Battles, like words, must be chosen carefully. I know this because my own words have bitten me in the butt so many times I should be wearing a size 2 by now. Instead I'm left with much regret and a butt that bears the marks of a summer hailstorm.
Over the years my mother in-law and I have sparred over everything from trivial matters to traumatic incidents. Since we’re both hard-headed women, neither of us backs down when defending our opinions, regardless of any supporting evidence we may or may not possess. Debating wives tales during each of my pregnancies became a sort of sport for me, given my, um, direct personality.
As I reached up to retrieve some sort of pre-packaged goody from a kitchen cabinet one day while I was pregnant with my daughter, the moment was ruined by an unexpected warning.
“You need to be careful reaching like that. The baby could get the cord wrapped around it’s neck (“it” refers to anyone, non gender-specific, when used by my mother in-law) you know,” came the first of many pregnancy-related fun facts likely pulled from “The Clan of the Cave Bear“ Cliff Notes. She was never one for reading lengthy novels.
Once again, hormones and sarcasm hijacked my mouth before I could flip the censor switch. Now that I think of it, I do believe I’m lacking that switch. I turned to face her.
“What? You’re telling me that these (I flapped my arms for demonstrative purposes) are connected to the baby’s umbilical cord? Who told you that?” Who delivered this woman’s babies, Fred Flintstone? Sometimes the generational gap totally exasperates me.
Childbirth. A physically painful process to say the least, but one of the most rewarding experiences unique to us gals. My mother in-law is horrified that today’s women remain conscious during childbirth, never mind those who opt out of the pain-blocking, worship-worthy epidural. Please, that’s just insanity according to her (see “Clan” Cliff notes again).
Perhaps that’s why she strolled into my hospital room, wielding a camera with her best friend in tow, while I was in labor with her first grandchild. I should mention here that, due to fear and inexperience, I forewent the epidural and my labor was well under way when they busted in like a “Laverne and Shirley meets the Golden Girls” duo. Linda Blair had nothing on me at that moment. I propped up on my elbows and fixed her with a look that could have simultaneously stopped global warming and BP‘s oil leak in The Gulf.
“GET OUT!” came from some primal force deep within my exhausted, pain-ridden body. I’m not even certain the sound I made was human. One look at what I’m sure appeared to be demonic eyes had her and her little friend out the door faster than you can say “Push!”
Her first pictures marking the glorious event were taken from outside the nursery window. Her hands must have been shaking, because every one of those photos came out blurry. I don’t know - she did manage to cut off her son’s head when she took the one of him proudly crouched beside a turkey he murdered. That picture’s one of my favorites.
During subsequent arrivals of grandchildren, my mother in-law could be found in the waiting room with a stack of magazines, a bag of snacks, and a bottle of Tums.