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


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

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

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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.

If you would like to ask APW a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • scw

    “It’s okay to be particular about who’s around when the event involves your vagina.”

    can we get this on a tshirt?

    • Yes, please! Bookmarking this post and writing that quote on a scrap of paper. If it comes to it, I have a feeling that saying those words straight out will have the desired effect!

    • scw

      also, oh man, this post is stressing me out.

      • Alyssa M

        Me too! Also, so happy we live four hours away from parents. I love my MIL, she’s great and respectful, we’re like slightly awkward friends… she DOES NOT get to be in the room while I give birth.

        • Emma

          “like slightly awkward friends” I love that description it fits so perfectly for me too!

      • Jules

        …This might be a stupid question, but can you tell the hospital / your doctor specifically who is allowed? Worst fear, someone who thinks they “should” be there and busts in unannounced. Huge violation of my privacy.

        • Liz

          Yes, you can. ETA: I mean, usually. It’s not like I’ve been to every hospital.

          • Jules

            Oh thank goodness.

        • Mary Jo TC

          You can write that into your ‘birth plan’ and talk to your doctor or midwife about who gets to be in the room, and nurses can act as bodyguards.

          • Jean

            But you may still have to deal with your husbands disrespect and trying to dominate gourde anions and then try to let his mom into her room.

            We need to reach all weak and gullible females how to not let their husbands control their delivery room. He doesnot have the right to tell you how to give birth. He cannot tell who you ought to allow to see you exposed. And you ought to be a big girl and tell him to back off! Don’t back down from your decision. Stand up to your husbands when it comes to your body in front of others. You can exclude him if he keeps trying to dominate the birth.

            You don’t need your MIL in that way. His mother cannot bully you. You did to marry her anyway.

        • qj

          We took a birth class at our hospital on Tuesday, and one of the things they emphasized over and over again was that *not even the partner* is allowed in the room with birthing person + nurse/doc for 20 minutes at intake, so that birthing person can articulate their needs/wants openly w/o pressure from anyone else. I imagine “X person is not allowed into the room” is a totally legit thing to say during this period. Hopefully there are things like this at other hospitals!

          • Kara E

            WHAT? That’s nuts. The partner is /not allowed/ at that phase? That seems like a great opportunity for medical professionals to pressure someone about their preferences without their best advocate. By the time I was in active labor enough to be at the hospital, I was NOT in shape to labor without my husband, much less do more than hand over the copy of my birth plan.

          • Erin

            Yeah, I can see how that might seem a little nuts. But there are so many crazy situations that can arise. For example, if there is any sort of abuse in the relationship, then ensuring that the mother has a 20 minute private intake seems imperative. Any other thoughts on why this might be necessary?

          • LP

            I assume that it’s built in time to help medical staff identify or deal with a birthing mom accompanied by an abusive or controlling partner/family member. Staff can hear the mom’s wishes about the birth, any medical issues she may not be comfortable addressing in front of a partner, substance or drug use, adoption, etc.

            When I was in the ER last year with a ruptured ear drum, the intake nurse said she needed to ask me a few questions without my husband. Once I told her that I “felt safe from violence in my environment,” she asked if I wanted her to go get my husband (I am bleeding out of my ear so YES). He was away for probably about 30 seconds total, but I completely understand the protocol with that.

          • qj

            Yeah, that’s kind of what I imagine, too. They said 20 minutes but based on our collective doc appointments and ER intakes in this hospital system (that always start off solo with questions like what you described – for both of us – when we’ve been patients), I’m assuming it’s a screening to establish safety for the birthing partner right off bat. (And I’m planning to tell them that what I want is for my partner to join us ASAP!)

          • Meg Keene

            It’s a good thing!! It’s because L&D staff have to deal pretty regularly with abusive partners, and they have built in systems to make sure that a woman’s needs are getting met. I actually had a long talk last time I was L&D with the nurses about that (which is why I know a little more about it right this sec) and how having private intake rooms was so much better for them (the room at our hospital used to be shared) because a big part of their job was dealing with abusive situations and really sensitive stuff.

            Usually the amount of time they keep a partner out, if you express that you want them there, is really small, but good hospitals do good work about doing more than just asking a routine question, but really making SURE women are getting what they need.

          • Dawn

            I agree with Kate E on this. There needs to be a way for pregnant women to avoid the time without partner protocol. For me, my goal was a natural birth at a hospital that sees very few women who do that. My husband and I did Bradley Method classes to help prepare us, and it is called “husband / partner -coached childbirth” for a reason. We waited at home a long time, and by the time we were at the hospital, I needed m husband there to help me deal with pressures from medical staff. Those pressures are real. Fortunately, we were able to pre-register with our birth plan that allowed my husband. My OB okay ex that, having gotten to know my husband. Maybe that could be an alternative for those of us who want to be able to control not only who isn’t allowed, but who we want with us. Anyone else have ideas in this?

          • Jean wildcat in the valley

            This shows are gullible we as women are. The staff is only trying to help women. Why can’t women see that? There are so many times when the husband dominates his wife and she lets him and she is afraid to speak up for herself, and gets mad at his wife for not letting his parents in HER labor and delivery room.
            This is why the doctor and nurses have the private one on one time with the woman, who is the patient. They ask her what she wants, because women in the United Staes, tend to worry about their husbands’s feelings at the wrong time. The husband would not be that worried about hurting his wife’s feelings, if he was a patient. Women need to get some sense and think about themselves sometimes and stop putting their husband before her own feelings and wants.
            You see, husbands don’t care about their wives feelings, r privacy, when his parents pop in her patient delivery room. There is no day on this earth, when it is okay for the husbands’s parents to come into the daughter in law’s room when she is naked and exposed and breastfeeding, and being checked!!!! How is that EVER okay?

          • Pam in the valley

            You are probably one of those young, trusting, gullible females who do not realize yet , just how treacherous a man can be. They are also devoted to their moms, most times more than their wives.
            As the years go on, you will see what I am talking about. StNd up to your husband when it comes to your rights about things that affect you and especially in your delivery room when you are in pain and exposed.

            Husbands can be clueless about how you will need and want your privacy. Teach him how to respect you now!12-16-15

          • Jean

            But some wives will tell you that sometimes when a woman is laboring, that women cannot always trust the husband to keep his mother out of the room.

            Some husbands are low down and dirty and disrespect their wives and place their mother’s wants and wishes before the wife, even when she has told his butt that she does want his mother to come into her own private delivery room.

            Wives better speak up!! Speak up and tell your husband that he must respect you and also your labor and delivery. If he cannot abide by your decisions, then he can’t be kicked out too. 2-6-16

          • Crayfish Kate

            That is really awesome, good for them! (Not pregnant, not ever planning to be pregnant, but still good info to know).

          • qj

            This hospital system is SERIOUSLY amazing about always asking questions about safety, first. And for men, too, which is important! When my partner was in the ER last summer he (vaguely) recalls them asking about his safety/home environment, too!

          • Beryl

            Stop trying to make this about men and stick to the topic of the wife’s delivery room and woman’s childbirth!!

        • Kayla

          Not birth-related, but my husband had major surgery a couple years ago, and afterward his mom was really, really pushy about wanting to spend time with him. He did not want to see her (for many reasons), and we told the nurses, and they were really supportive and worked hard to keep her out. They made signs saying something like, “This patient is resting. No visitors.” and they would enforce that.

          • Meg Keene

            GOD BLESS NURSES. That’s basically what I’ve learned from giving birth. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re taken care of, down to telling someone “it’s hospital policy,” if that’s what it takes.

