Advice for a woman whose loved ones are not happy that she's pregnant with her 4th.
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I need a way of responding to all the negativity I’ve been receiving since we announced our fourth pregnancy. When I was expecting my other children, there was much more support and enthusiasm from our family. My parents are actually the ones who are acting the worst. When we told my mom I was pregnant again, she said she was really disappointed in me. She also said four grandchildren is just too much of a burden for her and my dad and that’s a lot of birthday and Christmas presents she’s expected to buy for. I was so appalled and upset we haven’t spoken much at all since. My husband’s parents aren’t exactly thrilled either. I know there is a lot of stigma and prejudice against large families, but I never thought I get disapproval directed at me from our own family like this. I’m used to negative comments from strangers but my mom really hurt me.
4 and Counting
The dynamic between parent and child is so complex it’s hard to unpack in a few paragraphs but I’ll try to sum up some of the finer points. I know when I got pregnant in my early 20s, my mom was very critical as well. You could even say she was disappointed. I hadn’t finished college, my husband was in between jobs, and we lived in a pretty run-down apartment. Parents just want what they think is best for their kids, and starting a family with such an unsteady future isn’t what she planned for me. She wanted “better” for her daughter. As do most parents.
With that being said, maybe your mother’s negative comments are masking her concern for you. Maybe she’s worried about the financial responsibilities of a large family, worried you’ll run yourself sick caring for more babies, or that it will strain your marriage.
You know more about your mother’s background than I do, but definitely consider her perspective and experience as a mother. Did she grow up one of many siblings with the family barely getting by? Or maybe she felt neglected and had to compete for affection with her siblings. Or maybe she was an only child who was doted on and wanted for nothing. Her upbringing shapes her attitude about families.
When I think of my own grandparents and my son’s grandparents, they all have one thing in common — they’re spoilers. That’s one of the jobs and rights of being a grandparent. In fact, I can’t wait to spoil my own grandchildren rotten. It could be her concern about affording presents for so many children reflects the fear that she won’t be able to spoil them rotten like she always imagined and hoped she would.
All these things are worthy of consideration, not to excuse her behavior, but to help you deal with her in kindness and charity. You say you two aren’t speaking right now because her comments hurt you — I recommend remedying that. Ask her out for coffee (keeping it public keeps it civil) and give her the chance to explain her trepidations. Address her concerns with your reassurance that you and your husband are prepared and excited for this newest arrival. Tell her that you don’t want any stress or animosity because it’s not good during pregnancy and that if things can’t be reconciled you may need to take a breather from the family until little Cuatro is born, and that you don’t love her any less if you need to take some time away from everyone.
As for other family, you could easily apply the same approach with the in-laws or anyone else. You can take their negativity and turn it into an icy battle between family, which isn’t good for anyone, or just take their comments as masked concern for you and your well being. Either way, you and your baby should be the priority. If your family is going to intentionally stress you out with their negativity, insults and be unsupportive, then you might do well to step back and resume communication after the birth announcements have been made. I bet once everyone meets little Cuatro their attitudes will soften.
While it would be nice to have everyone’s support during your pregnancy, the unfortunate reality may be that no amount of heartfelt talks over coffee will change attitudes. Be prepared for that, too. In the meantime, let your husband know what you decide so that he can support your decision. Ultimately, though, I’m sure you’ll make the decision that’s best for you, your family, and your sanity.
Have a problem that relates to your Catholic life? Let Katrina help FIFY! Write to her at AskKatrina@aleteia.org