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Delivery Room Wars

Delivery Room Wars

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

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…

Advice Smackdown ArchivesThree 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 [email protected]

Published October 22, 2010. Last updated April 17, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 [email protected].

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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  • liz

    October 22, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Wow. I just want send hugs and more hugs.

  • Carolina

    October 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Oh, I want to give you a hug too! I fell, broke my foot and shattered my wrist the week before my baby was due. This required inducing labor and an emergency c-section after only a few hours of labor. The recovery from my c-section and wrist surgery was awful (couldn’t really hold the baby, so even nursing required another set of hands). Talk about birth plans gone sideways 🙂 We would not have made it without my mother’s and mother-in-law’s assistance. Fortunately, my husband had no interest in trying to do it all himself. I don’t have much to add to Amy’s sound advice. Hold your ground. Hopefully, your husband will recognize that your comfort really should come first right now.

  • Brooke

    October 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Ask him if he’ll need to grab something to eat or go to the bathroom ever if you are in labor for a long time. Will he be cool with just leaving you alone in the hospital room? Because doctors and nurse aren’t in there with you the whole time. It’ll mostly just be the two (or three) of you. What if you need someone to run out and warm up a heating pack for your back? Get you a snack/cup of juice/more ice? Do you want to be alone for that? Will he be comfortable enough leaving you alone?

    Because, practically speaking, having someone else in the room will help both of you, provided they aren’t sniping at each other.

  • Brooke

    October 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Forgot to add: What if you have a C-section? Does he go with the baby or stay with you after surgery?

    There really are a lot of practical reasons that having more support is good.

  • Christen

    October 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    If it wouldn’t feel like relegating your mom to the role of personal assistant, maybe she could be there, but also not be IN there at ALL times? She could snap some pictures (with your permission, of course) of you and your husband, maybe keep some key family members updated, and grab snacks or even run by your house to make sure you didn’t leave the garage door open or whatever. Or, maybe she isn’t there the entire time; you could call her after you’re settled so you and your husband can have some time to take it all in as a couple. This might be a case of if you give your husband some leeway here, he’ll calm down and realize there are serious advantages to having a close family (hello, sitter for date night!) and that your mom doesn’t diminish his role at all. Good luck!!!!

  • Susan

    October 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I have to share, can’t stop myself. This issue was so huge during my pregnancy. It went from husband not wanting to be in the delivery room for fear of scary things to husband insisting he be the only one present. That last part was after I told him that if he wasn’t planning to be there then my mother was going to come to live with us until delivery because I wasn’t going to go through it alone. What ended up happening was a surprise early labor at 36 weeks during which my husband was my only support. His mom made it to the hospital and rushed into the delivery room (not part of the plan) to see my last 3 pushes and birth of the baby. Oh, and my mom was 6 hours away and didn’t make it in time. Stuff happened FAST. And, it
    all worked out — just not how any of us planned it. The end.

  • Ms. K

    October 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    PPs had good suggestions, as did Amalah. 

    This question reminded me of something a midwife told me once – she says (in her experience) it is easier for first-time moms to birth without their own mother in the same room. Something about the dynamic of the mother’s concern for her daughter’s pain making it harder for the daughter (the birthing woman) to relax.

    She said with experienced moms birthing it doesn’t seem to make a difference…somehow the dynamic between them and their own mother has changed.

    Then again, if you believe your mom will help make labor better, than you should have her there. Whatever makes you most comfortable and makes labor easiest.

    Good luck.

  • the grumbles

    October 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Brooke brought up a great point- at one point during labor my husband was starving and ran out to get snacks, use the bathroom, etc. I labored completely alone for about an hour and a half. For me personally it wasn’t a big deal, but definitely something to bring up to him that he possibly hasn’t considered.

  • Tiffany

    October 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I was so so so glad to have my mom in the delivery room. My husband was SO! EXCITED! to be a dad that he was practically useless… I mean that in an adorable, excited sort of way. He couldn’t focus either (this is when it got close to pushing time). Because neither one of us had gone through it, it was all so new – the pain, the emotions, everything – that my mom had to remind me to breathe, to rub my back, to fetch me things because my husband was like an excited puppy dog or something.