            Or sticking up for you with bitchy lactation consultants, which happened to me. I was so grateful I said I wanted to name my second child after her.

            Nurses are amazing advocates for their patients, in short.

          • Jean

            See how men want privacy when they are patients. Why in the heck can’t men see and understand that their wives want their privacy too. This shows a disrespect from men.

            Don’t you women now get it? And wives, we need to work as hard for our childbirth privacy as some of you work to help your husbands keep privacy when they are the patient. This shows a huge double standard.

            Why are wives willing to allow their husbands to dominate and control their right of privacy from his mother. Mother in laws are not, the same as a young female’s mother and will never be the same.

            See how the commenter above went all out to support her husband’s privacy? Why can’t husbands see this support that wives give to them without question, and how wives do this without questioning the husbands respect and need for privacy? Wow, some of us wives are so foolish. 1-28-16

        • Meg Keene

          Yes!!! At our hospital you get a form to fill out in advance. Who can be there. Who specifically cannot be there. If they should know they may need to help manage people in the waiting room, etc.

        • You can register private at the hospital and then people can’t call or come and find out what room you are in and just burst in. The only way they know you are there if you register as private is if you tell them.

        • Amanda

          At the hospital I gave birth at, the nurses said that they were also bouncers, and anyone not approved would be booted!

      • Meg Keene

        Hahaha! It really stressed ME out when we got it. I said to Liz, “I know we really only do wedding questions on AAPW, but you know, I feel like giving your vagina some space questions are ALWAYS IMPORTANT.”

  • Anonymous for the Same Reason

    Congratulations, Anonymous! We are also expecting our first (not public yet) and have been interviewing doulas to advocate for me/us during the birth. Two thoughts – you mentioned that you trust your mom to advocate for you in the hospital. That may just be because she’s your mom and you trust her to be on your side. If it also happens that she has specific experience with the medical industry that helps make her a good advocate, is that something you could point out to help give your partner a point with your MIL that may feel less personal? Perhaps moving the discussion away from your mom “gets” to be there because she’s your mom towards your mom is there advocating for you (and you don’t need two advocates) might help? Also, in doula interviews when we’ve asked them for their thoughts on additional people being in the room, multiple doulas have said only to have people there who are there to actively support you and in front of whom you’d be comfortable pooping. (Sorry if that’s TMI!) ;) Seriously, though – birth is a time where you need to feel safe to completely relax/be open and also maintain a great amount of endurance/energy that doesn’t need to be expended on managing other people. It is not a show/entertainment or anyone else’s right to be there. If you think MIL being there may not contribute to your sense of safety and being supported, then she shouldn’t be there. And I would totally use the “hospital won’t allow that many” line if it came down to it (and it might be true!).

  • Manya

    I really could not agree more with Liz on this one. Yes, it’s your vagina and you have the absolute right to control who sees it and under what circumstances. Your husband really does need to step up and run interference here, or go the white lie route (they only allow the partner and the doula–who in this case happens to be my mother). I would really downplay the reasons that you don’t want your MIL specifically in the room, and just say you really want to keep the crowd to a minimum. Birth is f-ing hard work and it takes a great deal of concentration. You must be able to feel like you can relax and do WHATEVER you need to do (and I do mean WHATEVER). If your partner is not willing to run interference, then a heart to heart talk with your MIL over lunch or coffee where you thank her so much for her desire to support you and say that you will be so happy to have her with you in the moments after you finish labor and the post-labor stuff to share in your joy. If you de-emphasize that you DON’T want your MIL specifically because you don’t trust her etc… and emphasize more what you want and need (privacy, no crowd, to be able to fully concentrate, etc.) maybe you can redirect this conversation away from hurt. And if worse comes to worse your nurses/doc WILL kick her out during the event if that is what you need. (My nurses actually got my ex-husband out of the room when he couldn’t stop passing out and distracting me!). Good luck… and Congrats!

  • Lian

    If you are reading this: congratulations! You saw it before the mods deleted it. They’ve already deleted three of my comments without any explanation. And unlike this one, those were just comments where I was trying to be helpful and informative and maybe questioning why entire conversations people are having are being deleted without explanation or warning. I fully expect this to be deleted within a minute as well.
    So apparently that is the type of community APW is! I feel like people should be made aware of this.

    (Mods: I seriously just want some acknowledgement that this is happening! I realize that this is your website and you can do whatever you want, but I feel like this is a big internet community management faux pas)

    • Liz

      Lian, I think I’m the only moderator up right now and I haven’t seen, let alone deleted, any of your comments.

      • Mary Jo TC

        She’s talking about yesterday’s morning post that was entirely deleted, and comments later in the day asking what happened that disappeared. Some transparency on why this happened would be nice.

      • Lian

        Thanks for responding, Liz! Even the last removal must have been last night, then. I’ve attached a screenshot of my Disqus page. Unfortunately I can’t post the entire comments I made because when I try to expand it just has nowhere to go. There was an additional third comment which was in reply to somebody asking what happened to that morning’s post, and that one doesn’t even show up in my page (probably because the original comment was removed so my comment just disappeared into the ether).

        • Liz

          Since it has nothing to do with the post at hand, we can’t continue that conversation right here (besides, I don’t know anything about it). I’ve forwarded your comments along, but you can also email here asking about it, per the comment policy.

          • Lian

            Thanks for responding – that is certainly preferred over deleting without any notification. I will continue talking about this topic on the open thread tomorrow, then.

          • Mary Jo TC

            Open thread would be a good place for it. This discussion should be public. Thanks for replying and not deleting, Liz!

  • Amy Sigmon

    I was going to say the same thing: hospitals often have a limit of the number of folks in the room for the birth. Plus, no matter how your pregnancy goes, no matter how going into labor (or being induced) goes, you cannot predict how birth will go. Manya said it very succinctly below: labor and birth is
    really hard work. You’re going to be in pain, or uncomfortable. You’re not
    really going to be fully dressed. This truly, is about you. Yes, your
    supportive, wonderful partner will be there, but the labor part? The birth
    part? All you. Stick to your guns on this one. And if I can stick my nose into
    advice where you didn’t ask for it? Stick to your guns on long visits even
    after the birth. You’re going to be recuperating and learning how to feed/bond/take
    care of your newborn. My in-laws came to town 6 days after my son was born, and
    while I loved letting them love on their grandson, I did not get to focus on
    try to learn how to nurse him and somehow I was responsible for figuring out
    what’s for dinner. It was really hard to have them just hanging out at the small
    apartment all day long while I was trying to do all these very personal things.

    • Jules

      I feel for you. My future in-laws are in town for wedding week. As much as I appreciate some of the help around the house, and as hard as I tried to set boundaries to protect my sanity (only one person allowed to stay at the house, for example), it’s….stressful. It stressed out my FH so badly that he retreated to our room yesterday. I realize that’s a wildly different experience than bringing home a new baby, but on the plus side, I think FH is starting to understand just why I didn’t want all these people in our house before the wedding. Yes – even “helpful” people.

      • I go through this every time my in-laws come to visit with the “helpful” stuff.
        I’ll admit I’m really absurdly particular about my kitchen and how things are done. And I would rather do things my way alone than have help. Baking alone is actually what I do for relaxation. But my MIL really loves having help in the kitchen when we visit her and so when she’s over I think she thinks shes doing the right thing by helping.

        I’m always like “no, you’re a guest, sit please, here let me get you some wine” but I think she just thinks I’m being nice and am too shy to ask for help. I guess we’ll just go on like that.

  • Em

    Spot on, Liz!!

