Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to gently explain no contact


#1

My partner and I are expecting our first child. His sister is very ill and hasn’t been compliant with treatment for about 10 years. For a variety of reasons, our doctors have indicated that it is not safe for a newborn to be around my sister in law. She has stopped bathing entirely and has some contagious conditions as a result, plus she suffers from a recurring delusion that she has a child or that God will “give” her a child. She is verbally abusive and, in acute moments, has become physical.

She lives with my in-laws who are deeply in denial about how sick she truly is, despite the constant involuntary commitments. How should we communicate the fact the we won’t be bringing the child into their home and that sister in law will not have contact with the child? They have a huge stigma around her illness which has been a significant impediment to getting her any help. The last thing I want to do is reinforce their view or make it sound like this is a permanent thing - if she improves we would welcome her to participate with the baby.

However in her current state they need to understand and respect this boundary (something they do not have a great history of doing). How can we convey this gently but firmly? As parents of someone with schizophrenia, what would you want/need to hear in this circumstance?

Thank you in advance for your advice.


#2

Hi, Congratulations on your baby. I’m sorry your sil is not doing well.

My brother told me that my sil does not want their new baby around my adult child with SMI if he is not doing well. Since my adult child is doing really well with treatment right now, the condition is that my adult child not be alone with the baby.

Just be clear and brief:
We are not coming over to your house with the baby because sil lives there and is having lots of symptoms of illness. We are concerned for the baby’s safety because she can be physically aggressive when her illness is acute.
Until sil has been stable with medical treatment for (a number of months, maybe three to six?), we will not bring the baby here and we will not welcome sil into our home. We love sil very much and are looking forward to when she is stable and can spend time with the baby, but that time is not now.
Please come over and see the baby without her (then give your limits for times, dates, call first, whatever).

And then hope for the best. My personal feelings aside, I just accepted my family’s request. Do not talk to your in-laws about denial, sil’s specific symptoms, etc UNLESS they bring it up and ask why or ask what you have observed that brought you to this decision.

Since sil is having involuntary commitments, there is a strong chance her parents know exactly what is going on and are not in denial, but simply doing their best to help a beloved child who has a serious illness. There really aren’t many treatment options in the US right now and stigma is not usually the main cause (statistically) of not receiving medical treatment: it’s lack of resources, lack of access to treatment and most of all, total absence of availability of needed treatment modalities in the vast majority of states, counties, and cities.

Do not go to their house with the baby. IF they show up at your house with sil, do not let any of them in. Have husband go outside and talk to them or talk to them on the phone.

I am not writing this because I think or believe your sil cannot be around the baby, but because this is what you have observed, conveyed, and wish for your family. And if you proceed by only stating your boundaries and intentions without criticizing your in-laws, I think everything will go pretty well for all of you.

The joy of a new baby is mixed with enough logistical stress of infant care already and your physical recovery from the pregnancy. You are right that it is time to take care of yourself and set boundaries that feel good to you and protect you and your child.

These requests are for your nuclear family. I statements are super important. Get on the same page with your husband and make sure you are both conveying the same message without any blame or criticism of the in-laws.

You maybe have no idea how often people blame and criticize the parents of people with SMI in our society; it’s unreal because no one blames the parents of people with any other severe medical illness, just us. The fact that it is almost impossible to get our beloved adult children the medical treatment and social supports they require and would benefit from causes more pain than the criticism does. So, hopefully you can be aware of this reality and move forward in a way that recognizes that they cannot get her the medical care she needs even when they desperately try to do that, as you can see and read about all over this forum.


#3

Thank you Hereandhere! I really appreciate the advice on what to say and how to say it. I want to find a way to set boundaries without isolating my in laws. Already, due to other incidents, extended family will not bring their young children over so I don’t think they will be surprised, but I’m sure it is a deeply painful message to receive and I want to convey it as kindly as possible.

