There have been plenty of threads about my MIL over the past few years that show her... ahem..... issues. I won't go over all of them again but I will say that I've mentioned in plenty of those threads that I think there's something serious going on (bipolar maybe?). There's issue after issue after issue with her, and nothing is ever good enough. FIL was in denial for the past few years and refused to talk to her dr or even MIL about the change in her behavior. I'm finally at the point where I pretty much try not to interact with her (especially without dh and/or FIL around). I don't answer my phone when she calls (so she leaves passive-aggressive messages instead ) and I leave the doors locked and alarmed when I'm home without dh (and don't answer them if she knocks). I pretty much let dh deal with her and stay out of it (this is just in the last couple weeks, after she really overstepped the boundaries and pissed me off).
A couple days ago, dh mentioned to his parents that we had gone to look at the hospital that we're going to deliver at. Because of how it's set up (and our preferences) we won't be having any visitors during labor/delivery. When we get moved to a new room, MIL and FIL will be able to see the baby (after ds has had a chance to see the baby and I and spend some time as our new family). MIL totally flipped out. Apparently she had this vision in her head that she was going to be in the room with me during the labor and delivery. Uhhhh..... fat chance in h*ll of that ever happening. I would rather birth alone in a walmart bathroom than have my MIL anywhere near me during labor/delivery.
So, fast forward to today. FIL had a talk with dh (they work at the same company so they sometimes are able to grab lunch together or whatever). Apparently MIL has been talking about suicide lately. FIL admitted to dh that he knows there's been huge problems for the last few years (getting worse all the time) and that he's been setting up therapy for the two of them for quite awhile, but MIL keeps refusing to show up to the appointments. FIL also told dh that he called MIL's dr to let them know about the suicide threats and see what they can do to get her help.
So, the question now is, how do I stand my ground and keep my boundaries up, without pushing MIL any closer to her threats? I don't want to coddle her and agree to letting her in the room during labor/delivery (thus sacrificing MY ideal birth and all MY boundaries), but if she does have some sort of mental illness then I don't want to do anything to push her to hurt herself, ya know.
On that same note, dh and I were actually planning on sitting down with MIL/FIL and letting them know the plans/expectations for labor/delivery/recovery and for when we get back home (as far as when they can visit, etc). DH only told her a small part (that she won't be in the room during labor/delivery), but there are many more boundaries that we have decided to put in place (such as visits in the hospital will be limited- no staying all day long, visits at our house are okay, but will be somewhat limited (again- no staying all day), no calling me during the day while ds is at school because that's MY rest time, etc). So, do we still do this? How? When?
Before we found out about MIL's recent talks, dh and I had already decided that we will not be leaving her alone with either of the kids anymore. She's just too unstable. This is not something that we plan on telling MIL, it's just what we'll do.
Steph, DH Jason (1-1-11), DS Owen (10-3-03) and DS Kai (10-13-11)
Yes, you continue with your boundaries. There is no other alternative, really.
Her primary support system has been, and should be, your FIL. If he were to say something like, "I'm leaving you" or to put significant boundaries in place regarding her, suicide would be a response to consider, because he would be altering her primary support system. That is, it would be a decision that would have to take her needs into consideration because that is the nature of their relationship.
However, your family is not critical to her well-being. You are not part of her primary support system. She might like to make you part of that support, but you have not made that kind of committment to her (and you shouldn't). Her threat of suicide is not something that should change what you are doing that is best for your family.
It would be a disservice to her to accommodate her desires here. This is because it does not promote a healthy relationship between your family and her, as it is in effect manipulative. I am not saying that she does not feel suicidal; she probably feels suicidal. It is manipulation, nonetheless.
You might have to make a decision against your FIL's wishes. If MIL tells you she is going to kill herself, and I were in your shoes, I would document what she stated, call the police, tell the dispatcher the situation, and ask the dispatcher if there is a mental health access line or a mental health crisis number you can call to have a Designated Mental Health Professional evaluate her. You might also be able to find out the Mental Health Crisis line yourself but the police will certainly know how to access a DMHP. A DMHP will come out to evaluate (if you live in the states, they are required by law to come out within 2 hours). The DMHP will want your written documentation of what she has told you, and it will be useful to provide as many different affidavits as possible from different witnesses (FIL if he is willing, your DH, etc). If the DMHP determines she is a danger to herself, she will be committed for at least 72 hours at a psychiatric inpatient facility. She will be forced to have her mental health issues addressed. Also, she will know that your response to her mental health symptoms in the future will be to get her help through the proper mental health channels, and NOT change your behavior in response to her attempts to manipulate.
