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MIL's behaviour, new baby(61 Posts)
Hi. I'm not sure what to do about this or whether I'm overreacting and would appreciate some objective viewpoints.
DH and I have just returned from visiting his family. I'm six months pregnant with our first (and what will be his parents' sixth grandchild). It was quite a fraught / tense trip, because of MIL's controlling behaviour, but one thing in particular she did really disturbed me and upset us both.
We were briefly looking around an old church with DH's parents. MIL is quite religious, the rest of us are not. She knows our views on religion and is very aware that we don't want it being pushed on our child.
In the church, she suddenly grabbed me from behind, and held me while drawing the sign of the cross in holy water over my bump and saying 'god bless this baby'. I was completely caught off guard and couldn't stop her. I'm shocked that she would think it acceptable to do that to me against my will, and we now fear that if she's given unsupervised access to our baby a secret baptism will be performed.
There's background here - controlling, unpredictable behaviour that makes her stressful to be around, but DH and I now feel that we should think about how we can protect our kid from this sort of thing.
It's not even about the religion: it's the complete disregard for our feelings and for my bodily autonomy. I actually feel violated (it's so much worse than your average bump bothering). She attacked me from behind! DH and I both asked wtf she thought she was doing. At first she laughed it off and grabbed my belly again, then she said she 'thought we were Christian'. (Our dinner table discussions with her about our atheism and beliefs go back ten years: she was lying).
We already have some problems with how she and FIL relate to / talk about some of their other grandchildren, as an aside. They bitch about them openly, in front of them, and call them names, and make unfair comparisons with their other grandchildren). We're now considering what to do. We don't want her to come when the baby is born - I can imagine her grabbing him out of my arms whenever she feels like it, dousing him in holy water, shouting if we do something 'wrong', etc etc. FIL is afraid of her and no help at all here. What to do?
(She is capable of behaving well and can be very nice, as well, and is extremely emotionally invested in her family and grandchildren, obviously).
And if you got to the end of that, well done!
I think the main thing is that we don't want to seem harsh or overreact, but we equally feel we don't trust her and need to protect ourselves. It's a dilemma.
How awful - I'd be livid if MIL did that to me! Your partner needs to have a conversation with her outlining how violated you felt, and how completely inappropriate it was. It sounds like he's on your side which is great, don't mention about visiting post birth yet, focus on the religious aspect and say 'this is OUR baby and will be raised how we want it to be, what you did was wrong and unacceptable. We would like an apology before seeing you again'
Well next time she grabs you from behind elbow her, it's an instinctive reaction to being grabbed failing that the pair of them sound awful so no unsupervised baby time and be prepared to grow a pair and be "rude" aka stand up for yourselves and your baby. Good luck
Thanks MrsMarsch DH has said those words to her before and since the incident, and in due course an apology will have to be extracted, most likely by email. Getting her to apologise for anything is notoriously difficult and she will act very wounded and hurt before she finally does it.
The problem is, it doesn't go in. She hears what we say, agrees in the moment, but never acts on it or modifies her behaviour. Hence the trust issue. The secret baptism is, we feel, inevitable if she ever gets to babysit. It doesn't matter what we say, or what she says. There is no trust there. This is our problem. Some might say that if we think it's nonsense anyway, what's the harm in letting her baptise him etc etc. But again, the religious aspect is secondary to the fact that there's no trust and no respect for us.
Thanks for the flowers and (non-alcoholic for me!) wine Doughnut - much needed after the week I've had! I fear you may be right.
She was unreasonable. Awful in fact.
Re secret baptism....that happened to me as a child. My lovely, but very Catholic Gran arranged for a priest to come and do it one day. She used to look after me.
I loved her so much and she was wonderful. As a Catholic she was terrified I'd go to purgatory. She was saving me.
She did everything for me and I have no bad feelings about it at all.
But can grandparents actually baptise children? Without any parents present?
