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Labor & Delivery Turf Wars

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’ve been reading your blog, the pregnancy calendar, and advice column ever since I first found out I was pregnant. One word: LOVE! It also got me started on the cloth diapers, which I now have a monster stash of and am anxious to use when my baby arrives. (I’m even going to try CD’s when baby is a newborn thanks to your intrepid research with Baby Ike.)

So, onto my issue. I am due on Friday, eek! And, of course the new baby drama has reared its head. This baby is a first grandchild for both my parents and my husband’s parents, needless to say they (and all of the uncles, great grandmas, etc) are anxiously awaiting his arrival. My husband and I moved from the west coast to be closer to family when we found out we were going to have a baby and have been working on setting up healthy boundaries. Although now I have run into a situation where I am not sure where the line is between healthy and selfish. This is what I am hoping, desperately, that you can help me determine.

After learning a lot about the importance of bonding immediately with baby, establishing breastfeeding, my desire to have my DH and baby be very close from the get go, and avoid situations where he/me is railroaded by well-meaning, but pushy grandmas (specifically my mom) of the “ur doin’ it wrong” variety we decided to not tell anyone when we were headed to the hospital and only contact people when we were ready for visitors, perhaps the day after baby’s birth.

Over the past month, my mom has told me to tell her when I go into labor. This is when I let her know that we will call when we are ready for visitors. The first time she heard this she got real quiet and then said, well you WILL want your mom during labor. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I hedged a bit. Then said, well if I do want you there I will let you know. And she said, oh, you will. Being a first time mom, and never been in labor before, I am not sure exactly what I will want, but have a pretty strong hunch that I will just want my husband, the midwife, and the nurse. I love her, but my mom stresses me out to no end also things can be tense between my husband and mom, and I don’t want my labor to be stalled.

Last night, talking to my dad he said, “Well, you will call when you go into labor, right?” Collecting my courage as much as possible, I said “No.” He responded with a “What? No. You have to call us.” I love my dad, and it was so hard to say no. It was also really difficult to hear him react so strongly. He let me know that he wasn’t interested in coming to the hospital and hanging out while I was in labor (although because of the previous conversation with my mom, I know for a fact that she desperately wants to be there). He said that he wants to know when I am in labor so that he can have a good idea as to when he and my mom might be asked to come visit the new baby at the hospital.

My DH and I are planning on playing visitors by ear, perhaps we will be ready to have visitors in two hours after birth, perhaps 24, perhaps not until we get settled at home. So I am not sure how much time in advance he needs since it won’t be right away. I am also worried that if we call while I am in labor, our phones will be blowing up (however, we will have them off) starting immediately, and then after while we are resting, recovering, breastfeeding, trying to bond as a new family. I am worried that if everything goes to VM that eventually they will just show up at the hospital – and the maternity ward has a pretty open door policy. (I was in L&D earlier in pregnancy because I fell while running and then a little later that evening my parents and brother showed up at my room, without me knowing they were coming.)

So, Amy, what should I do? I am so confused and feeling so much pressure – plus baby could be here any time so I need a plan quick! Argh! Am I being selfish for not calling people (my dad) before I go into labor? For wanting bonding time with baby and not accepting visitors right away? I feel so torn. I deeply feel like I want this space (this morning while journaling I equated it to a cat or dog sneaking off to give birth and then magically coming back with babies). So perhaps it is natural, but perhaps I am so self-focused that I have become selfish and am pushing everyone away.

Please help! I am desperate for an outside opinion on the matter.

Full-term, last minute baby dramz.

Call your parents when you go into labor. “Hi, just letting you know we’re headed to the hospital now! I know! We’re excited. Wish us luck and we’ll call you as soon as there’s any news!” Then turn off your phone. And then tell your nurse and midwife that you do not want any visitors, at all, no exceptions.

While I COMPLETELY understand and 100% SUPPORT your decision to want your labor and delivery to be private and shared with your husband only, and also will defend your right to keep hospital visitors at bay until you are ready TO THE DEATH…I gotta say I think the “we’re not telling anyone we’re even going to the hospital, not even our parents” bit is taking things juuuuust a little too far. Unless you were 100% convinced that your mother would show up uninvited — and although she sounds like she wants to be there, your father says they won’t just show up, correct? Perhaps at this point, they are so distressed at the idea that you won’t tell them anything that they’ll promise not to show up until you say it’s okay, just please call us when you go into labor?

You’re their child, about to have a child, and even if they aren’t sitting there in the front row of the delivery room, I can sort of see why they feel like they deserve a bit more of a heads’ up than a day-after-the-fact notification. I don’t have a daughter, but if I try to imagine one of my boys telling me that I’m not even allowed to know that he and his wife are headed to the hospital because that would be too much of an intrusion on their privacy…that does kind of sting a little.

Have they broken your trust before? Is there a reason a compromise is out of the question? Do you really think you can’t say: “Hey, I would be happy to call you guys when I go into labor, but just know that I don’t want you guys coming during labor or to have any other witnesses at the birth. I’ll call, and then I really need you guys to hold tight and wait until the baby is here and I’m settled and ready for visitors, okay? When we have information, we’ll send it, promise.”