It doesn't sound like its going to get better on its own. She is going to eventually need some sort of intervention. Sooner is better than later, as she may actually follow through on her suicide threats if given enough time.
I just wanted to say hang in there. Sounds stressful. Could you bring in "medical" advice into some of your plans? My own doctor told us we will likely want to limit visits, especially long ones, for the first two weeks. Maybe you could mention that the doc says you need pretty much round the clock rest when you're not feeding/changing etc and so you shouldn't be disturbed but you'll call them if you need anything or when you are read for brief visits? It might help her understand why you are keeping a distance. That it's not to be mean, it's just necessary.
I agree with the PP, I don't think altering your birth plans or risking your healthy recovery/bonding time is going to solve anything. It's not like that is the root of the problem. If it's wasn't the birth that has her riled up, it would probably be something else, right? Because she needs help. Keeping your boundaries surrounding your birth and your children is probably more important than ever. And as long as you still act with compassion and respect towards her, it's really something for her husband, maybe with the help of her son, to figure out how they want to proceed. And I think you made a wise choice to quietly make the decision not to leave the children with her alone.
First- thank you both for your well thought responses. It's given me a lot to think about.
Bellinghamcrunchie made a comment about how fil is mil's main support person and that my little family is not critical to her well being or her main support. While I agree that *I* am not a critical person in this, I believe my dh is, if for no other reason than what I have seen from mil over the last few years. Dh is mil's only child. She is far too "attached" to him and has had a very hard time with the fact that he's an adult and making his own life. She has made comments to him, very much a "nobody likes me, everybody hates me" fashion, simply because dh chose to spend time with me on special
days (valentines day comes to mind) instead of with her (he did see her on valentines day, and brought her flowers, but he took me out to dinner and she flipped out because she wanted dh to take her out to dinner instead of him taking me). She's told us (dh and I) "when i'm dead and gone you won't have to worry about me anymore", again in the same situation where dh wanted to spend time with me instead of with her.
Mil and fil have a rocky relationship and both have admitted that they are only together because, at their age, it doesn't make financial sense to get divorced. I think this also plays into why mil has had such a hard time letting go of dh.
Mn babydust- mil doesn't believe anything anybody says. She believes that she knows everything and is never wrong. When dh was telling her some of the hospital rules (specifically that they only let 2 support people in labor & delivery) she was flipping out, calling dh a liar and saying that she knows someone who was allowed to have a dozen people in the room the whole time and went on and on about how dh was wrong. Dh invited her to call the hospital and ask them what the rules are and that made her flip out more, claiming that dh was calling her a liar and that she's his mother and he needs to respect her, ect. Just totally off the wall reactions.
I guess I am most concerned with how to help dh deal with this. Mil does her best to place guilt on dh anytime he stands up for me and the kids. I'm just not sure how to support dh, and encourage him to keep our boundaries, without making him feel guilty or like his actions are placing his mom in danger.
Steph, DH Jason (1-1-11), DS Owen (10-3-03) and DS Kai (10-13-11)
Just sending hugs. No matter what you do it will be the least worst option. Trust yourself and do what you need to for your family.
I wonder if you know a mental health professional or if there is a "friends and family of people who are mentally unstable" hotline (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Default.aspx ??) in the world that you could call, that might give some insight about how to deal with this. It seems like something that's been studied (when people threaten suicide but won't seek help), and that might give you and your DH some guidance as to how to most fruitfully respond. I'm an information person, though, that may not be the best answer for you two.
