By Kari Pike
The first phone call came about 10:30 pm. Our daughter Kati, in the early stages of labor, just wanted to check in and let me know that her contractions were getting stronger and closer together. She wanted to labor at home as long as possible, but felt a little unsure about how long she should wait. Despite having contractions only 5 minutes apart, I could tell by her cheerful voice and ability to focus on our conversation, that she could comfortably labor at home a while longer. The second phone call came at half past midnight. Kati’s contractions remained very manageable, but they were every 3-4 minutes and had been that way for over an hour. Everyone agreed that it was time to have a baby!
I met Kati, her husband Chris, and Kati’s mother-in-law Kathy, at a local hospital. While Kati got down to the business of birthing her baby (she was dilated to 9 cm when she arrived), we visited and laughed together, eagerly anticipating the moment this baby boy would make his world debut. We didn’t have to wait very long. Wesly took his first breath less than an hour and a half later. We “oohed” and “ahhed” and while taking pictures for our grandma brag books, Kathy and I shared stories of our own birth experiences. Our bond as “sister grandmas” grew.
A couple of days later, Kathy and I spent the evening with Kati and Chris, helping with household duties and showing the new parents how to bathe and care for the baby. We took turns snuggling Wesly and voted on who he looked most like. Then Kathy related an experience she had at the hospital the morning Wesly was born. She had gone to the cafeteria for a moment and, on her way back to Kati’s room, passed the nurse’s station. A couple of the nurses were talking about Kati, her quick, unmedicated birth, and how she had her mother and her mother-in-law there at the same time. The nurses were amazed at how everyone looked so happy, with no issues or anything. They seemed surprised to see the moms acting like they actually liked each other! We found Kathy’s description of the nurses and their perception of our experience not only amusing, but difficult to believe. After all, who would take “issues” into a labor and delivery room? I told Kathy that we should write a book. We could call it The Mother-in-Law Book – How to Get Along. We could even send it to Oprah, and of course she would have us on her show! We laughed and, recognizing we were all suffering from sleep deprivation, said our goodbyes and drove home.
Now that I think about it, while I joked about writing that book, perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea. The more people I share this story with, the more horror stories I hear about in-laws…not just in daily life, but yes, even in the delivery room. My own experiences with in-laws (parents and siblings) have been positive and fulfilling. That doesn’t mean I’ve gone without challenges. One brother-in-law suffers from serious mental illness and there have been moments of misunderstanding with other members of the family. But overall, we get along. We accept each other for who we are and love each other because of our differences. If writing about these experiences could help someone else heal a relationship, and as a result bring them peace and joy, then I want to write that book. In fact, I feel it a responsibility to write that book!
I think I’ll go call my mother-in-law!