision I ever made grin

Good luck with your pregnancy.

Meerka Mon 24-Mar-14 21:34:24

agreed, minimize the access to your child. Never on her own. The chances of her turning vitriolic or else subtly undermining you are too high.

Think of it this way; do you want to treat your child the way your mother has treated you, considering the bad times as well as the good?

Meerka Tue 25-Mar-14 08:01:42

no, i totally missaid myself there sorry. Was not feeling well at all, damn preg sickness

Do you want your mother to treat your child the way she treated you, considering the bad times as well as the good?

Many apologies for that garbled version I said first!

Meerka Tue 25-Mar-14 08:02:13

rather embarassed about that misspeaking now, OP. sounded awful. sorry again.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 25-Mar-14 09:12:12

"Do you want your mother to treat your child the way she treated you"

Just a word on this. My DM can be quite bossy and I was a little concerned how it would play out with DS. Turns out I needn't have worried. He's clearly made of sterner stuff than I am and stands right up to her every time. "Are you going to let him speak to me like that?" she said once ... and reader I said "Yes, because he was quite right".

So they may try to dish out the same treatment but - based on this experience - bossy grannies are not necessarily a train-smash.

Meerka Tue 25-Mar-14 09:54:56

Hopefully yes ... yay for strong willed kids!

CaptainTookie Wed 26-Mar-14 13:22:34

No problem, Meerka, no need to apologise. I absolutely will not tolerate DM speaking to my child like she does to me. Hopefully, like Cogito, I too will raise her to be strong-minded and encourage her to have her own opinions, and not ride rough-shod over them like my mum did/does to me. I am so angry about it all now; pregnancy has no doubt amplified my feelings but it is probably a good thing as I can put plans into place about how to deal with 'the mum issue'. Thanks again.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 26-Mar-14 15:44:27

If you choose to see her and she starts lecturing you, smile and nod and do what you want. Or just say "Thanks, I'll check with my midwife or GP" then tell her the next day that they said she was wrong.

If she is on her best behaviour around DH, try to limit visits to when you are together as a team.

She thinks being rigid, bullying and uncompromising is being strong. In reality it means she is scared of feeling powerless so will always try and call the shots around you. Encouraging you in your education and career was a way of moulding you. She still had input. Now you are married and about to embark on motherhood. She worries she will become redundant.

You are in a strong position here. You are unused to being in control but she's not as all-powerful as she thinks she is.

tb Wed 26-Mar-14 20:42:54

I think you would be far happier, and find your pregnancy and being a mother if you don't have your 'd'm in your life on a regular basis.

Fortunately for me, my 'd'm had removed me from her life 5 years before dd was born. Don't get me wrong, it was, and still is, incredibly painful, but a hell of a lot better than it would have been with her there.

I hope it doesn't happen to you, but I was overcome with grief when dd was little about the unanswerable question "why couldn't my mother have loved me the way I love dd?". In the words of one counsellor, I could go mad if I continued to torture myself with wondering why she did things.

I wish you all the best with the last weeks of your pregnancy and aterwards.

Keep your dm at a distance, and you will probably feel a lot better.

CaptainTookie Wed 26-Mar-14 22:11:05

Thanks Donkeys; you are right, I am unused to being in control when it comes to my mum and it is frankly both empowering and scary. But I have to try and embrace this fear as the new dynamic that is emerging (with impending motherhood) is kind of forcing my hand and change is necessary and inevitable. I have to try and roll with it.

Sorry that you have had such a difficult time with your mum, tb. It's like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, when the choice is damaging contact or no contact/relief but a feeling of immense loss. But I must say I have had similar questions swirling around my head about why mum can't love unconditionally, like my dad did, and in that sense it already feels like a loss, ifyswim. Thanks for your good wishes, and i think distance is the key here.

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