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Labor & Delivery Room Turf Wars, Part Two

By Amalah

Hey there. I’m hoping you or your readers will have some straightforward advice.

I’m writing this at 5am. I should be sleeping, because I am 36 weeks pregnant and I should “sleep while I can.” Ah, well.

A month or so ago, my mother and I were discussing my labor and delivery and I mentioned something about scheduling her postpartum visit. She said, “I had been assuming I would be there for the delivery!” As in, at the hospital in the delivery room. Silence from me. It certainly hadn’t been what I was assuming nor necessarily what I wanted. She said that she was taken aback that I was even thinking about it and that it reflected on her importance in my life. It’s the truth in her mind, but arguably emotionally heavy handed.

Obviously, this is very important to her. My partner and I spent time thinking about what we wanted out of the birth experience and I conceived a plan that I thought would work for me. I would call her when I went into labor and someone would tell her when things had progressed enough at the hospital for her to join us. Essentially, she could come when I no longer cared who was in the room. I was trying to find a cooperative solution because I had heard enough stories from friends of alienating their mothers for years over this. (Turns out this situation is not uncommon.) I told her about this plan and she was agreeable.

Fast forward. My mom has just spent five days visiting and helping us paint the spawn’s room and generally being super handy. On one hand, it’s been great and extremely helpful. On the other, it’s been mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. After I dropped her at the airport I almost wanted to cry at the relief of being an adult again and not someone’s child.

It really made me reconsider my earlier decision. I don’t want her at the delivery. I don’t want to be her child there. My partner and I communicate better alone and we are doing hippo birthing (HypnoBirthing), so our communication is key. I don’t want to fear that she will give me unwanted advice or worry about her opinion. I don’t want to navigate her travel arrangements or figure out where she is going to hang out while waiting to come to hospital. (She will have to fly to get here.)

And now I have to tell her. We are relatively close and get along well, but I am extremely independent. I’m also 36, so am very established in my life and have a great community of friends around me. In general, she wants me to need her more than I do. So how do I deny her this life event and push her away while still making it clear that I love her and that she is important to me?

Hint: Saying “You weren’t there for the conception so why would you be there for the delivery?” will not cut it.

Thanks so much.

I guess I’m a bit confused here, as to why your previous arrangement will no longer work. The way I read it, you would call her when you were ready to have her there. You were not explicitly promising that that moment would come BEFORE your baby is born. I mean, in her mind, maybe that’s what she assumed would happen, but by choosing your wording carefully and definitely pressing the requirement that she STAY PUT, AWAY, until that phone call came, you could realistically wait until you’re settled in a room and then call her. Sorry, Mom, but…labor. Pushing. Birth. I was kind of preoccupied and my partner and I got so focused together that we seriously had zero time to think about anything other than what was happening in that room.

The last time we covered a similar situation (the OP who did not even want to let anyone know she was in labor), I sort of ruled on the side of her parents’ hurt feelings. A few commenters took issue with this because “no one has the RIGHT to be there for YOUR birth.” Which was not at all what I meant to imply. Of course no one has the “right” to just show up and barge in the room! Of course it’s completely, 100% up to you. I think your mother is WAY OUT OF LINE here. But if you’re asking me for the best way to avoid hurt feelings, I’d advise you avoid making the Big Pre-Labor Sweeping Pronouncements About How Much You Don’t Want Her There At All, if at all possible.

Another commenter on that post said what I WISH I had clarified in my answer: It wasn’t so much that there was something “wrong” or “mean” about her plan to not call…the problem arose because she announced it ahead of time, and then had to deal with the fall-out of hurt, shocked parents. If she had simply told a little white lie, when her dad asked her to call, “We’ll do our best to keep everybody informed when there’s something to inform,” she then could avoid the pre-birth hurt feelings and then do whatever she wanted to do when she went into labor. It’s an easier thing to apologize for after, when nobody can really blame you for staying in the moment and getting a little too…ahem…DISTRACTED BY LABOR AND CHILDBIRTH to sit there scrolling through your phone contacts and sending out Evites, or whatever. They don’t necessarily have to know that you had a calm, slowly-building labor with lots of downtime, or if everything progressed at a breakneck speed.

I personally find it hugely presumptuous that anyone, even a mother, would just “assume” her child wanted her there for delivery. (Calling to give a heads’ up over labor, eh, that I would like, I admit. Maybe a quick update or two, if it’s not too much trouble. But BEING THERE is completely different, and everyone in our families knew that Was Not Going To Happen In A Million Years.) And if you were asking me if I thought you were within your rights to explicitly demand that, I would basically say, “Yep. Absolutely. Giddy-up.” But you’re asking how to demand it…without hurting her feelings, which is a different challenge. She’s made it extremely clear that this is what she expects and wants and is willing to emotionally blackmail you about it. I…don’t really see any way to make a preemptive announcement ahead of time that won’t cause her to freak out. So I’d think about ways to simply avoid the discussion all together that still ensures that you get the birth experience you want.

If she does fly in for your due date, is there a fear that she’ll just “show up” at the hospital even without being told it’s okay? If so, tell your nurses and hospital staff that she is NOT ALLOWED BACK. Or “forget” to make her a rental car reservation. Or enlist a friend in the subterfuge to send her updates that oh, nothing’s happening, but everything is fine, hold tight and go about your business.

If I’m misinterpreting the end of your letter and you’re now saying you don’t even want her in the state at the time of delivery, or for any help postpartum, then…yeah, that’s a tough discussion to avoid. (Other than to wait and see if you go into labor ahead of your due date, or to hold her travel plans at bay by saying your OB exams are showing no progress, you’ll likely be overdue, blah blah, blah.)

If you’re simply looking for the perfect, eloquent words to explain your decision to her that are 100% guaranteed to resonate with her and result in her saying, “I never thought about it that way, I completely understand.”…I don’t have them. Maybe explain the hypno-birthing process and how important the connection you have with your partner is. That you love her so very much but she simply HAS to give you this space, this experience, this choice. I don’t know. I’m sorry.

If it helps, I am completely on your side here and honestly would support you even if you dropped all the passive-aggressive suggestions I’ve made here and opted for complete, brutal honestly. Only you know whether that would have super-awful, long-lasting effects on your relationship. (Even though, OMG, she has no RIGHT to demand to be there! GAAAAHHH.) Good luck, with all of it, and above all, don’t let this consume or distract you. Before, during or after the wonderful, awesome birth of your wonderful, awesome baby.

Photo source: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock

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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