    It seems to me that pregnant/birthing women often seem to be reduced to just the vehicle by which the baby arrives in the world, which may be why your mother in law feels entitled to being present. But birth isn’t about the baby. Birth is the final stage of the mother’s pregnancy. This is YOUR experience – at the end of which you will happen to end up with a baby. After birth, your baby can become the centre of attention – and you and your partner will likely be reduced just the vehicles by which your baby arrives at grandma’s house to get loved on ;) haha.

    Maybe that distinction – that the act of birth is actually the completion of your pregnancy experience as opposed to the beginning of the baby’s experience of life – could be helpful to your partner in understanding why it’s important and right and good that you get to dictate the terms of that experience.

    • scw

      “But birth isn’t about the baby. Birth is the final stage of the mother’s pregnancy. ”

      really well put!

    • Lawyerette510

      All the up votes for “It seems to me that pregnant/birthing women often seem to be reduced to just the vehicle by which the baby arrives in the world,”

      • Jules

        Amen. What is it about pregnant women and the loss of their personal….space? I wouldn’t walk up to a man (or a non-pregnant woman for that matter) in the supermarket and touch his belly. I wouldn’t expect to be around my son in law with his pants down.

        • Lisa

          I have a friend who, when she was pregnant with her first child, told the strangers that who touched her in public that she wasn’t pregnant but that she had an ovarian tumor. Not true (thankfully), produced a lot of laughs for us, and forced people to reconsider their assumptions about women/their personal space.

          • Sarah E

            Good for her. Maybe the next strategy should just be touching the other person’s stomach right back? Like a tummy handshake in all its awkward glory.

          • Michigan Sara

            I’m pregnant now and that is my plan if someone other than a family member rubs my belly w/o permission. If the person acts surprised, I want to say, “Oh! I thought that was the new way of shaking hands” or something like that. Hope my brain works fast enough to pull it off!

          • This is my plan for future pregnancy. I almost can’t wait.

    • qj

      At a birth class this week, a medical professional actually referred to the pregnant people in the room as “the best kind of incubators.” I get the point (i.e. keep the baby in as long as possible until it’s time to), but … to your point about women as vehicles —> yes!

    • Gina

      THANK YOU. My body is still my body, about which I can set personal limits at any time. Why is that so hard to understand?

    • Meg Keene

      Yes, this. Really articulately put, I think.

      I mean, there is a moment when there is a new human, but even in that moment, the mom’s biological process and the new human’s biological process are still so tied together that the mom should get rights to call who’s in the room, etc. After a bit, then sure! Attention turns to the baby. (That’s hard for some moms, but I remember being like PHEW, PRESSURE IS OFF. Amazing, let’s all look at him now, not me.)

      But birth? It’s about the lady doing the laboring, or having the surgery, or what have you. And whatever support she (and secondly her partner) need.

  • Anna

    To me, this request is really offside. I can’t imagine anyone demanding on being there. I mean, it’s so personal. Your vagina will be visible and you may poo. So… ya.

    I’m guessing your husband doesn’t realize how unusual this request is. Have you tried talking with him about what your body is about to experience and how you’re feeling about that? I mean in detail? I’m assuming a lot of males have never really put themselves in that headspace, because they will never be in that situation. Maybe tell him about some friends/siblings/cousins who’ve recently had children and point out how (most likely) NONE of their MILs were present.

    I really think you get to choose who’s in the room and your husband, ultimately, doesn’t have a say.

    I think this request is so bizarre. This is not a shower invite or choosing where your seat is at the wedding, this is your birth of your child. Its your call. 100%

  • Mary Jo TC

    Maybe this will help: Is your father going to be in the delivery room? Probably not. Your mother-in-law will be receiving exactly the same consideration as your own father. Which is probably, to get a call when you go to the hospital (or soon after the birth) and maybe be in the waiting room outside the delivery room, and to visit while you’re in the hospital. Also, for the purposes of your birth, your own mom is not there as your mom and the baby’s grandmother, but as a friend who will be good labor support and advocate. I bet it wouldn’t be as much of an issue if you didn’t want your mom there, but had a best friend who was a doula in the delivery room with you and zero new grandparents in the room. Your partner NEEDS to support you on this.

    And really, what is the appeal of being in the delivery room? Lots of waiting and stress and being in the way and seeing things you have no business seeing and will never forget.

    • Mary Jo TC

      When I had my baby I initially didn’t want anyone to be in the waiting room or to be notified that we were at the hospital because I was afraid that knowing that people were waiting on me would make me anxious and close up (Ina May’s discussion of sphincters made me think this). People told me that when I was really in labor I wouldn’t care, and they were right. But I think that the reason I didn’t care were 1. it was a relatively fast birth (5 hours from arrival at hospital to birth) 2. it progressed steadily, and 3. I was on nitrous oxide so I was high as a kite. Without any of those elements, or with a more complicated birth, I might have had a moment of panic that could have stalled labor.

      • emilyg25

        To show a different perspective, I was in labor for 46 hours. It kind of sucked balls to keep getting texts like, “Baby yet??” for 2 stinking days. Birth is so crazy and you really have no idea how it’ll go! I’m sure if we’d had anyone in the waiting room, they would have gone home. :)

        • Mary Jo TC

          Exactly. If I’d had that kind of birth, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone outside the room to know I was in labor. What a warrior you are. And what jerks to keep texting for updates!

        • Lizzie

          Damn, woman. I never plan on giving birth but I bow down to you.

        • MDBethann

          Yikes. I’m grateful everyone was asleep while I was in labor & delivery. We called within 5 minutes of our daughter being born though. It also helps that neither set of parents uses texts or has a smart phone :-)

      • Caitlyn

        Did you give birth in the US? I’ve only heard of nitrous oxide being used overseas and I personally WANT nitrous oxide when I give birth (I am terrified of needles and an epidural scares the shit out of me) and I’m curious if it’s possible to find US doctors who use it. Thanks for any advice you have!

        • Mary Jo TC

          I was lucky enough to give birth in one of 2 hospitals in the US that allow use of nitrous oxide during labor. I was at Vanderbilt in Nashville. I think the other one is in the Northeast (Dartmouth?). That was the case when I gave birth 2 years ago anyway, things might have changed since then. I hope they have. I don’t really have any experience advocating for using this drug with doctors who weren’t already ok with it, which might be what you’ll have to do. I wish I had better news for you!

          It was awesome and I wish everyone had access to it. My anxiety disappeared. I’ve been joking every since that I’d love to use it recreationally! I’ve heard that not everybody has good reactions to it, though.

          • Caitlyn

            Yay! Thank you for the response, this is very encouraging to know that it is possible (even if somewhat unusual) to find in the US.

        • Kayla

          I recently gave birth in NH and 2 of the 5 hospitals in my area offer nitrous oxide. I believe it is becoming more popular all over, so I would definitely ask around when you are choosing where to give birth.

          • Kayla

            I was reading along and I thought this comment was me and I was like WAIT WHAT. I GAVE BIRTH??!

            I freaked myself out so badly that I think I need to go lie down.

            Sincerely,
            Other Kayla

        • qj

          A hospital in Boston redid their labor and delivery suite last year and nitrous oxide was one of the updates they made!

        • guest

          A hospital in DC just started advertising their new program. If not for traffic from the suburbs, I’d switch just for that.

      • VKD_Vee

        Nitrous FTW

  • Teresa

    You get to decide who is there–only you. You are going through a major medical procedure–this is not about fairness, like well, your mom gets to be there, why not mine? Your husband and your mother in law do not get a say and your husband needs to really step up and explain to his mother that she can visit the hospital when the baby is born, she can wait in the waiting room so she gets the news right away, but she does not get to be in the room. Likely, she won’t be allowed because of numbers (I’ve never heard of them allowing more than two people in a delivery room), but I think it is a fairly unusual assumption on her part. I’m sure there is a way to say it with kindness, so as to not hurt her feelings, but it needs to be said. Good luck (and yay new baby!)!