And, unfortunately in this case it is denial - they do not trust doctors/science and have spent years saying it’s not an illness but a demonic curse. My partner tried everything to get his sister help and they have fought him at every step. When they finally decided to believe she was sick (very recently) they concluded there was no point in trying to get her care and that praying for a miracle was enough. It’s tragic all around. I will NOT bring any of this up, as you have suggested, just adding it for context.


#4

Probably not the best advice, but if it were me, I’d just invite the parents to your house to visit with the baby, and just use excuses not to go to their house where the sister lives. In other words, I’d avoid any type of confrontation.


#5

Thanks Jan! I considered that but they would just bring her anyway and probably be hurt that she wasn’t invited if I didn’t explain the why.


#6

If something like your situation, applied to me with my sz son I would want the straight and honest truth, no holds barred, no sugar coating, but that is me, I tend to take things right on the chin and I prefer blatant honesty over a veiled attempt to spare my feelings. However if I knew my son was that far out of control with health and hygiene issues and non compliant with medication, I wouldn’t willingly put him in social situations anyway…again that’s just me. I wish you luck and as hard as it may be I recommend firmly standing your ground on this one, as long as your sister in law’s condition remains unimproved. You are doing the right thing.


#7

Thanks Catherine! I agree that honesty is the best policy and the least likely way to hurt feelings. Luckily it should be a very factual/medical conversation - the doctors have made it clear that her hygiene and resulting infectious conditions (which she is not taking medicine consistently to address) are dangerous for a baby’s immune system and can lead to some pretty scary things. So it will simply be “we love sister, but we are following the doctor’s advice and here are the boundaries based on that advice”. I do not think it will be well received (certainly not as graciously as Hereandhere handled it with her family) but I don’t have a choice.


#8

We told SIL about the pregnancy and it went about how I expected it would go. The conversation devolved into how she is cursed and this is the closest she’ll get to having a child, followed quickly by comments showing confusion about whose child it is. This is a pattern and I’m sure it will soon be her child and the full blown delusion of being married and having kids will spring back up. I understand why my partner wanted to tell her, but I wish we had wanted until the very end of the pregnancy - I don’t have the energy or the mental space to deal with the calls, messages and other delusional behavior that is headed our way.


#9

How sad, the marriage and kids and everything that goes with it is probably something she had wanted, maybe someplace deep within her thoughts? So sad for her, that she will miss out on a relationship with her niece/nephew.

Best of luck to you and your baby


#10

It is very sad. She always wanted to get married and have a family, and the delusion is a recurring one. I wish I had known her before she was sick so I could see who she really is/was. The person I’ve known is manipulative, selfish and, sometimes, very cruel. I know that’s the illness, but I’ve only known that version of her. I don’t know how to have any kind of relationship with her and truly don’t know how to foster any kind of safe relationship between her and my child.


#11

I believe you did the right thing to bring it up now. This will give time for the SIL to accept. I had to deal with this in a lighter problem when I stopped letting my ill daughter drive my car. It took about 3 months, then she stopped ranting about it and accepted not driving anymore.

Personally, I would not accept calls that are negative from your SIL.

When things get negative in communication to me, I back up to something/anything that was said earlier that was positive, and then say “I have to go now.” For instance, “I’m glad you liked your breakfast (from earlier in the conversation), and it was nice talking to you, but I have to go now.”

She needs to accept your decision, you need to keep your boundaries blocking negativity, and you must know by now that she will never get better unless medicated. That is out of your hands unfortunately.

Take good care of yourself.


#12

@BDinVA1, so tragic for everyone involved, right? Now the baby will miss out on an aunt!

I know when my kids were born, I wanted as many family members as possible to be around them. In this case, I feel like your decision is neither “right” or “wrong” because this situation is so delicate and involves family and calls for matters of the heart. However, your decision is definitely a “logical” one based on what you’re witnessing. The safety of the baby must be the first consideration, but I can’t help but feel everyone will be losing out from this.

Sad for her, sad for you (that it had to come to this), and sad for baby


#13

Thank you @oldladyblue. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Hopefully it does give her time to adjust, though I have my doubts it will - that would require a consistent response from all involved and sadly I can’t count on my in-laws in this regard.