Then you turn the phones off and block out the world until you’re ready for it. Meanwhile, your parents can pray for you or cross their fingers or reminisce together about your birth or go to the store to BUY ALL THE THINGS or whatever they want to do with the knowledge that the baby will be here soon.

And yes, maternity wards are pretty casual when it comes to visitors, but they will TOTALLY be the heavy on your behalf if you need them to be. Tell your labor nurse/midwife that you want ZERO VISITORS and NO ONE ELSE is allowed in the room, and she will make that happen. Even if your mom shows up, she’ll be kept in the waiting room until you say otherwise. They’ll even suggest she go home if that’s what you want, by saying your labor is progressing slowly and nothing is likely to happen until much later. (Even if that isn’t technically true. They’re just pretty good at shooing people away since it’s part of the job.) Same deal with your room after the birth. If the front desk knows you don’t want visitors, they won’t give your room number out, so unannounced visitors shouldn’t be able to just wander in. That sucks that happened to you after your fall, but by stressing to your nurse/midwife that absolute privacy is #1 on your birth plan, they should easily prevent it from happening again.

My nurses have always told me, when first getting me settled in my room post-birth, that I just need to let them know if I’m overwhelmed by visitors and they’ll clear the room for me, even if it’s full of people I’ve given my room number to and even invited. Sometimes you tire out before they do, and honestly all I’ve ever had to say is “okay guys, this was awesome but I think I need a nap, I JUST HAD A BABY” and boom, mass exodus. Just because people are aware you’re in labor and having a baby doesn’t mean they’re allowed to just descend en masse and there’s nothing you can do about it other than sit there in bed helplessly while they pass your newborn around from person to person.

And in my experience, even if you do get visitors…it’s not like that. Because here’s the thing: the hospital is BORING. You go in with this vision of lovely sweet private cocoon-y bonding time and then…well, it’s actually a lot of lying around and checking your phone while your husband complains about the uncomfortable sleeper sofa and wanders off in search of snacks. The nurse comes in and checks your vitals a lot. The TV doesn’t get enough channels and it’s hard to focus on reading and the baby sleeps a ton and sometimes you’re just like, “God, I’m so bored.” Visitors, rather than being an intrusion on your new family, can become a welcome distraction to the monotony. I’d actually recommend being a little less focused on the hospital visits (which are short and easily controlled/ended by a signal to the nurse) and more about what happens after you’re home. That’s when the overnight “helping” and open-ended in-law visits can be more of a pain than a help. There’s something to be said for giving everybody their baby fix when they’re not in your living room and a nurse can put an end to things at any given moment.

Personally, we called our parents when I went into labor with Noah. Everybody knew my scheduled c-section dates with Ezra and Ike. They also knew that I did not want any company during labor and the births, but we would let them know when it was okay to visit. We made no promises that it would be day one or day two or even later…just that we would, indeed, let them know. With Noah, we were especially cautious (since it’s not like we needed anyone there to care for older children) and had laid down a “no overnight guests for two weeks” rule too. They could come visit at the hospital when we said they could, and then they were to go back home while Jason and I settled in on our own.

And you know what? I wanted them there on day one. I really did. With Noah, my parents were still several hours away when I arrived in my room post-c-section and I SHOCKED myself by bursting into tears because I just wanted my mom. With Ezra, my parents couldn’t come visit at all because my dad was too sick, and I was so sad that they missed the sight of my new baby on his birthday. With Ike, my dad was gone but my mom and my in-laws were waiting patiently at our house and I again surprised myself by how badly I wanted to see them all — and for them to bring my other boys, just to fill the room with crazy, awesome chaos when Ike was just hours old. I was texting my room number to them  and a slew of friends while I was being wheeled in the hallway and ordering them to get over already, I JUST HAD A BABY OMG YOU’VE GOTTA COME SEE THIS BABY!

With each baby, I probably had no more than one or two other visitors besides family — people really are, overall, pretty respectful of that time. With Ike, I started to feel a bit poorly after my IV came out and I had to cancel a couple friends’ planned visit and cut the usual family visit short that day…and everybody understood and respected my wishes. I admit that there was some in-law dramz after Ike’s birth that drove Jason and I pretty crazy, but in the end, it happened and was annoying and maybe could have been avoided by barring them completely from the hospital…but I wouldn’t have felt very good about doing that at all, and the stress had zero effect on anything really important: breastfeeding, bonding, my recovery, etc.

So…this really may end up being one of those things that is way more important in your mind NOW, pre-baby, than it actually is post-baby. Your desire to protect your privacy in those early hours may get thoroughly trumped by a delirious postpartum desire to have people see and witness and fuss over the little miracle you delivered. Or maybe not! You may find that you still have zero desire to see anyone a full 24, 36 hours later, just like you suspect. And that’s completely not selfish and totally your right, and a good nursing staff will make sure that happens…even if you call your parents and tell them you’re going into labor. I really bet you can let go of that part of the “plan” and still have the birth and postpartum experience you’re hoping for. Especially since your labor won’t be twinged with the knowledge that feelings are being hurt. Good luck, and I promise, everything will work out and be awesome, dramz or no dramz.


Photo credit: Thinkstock

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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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