*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Becoming parents with your relationship partner is a special moment for a couple, but the way your extended family behaves can contribute to your happiness or add stress to it.
How would you react if you went to let your in-laws know they would be grandparents and they weren't sure they'd be related to the baby?
Could you find a way to have a good relationship with them after such a comment, or would you avoid any visits during the pregnancy and after giving birth?
My friend Sarah, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Dean, for two years. They had a long engagement and spent three years planning their wedding, with their parents also helping to cover the costs.
"They wanted us to be happy while celebrating our relationship. And it really mattered because our big day was so special, with everyone we cared about there. And I felt more in love while knowing we could remember our wedding for years to come," Sarah said.
She and Dean's parents didn't get along great ever since they met, but she appreciated the fact that they didn't miss any of the wedding planning appointments and did all they could for them. They didn't warm up to her, unfortunately, not even after the ceremony.
"I was a bit disappointed by that because I wanted to have a good relationship with them. But in the end, it wasn't about me. If they didn't like me but were fine with me being their son's wife, I didn't think I could do more than that. I accepted it and focused on my relationship with my husband. After all, we weren't living together, so it's not like I had to see them that often anyway," Sarah said.
Things went on this way up until the couple's second anniversary when Sarah found out she was pregnant. The couple had been looking forward to becoming parents ever since they got married, but they waited on it because they wanted to have better incomes.
After learning they would have a baby, they agreed Sarah should stay home and give up on her job. While her parents weren't happy knowing their daughter wouldn't have an income anymore, they realized the couple's priorities for their relationship were different and decided to support them.
Then, Sarah and Dean went to visit his parents to tell them they would be grandparents soon. Unfortunately, that visit wasn't about being excited, and it caused a lot of arguments.
As soon as they arrived at their house, they saw Dean's parents, Tom and Margaret, out on the porch. And they immediately asked the couple what it was all about.
"They didn't even invite us to come in. So we sat outside, and Dean told them about the baby. I remember some neighbors were passing by and looking at us," Sarah said.
When Margaret heard about Sarah's pregnancy, she was quiet for a few moments. Then she asked a question no one expected. "Is it yours?" she said, looking at her son.
Dean didn't say anything, and his dad went quiet. One of the neighbors who had heard Sarah came to say congratulations. But she kept looking at her mother-in-law to see if she would take back what she'd said.
"We told her about the baby; she asked if it's his. That wasn't just offensive; it was like encouraging my husband not to trust me. I got up and asked her what she meant by that. She just repeated the question," Sarah said.
Seeing her mother-in-law wasn't about to apologize, and Tom didn't add anything, she told Dean it was time to go. Dean was also surprised by what his mom said and texted her later to ask her to reconsider her words.
"The only thing he got was a call in which she told him again she had her doubts, and she didn't think I cared that much about our relationship. That made me even more determined to avoid her. And not just while I'm pregnant. I don't want her to have anything to do with our baby if she thinks that's the way to treat me," Sarah said.
Her parents were upset when they learned what took place, and they also called Margaret because they got along well. She didn't take their calls and replied to their texts that she stood by what she'd said.
Dean feels convinced his mom wasn't trying to upset his wife and that maybe she got confused, but he agrees not to visit her again until she says she's sorry for it.
What do you think about this situation? Was it fair for Margaret to suggest her son wasn't the father and that the baby wouldn't be her grandkid? Should the mother-in-law apologize for what she said and focus on having a better relationship with Sarah so she can see the baby and stay in touch with the couple?