After miscarriages, fertility treatments and a watchful first trimester, I just don’t have much emotional energy left right now and dealing with my partner’s family is stealing a lot of the joy from this process. They did not agree with our message that the doctors deemed SIL unsafe to be around and that we were going to follow the doctor’s advice. All I see right now is another series of exhausting discussions and boundary pushing - and on this they get no say.


#14

I feel for you- the stress of the pregnancy issue is enough without having to deal with uncooperative in laws and MI sister in law.
My sz son is adopted and his birth mom is manipulative and sometimes cruel too. I was supportive of everyone loving the baby so he had visits with her when he was small but as soon as he could tell me he didn’t want to go, I stopped them and didn’t regret it.
Hold your line, at least at first and until you are feeling much better emotionally.
And change happens- so try to keep that image of a healthy relationship somewhere in mind, when the cards are aligned and you feel up to it.

It is all so sad, as mbheart says.


#15

I have an idea, and I hope you don’t mind the suggestion… Perhaps the handling of your partner’s family should be delegated totally to your partner? In other words, the two of you agree that you should NOT have to deal with the in-laws or the SIL on the visitation subject. He should just take this on totally himself and deal with it with his sister, mother and father until it is understood that there is no way the two of you are violating the doctor’s advice.

Yes, it is sad that they will miss out on the baby visits, HOWEVER, this IS your child, not theirs and certainly not your ill SIL’s delusional child. I don’t believe you owe any more than you want to give, especially as no one is successfully managing SIL’s illness and well, she IS psychotic after all…


#16

Thank you, that’s a great idea! I appreciate any and all suggestions - I am so far out of my element here and I really want to set good boundaries while remaining empathetic to the situation and the fact that SIL is ill and doesn’t mean to do any of this. The situation doesn’t feel safe and I’m going to do whatever the doctors think is best for my child.


#17

Father-in-law spoke to my partner yesterday in a very frustrating conversation. He is taking the message about boundaries very personally and won’t accept what the doctors have said about risks to newborns from his daughter. His response was that herpes and staph infection “are not an issue because you can see” when she’s having a herpes outbreak (not true and doesn’t address the staph infection). Even after explaining that he was incorrect on the medical issues and sharing with him the information from our doctors, he refused to accept it. The fact that staph infections alone have a 10-12% fatality rates for newborns didn’t stop him. We didn’t even touch on how poorly she is doing psychiatrically and how she is unsafe for that reason too.

He maintains that it is not fair to SIL to not let her have contact with the baby “because she is the person most excited about this baby”. He thinks my baby is good for SIL so she should have access.

I got so angry. My child is not medicine for his daughter. He doesn’t get to demand we place our child at risk to make his child happy. Based on his response, I am leaning heavily towards no access for the in-laws either until they demonstrate they can respect our decisions. Am I overreacting? I don’t trust them at all to not show up with SIL or create unsafe situations for my child just because they can’t accept how sick their daughter is.


#18

No, you are not overreacting. I agree. This is YOUR baby. Protecting a newborn is very important.

As a retort, you could tell them that they are free to adopt a baby themselves so the SIL can take care of that one… just an idea.


#19

Thanks @oldladyblue. This is so demoralizing and infuriating. It’s destroying my poor husband who really thought his father would be reasonable once the risks were explained. Now I am at the point where we won’t be sharing when I go into labor and won’t be going down to see them. They can come to us if they leave SIL at home.

I don’t understand how they think it’s ok to go against medical advice and expose a newborn to health risks just because it would make SIL sad to be “excluded”. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised based on how they’ve ignored medical care for their own daughter.


#20

I think you should stick to what is best for your baby, but expressed as kindly as possible. But stick to what you feel is best for the baby. That is your responsibility.

Hospitals generally will work with patients to provide security for patients, don’t hesitate to use that with clear instructions to the hospital while you are there.