  • Violet

    I agree with Liz.

    I can’t tell from the way your question was phrased if your MIL directly asked to be there, or if it was just part of the discussions you said you’ve had with your partner about your mistrust of her/your general plan for the birth. You’ve said your partner is hurt you indicated you didn’t want her there, but I don’t know if MIL knows she isn’t going to be there or is even herself hurt by that fact.

    If your partner is pre-emptively concerned that MIL will become upset, ask your partner if your MIL’s MIL was there for that delivery (assuming your partner is not adopted, which would make any questions about your MIL’s delivery experience moot). I would bet SO MANY donuts that her MIL was not there. This seems bizarre to me as a “thing” to happen, and I think it would be even more foreign to the older generation. This might be reassuring to your partner.

  • Anon for this

    I remember a conversation I had years ago with my ex-MIL when I realized that she assumed she’d be invited to the birth of any children I had with her son. She actually said something along the lines of, “The father’s parents have just as much of a right to be there, it’s their grandchild too.” Luckily kids weren’t an issue for us at that time, but I distinctly remember thinking, “Uh-oh, this is going to be a fight one day.”

  • Just to play devil’s advocate — I couldn’t quite tell from the letter if the OP was trying to keep the MIL away from the labor & delivery process itself, or from the hospital entirely. (She said they were welcome to visit the week after the baby was born.) I totally agree that labor is an intensely personal process and the OP should only have her mom and her husband with her, if that’s what she wants (and that having the MIL there would be weird!!). BUT I would try to avoid making a decision right now about when the in-laws can make their first visit. It might actually be *less* stressful to have them come visit in the hospital (assuming that’s where the birth is taking place) because you don’t have to worry about being a hostess or being judged on your mothering skills just yet…and there are usually visiting hours that determine how long a visit can be.
    Either way, there are so many variables around birth that I think it’d be safest to just say “no MIL during labor/delivery, and then can come visit as soon as we’re feeling up to it” rather then setting a date of “they can come the week after.”

    • Alyssa M

      I wondered about this too… because under no circumstances should the MIL be in the room during birth… But perhaps a hospital visit after is middle ground?

      • Lisa

        I think it might be overly mean not to let the MIL into the hospital room once the birth is over. The baby, once born, is also her grandchild.

        • Alyssa M

          I think the same… however I know that others with difficult relationships with family may disagree? Which to me makes it a middle ground where she can meet her partner/MIL… Not during the birth, but after is ok.

          • Lisa

            My extended family is so important to me, and only more so as my kids have grown up. Their grandparents have been an integral and loving part of their lives – I would hate to have been fending them off early on. It is just as easy to bond with a baby when you have a little help from family;).

          • Meg Keene

            Depends on what the family situation is. That’s the real deal.

            For women with family situations where having the family in the room is a good thing, that’s one situation. For women where having family in the room is emotionally draining and manipulative… people pulling the “well, it’s my grandkid now” card, is… not so helpful. Because yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean a new mother is in in a state to deal with emotionally manipulative or abusive folks. So sometimes you have to set boundaries, and they may suck for family, but if there is one time you need to protect yourself and your tiny new human, it’s this.

            Not everyone has grandparents (or parents) who are always a blessing, and I think that’s important to remember. (And talk to your partner about, because their job at that point is to take care of both you, and tiny human. That may mean inviting loved ones in, or keeping people who they can’t handle out.)

          • Lisa

            I replied to your other comment above, agreeing, in that the presence (or not) of any parents/family at the birth should follow from the state of the relationship of mother and parents/family before birth.

        • Anna

          This raises some interesting questions. I know you have adult children Lisa and I can imagine how invested one would be and how personally fulfilling and exciting a new grandchild is.

          Someone I know recently had a child and for the first x weeks (I think 4 or so) they insisted only the parents could hold the child. For the paternal grandparents this was their first grandchild. (The mother had children from a previous relationship- so for the maternal grandparents it wasn’t the first). I think the paternal grandparents were notified of the birth after the child was born and then able to visit but not hold the baby for the first few weeks.

          My immediate reaction was hurt on behalf of these grandparents and I was inclined to think it was actually a bit mean. Others have told me their thoughts were more, it’s their baby they can do what they want…

          anyways this is obviously a specific and (I think?) somewhat unusual situation- I haven’t asked about the reasoning, but I know it’s not cultural or religious and the relationship with the paternal grandparents is really healthy and supportive. The grandparents seemed to handle the situation better than I, an unrelated third party.

          AAAAAnnnnnyways- It just got me thinking, a lot of questions!

          • Eh

            I have actually heard of people that did not let anyone visit their house for weeks after the baby was born. The reason was so the parents/child could bond and the parents could figure out what worked for them. Personally, it would not be good for my mental health if I only saw my baby and my husband for x weeks and had no other human contact.

          • Christine

            two words: whopping cough. For example. Whopping cough can be fatal to infants. Something like 80% of infant whooping cough cases are transmitted to the child via a family member (parent, grandparent, etc.). Parents can totally choose and enforce getting themselves immunized, but to ask grandparents (let alone anyone else) to get immunized can open a whole other can of worms.

        • Pbeth

          I would gently disagree. We did not have any visitors in the hospital or for the first week of our child’s life. As brand new parents, that week was very important for us to figure out how (we wanted) to care for our baby and how we wanted to share those care responsibilities. That week also helped us gain much needed confidence in taking care of our little one. After that week, both of our sets of parents came to visit, meet our son and help us around the house (which was much appreciated).

          • Anita

            you didn’t let ANYONE else though. That is the difference. She says she wants HER mother only, NOT her partner’s mother and that her partner’s mother can come a week later when everyone else can come. That is definitely rude and mean.

            If she put the shoe on the other foot to think for 2 seconds how her own mother would feel or how she would feel if she was the partner i think she would be upset that her partner did not want her mother around for a week. It doesn’t matter how she feels about her MIL it is still her partner’s baby AND her partner’s mother who obviously is important to the partner. Her feelings are not the only one that counts.

          • Pbeth

            This wouldn’t have made sense for my own situation, but I could reasonably see inviting someone to be my support coach during birth. They would obviously get to meet the baby a little earlier as they were there at birth, but their primary role would be as my support person. That person could be a mother, father, sibling, friend, etc.

            It would be different if the suggestion was allowing all of one family to meet the little one but asking the entire other family to wait a week. My sister-in-law invited her mother as a support figure (currently an current L&D nurse herself) but my in-laws did not visit for a few days. There were no bridges burned.

            This may or may not be what the writer had in mind, but I do think “support person for /me/ during birth” and “friends & family there to visit the /baby/” can be separated.

          • Christine

            I would have to disagree. The important piece her is about how OP is feeling within the context of giving birth and becoming a new parent. And a big part of making a decision of who and when and where people (read: ANYONE) gets to meet your kid during what is an emotionally new and potentially stressful time is tied to each parent’s and especially the mother’s (sorry dads and partners, but there is a lot of hormonal stuff going on that makes giving them equal footing hard to do) personal relationships with the person in question. Unfortunately, this is not really a time when “being fair” can really be an expectation.

          • Anita

            If i didn’t care about my partners feelings and if they didn’t matter then i shouldn’t be with them. It is important to her partner and her partner’s feelings should count.

        • Kate M

          I agree, it seems mean to me as well. Especially if the other mother has already been allowed to see the baby. My mom would have killed me if we had made her wait once the baby arrived.

