Delivery Room Wars
I really hope you get to this before I finally go into labor since I’m due this Saturday, but I will still need your input for future situations. It would just be extra helpful for the labor process as well. This question requires a little set-up…
Three months ago I fractured my ankle. Of course it’s not a simple heal-on-its-own type injury. It’s an extremely serious and painful injury that will require surgery which has a 2-month recovery, during which I can’t put any weight whatsoever on my ankle. Add onto that that I had to leave my job much earlier than planned due to very frequent pass-out scares and an OB that didn’t really seem to care that my job wouldn’t be down with me just taking as many breaks as I needed to lie on the floor (ha!) and this hasn’t been the easiest pregnancy overall. So I’ve obviously needed a lot of help.
Well (more background, sorry), my husband has a job that requires him to go out of town frequently and work a lot of overtime plus be in an on-call rotation. He also grew up in a family that wasn’t very close (distance-wise or emotionally) and wasn’t much of a support network for each other. This is where the conflict comes in. He feels like crap that he hasn’t been able to “be there” to help me out much throughout the pregnancy. So he feels threatened by my mom in the whole “Rawr, me man, me take care of woman and cave” sense, because she’s had to help me with a lot of things he couldn’t. She’s taken me to half my doctor appointments, she’s helped me clean the house and fix up the nursery, she’s helped me take care of the pets and week-to-week things like taking the garbage out, etc. In addition to helping me out she’s come over a lot just to keep me company when he’s out of town during the week because my injury is to my right foot and I can’t drive myself anywhere.
I’ve tried reassuring him that he’s the most important person in the world to me and our baby. I’ve tried explaining. I’ve tried asking him what he thinks a good solution/ compromise is. All to no avail. Well, now he’s hinting that he doesn’t like the idea of my mom being there during labor and delivery, and that’s where I have to stand my ground because that moment is kind of about me feeling supported, I think. Not that his feelings don’t matter, but I’ve explained time and again that my mom will not be pushing him aside or undermining him in any way. She’s just there for additional support for me. Which is I think the big problem here: that he can’t be enough support during that. But this is baby number one for both of us and I really want my mom there because um, well, she’s kinda done it before!
So even if I can’t get him to calm down about this before the big L&D trip, I’m obviously going to still need to deal with this (possibly more so) because he’s got to go back to work eventually and I’m going to need post-surgery help. Like, a LOT of it. I’ve even tried explaining to my mom that that’s why he’s gotten weird over the last few months and she feels awful (despite me explaining it’s really not her fault) and everything she’s tried to do to make him feel less threatened has just turned him paranoid (“Why is she always leaving just as I get home?” etc.) What do I do?!
(Why do I always end up picking the tough ones on Friday? Why do I do this to myself? Woe, whine, misery. etc.)
Anyway. This is, indeed, a tough one. On the one hand, I actually do have a lot of sympathy for your husband here, because while his reaction to the situation is definitely bordering on bratty here and there, I can’t imagine how frustrated he must be to feel like he’s missed — or had to share — so much of the intensely personal, immensely important process of pregnancy. Add to that, feelings that he’s let you down after your injury because he has to provide for you in a more practical way (work, money)…while your mom gets to provide the hands-on, emotional support. AND got to be there for appointments, nursery preparations…I can really, really understand why this situation is hard on him, and why he might suddenly feel extra-territorial about the Big Moment of the birth.
(Not to mention that Yahoo Answers and the pregnancy message boards are chock FULL of moms-to-be who want their moms in the delivery room and fighting over it with their husbands — husbands without all the work-absence backstory that you have.)
But on the other hand, the level of your husband’s fixation on your mother’s role as helper sounds like it’s a littttttttle out of hand. This could absolutely just be his version of nesting or pre-baby jitters, and once the baby is here he’ll take a deep breath and suddenly go OH MY GOD WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET OH THANK GOD WE HAVE HELP OKAY WHEW.
So for the birthing room stalemate, ask yourself two questions. 1) On a scale of one to 10, how much do you fear you will regret not having your mom present, and 2) Do you honestly think “giving” him his way on this one will actually “help” the postpartum (and post-surgery) situations when your mom needs to step back in when he cannot? If your answers are 1) 10 and 2) not at all, stick your ground. Tell him that hey, even if he’d been there at every appointment and every onesie shopping excursion, this is what you would have wanted, and it’s not fair to punish YOU because the pregnancy was harder and more of a logistical nightmare than either of you wanted. (I would also totally cry, but that’s because my pregnant self can’t manage a single declarative sentence without crying.) Work out a compromise, possibly, about your mom being there during labor but agreeing to step out once serious pushing begins.
As for the post-birth situation, it’s entirely possible that his hysterical male-nesting syndrome (or whatever this is) will burst like a hormone bubble once reality sets in — the reality that nobody’s giving out any medals to the cave-father who logs the most DIY cave-time with his cave-woman and cave-baby. That whole “oh wow, it really DOES take a village!” moment of clarity. (Or at least the “Yeah, I have no idea if the baby is latching right either, uh, help!” moment.) If not, though, look into possibly hiring a postpartum doula to help out when he’s away or on-call. Then check your insurance benefits for the possibility of a visiting nurse or aide for after your surgery. Maybe the idea of a professional-helper-you-pay-cash-money-to would be more agreeable to him, and kill the imaginary one-sided competition he has going on with your mom. Or, the suggestion of PAYING someone to do what your mom will do for FREE will snap him the heck out of it too. Either way, you’d get the help you need without further dealing with the him vs. her dynamic.
The last thing to remember — for both of you to remember — is that birth plans are just that. PLANS. Things can change. Minds can change. Your husband might lose his go-it-alone resolve at some point, or realize that he can’t hold your hand and the video camera at the same time. The baby might show up at the precise moment your mom is down at the ice-chip machine anyway. No matter what happens (and I hope you’ll send us an update!), it will be okay and right and perfect for your whole family — the existing one AND your brand-new one. Good luck.
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.