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Labor & Delivery Turf Wars: Delivery Room Bullies

A Delivery Room Stand-Off

By Amalah

So I read an advice piece on the woman’s mom being in the room and it kinda helped with my situation but not completely..

My mother-in-law drives me nuts. My husband is an only child, this is the first grand baby and blah blah. She literally is all over me at this point and I’m trying to not flip out on her…but I would love for her to back off.  

Basically I’ve had to tell my mom that she can’t be in the delivery room because I do not want my mother-in-law in the room. Which has really bugged me because my mom and I are very close and I would like her to be in there. But my MIL will pitch a fit if my mom’s in the room and she’s not. But she’s not my mom and I don’t feel comfortable with her being there being her overbearing self and trying to take control of the situation like she likes to do… so what would you do? I either piss my husband and my MIL off and have my mom there or I feel shitty and not have my mom in there and please my husband. In the moment I don’t think I’ll be thinking of it that much but what if I am?

Thanks for your help and I absolutely look forward to my weekly emails from your pregnancy calendar it makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one who has felt the way I do sometimes haha.

Thanks

The only person who gets to make the final decision on who is and isn’t in the delivery room is you.

The Delivery Room Guest List

You want your mom but not your MIL? Guess what! You can 100% absolutely totally have your mom there and not your MIL. If anyone suggests that a woman’s mother and her mother-in-law are any sort of delivery room “package deal” and that it’s unfair to include one but not the other…well, they’re wrong. Your MIL is free to pitch as big of a fit as she likes. But she can do it away from you, out in the waiting room, along with all the other people who YOU have not explicitly invited into the room to witness a very private, personal event.

I wouldn’t even discuss it with her, to be honest. You don’t need to announce the delivery room guest list ahead of time…particularly with anyone who isn’t on the guest list. Everyone other that the parents-to-be should default assume they are NOT invited into the delivery room unless told explicitly otherwise.

Considering Your Husband’s Wishes

Now, you mentioned a secondary conflict with your husband. Is he upset at you for including your mom but excluding his mom? Or is it more of a “I don’t anyone else in the room but us” sort of thing? I don’t think I’ve heard of many dads-to-be pushing for their own mothers to be included but I have heard from quite a few who have their own strained/contentious relationships with their MILs and thus would prefer to keep ALL mothers and other family members waiting outside.

So I think you two need to have a calm, honest discussion about the delivery room and your respective wishes and expectations. If he doesn’t want your mom there (or anyone), talk to him about WHY you want her there. Make sure he knows it isn’t because you’re assuming he won’t be an effective birth coach or something. If he feels very very strongly about this being a private event with just the two of you, listen to him and take his feelings into consideration and consider any possible compromises. Maybe you’ll be okay with people in “the room” while you’re in early labor but then have him respectfully escort people out once things get really going. Maybe he can go out and give frequent updates in the waiting room, or maybe he just needs to sack up and tell his mother to back up off you already.

But be clear that as the human about to birth another human, the final decision on what you need or want is 100% yours to make. Dads and partners absolutely SHOULD have their opinions and feelings considered, but in the end, it’s really their job to be as supportive of you as possible. If you want your mom, he should let you have your mom.

MIL Relationship and Healthy Boundaries

ON THE OTHER HAND: If he’s pissed because he (and his mom) don’t think it’s “fair” that you have your mom but not his in the room, well, that sounds like you two need to have more than one discussion. That sounds like he’s got an ongoing blind spot to his mother’s overbearing behavior and how she’s made you feel during your pregnancy. That’s a conflict that will likely cause problems for you both in other contexts. Does he have healthy boundaries with his mother? Does he consistently value her feelings over yours? These are hard, uncomfortable questions, I know. But your MIL’s reign of influence over your lives is not going to end after the delivery room. Once the grandchild is here, these sorts of problems often only get worse. So get talking and communicating (NOT FIGHTING) about it now.

It’s one thing to be super duper excited about your first grandchild, it’s another to feel “entitled” to your daughter-in-law’s pregnancy in any way, shape or form. You are not obligated to let your MIL touch your belly constantly, attend OB appointments with you, constantly overwhelm you with unsolicited and unhelpful advice, or to let her throw you a shower you don’t want. (All actual pregnancy-and-MIL questions I’ve gotten in the past!!) And you are DEFINITELY not obligated to have her in the delivery room if that makes you uncomfortable. And its super unfair if she and your husband are trying to guilt-trip you into that, or push you to exclude YOUR OWN MOTHER because of some really misguided view of “fairness.”

Final Thoughts

I might be reading the situation completely wrong, of course, and it’s really just a simple “my husband doesn’t want MY mom there” and you need to find out more about his reasons. (He just wants it intimate; he’s got his own issues with your mom’s personality and/or worries he’ll be pushed aside as your labor coach, etc.) He might have some good reason, or a worry/concern that is solvable once you talk it out and map out a more detailed birth plan.

Either way, I wish you the BEST of luck, and a wonderful birth experience that is everything YOU want it to be.

