December marks several reasons for us to celebrate every year. Of course there is Christmas, my favorite holiday. And last year, about a week before Christmas, DS was born, giving me yet another reason to look forward to December every year.
But I have also found another reason to celebrate this particular month, and that is due to the fact that December marks our one-year anniversary of being NMIL-free. Even though we didn't officially go NC until April of 2011, the last time we physically saw her was in December of 2010, the day after DS was born. It's true that there was some very superficial and limited contact with NMIL in the few months following that day, before we officially went NC, but I still feel triumphant about the fact that she has been physically gone from our lives for almost one year. And, there is definitely a sense of pride knowing that the physical distance we've maintained has been our personal choice, held fast by a steadfast resolve on our parts to keep our healthy boundaries in place. DH and I CHOSE this route, to be NMIL-free, and there is a sense of peace in the decisions we have made to lead us here.
In about a week, it will be official: One year NMIL-free.
I wanted to take some time in this post to reflect on that last meeting with NMIL, because it was markedly different from the one we had with her when DD was born, and even though I consider it a success in terms of maintaining our boundaries, I am happy to say that we won't have to repeat it as our family continues to grow.
Prior to DS's birth, DH and I decided that we would not inform any of DH's FOO when I went into labor, when we were on our way to the hospital, or when I gave birth. I knew that I would only be comfortable telling his parents that DS was born when I was in my hospital room, showered, and prepared for them to visit. It had to be that way because of how they behaved for the birth of DD one year before. These same rules did not apply to my FOO because they would have been unnecessary and unwarranted.
It's called Cause and Effect, the definition of which is, "Noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other or others," according to Dictionary dot com. In other words, our rules (or boundaries, or limits, call them what you will) were a necessary reaction to the actions and events that had taken place previously. What's more, this whole "cause and effect" notion can be seen in a larger context, when you look at how our estrangement from DH's entire FOO has panned out. But on the lesser scale, the boundaries we put in place for the birth of our DS last December had to be invoked for the sake of our own emotional and physical well-being.
I think it is terribly unfortunate that DH does not have parents we could safely share that information with. Just moments after DS was born, I was on the phone with my own mother, telling her that "We have a new baby boy!" She already knew I was in labor and had been put in charge of DD for the duration of our hospital stay, so it came as no surprise to her that DS was born. She relayed the information to the important people and everyone made plans to come and visit us.
I can not say that NMIL wasn't surprised about the birth of DS, nor would I say that there isn't some satisfaction in the idea that we took her off-guard. Once I was out of the delivery room, had taken a shower, and the first round of visitors came, DH asked me if it would be alright if he called his parents. He asked me because he was protecting my rights and my privacy, something he knew his parents would not do if given the opportunity. By the time we got to our room, which was several hours after DS was born, it was very late and I did not want to see his family, or deal with their antics. I told DH that I was okay with him calling to let them know that DS had been born, but I wouldn't be comfortable with them visiting until the next day. There was a part of DH that wanted to call his parents sooner, that desperately wanted them to be involved in the birth of our new baby, even in some small way...but by December of last year, that part of him was shrinking and making room for reality: Whatever hopes he had for a relationship with his parents were much less important than creating a safe place for his new, growing family.
First, DH called his EF, who (true to form) did not pick up his phone and did not respond until the following day.
Then he called NMIL. Although the news that we'd had DS could not have been all-together shocking since she did know our due-date, I have always imagined that it was still a surprise for her to hear the news without having had even the slightest hint or pretense. People like NMIL always think that they are going to be kept in the loop because they believe that their targets are too stupid and too easily manipulated to act any differently. Narcissists assume that they will be included, invited, accepted; that their abuses will be tolerated. NMIL probably thought that we wouldn't dare keep her so far on the outside that she wouldn't even know I was in labor, especially given how DH had informed her the year before for the birth of DD.
But last year was different, and she had no idea that I was in labor. Again, I feel a sense of satisfaction just knowing that DH was strong enough to fight against his NM's intense training in order to protect me and his little ones when we needed him the most. Had he been weaker, he might have caved and called his mother against my desire that she not be informed. But he found in him an inner strength and resolve that he probably never knew existed and was able to fulfill the emotional and physical needs of his wife, daughter, and newborn son.
It was beautiful.
So DH called NMIL and told her we'd had DS. She asked to come and visit and DH told her that we would call her the next day when she'd be allowed to come and see him. She didn't ask questions and didn't press for more, as she had when DD was born, and I attribute some of her lack of aggression to the fact that she was taken off-guard. It is not often when you get to surprise a narcissist, but when it happens the results can be very powerful. If I had to guess, I'd say she'd gotten the wind taken out of her sails just because of how we chose to handle telling her the news, and she didn't quite know what to do.
She got a little pep back by the next day, and called DH in the morning before he called her: a pathetic and obvious attempt to gain back some of the power she probably felt she'd lost the night before. Why is the fact that she called DH significant? Because a mother who truly respected her son and daughter-in-law and saw them as being deserving of rights and consideration would have waited for them to call her. She would have respected their time, their needs, and their clearly-stated boundaries ("Mom, I'll call you tomorrow and let you know when you can come and visit) without question. DH did not catch all of this and I did not point it out to him at the time. Quite frankly, NMIL and her power-plays were just not important enough for that. DH told his NM that he would call her back when we were ready for her to visit and followed-through.
I have mentioned before that when NMIL and NSIL came to the hospital, they only stayed for a short-length of time. She stayed long enough to make an underhanded comment to DH about his weight, give us some thought-less gifts, and take a bunch of pictures of DS (all of which I'm sure she showed off to her hundreds of "friends" in her ongoing attempt to appear the doting grandma...we know how that goes). NMIL became obviously uncomfortable when my aunt arrived fifteen minutes into her visit and therefore didn't stay much longer after that. In terms of meetings with narcissists, it probably couldn't have gone much better than that.
And then, we never saw her again.
And we have no plans to because we know she'll be the same NMIL fifty years from now that she was the entire time we knew her. DH can hold out hope that she'll change some day. I'm lucky in that she isn't my mother, so I don't have to. The most important thing to me is that DH and I protect ourselves and our babies from her and others like her. I fully respect DH's right to feel some hope in his heart that his NM and EF will change someday, and DH fully respects my right to feel that those people do not have a place in our lives because of the reality of how they have behaved. I do not believe that it is altogether impossible for those people to change...I simply think it is unlikely.
So DH and I have found another reason to celebrate this December: We're bringing out the old and ringing in the new. We're celebrating the acceptance of reality and the blissful feeling of peace. We're rejoicing in our right to maintain boundaries and our strength to do so. We are sending up cheers to freedom and new life. December holds promise and love for us, and we'll carry that into each and every new year.