        • lmba

          I don’t know if it’s MEAN, exactly. It might be pushing the limits of MIL’s ability to get over hurt feelings. The days immediately post-partum are extremely vulnerable, and the birthing mother’s wishes should be taken seriously. At the same time, the hospital can actually be a really great environment for visits because it is easy to keep them brief (make excuses about needing to meet with this or that healthcare professional), you are already IN BED so there is no pressure to be hosting, and you will probably still be on a high from the endorphins of birth (rather than a hormonal crash a few days later when milk comes in). Plus, postpartum hospital rooms, in my experience, are CROWDED and not the most comfortable place to hunker down for a long visit.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      This is a really good distinction. It seems pretty clear to me that OP gets to pick who’s in the room when a tiny human makes its way out of her vagina. But navigating who comes AFTER the birth is a bit more fraught.

      I don’t think it’s unusual for grandparents to want to visit a new baby in the hospital, and I agree that can be an easier visit for new parents. But OP might have concerns about MIL staying too long, interfering with parents bonding with baby, or a million other things. If that’s where the OP and her husband/MIL are starting to disagree, that makes a bit more sense to me.

      • Lauren from NH

        Right. It sounds like there may be a lack of trust between the OP and her MIL, which in my experience makes the prospect of sharing any of life’s important moments with this person reasonable or not, very stressful.

    • Lawyerette510

      I think it also depends on if the grandparents are local or a long way away. I’ve noticed a trend with friends where often if the non-birth parent’s parents are close enough to drive to the hospital, meet the baby, and go home then they come, but if the circumstances are such they would travel far enough to feel like they needed to stay multiple days in the area, then they waited until after the couple had been home for a while (unless the birth parent had a really good relationship with the non-birth grandparents in which maybe they were there to help around when the baby came home to make the parents feel better equipped, enable them to sleep more, etc).

    • Mary Jo TC

      That’s ridiculous. New moms should not have to be hostesses. When my mom visited when my son was born, she cleaned my whole house and cooked for us. It was awesome.

      • Lawyerette510

        X100. If grandparents show up (with an invitation) and take over all the cooking, cleaning and laundry and also see the baby that’s one thing, but if they show up and just expect newborn time and expect the new parents to host, just no x1000

        • Jules

          Do you have a picture or the text? I’d love to see this and save it for (hopefully!) the future! Both my FMIL and FFIL could use this…FFIL when he stays with us on work trips (does his company not pay for a hotel? we’re going to figure this out stat.) and expects dinner (or at the very least dinner plans with us), and FMIL for the state of the house. Yes, it is a mess. We’re OK with it. Please don’t comment on it.

          I have a tendency to be a little, um, too direct about things like this.

      • Oh, they totally shouldn’t have to be hostesses! And I don’t have any kids of my own yet, so I haven’t been through this process, but I was 14 when my youngest sister was born so I remember my mom’s experience pretty well. My point was simply that, if the OP was envisioning the hospital as some kind of sacred & protected place of bonding away from the in-laws, while home was an easy place for grandparents to meet the new baby, that might not be 100% accurate. If I had a shaky relationship with my MIL, I think the relatively neutral setting of the hospital (maybe AFTER one night’s sleep!) would be more comfortable to me than a visit at home a few days post-partum. Maybe “hostess” is the wrong word to use, and anyone who’s visiting should be putting the health and well-being of the new mom and baby first…but personally, I think I’d feel responsible for the people staying at my house, even if I didn’t actually do anything about it, and/or if they were all telling me I shouldn’t worry about it!! Maybe being post-partum would make me actually relax a little bit. :)

        • Eh

          I agree that hostess might not be the right word but I agree you are on to something. My in-laws are manipulative but usually good in public so I would much rather have them visit at the hospital where the expectations on me are low and I have excuses to ask them to leave (and if she does act bad I have people around me who will tell her to leave). My MIL has lots of ideas off how things should be done and we usually do not agree on them so if she was at my house visiting she would be pushy and tell me how to do things. Even if she did help out cleaning (which she has never done with my BIL/SIL when she’s over there visiting and they have three kids) she would make snarky comments about how we do things “wrong”. I am pretty sure that if I asked her to leave our house because the baby and I both were going to have a nap that she wouldn’t leave and she would keep me awake.

          • Kate M

            Yes to this, having people in the hospital was easier for me than having people at home. Visits are much shorter, and I had people step out of the room, or they would leave when the baby needed to eat, as I was new to breastfeeding and I needed some privacy to figure it out. Also the nurses are great enforcers, use them while you can. The other thing I would say, if you have a difficult MIL, if she comes to visit at home, leave your husband with her and the baby and take the time to “nap” or shower or whatever. You can always blame being tired on newborns, it is the best built in excuse to get out of ANYTHING!

          • Eh

            Leaving the baby with my husband while she is visiting would be a good idea. I need to be removed and having a nap before she gets there.

            I have had a rough pregnancy and a few weeks ago we were visiting my in-laws and my husband and FIL were playing pool and had invited me and my MIL to join them. I said I wanted a nap before supper so I would pass. Instead of letting me nap she decided to keep me up and talk to me (I was too exhausted to move from the sofa – I really wish I got up about 5 minutes earlier and went to the spare room). At supper someone commented about how exhausted I looked and my MIL laughed and said “sorry that was my fault – she said she wanted to go for a nap before supper but I kept her up.”

          • Lauren from NH

            “Haha…”

        • Meg Keene

          No, no, having just had a kid, I actually think your wording was right on. Because YES, for the love of God, everyone who visits after should be there only to help and support. But that’s not always how it works. And if it’s not going to work that way, figuring out alternative solutions is wise.

          Also wise is playing it by ear. You don’t know what state (emotionally or physically) you’re going to be in after the birth, and people really, frankly, need to respect whatever call you make in that moment.

      • MDBethann

        Agreed. My parents and sister live about 3 hours away and drove down the day my little girl was born (I went into labor at night & she was born at 7 am). They didn’t visit until dinner time and they spent the entire next day cleaning my house before visiting again in the evening. My mom helped my husband & me bring our daughter home from the hospital & my sister had lunch waiting for us. Then they all went home. They came back 2 days later for Thanksgiving, but they did all of the work, not us. My house was the cleanest it’s been since we’ve lived there and I was well taken care of by my family. I was bummed when they left.

        My MIL & FIL were invited too, but my MIL’s father was having some serious health issues & she is his power of attorney so as much as they wanted to see their new granddaughter, she was 10 days old before they could visit. And when they came, my MIL brought food :-)

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah, but, trust me, that’s not always how it works. By a lot. And when you know that’s not how it’s going to work, you need to be careful to protect yourself, often in advance.

        • Inmara

          Yeah, I thought it was common sense not to push your presence in house with newborn and request three-course dinners in top of that. After reading the famous Babycenter thread about L&D horror stories with in-laws I found out I’m soooo wrong…

    • But after the birth, there are still plenty of opportunities for a pushy or manipulative person to do shit you don’t like while you’re in a vulnerable position. So if that’s her fear, then not wanting the MIL near her doctors or nurses at all makes sense.

      • Gina

        This is a really important point and I think figuring out what you’re comfortable with ahead of time–and then clearly setting those boundaries– is really important! My in-laws aren’t coming to visit until a couple weeks after the baby is born. Granted, they are coming from out of state. But there’s a whole lot of immediately post-birth stuff that goes on that I’m not necessarily comfortable sharing with them. One, I plan on breastfeeding and from what I’m heard, you’re pretty much topless for the first week as you get the hang of it. Two, I feel comfortable asking my own mom to bring me food or clean the kitchen, but I don’t feel comfortable asking these things of my MIL.