    ANYWAY. It was awesome. He got to focus on being a dad for the first time, and I still got all the awesome support I needed. I hope that he comes around for you. 

    Obviously, I have no real advice, just so excited for you!  Babies are awesome and exciting.

  • Amy

    October 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Oh, this takes me back. I wanted my mom to be there the first time, husband didn’t, we fought, it got horrible, he relented, and then…. I had the baby so fast (3 hours, 45 minutes from first contraction to “it’s a girl!”) that my mom didn’t make it. Frankly, we were just relieved that the doctor made it, at that point. It was FAST. I pray that you’ll have the same problem, because it’s really the only sensible way to give birth! 🙂

    Second pregnancy – my mom was in Spain. My sister, my dad (!!!), and my step-mom (!!!!!!!) were in the room for the entire thing because it only lasted 1 hour and 9 minutes (induced – HAHAHAH! I can haz rocket babiez!!!1!!). The nurse turned on the lights and sirens, broke the bed, and literally trapped everyone in the room. The entire starting line-up for the Colts arrived due to the lights and sirens (they were wearing blue scrubs, so they LOOKED like the Colts… Seriously there were over a dozen people), and once again, I was just glad that the doc (who was sleeping in the on-call room) made it, and that he didn’t spike her and yell “TOUCHDOWN!”

    I’m pregnant again (30 weeks) and planning an induction because I don’t want to have this baby on the side of the highway, or on my living room floor. We just got new carpet. And this time I haven’t given a moment’s thought to who is going to be where. If I’ve learned anything it’s that 1) there is NO predicting or controlling birth, and 2) if I get really invested in having any particular person there, that person will be out of the country, and 3) when it comes right down to it, I go so deeply inside myself that I honestly don’t notice who’s there, or who is taking pictures of my hoo hoo (my dad – don’t worry, they were destroyed), or who isn’t there (my mom) or anything else (lights and sirens – both husband and I completely missed that detail and didn’t believe my sister when she told us later). As long as my husband’s there and the midwife shows up, everything will be fine. I’ve even joked about raffling off tickets to the birth on my blog.

    I hope you give birth so fast that it doesn’t matter, too, BB.

  • Amelia

    October 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I went through a book series called “love and respect” and I see a potential help to you issues. Have you told your husband how much you respect and admire him for working so hard for your family. Not LOVE him, he knows you do, but RESPECT him. Tell him this in a few different ways. It puffs a man up, and it sounds like it’s just what he needs. Women want to feel loved and men want to feel respected (sure, this is an oversimplification, but a good one at times). Tell him you are proud of him working so hard for you. Just try it.

  • Trish

    October 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I would recommend a birth doula. Hubby might balk, but unlike relatives, they are impartial and trained to help without coming between you and your husband.

    My husband needed some convincing about the doula, but we both loved having a doula and recommend it to others — even if you have to pay out of pocket for one. (Though you can often find someone in trained but working on hours for certification for less or for free.)

    My husband also needed convincing about some of my out of state girlfriends coming to stay after the birth, but ended up appreciating their help and all we learned about baby care from them.

  • -k-

    October 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I’m sorry, but I’m on Team Husband here. We’ll never have to deal with this with my mother, but it would drive me up a wall to have my MIL involved in our lives in this or a similar way–salt in the wound of not being able to pull my weight as a spouse/parent. You can explain how this doesn’t undermine him until you’re blue in the face, and it’s not going to work, because of *course* it’s not a problem for you. He does perceive it in that manner–that’s the reality you have to engage. Right now this just comes across as “you are mistaken in feeling this way”.

    Mom’s all over the place before and after the birth.. can you really not bear just having her on standby during so the two of you can have this huge experience as a couple?