I don't know what church she belongs to but most mainstream ones wouldn't touch that with a bargepole. No way.
Yeah fear for your life now that she's asked God to bless this baby
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
Helpful Loveabit. Try reading what I've actually said.
Apparently yes, priests can endorse secret baptisms or lay baptisms at their discretion. Anyway, the baptism thing isn't the main point... It's that she doesn't give a shit what we think or how we feel. There's a reason she attacked from behind - she knew I'd never consent to it.
Actually anyone can baptise a baby if they believe - it can be done at home with no one else present. Lots of babies were baptised by family members at birth in case they didn't survive. So although a full on church baptism wouldn't be happening a private baptism could easily be done without your knowledge x
"At their discretion " being the operative phrase though. A modern litigious-aware priest would be very bloody wary.
But there are more niche smaller Christian churches where they may feel more autonomous, I don't know.
I would think by far the most sensible thing to do would be to just contact her priest and ask about it over the phone. You don't even have to say who you are. Just ask if baptisms can be done by grandparents without parents present. Otherwise you'll be wondering for years and years - perhaps without foundation!
it matters less what she did and why she did it than that she feels entitled to grab you from behind, restrain you and do something to your body she knew very well you didn't want. Her knowledge that she had lack of consent is shown fully in catching you off guard and restraining you to do it!
That would be a massive red line to me. And yes, it says clearly she feels she has rights over you and your body and entitlement to get her way forcibly, and that's excuseable.
Fuck that. From anyone. Go watch the tea consent YouTube video.
It does amaze me how so many religious types bleat about having their ridiculous beliefs respected, accommodated and handed endless tax breaks, yet can't see how incredibly offensive it is that they can't respect the rights of other people to live without their bullshit.
Makes it very difficult to bring your kids up to be respectful of peoples' faith.
0dfod thanks, yes we are now reconsidering the level of contact. We just don't want to overreact - it can be so hard to view a family situation objectively, can't it. I've read Stately Homes a bit. It certainly is a dysfunctional family dynamic, but there are many good qualities too.
If I'm honest, we both want to step back a bit and redraw some boundaries and have a conversation with her about unsupervised access, but we're scared of the fall out. We both hate conflict, whereas she seems to thrive on it. It's true that we need to grow a pair...
So this secret baptism would be performed in a church when GM secretly takes your baby without either of you knowing and persuades a priest who knows it is not her child to say a few words over a child (words that are meaningless if you don't believe in them) scatter some water on their head (again water only has meaning if you believe it does) and then return the child to you before you notice?
Umm if you are worried about this happening then it's probably avoidable if you don't use her as a babysitter .....but frankly if you are agnostic or atheist it has no meaning anyway. As she already has other gc have you asked your husbands siblings how they dealt with it?
This does sound a it of an overreaction thinking she's going to kidnap your baby though. Sprinkle a bit of holy water on them when you aren't looking sounds more likely .
I would also recommend the Stately Homes and Batshit threads - I'm often on there, your MIL sounds a lot like my mother. If so, trying to reason with her won't help - you just need to agree with your DH what your boundaries are regarding visits etc and then stick to them. The key thing is how your DH feels - it'll be a lot easier if he realises how bad his mother is and doesn't instantly get guilt tripped into agreeing to visits and stuff.
Tbh, I think you are overreacting to the blessing incident. It's the other stuff you say that worries me more - esp the treatment of the other gc, which I really don't think should be treated as an 'aside'.
You need robust, pre-agreed (between you and dh) boundaries.
Ignore the people saying it's not a proper baptism, the issue is the lack of trust! Just go low contact for a while, she'll eventually ask why she's not seeing you and you reply 'because you really upset me the way you behaved the time in church and I don't wish to go through that again' then stay low contact for a while and she might get the message that YOU call the shots xx
Unless you are using the GM for childcare then why would she be having unsupervised access to the child? Are you living with the GM?
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