        • Jean

          I was not topless. Why would a female stay topless all day.

    • Christina McPants

      Your body doesn’t stop being on display after the birth, though. There is all KINDS of unpleasant shit that goes down after you give birth, from uterine massage to breastfeeding. The New

      • CP

        Uterine massage? There are so many things I don’t know.

        I’m currently imaging something like the very last steps in deflating an air mattress, trying to force the last little bit of air out. Sorry if that’s gross/irreverent.

        • Christina McPants

          It’s basically someone kneading your uterus to get it to expel blood / clots and shrink to its previous size. It’s… it’s not fun.

          • Pbeth

            Amen. It’s more like uterine maceration.

          • Shotgun Shirley

            Yeah dude. The things you learn. And oh, btw – it gets worse with subsequent babies. Whhaaa?!

          • Christina McPants

            It does? Oh yay.

          • Shotgun Shirley

            Yeah dude. I was like wtf and my sis and mom were all yep.

          • MDBethann

            Depends on the hospital & nurses I think. Once the placenta was out, I don’t remember much kneading of my abdomen. Definitely no kneading once I was in the regular hospital room. My C-section friends have said it happened regularly to them though – something about air in the abdomen, which doesn’t happen with a vaginal birth.

          • Christina McPants

            I had a home birth, so mine was probably different, but it went baby out, placenta out, pitocin shot for bleeding, uterine massage. They also wanted me to do uterine massage several times a day for the first few days to help keep things shrinking. I think if breastfeeding had gone better (it started bad, got worse and has ended with exclusively pumping and formula HOORAY), it wouldn’t have been necessary. Nipple stimulation causes uterine contractions (which is also why it helps bring on labor).

          • CP

            I really appreciate your (and other moms’) willingness to share details about birth. Knowing that other women do these crazy and amazing things with their bodies is kind of inspiring and definitely reassuring.

            It also totally reaffirms my position of I AM NOT READY FOR THAT STUFF. So please excuse me while I go find out if it’s possible to cram a few more IUDs up in there just to be sure.

          • Christina McPants

            Honestly, there was a point where I was about 20 weeks pregnant and I had this moment of “wait, WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN?” Birth class involved watching videos of births with a similar “HOLY SHIT, I TAKE IT BACK I TAKE IT BACK” reaction. Giving birth? Hard, messy, emotionally and physically painful and totally worth it. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy, routine delivery and standard recovery (everything’s been routine except nursing’s a shitshow) and it was still so much. But you get through it. Because you have to. And you can handle it. Because you have to. And it was totally worth it.

          • Guest

            Yes you are ready, you have just got to be courageous and strong and set up your rules for your birth with your husband, ahead of time. Tell him who you want in the room. Tell him he can only make rules when he is naked. Be firm and don’t back down. .

          • Guest

            So who would want their mother in law, much less her dad and father in law to be there during that?

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah. Exactly. People just need to respect whatever calls you need to make, basically.

      • Anon

        Agreed. My MIL was waiting for us in our driveway when we brought the baby home from the hospital. My milk never came in and I was unable to breastfeed, despite pumping/supplements/medication etc. Almost 7 mos later and I’m still sad about it. I think the fact that my milk didn’t come it was probably for at least several reasons, but having my MIL around 2 days post-partum was probably one of them. If I have another baby, I will prioritize that baby’s health over being polite to my MIL.

      • Jean

        See that’s what I keep writing in my comments everywhere, that women need to stand up to their husbands and tell them in no way will he try to control her delivery room and that he may need to stay in the waiting room with everyone else, if he says, “but it’s my baby too”.
        Really men? 12-17-15

        We wouldn’t be having these discussions and these website articles about childbirth, if men were the ones giving birth, or if we women would just put our foot down to our husbands in the first place.
        I never could quite understand why women are afraid to stand up to their husbands during times like her labor and childbirth. The husband is supposed too be the spiritual leader of the family, not tell his wife she can’t have body privacy around his parents. See that’s where men and men supporters take submission TOO far. That’s how men and men supporters twist the Scripture. And some women fall for that man made doctrine/ crap
        I am not afraid of my husband to the point where he can bully me about my wanting privacy during my patient times. I would not allow him to bring up some mess about his mom coming into my patient room. His mother is not your mother. Women need to grow some courage!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      I don’t think I can fully endorse that. There is a lot of important bonding time and recovery time immediately after the birth. Learning to breastfeed, skin-to-skin time (which requires some toplessness), etc., are not conducive to hosting in-laws.

      • anonnynon

        YES to the toplessness! I knew that skin-to-skin was important, but it just didn’t sink in that we would have to set ourselves up to facilitate that happening. I wasn’t at home after my first child was born, and was actually staying at my MIL’s house, and we had a heck of a time learning to breastfeed. It actually became an enormous stressor on my mental health, marriage, everything. There were some things beyond our control, but in hindsight I think that we could have avoided a lot of suffering if we had known that I should really be just staying in bed with shirt/bra off and let baby gently and gradually learn to do his thing.

        As it was, I felt that I had to be up, dressed, and in the living room. That resulted in little skin-to-skin during the early days, very stressful attempts at latching, and an overnight ER trip for excessive bleeding (which of course compounded the breastfeeding trouble). LESSON LEARNED.

  • Maggie

    Kids are still a few years out of the picture for me but I’m grateful to know, unless she starts acting completely out of character, that my MIL will not be making these demands of me, as she was not even present for her own daughter giving birth to her first grandchild and they live in the same city. I am horrified and incensed that this is even an issue for you, OP! Your MIL needs to get a grip and your partner needs to support you.

  • Anon for this

    Everything Liz said. This just isn’t even close, and your partner needs to understand that deep down in the gut. This is about your body and you at your most vulnerable and that means you get to decide.

    I have a minor variation on this problem: I had a miscarriage about six weeks ago, and we’re soon going to be trying again. I…don’t want my MIL to know if I have another miscarriage, which means I don’t want her to know if I’m pregnant until I’m well along. But I’m going to want to tell my own parents somewhere in there, and my husband feels like if they know, his mom should. I’m sort of weighing how much I want to go the simple “it’s my body” route on this one and how much I want to say “it’s because the night we found out I was miscarrying, but before we knew the details let alone had a concrete plan for my medical care, while we were scrambling to get time off work to deal and at a time when we just wanted to collapse into bed, she was pressuring you to call your brother right that minute and tell him. Even though you’d said you just wanted to go to bed and then call your brother when we knew more about the situation. It’s because she repeatedly questioned my choice of doctors and tried to push me to go to her doctor [share a gynecologist with my MIL? Um, no]. So yeah, it’s about my body, but it’s also about the pressure she’ll put on us to do things her way even in our most difficult moments.” I’m torn between feeling like that’s a conversation we need to have and feeling like it’ll just make him sad that I have these issues with his mom around such a major issue.

    • Liz

      So sorry about your loss, Anon.

    • Lauren from NH

      I hear you, Anon. I don’t want to insert my experience or lack there of into your situation, but I very much hear you.

    • Lawyerette510

      So sorry about your miscarriage. I’d start with “it’s my body” and if that doesn’t work then get into the emotionally unhealthy and unsupportive crap your MIL pulled last time. Hopefully your husband will accept the simple answer but if he won’t then worth talking about the reason for it.

    • qj

      Oh my, so sorry for your loss. Also very sorry about the unhelpful interactions you had with MIL during the process, and hopeful that you and your partner can work together to carve out space so that you’re protected from those kinds of interactions in the future (though hopefully not ever this particular circumstance again).

