Content Warning: Infertility
While not everyone will agree, there are some people in the world who are incredibly passionate about the idea of having and raising a baby.
When they find themselves unable to do that, their coping mechanisms might seem strange to others, reasoned the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor savecanada empathized with her husband’s brother and sister-in-law when they were unable to get pregnant.
But when they got a dog to cope and started treating their dog like their human niece, the Original Poster (OP) thought their grieving process was too much to accept.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my infertile in-laws that their dog is not equal to a child?”
The OP tried to be sensitive about her sister-in-law’s infertility during her own pregnancy.
“Two years ago, my husband (34 Male) and I (33 female) became pregnant. This was huge for us, as we both have always been really passionate about becoming parents.”
“Before we could tell anyone, my husband’s brother (35 Male) and his wife (38 Female) told the family that they had been trying to conceive but found out they couldn’t. Apparently, my SIL (sister-in-law) feared this due to past medical problems, but now it was confirmed by doctors.”
“They were devastated, and we were heartbroken for them.”
“My husband and I decided to hold off on announcing. We waited three months, but then I was starting to show and we had no choice.”
But the couple’s response to the OP’s pregnancy announcement surprised her.
“A week after we announced, my BIL (brother-in-law) and SIL adopted a dog named Bella.”
“Immediately she was all they talked about and they refused to go anywhere without her.”
“We used to be close, but this has ruined our relationship with them. My husband and his brother don’t hang out anymore because my BIL is so obsessed with Bella that he’s hard to talk to.”
“BIL’s lost friends over this obsession, and SIL has quit her job so she doesn’t have to spend any time away from the dog.”
“We even stopped our weekly family dinners because Bella barks non-stop, pulls food off the table, bites, etc. She’s a nightmare. Plus, my husband is allergic and can’t be around her for longer than an hour anyway.”
The couple’s fixation on Bella even impacted their relationship with their niece.
“My BIL and SIL call Bella ‘the first grandchild’ and the ‘first [last name] girl’ (there hasn’t been a girl born into the family in five generations).”
“This bothers me because my daughter is both those things, not the dog.”
“They think my daughter and their dog should be treated equally, and get upset when they are not.”
“Even when I gave birth and people were reaching out to check on me and my daughter, they sulked and made a long post on Facebook saying they were hurt no one had done the same for them when they adopted their dog.”
The OP had finally seen enough.
“I’ve been biting my tongue about it for over a year because I know that they are coping with an extremely painful situation, but this week I finally snapped.”
“Recently, a relative invited us and our baby to their wedding but told my in-laws explicitly not to bring Bella. No dogs allowed, period.”
“On Sunday, as my husband and I were just about to leave his parents’ house, I heard BIL say that if his dog wasn’t invited, then my daughter shouldn’t be, either. ‘Why should they get to bring her if we can’t bring Bella?'”
“They say things like that all the time, but this time, I finally snapped and said, ‘Because Bella is a dog, and my daughter is an actual human baby. My child and your pet are not the same.'”
The family was divided over the statement.
“We left, but later my BIL called my husband to say that I had really hurt them and made my SIL cry.”
“My husband says that I shouldn’t have said anything and should take it back.”
“I know their dog is like their child, and I don’t mean to be cruel or insensitive, but I am also so tired of hearing them compare my daughter to a dog, and I don’t want her to grow up around people who think she is equal to a poorly behaved animal.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some sided with the OP and felt the couple was being over-the-top with their dog.
“As someone who dealt with infertility and whose dog definitely had the emotional place of a child in my heart and who now has a child and STILL feels like her dog had that role, I was all ready to call OP the a**hole.”
“But there is a difference between valuing/loving your dog like you would value/love a child, and actually TREATING your dog like a child and expecting others to treat them like that. The first thing can be valid. The second thing is not healthy for you and probably also not healthy for the dog, if you refuse to meet the dog’s doggie needs like high need for exercise, etc.”
“In this case, the dog apparently also knows no boundaries but that would’ve been just as big an issue with an actual child of course.”
“So yeah, these people need therapy, and OP is NTA.” – Farachild
“It’s such an unhealthy coping mechanism. I’m childless. I’ve lost pregnancies. I’m now 40 and unlikely to happen for me.”
