No, this is not a post paying homage to the anatomy that’s currently housing my little man. As grateful as I am that my female plumbing is working perfectly, I can think of two other persons who are more grateful that I am: my in-laws.
When I married Mr Thick, I didn’t think much about having babies and procreation. I was focused on the two of us, the fact that his parents might be intensely desiring for grandchildren never crossed my mind.
Mr Thick is the runt of the litter, with both of his elder brothers married – years before we did – and childless. They are also much older than I am, in their forties. Which makes me the owner of the only viable uterus in the family. Needless to say, his mother cast her scrutinizing eye on us after our wedding, fully expecting the two of us to produce a grandchild for her in the near future.
During our first year of marriage, we were enjoying each other’s company with no intention of procreating. Going into our second year, I felt that it was time to spawn and populate the world with mini-me(s). We kept it quiet because, COME ON, this was a personal decision – NOBODY ELSE needed to know.
And my mother-in-law became more and MORE anxious.
She threw the gauntlet down at reunion dinner that year. We had all finished feasting and were sitting idly around the dining table with full bellies. Out of nowhere, she banged her fists on the table and proclaimed loudly, “By the end of the year, you lot had better produce a grandchild for me.” The eyes of my brothers- and sisters-in-law turned on me and I suddenly felt like downing that “Drink me” potion and shrinking to the size of an ant.
“Well, it’s all on you now,” quipped brother-in-law #1. “Because none of us are going to have kids.”
My brains exploded into a series of WTFWTFWTFWTF.
Turns out that mom-in-law had been driven to a rage by a friend of hers at the wet market, who commented that despite mom-in-law’s comfortable life of being a homemaker, having a car and a helper, she wasn’t blessed with grandchildren.
From that point on, I realised that the pressure had been steadily mounting. It was like the dam that is holding back flood waters and I became very aware of my mother-in-law’s need to have a grandchild.
Every single comment that she made added to the pressure, and boy, were those comments coming in frequently. She would say things like “if you have a Tiger baby…”, “I already have three sons and I really want a granddaughter” or “next year you will be collecting ang pows for your baby”. Unfortunately, it was also during this time that we embarked on our roller coaster infertility ride, when it felt like I was in the deepest of hell battling my own demons. I was tuned to the highest level of sensitivity, I had enough to deal with and I certainly didn’t want to handle her desperation.
My emotions came to a boiling point when I realized that mom-in-law had made comments regarding my weight and fertility to my mother, who wisely kept it from me. I was on the phone with my sister, having a moan about something my mother did when Sista blurted out that mom-in-law had told my mother that we weren’t conceiving because I was too skinny to bear children.
Cracking under the strain of going through assisted reproductive treatments without telling ANYONE and the pressure from my mother-in-law, I withdrew from them and started crying in my sleep. Mr Thick and I had a huge row one afternoon when I told him that I could never forget that his mother had made such unfair judgements on me; he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t simply forgive and forget.
Eventually, when we decided to go for the first round of IVF, we shared the news with our families. Mom-in-law backed off. Mostly. She did have a go at us once for not wanting to buy a larger clothes drying rack, which left us wondering about her vehemence. Until she shouted out the real reason, “Wait till your baby comes, then you will know!”
Ah. Yes. Everything revolves around this non-existent baby.
Today, obviously, she is a much happier person. Her life is complete now that she has a grandchild to look forward to. She did have an emotional outburst about me being too thin (again) initially but for most of the time, thankfully, she leaves us be.
Looking back, I can see why she became so desperate. She has been waiting for a grandchild for more than 10 years: that’s how long brother-in-law #1 has been married for. When it became clear that there was no forthcoming grandchild, it became a burden that weighed heavily on her mind. It certainly didn’t help that her siblings had many children who bore many children of their own. While I have never wanted to have big full-month dos for my kids, I am now planning to have one for the nugget just so that she can show off her very first grandson to her friends and family.
But from this, I have also learnt to NEVER EVER interfere with my children’s decisions to have children. We should only have kids because we want to, not because someone expects us to. The ensuing pressure is just too, too great for an individual to bear.
And I have also learnt this: despite all these, my Tiny Human is first and foremost MY CHILD. My parenting decisions will always take priority over any grandparent’s – that is the rule I intend to abide by.
For the rest of my life, I will never understand why having a grandchild has been so important to mom-in-law. But I am glad for her that her wish is finally coming true.