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, and that someone close to you made things harder. Would it make sense to have a convo with your partner about his mom’s behavior after your miscarriage and how much it hurt you, separate from the “and this is why I don’t want to tell her” convo? As in, have you talked about how shitty that made you feel and how you need to set boundaries in terms of ANY personal details you all are sharing with her? It might make sense to start there (and then the logical conclusion to that conversation, or the next conversation, is “And so in the future, I do not want to tell her about any pregnancies”).

      • Anon for this

        We really do need to have a broader conversation about this stuff. The same type of thing, albeit much less loaded, came up again last week — she pushed my husband to tell his brother something about our lives that we were absolutely going to tell him, but didn’t feel we needed to do right that minute. It wasn’t hugely significant in itself, but as a part of the pattern where she tries to dictate…yeah. Unfortunately, how to handle his mother and feel about her lack of boundaries is the single biggest issue in our relationship. I think she verges on abusive to him and that he’s in denial about that, but, well, he’s in denial. Or I’m overreacting, only I don’t think I am. Not very much, anyway.

        • Lauren from NH

          I wouldn’t doubt your feelings Anon. It’s impossible to say if they are perfectly accurate, but they are real. I have my own messy in-law situation I am dealing with and the self doubt is the worst. While it is good that you are open to the possibility of being wrong and you don’t see your perspective as absolute, your experiences (right, wrong or complicated) are legitimate and you deserve to be heard by your partner.

          • Eh

            “I have my own messy in-law situation I am dealing with and the self doubt is the worst.”

            So often after my in-laws behavior has upset me I wonder “am I over reacting and being totally unreasonable?” My husband has lived it his whole life so he doesn’t see it as a problem a lot of the time. (On a totally different level than Anon’s issue) One of the recent issues was about my in-laws not giving my husband enough notice to book off time for family suppers on Holidays (most recently Easter, but every holiday and birthday for the last four years has been an issue). He requested that they give him two weeks notice. They don’t and guilt him into coming when he has four or five hours (it’s an hour drive each way so that’s a two hour visit). So since they won’t respect the (very reasonable) request and they walk all over him (and if he can’t come because they didn’t give him enough notice I am still expected to show up) we are now telling them that if they do not give him two weeks notice we won’t be available (he won’t be squishing in a visit in four or five hours, and I won’t be coming alone, especially after the baby is born).

          • Caroline Sjööh

            I so recognize the feeling, totally have it with my MIL. My man-to-be and his family are so used to her that they does not care or don’t se it, but her behavior drives me crazy. So its alway me “arrgh, how can you stand this??” and he “eh, she’s just like that, you should react on it, just swallow your frustration and it will pass.” I’m just waiting to get in to a big fight with her… I really don’t know how else to handle it, I can’t go my whole life having to just look the other way.

          • Eh

            My husband has tried to please his family his whole life so he caves to their unreasonale requests and bad behaviour. His mother and grandmother were both rude to me in our house while I was hosting a party. When I declined their unreasonale request he wanted to please them and in front of our guests said ‘my grandmother asked you so I really think you should do it’. As I was not fighting with him in front of our guests I did what was requested. We talked about it later though and agreed not to have conversations like that in front of his family (similar to how when he is on the phone with his parents and they ask him a question he says ‘I will talk to Eh and get back to you’).

    • Eh

      I am so sorry for your loss. I feel your pain about ridiculous comments from in-laws during difficult times. My friend had a miscarriage and then they got pregnant again a few months later and the baby had a medical problem that they found out about at the anatomy scan. They had no clue the extent of the medical issue and they were going for more tests in a city an hour away. They told their parents because they needed to ask their parents to babysit their son while they were going for the tests. His parents demanded that he tell his three sisters right away that there was a problem with the baby. My friend and her husband said that they wanted to wait until after they knew what was wrong (since at this point all they knew was that it was serious enough to get more tests done but not what the problem was or what the medical plan was). My friend and her husband stuck to their guns about not telling his sisters so his parents told his sisters (his father actually said that he had to tell them since not telling them would be lying). His sisters were furious that they had to hear it from their parents and not their brother.

      • SarahG

        This is a big fear of mine — my mom is pro-life and so I am very reluctant to tell her when I’m pregnant until we are really really really far along and know, as much as we can know, that there are no serious medical issues that might result in termination. She would be so judgmental and upset, and it would just suck.

        Anyway, enough about me. Anon, you have my sympathies. IDK if it’s possible to back up slowly on the whole informing people thing and go back to a rule where you just tell the “important” people that you’re trying, and they’ll get updates when they get them, and they should otherwise feel free to assume that there’s nothing to update (and therefore back the f off on the questions).

        It does sound like your partner does not fully recognize the dynamics with parents (so many of us struggle with that, totally understandable) but nonetheless, what should resonate is that Anon was in pain, going through something significant, and the MIL could not keep her shit together and be helpful. Perhaps focusing on the reality of that experience, rather than trying to be “fair” would get the conversation moving. Hugs to you Anon!

        • Lauren from NH

          That is some wisdom right there. Fair under perfect circumstances sometimes doesn’t look the same as fair in reality, but people get hung up on the idealistic version.

        • Eh

          We did not tell our families we were trying. My family wouldn’t have pestered is but my inlaws would have. They actually were pestering us already (my MIL has been requesting a grandson since before we were married and my BIL would ask if we had ‘something to announce’ at every family gathering – I wanted to point out to him that it was very insensitive especially if we had been trying). Instead we told a group of close friends we were trying and then told them we were pregnant. And then told our families at Christmas (which is earlier than I would have liked but I was very sick so it was hard to hide – a family friend said I looked like I was either pregnant or had cancer and was happy to hear I was pregnant).

          The friend I mentioned had to make a choice to terminate after the anatomy scan and other tests and she decided not to but her and her husband did not need to be dealing with his sisters at that moment (one was very vocal that they should have terminated).

    • Meg Keene

      Just want to step in with a quiet vote of support for you here. Do what you need to do, lady. And if you need extra help and support, therapists are awesome at this.

  • Roselyne

    OMG WHAT.

    I like my MIL. Like, we’re halfway through building a house immediately next door to theirs, kind of like. We’re good, y’know? I gave birth almost a year ago, and I CANNOT imagine her being there. I can’t imagine her wanting to be. I can’t. Eek.

    TMI warning: birth is MESSY. Pushing involves pushing out everything (I don’t want to know how many times I pooed. I really don’t.). If you have an epidural, they insert a catheter, and then you’ve got a bag of your pee hanging off the bed. I had a long labour, and after (finally!) getting an epidural, I remember joking with my partner about how many people had fingered me so far that day (because inappropriate jokes make it better). But, like… My partner can deal with seeing that. He put that kid in me, and it’s his kid, he can help me get through it. But… birth is the most animalistic thing I’ve ever done. If it had been absolutely, no-holds-barred necessary, I could have dealt with my mom and my sister. The idea of ANYONE else seeing me like that, though? NOPE. (And also: trying not to poo, not make weird noises, etc, can interfere with relaxing and dilating, and make it harder to get the baby out. So… that seems like a horrible idea. )

    If your husband isn’t willing to have your mother see him poo a bowling ball out while half-dressed, I really don’t see why his mother should get to see you in your altogether pushing out a baby. The very idea is ludicrous.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Love this last line. OP should make her partner read all these comments so he can realize how insane his mother’s demand is.

      • Sarah E

        I was thinking that, too. As well as reading just a bunch of birth stories– not the floating on cloud 9 ones, but the “I was terrified and it was hard and here’s the detail on what my body did” ones. Because it’s understandable that he doesn’t get it, considering his hardware. However, he needs to get on board, and fast.