  • Therese

    October 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Wow, this is an interesting dilemma. I have a similiar life experience in that my husband’s job requires him to be out of town an average of 15 days each month. When we were ready to have kids, he clearly stated that we should move home to be near my family for support since he is gone so much. This has come in handy many times, especially when I went into labor when he was 12 hours a way. My mom and sister were able to be with me the entire time and it all turned out okay. Originally, we had planned that my husband be the only support person during the actual delivery (labor we were more open). However, when my husband arrived just in time for the pushing after 12 loooong hours of excruciating back labor, there was no way either of us were kicking my mom or sister out of the room. I tell that story to say that I can totally see how with all that your mom does for you and all the special time your Mom gets with you, it might be really nice for you and your husband (especially him) to share just this one moment together without someone else there. But also to reiterate than in the moment, things happen and plans change and usually everyone is okay with that. I think Amalah’s advice (as usual) is pretty spot on. “1) On a scale of one to 10, how much do you fear you will regret not having your mom present?”

  • Karen

    October 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Amelia makes a good point that I think Team Husband might agree with – your husband needs to feel needed right now. This problem will either go away after birth because he realizes how great your mom is (can I borrow her!) or will get worse if he continues to feel marginalized. But IMO, making sure your relationship with him stays strong is paramount right now.

    My $0.02 on mom in the delivery room – my plan was to give birth just with the hubby in the room. I specifically didn’t want my mom there – like Ms. K said, I didn’t want that dynamic in the room for birth. But… all birth plans are destined to be altered. I went into labor, and my mom became suspicious, she thinks she has a 6th sense for knowing when I’m up to something. My husband fessed up that I was in labor so she hopped in the car and came over. What exactly could I do at 10 cm to stop her? She really got me all riled up in the delivery room as I’d anticipated, talking to the nurses all about her job as a NICU nurse. But, what do you know? It came time for me to push and no doctor in sight. So – hubby held one leg, mom held other leg, and the nurse did perineal massage and practically delivered the baby herself. Despite having been present at countless births herself, my mom was useless as a labor coach but quite useful as an extra set of hands. I look back on how worked up I got about who was or wasn’t going to be in the room and, unless you are planning to have a home birth and have that all set, it just seems like a waste of energy given the variables involved with hospital birth.

  • Jaymee

    October 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    My husband didn’t want anyone else in the room for labor and delivery either. He felt that the birth should be between us and everyone can wait. We went ahead and let everyone hang out in the room until baby time came. Then his mom, my mom, my dad, my step dad, they all left the room and waited in the waiting room just like they do in the movies. To be perfectly honest, you don’t NEED your mom to be there. The nurses and the doctors provide tons of support. If it’s important to your husband that the birth of your first child between the two of you, I think it’s important to respect that. As the wives we get our way so much, and sometimes we forget that our husbands have important opinions too.

  • lindswing

    October 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Wow, Ms. K, I couldn’t articulate why I didn’t want my mom in the room for the entire labor and delivery (she popped in and out), but that’s exactly it!  It stressed me out that she was so stressed about how much pain I was in, and boy, was she.  Also, the biggest regret of my delivery was not hiring a doula.  I will never go through that again without one, and my husband was INCREDIBLE during labor.   Perhaps, if you aren’t, making sure to have (as much as possible) special, one on one time with your husband to make sure that you two are connecting (dinner, coffee, etc) will help him to feel more involved?  I think that there’s definitely a place for emphasizing how essential his working while you aren’t able to is for your family and your baby, too; make it clear that you look at that as a part of the pregnancy/baby preparation (if you aren’t already!).  I think Amalah is definitely onto something with the nesting suspicion, too.  Men totally nest, often in strange and hard to understand ways.  And his own lack of closeness with his family is definitely going to be coming out at this time: starting a family is a huge step, and one that brings up a lot of fears about what kind of future he’s going to be making for his own kids compared to his own.  Also, he’s probably projecting his own lack of closeness onto your relationship with your mom. (Oh, did I just finish a counseling program?  sorry about that…)  I hope it goes well, and in hindsight it turns out to be the perfect arrangement for you guys.  Those first minutes of bonding with just my son and my husband is perhaps my dearest memory.  Enjoy it, regardless of what it looks like! 