“I love my dog with all my heart. He’s my baby. He’s not my child.”
“And don’t even get me started on those creepy a** dolls some people buy.” – Lozzanger
“I need to share this because people are doubting that SiL and BiL could behave this way.”
“I believe this post because many years ago, my extended family and I would rent a beach house each year. My youngest SiL and her hubby had no children but a lovely dog. The beach house did not allow pets. SiL planned on smuggling in their dog.”
“When talking to my Mother-in-Law about this, she looked at me and said something to the effect of, ‘Well, we’re allowing your children.’ I’ll be honest, I had no words because as much as I love dogs, I do not think them the same as children. As I recall, I stared at her for a moment and walked away.”
“NTA and OP’s SiL and BiL have big issues. And obviously, other family members feel the same since they had to explicitly say Bella was not invited to the wedding.”
“The only person who should be apologizing is OP’s husband to OP; his child is not the same as a dog. What OP said was the truth.” – Cappa_Cali
“NTA. You are correct, your child is not the same as their dog, and they shouldn’t be making that comparison or expecting their dog to be treated the same way as a human child. They legit need therapy.” – someperson717
“NTA. Oh, this is a sad case, but as much as we love our four-legged friends, they are not equivalent to babies. You can leave your dog with a sitter, newborn babies need to breastfeed like every few hours. It’s far more difficult to find adequate care for a new infant as opposed to a puppy.”
“I do sympathize with them, they’ve clearly taken this dog on emotionally as a baby due to their inability to have one. So you have to be firm but gentle in this situation. Understand their frustration, but dogs just can’t come everywhere. Some venues have rules barring pets and that might be a good excuse for them to understand.”
“Also, dogs can be tripped over and stepped on or snap on someone and attack. They could also pee or poop in the venue and potentially ruin dresses, furniture, and other parts of the venue. I imagine they baby the dog so it’s probably sweet but not well-behaved.”
“I feel so bad for them but they need to respect a no-pet decision at an event that has nothing to do with them. And stop comparing your human baby to a dog.” – chef-foodie
“No… I love all animals, currently have a cat but had a dog as a teen and dream of having one again. I don’t have kids yet (love children too, though). It’s still a NTA in my book.”
“Yes, my cat is a family member. I’ve included him in Christmas cards with photos inside I sent to my grandparents before. I often get cat things for my birthday. But family member does not equal child.”
“I don’t expect people to remember his birthday or throw a party for him (that he would be miserable at anyway). I don’t expect to bring him places. I’m responsible for him, I care for him. But he’s not human. My childhood dog wasn’t either. She spent a wedding outside the venue in our camping car (which was her safe space and we made sure had a nice temperature) with my parents and I taking turns taking her for a short walk in the surrounding park.”
“It was the only way because the wedding was far away and we combined it with a family visit/vacation. She didn’t spend the wedding in a stroller inside the venue or even inside the venue at all, and the bride and groom had dogs as well that weren’t there either.” – mycrazyblackcat
Others believed the clearly grieving couple deserved more empathy than they were getting.
“Really hot take but slight YTA, let me explain.”
“It’s painfully clear that your SIL and BIL are having a mental break. They are like one fart away from having a full-on explosion level of a mental break but you’re waaaay too focused on this being a competition. You don’t seem to show much compassion for their situation and seem to be ‘my baby is more important’ focused.”
“And instead of an intervention or talking to them (I assume) you decide to say (checks notes), ‘Because Bella is a dog, and my daughter is an actual human baby. My child and your pet are not the same,’ therefore rubbing it in their face that their dog is less important because it’s not a real human baby (which you know they can never have).”
“It sounds like when they needed everyone the most, they were abandoned in favor of your baby instead.”
“It’s harsh but my advice would be to stop being so up your own butt regarding your kid. It’s obvious that there’s a difference, no sane person would say otherwise but, this whole problem is more important than a dumb ‘who’s baby is better’ contest. Your kid is your kid, why are you trying to win imaginary firsts with people who are suffering? Why does what they say bother you when you know it will change nothing in your current life?”
