My Mother-In-Law’s Emergency Surgery


I was in the kitchen, teaching one of my students by video, when my phone began to vibrate. It was my husband, which was strange because he never calls from work unless its urgent. I let it go to message the first time, then he called again.

Apologizing to my student, I walked into the entryway and took the call.

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The Japanese In-Laws (the good and the bad)

We’ve made our annual visit to the Japanese In-laws for the New Year. Since I live in Japan I always celebrate in Japan. I’ve not been home (to Texas) for Christmas in a long time.  If we ever have kids, maybe that will change.

We are eating Nabe, clinking our glass in a call of “Kanpai”, and celebrating the end of 2016.

I feel like I won the lottery of in-laws. Mine are very open-minded and understanding.

When my husband told his father of my infertility, my father-in-law immediately said that it was okay if we never had kids. He was worried about me. While he would love grandkids, he wants his family to be happy more.  My own father has been equally understanding and said a similar thing, “Plenty are happy without children.  I just want you to be happy.”

No one is pressuring me. There is no blame or recrimination.  This is opposite of the horror stories I’ve heard or read about from many others going through infertility who have been made to feel “broken” (biologically) because of it. Or that it’s somehow their fault.

It’s just one of the many things that is wonderful about my in-laws.

I remember when, three months into dating, my boyfriend (who became the hubby) asked if I would meet his parents. This blew me away at the time because all the other foreign women said that Japanese men wait at least a year to do that.  I expected the same, but I was wrong.

From the moment we met, despite the awkwardness and language barrier, they have always been kind and humble.

Before I met them I was anxious. I heard countless in-law horror stories from other foreigners.

One American woman with three kids by her Japanese husband told about how she no longer met with her in-laws. Her husband refused to let them near her after they continued to ask her “Why are you a fat American pig?” and then refused to apologize or acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Now they only drop off their grandchildren on the New Year to see their grandparents. However, even the grandkids didn’t want to meet them as they only say things like “How is your fat mother doing?” or “Why did your mother steal our son?” or “He could have done so much better.”

Then there was the Haitian woman’s story of her mother-in-law from hell.  She met and married a Japanese man in Haiti. Eventually they moved to Japan and had a baby together. Around this time the mother-in-law asked to move in with them. The Haitian woman desperately wanted to be a good daughter-in-law and, despite reservations, agreed.

It quickly became apparent she had made a terrible mistake when her MIL ran her finger across the top of the TV and held out her dirty finger pad like an indictment and said, “A Japanese wife would never allow this.”

The abuse grew worse and worse. Every mistake in childcare or housework was met with an emphatic, “A Japanese housewife would never do this. Are all woman lazy in Haiti? Hmm?”

Finally, the Haitian woman delivered an ultimatum to her husband: either the MIL leaves or she would go back to Haiti with their child.

He made the smart choice and kicked his mother out to a nearby a apartment he set up for her. She could come visit, but would need to mind her manners. The MIL seemed aghast and sputtered, “But I did nothing wrong. I was only joking around. She is too sensitive.”

These stories made me nervous, but my in-laws were nothing like that. They are sweet hearts who have always welcomed me into their home.

They have a thirteen year old, diabetic Scottish fold who comes and snuggles up to me now as I write this. I’m surprised he hasn’t hopped onto my keyboard yet. Wait… he’s looking at it.

Okay, he sauntered off to my husband.

I’m grateful to have such a great place to spend my New Years.

I hope everyone has such places.

Have a happy 2017.