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Holly

    Oh man oh man, this sounds SO familiar. Absolutely what Amy said. And also? I was so concerned that my MIL was going to show up to the hospital without an invitation, we didn’t even tell her where I was delivering. On our way to the hospital, my husband phoned her to let her know we were on our way to deliver. She was overbearing and excited, and according to my FIL, as soon as she hung up, she went and got her car keys to drive the 1hr to our city and start checking hospital beds. He firmly told her “NO. You cannot do that. This is not your place.” and thank GAWD she listened. It was one of my fears – that she would just barge into the room while I’m pushing out a baby. She is completely entitled, knows no boundaries, and expects forgiveness no matter her wrongs. I am so thankful my FIL was there to stop her (they are divorced so don’t live together, he was just on baby watch from the east coast at that time). Does the hospital have a limit on the number of people? If it’s just 2, problem could also be solved that way. I also was glad not to have a waiting room full of people, nothing like pressure knowing there are folks just a few feet away, waiting, to add to your stress. Baby #2 was a midnight trip to the hospital followed by a 3am delivery, so no one was notified until 7am, which I much preferred.

    • Caroline

      we told no one about the first one till he was born. We were on a different continent and it turned into a huge drama (not life-threatening, just horrible), so by the time it occurred to us to call anyone, it was several hours later! With the next two scheduled c-sections, grannies and granddads knew the date but my mom was designated childcare for our other kids and his folks like a long way away, so they chose to come a few weeks later for a real meet-and-greet, which was tiring, sure, but gave us time to get acclimatised. This thing where there are 30 people cheerleading seems very stressful to me, but apparently it’s quite a common thing.

      • bookworm81

        When I delivered my second there was another women delivering her first in the room next door and she had like 10 family members at the birthing center with her which I thought was completely insane.

  • Guest

    I think that if your husband just wants it to be the two of you, that just the two of you is an idea worthy vetting long and hard. I will assume you didn’t make that baby with anyone else in the room 🙂 However, if this is “your mom, my mom, too” kinda thing, the sooner you put your foot down with your MIL (and husband, honestly) the better. Ask him if he’d want your mom there while he was having a vasectomy. You can also point out to your husband that this isn’t about “excluding” your MIL as much as it’s about your personal comfort. Say things like, “I’d prefer your mother: 1) didn’t see my vagina 2) didn’t see me poop on the table 3) wasn’t there while I’m getting stitched back up 4) didn’t have to be calmed down if I need an emergency C-section/anything on that God awful instruments tray.” I’d trot all that gross/worst case scenario stuff out to try and dissuade him. Also, find out the hospital delivery policy. Most of them have a hard cap no more than 1-2 people.

  • Lee

    I totally agree with Amy on finding out the “why” first from your husband. But irregardless (and especially if it’s because it’s “not fair” or because his mom should just get her way), you might want to start dealing with figuring out some boundaries now,before the baby is born (ie: she is not welcome to come over every single day, she needs to call first, etc…) I have a similarly pushy MIL and let me tell you, if you think she’s overbearing now, oh just you wait until “her” baby is born! Our boundaries for awhile where she had to call first, she could not try to take the babies when I was nursing, we would not wake them up when they were napping, and (between my husband and I) we agreed that it was best if she came when we were both home, as we noticed she was much more overbearing and less likely to follow our “rules” if there was only one of us around. We also would not agree to any plans with her without talking to each other first, as she’d play us off each other (ie: he agreed to go over for lunch, I agreed to dinner, now the expectation is that we’re -and more importantly The Baby- at her house for the whole day)
    Good luck and congratulations!

  • TheLadyK

    Your body, your comfort wins. You only want your mom there? Fine. Delivery is difficult, stressful, and even dangerous. It’s not about fair, if it were about fair, people without wombs would be able to do it too. You have the womb, you make the calls that you can control, because a lot of the process isn’t under your control.

    Ask your husband what the deal with him is. Listen to his answer. Sometimes, if you listen, people can talk themselves right out of silliness like “it’s only fair”, because they will work themselves off the idea that this is a show instead of a difficult biological process. And sometimes, they might have really good thoughts that can change how you feel as well.

    After you’ve listened, explain what you feel. And, if needed, gently remind that this isn’t actually something the two of you need to agree on. If you didn’t want *him* there, you could boot him out. Your womb, you get to pick the support staff.

    Others have set up the good idea of also working your husband to set up boundaries for the pushy MIL, which should be done in general.

  • AF

    First, I 100% agree with Amy’s advice. I’d also add a piece to the discussion with your husband to check in on both of your expectations about the delivery. I expected my labor would be long (my mom’s was 24+ hours with me), while my wife expected it to be much shorter (her mom’s were 3 hrs and 1 hr). Once she realized that it could really be that long, she agreed it made a lot of sense to have my mom there (and in the end we were all glad about that decision).

  • danielle

    Solution! Tell the Mother’s the hospital only allows 2 people in the delivery room (mine actually does and I was SO happy to find out). Husband and your mom. Your mom delivered you, this is her baby delivering her first baby. It’s special- plus you want someone there who you are the most comfortable with.

  • bookworm81

    I have a great relationship with my MIL and I still didn’t want her there when I was giving birth! She did come and hang out a for a while when I was in labor with my first but she had the good sense to bow out long before things got serious. I had both my moms there for the delivery of my first and just my bio mom for the other two while my other mom watched the older sibling(s). Having your mom there for the delivery is completely different and yeah, you do get to decide. There was even a case recently where a couple were divorcing while she was pregnant and the guy still wanted to be in the delivery room but she didn’t want him there because she found his presence stressful. The jerk even took her to court about it* but thankfully the judge smacked him down quick.

    *probably the sort of attitude that got him booted in the first place

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    This is another area where I love my MIL, but my dad’s girlfriend was a bit like your MIL. Always giving advice and all kinds of stuff unsolicited. It was seriously aggravating.