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Labor & Delivery Turf Wars: Delivery Room Bullies

Labor & Delivery Turf Wars: Delivery Room Bullies

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I am a first-time mom (FTM), 29 weeks pregnant, and just realized I’m kind of freaking out about L&D visitors, among other things. I’ve talked to DH about my fears, (I’ve got two older sisters who have six children between them, so I am fully aware of the chaos that is birthing a child), but I don’t think he gets it. I think your advice to the other moms in your L&D Turf War posts are spot-on with how I feel about this situation, but I have one problem… My family (and his) is so pushy.

Ideally I would like to have a private birthing experience, just me, DH, and the OB and nurses…. But I don’t see my family respecting my wishes on this. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable at all; I’m willing to call and let them know when we’re headed to the hospital, willing to have DH make the phone calls when we’re close to delivering, in case they feel like they need to come up and sit in the waiting room for hours on end (I can’t understand why, but this was the norm with all of my nieces and nephews), and am asking for everyone to wait until we’re ready for them to come in and visit. I expect that this will be somewhere between a few minutes after delivery, (long enough for me to deliver the placenta and put my legs down, phew!) and a couple of hours (long enough for baby and I to do skin-to-skin and nurse for the first time without interruption, and then for me to put my boobs away). I’m okay with them being at the ready if they choose to, but I don’t think anyone is going to be content waiting in the waiting room.

My mom was present for all six grandchild births before this one, and expects to be present again with lucky number seven. My older sister would also like to be in the room. I have expressed my feelings on the matter, but both of them completely dismissed me by saying “Don’t worry, you’ll change your mind.” It’s true, I may… I’m new to this birthing thing… But I sincerely doubt it. My sisters and my mother are very close, so it makes sense to me that they would want her there… However, I’m daddy’s girl. My dad and I are both very private people, and the thought of everyone seeing me on display is incredibly stressful to me. My dad would understand completely, but I can’t get mom and sisters on board.

Mother-in-law, while she is trying to be respectful, was a L&D nurse for 30 years, and keeps telling us that she would love to be there because she “knows how to make babies come.” We don’t want her there as a professional… We want her in the waiting room like a normal grandparent… But she knows all of the staff at our hospital and I suspect she will be allowed to slip past due to her connections here.

I am trying to tell myself that everyone will respect our wishes when the time comes, and the staff will support us in this, and remind myself that I might just be a crazy pregnant lady after all, so breathe… But this isn’t the first thing we’ve encountered resistance on. Everyone wants to name the baby, everyone wants to know the name of the baby (we want it to be a surprise). There are literally daily discussions about what I should name the baby, and every time I see my family or his mom they comment on how upset they are that we won’t share the name, or won’t name her after one of her grandmas. We’re constantly receiving unsolicited advice, and being told that the things we want to do (baby-wearing, cloth diapering, etc) are not practical and won’t work. They also attempted to veto my opinions for my own baby shower, because I wanted it to be co-ed and asked not to play shower games, but they are insistent that “you have to have games at a baby shower.” So this is just one more area I expect to be bullied into.

I have no problem standing my ground about our wishes, but I don’t know how to respectfully handle this most important issue in my opinion, of keeping the delivery room private for my own comfort. I know I’ll be in pain and preoccupied with labor when it happens, and I think they’ll probably just try to override my decisions when the time comes. Obviously I won’t be in the state to physically stop them from being there at that point, and I don’t feel comfortable making DH the bad guy. I really don’t like feeling like I’m hurting everyone’s feelings, but this is my day… Shouldn’t it be the way I want it?

Thanks for listening!
Super stressed FTM

Not going to lie, part of me kind of wants to tell you to go ahead and have a Big Massive Shrieking Attack at these people — to just go gloriously unhinged at everybody for a few minutes — and put your foot down about ALL OF THE THINGS and order them to back the hell up and off you and your bizness. (Both the bizness you push a baby out of and all of the rest of it.) You would at least be 1) completely justified, and 2) completely able to blame the freak out later on being pregnant. Even though being pregnant is really only part of it, because I AM SORRY, it is BAD FORM and NOT OKAY to bully and boundary-stomp your way into someone else’s delivery room.

