The Un-Monster-in-Law

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monster in law
A mother-in-law helps a new mom accept the loss of her own mother.

I lost my mother when I was 23 years old to leukemia. She was diagnosed in September; by May, she had passed. That was 10 years ago. I don't think I understood then just what had been taken from me at the time. Sure, no one to send me care packages, no one to call when I needed to know how long to microwave the baked potatoes…but I was, after all, 23. These were things that I could live without or find from another source. In addition to my very loving, very dedicated father, I also have five older siblings. There was plenty of advice to go around.

Our mother-daughter relationship ended as just that: parent and child. We never established a friendship. We didn't get the chance. There were so many things I never knew about her. Questions that you only think to ask your mother when you are going through a life-changing event or hitting a milestone of your own—falling in love, landing your first big job, getting married, giving birth. Forum: Which is harder: marriage or motherhood?

It wasn't until I hit these major milestones that I began to notice something missing. I single-handedly planned my wedding. And while my father courteously paid for the entire event, I couldn't help but skimp on everything. How could I explain to him that flowers really can cost more than $6.99 a bunch? If only my mom were here, I'd think, there'd be no explaining. Splurge on the table linens? Sure! In the end, I was proud of myself for putting a New York City wedding together all by myself (for $6000!), but I also felt a little sad.

I was not without helping hands. My boyfriend's mother, Marsha, was ready, willing, and able. Anything I needed, she was there. I just couldn't accept the help. When I complained about her to my soon-to-be-husband, the worst insult I could come up with was, "She's too nice." Terrible flaw, isn't it?

This immature behavior of mine continued, and worsened, as we broke the big news six months after the wedding: I was pregnant. Oh, a grandmother's joy. I immediately felt overwhelmed and territorial by her good-natured attempts. This is my news, I thought. My joy. My moment. I wasn't accustomed to having someone care so much. After 10 motherless years, I had developed an iron-clad self-reliance, which probably wasn't too healthy. Video: How To Get Along With His Mom

With a newborn on the way, I knew the question was fast approaching: "When can we visit?" They were coming from South Carolina, so it would be easy to dodge "Can we be there for the delivery?" but they knew the due date; they could plan a very early visit.

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