Grandparent’s rights are NOT a grey area. They don’t have rights to YOUR child, YOUR nuclear family, to make you or your baby responsible for their own emotional state, etc. They do not have ANY rights when it comes to you and YOUR child.
At this point, your husband (and you) have let her run roughshod all over you. And the cumulative boundary stomping is starting to make you feel traumatized.
You are NOT starting from ground zero here. You are starting from a resentful, traumatized place, and you need to treat the situation accordingly.
To recover from trauma/feeling victimized, you need time and space AWAY from the perpetrator (whether or not the perpetrator MEANT to traumatize you is NOT important) to heal and to start to feel safe again.
ONCE YOU NO LONGER FEEL TRAUMATIZED by the perpetrator – once you feel more in control of your emotional state around this person – THEN you begin to slowly (at your own pace) reintroduce yourself (without baby) to them.
The fact that your baby cries every time they see Mother-In-Law is an awful awful sign. You should never allow your Mother-In-Law to babysit. In fact, in your shoes, I would keep the baby away from Mother-In-Law, and I would feel absolutely 0 guilt doing so. It is your job to protect that baby. She obviously finds Mother-In-Law distressing, so she needs to be subjected to that as little as possible.
So my plan would be this:
You institute a ELC (extremely low contact) rule with your Mother-In-Law. You and baby are ELC. Husband (DuH) can do whatever he wants, but you and baby are off limits unless on YOUR terms.
DEPENDING ON HOW Mother-In-Law RESPONDS, and at a time when you feel healed and ready, you initiate short Olive Garden meetups with Mother-In-Law. This way she does not get to invade your safe space (your home), you do not have to be on her turf (her home), and you can leave at any time, easily.
At first, do not bring baby. If Mother-In-Law can’t carry on a civil conversation with her own son and DIL and express interest in THEIR lives and wellbeings, then WHY should she get access to their child?
Your baby is not Mother-In-Law Prozac.
The glaring problem with this plan is that your DuH is going to hate it and is most likely going to guilt trip you for “taking her grandbaby away”. Or cast you as unreasonable. I can tell this is what he’s going to do because he has just stood by all this time and allowed his mother to traumatize you in this way. He is serving your baby up to keep his mother happy.
The other glaring problem is that Mother-In-Law is going to go off the deep end. She WILL throw tantrums, send Flying Monkeys at you and your husband, try to triangulate/drive a wedge between the two, disrespect you to anyone and everyone who will listen, and just in general behave very poorly.
Do you feel ready to stand up to her in those situations? Call her bad behavior out in a calm way, end the interaction, and black hole any and all attempts at contacting you? Do you think your husband is ready to stand up to her and stop allowing her to make him responsible for her emotional state? To call her out when she’s behaving like a child?
Because as soon as you take steps to do what YOU need to do to feel OK being around this woman, she is going to raise holy hell and if you cave, you’ll have taken 100 steps backwards. You HAVE to start teaching her (you and your husband TOGETHER) have to start teaching her that unwanted behavior will be PUNISHED, not rewarded with more baby time.
You don’t seem at all ready for this step, but just to share with you how distorted your own thinking on this subject is, here is mine:
Darling Husband and I plan to start TTC in 4 months. If his mother (who is “sweet” but actually controlling and manipulative) tries to make me or my baby responsible for her emotional state even ONCE, we are going to be off the table for 6 months at the very minimum. And that’s just for the first offense.
If she tries to insinuate that she has any “rights” to MY child, the same consequence will go into place.
If she EVER talks badly to my husband about me, in an attempt to “divide and conquer”, same consequence.
If I even hear a wiff of gossip that she’s being judgemental about my parenting choices behind my back from other family members, same consequence.
In short, if she does or says ANYTHING that displays a controlling or entitled or disrespectful attitude toward me or my child, she will be in Time Out for 6 months.
And then, depending on her behavior, she may be (CO) Cut Off for good. The DWIL Nation motto is “No good, respectful relationship with the parents, no relationship with the child.”