Life Advice



Ask Amy: Mother-in-law triggers traumatic experience

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

It is literally like a terrifying flashback to those hard days when my pain was so excruciating. I was struggling every day simply not to give up!

How do I get her to stop talking about these things that seem to be so triggering for me?

– Gutted in Illinois

Dear Gutted: My first recommendation is that you pay very close attention to your own health. Your traumatic experience giving birth (and it sounds truly and extremely painful), could have triggered postpartum depression – and/or PTSD.

I am not being deliberately alarmist, but your flashbacks are “terrifying,” and if these feelings don’t ease considerably with time, you really must seek mental health support and treatment.

Regarding your mother-in-law, a frank and respectful talk is in order.


She created a bright boundary regarding exactly how she was willing to be “helpful” to you.

She will hold the baby, if she wants to.

You can initiate a challenging conversation by saying, “This is a hard topic for me to bring up. I hope you will understand that I need to be honest with you. I am still struggling to recover from an incredibly challenging birth. You’ve made it clear that you aren’t willing to help out around our house, and I accept that. But every time you complain about your own burdens, I’m reminded of my own. I really wish you wouldn’t do it.”

Dear Amy: I’ve been following questions in your column from parents whose adult kids keep “bouncing back.”


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