Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I feel that my husband and I have the right to call him our baby. We made him; he's ours.
Before he was born, my mother-in-law would go on and on about "my baby," meaning, her grandchild, and it irritated me. I'm currently avoiding her phone calls because she hasn't gone one day without calling him her baby. When she visited after the birth she said it two or three times a day and I had to fight the urge to punch her. Now I hear her FaceTiming my husband calling my son her baby every day.
It's been two months and I still feel stabby, hence the phone-call avoidance. How do I get her to stop, or get over this? My husband thinks I'm being petty.
Answer: Well, that certainly doesn't help. You might be overreacting, but your feelings are real and trace to something real. Sorting these out would go a lot better if your husband had your back.
You and he need to talk about this, starting with your saying (calmly, I hope) that you're willing to concede that you've overreacted, but you'd like some acknowledgment from him that there's something to this - that brushing it off won't make it go away. Whether yours are too high or hers are too low, somebody has an issue with boundaries here, and as the ones in charge, you and your husband need to work together to figure out the who, the why and the how.
This conversation can't be about getting his mom to stop using "my baby." You can't win that. It can and should be about cementing the primacy of your family, and your allegiances to each other. You're obviously vulnerable on this point, and having your husband align with his mom was exactly what you (and therefore your little family) didn't need.
So address that vulnerability: "It seems petty to you, but I'm asking you to consider that I'm a new mom, that my defenses have been triggered, and that reassurance from you would go a long way right now." Spelling it out is often a gift to a partner. When your marriage feels solid, I expect your mother-in-law's gushing will no longer move the earth.
Question: I get it. I'd be annoyed, too. But you might put yourself in your mother-in-law's shoes for a second, not to empathize with her, but to understand why she does it. Is there a cultural/family thing where everybody calls the youngest child in the family "my baby"? Or their favorite child (which I find even more icky)? She might just be acting out of habit, she might be clueless, she might be lonely, or she might be a wacko. Knowing why she does it will help you deal with it.
Answer: And why it rankles so. If she were at peace with her mother-in-law, then she'd be able to celebrate the gushing, or merely accept it: "Yay, more people in the world who love my baby." Your good suggestion to understand the mother-in-law can also reveal to the new mama why she's so threatened by her.