I don’t care what your sisters and your mom and every other female relative and next-door neighbor did. They made their choice, they had their turn. It’s now your choice and your turn and they need to shut up and respect that you do not want them there. If that actually hurts their feelings, well…I don’t care. Neither should you. Because it’s not about them and their feelings, at all, not even a little bit.

If you want to be all polite and rational with them instead, I do think a warning here is justified: If they don’t let this delivery room business drop — and I mean DROP — and if they can’t 1,000% promise and assure you that they will respect your wishes for a private delivery and wait until they are invited in…well, you are no longer promising to call them when you are in labor. They don’t want to wait in the waiting room? FINE. They can wait at home until you are ready to receive visitors. Bonus: You get to labor in complete privacy and peace and not feel rushed at ALL to have a big crowd barrel in minutes after you give birth and start insisting you pass the baby around before you and your husband have had sufficient time to soak it all in.

Now, in the past I did advise another mother-to-be to maybe possibly rethink her plan to not tell anyone that she was labor, because the plan was already causing a lot of hurt feelings AND (big, important distinction) I didn’t really get any indication from her letter that her family was pushy or disrespectful or would attempt to gate-crash her delivery. They just wanted to know and didn’t understand why she didn’t want them to know. (I also don’t think there’s anything inherently WRONG with not telling anyone you’re in labor, by the way, but to avoid hurt feelings it’s probably best to not announce the plan ahead of time. Just go into labor and give birth and then call. Blame the speed/stress/bad mobile reception. And then you can distract them with a brand new shiny baby.)

Your family fails on several key differences. They ARE pushy. They ARE disrespectful. And they ARE giving you some serious reasons to believe that they would attempt to push their way in to where they are not wanted and thus have absolutely no right to be. I mean that: This is your birth experience. You get to call the freaking shots. I am so het up on your behalf I am hitting the keys so. very. hard. right. now.

Next up, you are going to enlist the help of your doctor and the hospital staff. Arrange for a tour of the maternity ward and be very upfront and honest about your privacy concerns. Ask how they can ensure that your family stays out, and what can be done if anyone tries to push in. It would be unbelievably unprofessional for the nurses to allow your MIL in without your permission, so bring that up and make it clear that it cannot happen. Like, you will file official complaints if that happens. I don’t care if you’re worried you’ll sound like a crazy paranoid pregnant person, I just want you to go into your birth experience with these fears and worries COMPLETELY HANDLED. By someone else.

You will also repeat your instructions (or have your husband repeat them, since you’ll probably be focused on other things) when you arrive at the hospital. If you do decide to call your families while still in labor, wait until you are safely and fully admitted and settled into your room to do so, AFTER you’ve had a talk with all of the nurses on duty about the situation and your desire for a private birth, no matter what the hyenas in the waiting room get up to.

Back when I gave birth, by the way, it was actually impossible for anyone in the waiting room to get back to the birthing suites without a hospital escort. The doors were locked and alarmed. The maternity ward was more open, but you were still required to check in at a desk with at least the name of the person you were visiting, giving the staff a chance to check and make sure that patient hadn’t specified no visitors or requested certain people be kept away (think custody or other domestic issues). Again, you’ll need to get the staff on alert that your family might think they are (grossly) entitled to sneak in behind someone or insist that you want them there. But hopefully your hospital is modern enough to have basic security safeguards in place.

But seriously, if you really think that no matter how many times you tell them that no, your birth will be private, that they will still remain so convinced that they belong there and keep being all, “there there, little idiot, you’ll change your mind” while plotting to go against your wishes…they don’t deserve to be in the waiting room at all. I mean that. I sense a very long and tiring road for you guys when it comes to setting boundaries about your baby and parenting choices, so I have zero problem with you putting your foot down as hard as you possibly can right now, right from the start. Set a damn precedent that you are not to be bullied or belittled by them about anything related to your child. They will respect your wishes and your choices or else.

Published June 6, 2014. Last updated March 27, 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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