  • Michael

    October 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

    If I might add my ‘man views’ to the melee. Funny things happened to me when I got married and then again when I became a father. I acquired incredibly strong convictions. I was a little shocked! I did not want interference, I did not want to have to tiptoe around other peoples feelings. By other people I really mean the in-laws. I think of them as subs (from across the pond so maybe reserves or replacements??) – to come on as and when you need them. Not a chance of them making the starting line up when it comes to the important stuff. It was desperately important for it to be just my wife, my daughter, and me. My family.

    I honestly believe I would have been indelibly scarred if my wife had insisted that her mother be there at the birth.

  • Megan

    October 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

    My husband balked at the idea of a doula, even though I really wanted one because my mom was out of state and we really didn’t expect her to make it in time. My husband felt the same way as yours about having other people around to help but didn’t specifically say my mom couldn’t be around because she was so far away. It turns out that labor freaked him OUT. He really wanted to be anywhere but that L&D room and luckily my mom was there to bail him out. He ended up “delivering” the baby which was great because it gave him a set task to do and made him feel like a part of the process and important.
    No matter who ends up helping you through labor, you need to have back up in case you need a lineup change midway through. Also, you don’t mention if you plan on having an epidural or not…if you do, you may just want people in the room because you are bored. I think what your husband wants to be in there alone for is the pushing and birth (even if he doesn’t know it). You won’t notice or care who the heck is in the room at that point, I promise.

  • Alanna

    October 23, 2010 at 11:59 am

    So, just a question. Is your husband’s objection to having your mom there at all during the labor process, because um, yeah, I would totally say what Brooke said and really emphasize “If you go to get food during my likely 12-18 hour labor do you want to leave me ALL ALONE in that room without anyone to help me.” Or is his objection to her being there for the moment of the birth? Because that might be a point of compromise – your mom can be there to help and support you during labor but when the baby is born you’d prefer that it’s just you, your husband, the baby, and assorted medical personnel.

  • BB

    October 24, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Well, wouldn’t you just know it that of course I went into labor the night after sending this! (I totally knew I would. I sent it at like 2 am because I was so awake and alert and FREAKING OUT about everything.) We got back home midday today. Because it was never further discussed, Mom was there. It ended up being really good that she was there, too because little girl took 2 hours of pushing to get out which put her under stress as well as having aspirated fluid. So while I was freaking out about her and H was freaking out about both of us, I was able to tell him to go be with her while they cleared her lungs so I could feel better about her having one of us with her and he was able to feel like he wasn’t abandoning me because Mom was there. It was a really lucky thing for a very un-ideal situation. Little girl is ok, btw 🙂 No further problems expected, it was just a little scary. I love the pp’s advice about hiring a doula that’s trying to clock hours for cheaper since the surgery will not be cheap. I especially love it because if Amy’s prediction about him realizing how much help she will be calming him down doesn’t come true with time (he’s still very much nesting) then maybe the cost of a doula’s services will snap his ego into gear. I do try and make it clear to him how much I appreciate that him going out and working away from home and taking calls in the middle of the night supports us, but I really need to double my efforts now. I am *totally* “team husband” 😛 I just knew I would absolutely have regretted it had my mom not been there. Thank you so much for answering my complicated question Amy! I hope you’re right about him realizing how much we will need help as time goes by and especially when my surgery actually gets scheduled.
    Isabel: Your comment got stuck in our spam folder. Sorry for the delayed posting. Congratulations and happy to hear that everything went well!

  • BB

    October 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Thank you to all of the helpful comments and especially to Amalah for taking my complicated question 🙂 I however do not appreciate the insinuation that because my husband felt left out and hinted at being the only one in the delivery room (key word: hinted, the poor guy never even said anything directly about it) that he must be a codependent abuser. He is an amazing man and has taken to fatherhood beautifully (because of COURSE I went into labor like, later that night after sending this question and didn’t even get to read this until last night after we had been home for a few hours and OH MY GAH the baby’s asleep, internetz!) He has just been feeling left out and would never expect (nor did I think I even implied that he might) me to sit there alone with a baby all day wishing he was with me. I was looking for advice on how to make him feel better about the fact that he can’t be there for us as much as he wants to. Which I recieved in droves, so thank you for the helpful comments everyone 🙂 (my mom was there, btw, and it was a much better experience for everyone for it 🙂