My Mother-in-Law Wants to Be at My Birth

AAPW: How do we keep her out of the room?

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Q: My partner and I are thrilled to be expecting our firstborn, however it has raised a messy family problem. I want, desperately, for my mother to be present when I give birth, not because I want her there for the baby’s birth, but because I trust her more than anyone to advocate for me in the hospital. Birth is dangerous and scary, and I can’t imagine anyone better than my mother to help me navigate the medical institution.

However, I do not, under any circumstances, trust my partner’s mother. She has been generally pleasant to me, but she is emotionally manipulative and incapable of being genuine.

Even though we’ve discussed my distrust of my mother-in-law, she is still my partner’s mother, and my partner doesn’t feel able to forbid her presence around the birth without damaging their relationship. Additionally, my partner is hurt that I’ve indicated I don’t want her there.

I understand that this will be the birth of my partner’s first child as much as it’s mine, but as the pregnant woman, I think my needs should take precedence. The birth is a massive medical procedure that I am undergoing, and I feel that I should have the final say in who is around immediately before and during. I have said that they are welcome to visit in the week following.

Am I in the wrong? I am concerned that I will resent my partner and mother-in-law more or less permanently if I cave on this, but I don’t know how to stop it. Is there another perspective I need to consider?

Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

You are pregnant. This is happening to your body, so you get to call the shots. And that’s regardless of any sordid history with mom. Couples sometimes do that thing where they say, “We’re pregnant!” but what they actually mean is, “She’s pregnant! And after she gives birth, we’re going to have a baby!” This is one of those times where you need to emphasize that no no, you’re the only pregnant one here.

Perhaps your partner doesn’t understand what a delicate, personal, and okay, kind of terrifying thing it is to give birth. Depending on how you feel about it all, there can be some really extreme emotions. And because it’s so emotional and can make one feel so vulnerable, having a tight rein on who’s around is important. You need to be surrounded by comfort and support only.

It also might help to let your partner know that in-laws usually aren’t at the birth, anyway. There isn’t any precedent for mom-in-law to expect to be there. In fact, most of the women I know didn’t want their own moms around. Mom-in-law isn’t being excluded at the birth, because there’s zero reason to assume she’d be invited to begin with.

I get it, the moment a person is born is a very big deal. But there are lots of personal moments that have public impact, and still aren’t suitable for public consumption. An engagement leads to a wedding, changes your relationship status, impacts your families. But it’s not expected that your families will be there for the proposal. I mean, the conception of the baby was a big deal, too, but I’m assuming she wasn’t there for that. It’s okay to be particular about who’s around when the event involves your vagina.

You need to be supported on this. If your partner still feels uncomfortable letting mom down, I wouldn’t be opposed to a little white lie that the hospital won’t allow her in (not far-fetched, many hospitals only allow two people, max).

And do you know why they do that?

Because this is a very personal thing! Sorrynotsorry, mom-in-law.

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