StephanieOwen, I think the previous posters have given you really sound advice. I'm not sure I have much to add about your relationship with your MIL. As for how to help you DH cope, it sounds like you and he are already on the same page, so that's good. He seems to understand with whom his first obligations lie. Some level of guilt is probably unavoidable, though, especially when MIL is doing her best to make him feel responsible for her. I'm thinking that he needs to get to the similar place as you--knowing what he needs and wants, and realizing that putting his needs aside to accommodate his mother won't make her better. He needs a little distance to gain a little objectivity. So that he can see, when she threatens some action in response to his behavior, the thing to do isn't to change his actions, but to address the thing going on behind her threats. Good luck. Try not to stress too much about it. With mental illness, I think of the analogy of trying to save a drowning person. As long as they're flailing, they'll drown you as well if you get right into the thick of it. Throw her a lifeline, but realize that much of what happens will be beyond his control.
My BTDT advice? Back far, far away now and be ready to help the Baker Act (well, you're not in FL but I don't know what they call it elsewhere) process along anyway you can when it is necessary.
I agree. FIL is her main support, then your DH is second.
Oh and congrats! I didn't realize you were having a little one.
Anne, Mama to Conner 2/27/04 Gabrielle 2/6/06 W/LMC-TCS, Neurogenic Bladder, AFO & KAFO wearer, Neurogenic Bowel & Delaney 5/12/08 & Beethoven & Gizmo
typed up a response and it evaporated. Anyhow, it a nutshell--Therapy. For your husband. I have MIL boundary issues (different from yours in that there are no glaring mental health issues). For months after our son was born, I talked to DH about boundaries with his mom. He'd enforce them, she'd get mad, he'd be miserable, and blame me for forcing him to have "silly boundaries" and "ruin" his relationship with her. Finally he went to therapy and the therapist told him the same thing I had been saying. This time, he listened because it was coming from an outside person, a "professional." It made all the difference because boundaries were now part of *his* plan for a healthy relationship.
Especially considering your MIL is talking about suicide, I would *not* want to be the one pushing your DH on the boundary issue. I would really want a therapist going through that with him. Of course you can encourage him and back up what he/she says, but if something does happen, at least there will be less pressure and blame on you, and also he will have a relationship with someone already who can help him through everything else.
And yes...keep your boundaries on your birth. Your MIL has choices to make and one of those is if she is going to seek treatment for her mental health. The fact that she is not well does not mean you should change your birth plans and make yourself uncomfortable during your birth. I have all the empathy in the world for those who deal with mental health issues, but that doesn't give her the right to control your life.
Thanks again for all the thoughts! Things seemed to be on an uphill swing for the last 4 or 5 days. I wasn't communicating much with MIL (I choose to let dh deal with all that) but ds invited MIL and FIL over to our house friday night (he had a party for Phineas and Ferb's movie premiere.... and I'm pretty sure I lost my crunchy status by admitting that! LOL!). They came and MIL was actually in a really good mood.
Then this evening dh, ds and I were walking to the store when my phone rang (dh had left his phone at home). It was my MIL, so I answered it (since dh was right there). She sounded upset and just asked to speak to dh. So I gave him the phone. She apparently was flipping out, saying there was some sort of emergency and she couldn't get in touch with FIL (who was at work). She asked if we could try to get him. Sure, no problem (dh and FIL work at the same company so if FIL didn't answer his phone, dh could have made some more calls to track him down). FIL answered when we called, though, and said everything was fine- he was just in a meeting with some head guys of the company and couldn't talk, but would call MIL ASAP. So he calls MIL and then calls us back. Apparently there was no emergency, MIL was just upset that FIL was working "late" (it was not even 6:00.... not even close to being "late" for this company). So then dh calls MIL and asks if everything is fine, what's the emergency and does she need him to come over there (we only live like 5 minutes from her). MIL apparently flips out, tells dh that "nobody would even care if I dropped dead right now. If I did, nobody would notice anyway" and hangs up the phone Of course this upsets dh. For the first time, however, he didn't give in to her drama (and I kept my mouth shut on the topic and would have understood if he went over there to check on her). Instead, he called FIL to see if he was on his way home (and tell him what MIL said) then continued on our walk. FIL called us later to say that he was home and that MIL was fine (she was upset, but was physically fine).
I am trying to just stay out of it and be an ear for dh when he wants to talk about this stuff. I really think she needs some serious help, but there's not much I can do about it (especially because she won't say these things to me- only to dh and FIL).
Steph, DH Jason (1-1-11), DS Owen (10-3-03) and DS Kai (10-13-11)