“Them saying those things won’t automatically uninvite your child to events because they can’t bring their dog. You’re the a**hole simply because you’re letting a struggling couple that you supposedly care about get to you by them throwing tantrums. Stop letting it bother you and talk to them! Forget the baby debate and talk to them as people.” – SnekoLovesCakez
“If you are an honest storyteller, they need more therapy than they’re getting. And I’m sure they must have been for a while now, but no shame intended even if they haven’t.”
“That said… grief changes people in drastic ways. Not good or understandable ways, typically, but it is what it is. Family looks different to everyone, and I really don’t want to be that person who pretends pets and kids are the same, but… in a way, Bella may represent the child they cannot conceive.”
“I can’t rule them a**holes since that’s a possible angle. You’re obviously not a**holes for accurately saying otherwise/affirming boundaries etc. NAH.”
“For the record, it had to have cut them deep for you to point out that you have an actual human child while they don’t. The only reason I don’t say you’re TA is because it’s unhinged to suggest banning a kid from an event same as a pet someone is allergic to. But I don’t think any of y’all are a**holes, to be honest.” – kyl_r
“NTA. I refer to my cats as my babies. I would run into oncoming traffic to save them and I spoil them whenever possible. No matter how much I love them, or how much I’d put myself in harm’s way to ensure their well-being, they’re in no way comparable to my actual children.”
“It’s sad that they can’t have children. I can’t imagine how that must feel. However, they’re not doing Bella (or themselves) any favors by acting like she’s human when she isn’t. There’s no ‘taking it back’ as that’d be like stuffing toothpaste back in the tube. Your husband needs to stop infantilizing his brother and SIL and consider caring about them enough to push them towards grief counseling.” – Panaccolade
“In my opinion, it’s perfectly okay if BIL and SIL value Bella more than their niece. But, let dogs be dogs. A wedding at a venue isn’t a place most any dog would enjoy being.”
“I feel as if BIL and SIL are coping poorly with grief, and lashing out a bit when the BIL made that dumb comment.”
“It’s splitting hairs, I guess, but to me, it’s perfectly fine if they value Bella as if she’s a kid. But they need to recognize she’s not a human and there are different expectations by society at large and crying that dogs can’t be treated the same exact way as humans is futile.” – UNICORN_SPARK
“I’ve lived this too, the dog’s name was even godd**n Bella. They adopted the dog AFTER I had my baby but still called it the first grandkid because ‘her birthday is earlier, she’s older!'”
“OP: they’ll grow out of it. Eventually. Your baby will get older and they’ll hopefully start to bond with their niece as an individual person. Suck it up for now. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, it’s not ‘fair’ because humans and animals aren’t the same.”
“But they’re hurting so much right now. More than you can possibly imagine. You have everything, and by having it, you’re making their pain worse. Sometimes just seeing you guys as a family probably feels like a dagger in their hearts. So let them love their dog, let them take all of those maternal/paternal feelings that they are spilling over with and put them somewhere.”
“Infertility is so painful. It hurts. Let them have this.” – SweetFrostedJesus
“As you handle this situation, maybe try an approach that doesn’t immediately conflict with the dog. I’ll explain…”
“I’m coming from a mental health background with this. It’s not necessarily productive to address the person’s perceptions, and often it’s not productive to address their behavior. That’s just an exercise in labeling and judging.”
“You might be very much correct, as are most replies here, in saying that their relationship with the dog and their perception of the dog’s place in your family is well outside of societal norms. We can all rant about ‘they aren’t children,’ and ‘stop calling yourself a parent,’ and so on, but that’s not going to be received very well by the people who have the opposite perspective.”
“What we often focus on in the initial stages of discussing issues about relationships, habits, etc., is the impact on the person’s life. You mentioned that they’ve withdrawn from family activities, that the SIL quit her job, and that it’s strained some of their relationships. Start with that.”
“Do they recognize that their lives have changed? Has anyone expressed any concern about them withdrawing from family events? Things like that are easier for the person on the other side to reconcile, as opposed to just saying it’s weird or your words offend me. You can add some of those things to the conversation but I guess my suggestion is to balance between confronting their views and expressing concern about the outcomes of their views and behavior.” – OldManJimmers
The subReddit completely understood how much the in-laws must be struggling with their infertility, but they were divided over their insistence on comparing their dog to their niece.
While some found it to be completely over-the-top, others felt it was part of their grieving process, and with enough time and grace, all of this would become a distant memory.