        • Mary Jo TC

          Has the OP and her husband attended a birthing class? That might really help him see what’s going to happen, and voicing this issue in a forum like that would probably change his mind pretty fast.

        • KM

          I just want to check the hetero assumptions being made here – there’s nothing in the letter that indicates the writer’s partner is male/husband.

          • Karen

            That’s a very good point — the letter indicates nothing about the partner’s sex. And if the partner is female, it’s a slightly different conversation, since there would probably be more understanding w/r/t vaginas, privacy, etc.

            Of course, that doesn’t actually change the conversation’s point: no M-I-L.

          • Jean

            I don’t care if the partner is also female as the pregnant spouse, and that everyone in the area has vaginas, that pregnant woman still would not want her mother in law HER delivery room!!

            People…….stop trying to change women’s minds about wanting privacy!!!

          • Lawyerette510

            So glad you said that. I was just scrolling up to write a comment up top because nearly all the comments assume her partner is her husband and that the partner can’t understand because the partner is a man. The partner could just not understand becuase the partner is the non-birthing parent of either gender which is a very different experience.

          • Jean

            Well, straight and simple, men do not understand the female body or any issues that we experience. Don’t try to coddle men. If they do no give birth, they simply do not give birth. Even your ob-gyn doesn’t get it.

            I am a woman and I cannot understand what male experience with their noise. I do not have a penis or testicles, so the same applies when I say that a man does not understand what women experience. Don’t sugar coat things for men.

            7/28/15

          • Sarah E

            Totally fair. I did jump to that conclusion. Thanks for the reminder.

          • Lisa

            That’s what I was thinking. If this is two women, the MIL might feel more ownership over the birth, or at least if her daughter never plans to get pregnant, be worried that this is her only chance to be present at a birth of her grandchild. So, that’s tough.

          • Lauren from NH

            Wouldn’t that same dynamic apply if the partner was male and an only-child? I guess where I am coming from is that no moms of birthing or non-birth partners really have a claim on this experience. It’s about the woman giving birth and their partner if applicable.

          • Alyssa M

            Yes! Birth is about the mother. If she doesn’t want her OWN mother in the room then she doesn’t get to be there. It’s not about who has rights or expectations to be there…

          • Yeah, I’m also confused. Not all women want to have babies, right? So being the mom of a daughter is no guarantee that you’ll get to share her delivery experience, nor do all women who give birth want their mom there. It seems like a problematic cultural expectation (on any mom’s part).

          • Jean

            Thanks Lauren. Some people have some unbelievable expectations of women. Yet we want women to shut up talking, or having an opinion dec 2015

          • Meg Keene

            Though, you know, being present at the birth of a grandkid isn’t a thing you necessarily get to expect. (I generally think one can only expect to be at the birth of one’s own children.) It’s a big honor if you’re asked (for any birth) but it’s not like a birthday party. Plenty of mom’s of daughters don’t get to be at the birth, because plenty of women decide on just their partner, or partner and a doula or some such combo. I think that’s by far the most common option.

            I think for a lot of women, even if their relationship with their mom is good, managing that relationship WHILE giving birth can just be.. a… lot.

          • Lisa

            I was thinking about this variation in particular: couple is 2 women, mother of woman giving birth is present, mother of woman not giving birth is not allowed, mother of woman not giving birth grieves.

            If the couple, of whatever gender, doesn’t want anyone in there but themselves, that’s understandable and would I assume flow naturally from the couple relationship and the established parental relationship.

          • Grieving sucks. That will be hard for the MIL to deal with, and she should seek out all the support that she can.

            But the hurt feelings of the MIL do not trump the birth mother’s needs during what will be an emotionally and physically intense, life-changing experience.

            It is MIL’s responsibility to manage her own expectations, and grieve her feelings accordingly. It is the birth mother’s responsibility to prioritize her own needs during this time.

          • Jean wildcat in the valley

            How in the heck is it necessary for a mother in law to be at another woman’s birth , when the birthing woman IS NOT, her own daughter. This is a crazy assumption and so wrong. A pregnant woman does not owe her mother in law a dog gone thing!!!!
            This is why women are so mixed up now, men are always trying to tell women what to do with our bodies and tell us that we should be okay with men looking at our breasts during breastfeeding and birth, and during media photographing and during the making of a video.
            Lets see all these men, be willing to get naked and show their testicles and penises to females, while a patient in the hospital and during other photographing and video making. Let’s see men be willing to get naked in front of everyone, the way they are always suggesting for females to do. You know what, some people are really ugly to women. Women, you all better learn some sense and stand up to men. You all still have the power over your delivery room.
            Enough is enough. 7/28/15

          • Jean

            WTF? This is ridiculous . No matter what gender your spouse is, a pregnant woman still does not want her mother in law to be in her delivery room. Pregnant women do not owe anything to a mother in law just because she does not have her own daughter who will be giving birth. Please don’t put that kind of responsibility on pregnant women.

            If we have that belief, then a son in law who has a penile implant or some other kind of penis surgery, would have to also owe it to their father in law to observe his penis surgery because that FIL does not have a son who will have penis surgery. 12-17-15

    • Katie

      I wanted to up vote your comment because it’s the most awesome thing I’ve read today but I refuse to sign up for Disqus. so…. UP VOTE!

    • Anita

      she doesn’t say that she wants to be in the room (i read it as more or less just at the hospital and meet the baby AFTER birth) BUT she does say she doesn’t want her to meet her grand baby till the next week…………

      • Christine

        I think it is totally acceptable to tell ANYONE when you want them to meet your kid. I personally did not want anyone in the room during the birth except my husband and the doula because birthing is a deeply personal experience and I am an extremely private person. I also wanted to have an opportunity to spend time with my child before anyone else (except my husband, of course) because I did not want to have to deal with either 1) a grandparent who wants to always hold the baby (so you don’t get to), or 2) a grandparent who (probably trying to be helpful) wants to tell you how to do stuff. Going through birth and dealing with the totally new experience of being a parent for the first time is difficult/trying/emotional enough, why add in weird family dynamics? I knew, based upon my own relationship with my parents (mom, dad, stepmom) and my husband’s parents (mom, dad, and stepmom) who I would feel comfortable having around in those first couple of days because they would be “helpers” (i.e. not do the aforementioned things that would drive me crazy) vs. “henderers.” And who I as most comfortable with was not necessarily my own family. Again, giving birth and “suddenly” being a parent is/can be hard, why make it harder? This is your family, you get to set the boundries and other people get to respect them.

        • Anita

          It is definitely hard and personal BUT it is important to her partner and her partner is a bit insulted And offended. I would be Too. The partner’s feelings should matter and right now they don’t. That’s my point.

          • laddibugg

            I agree on you about the visitiona. AFTER the kid is born, your partner should have more of a right to who he or she wishes to see it.

          • Anita

            That is what i am getting at. Certainly not in the room while.giving birth but once mom is rested….

          • yrbest

            Dude have you given birth? A week is pretty reasonable to be “rested”

          • Anita

            I’m not a dude. Yes I have given birth. I didn’t care for my in laws when i gave birth either but never in a million years would i say my mom was the only important one and my partners mom was not….. the partner has every right to be offended. Now if she said NO ONE not even her own mom then that would have been different

          • Pam in the valley

            Every pregnant female has the right to have own mom and ban her MIL in the room. Sorry you don’t think it is fair, but that’s life. A MIL is really a stranger to a daughter in law. Before she married her husband, the MIL was a There is no such thing as being fair to anyone when you are giving birth. The partner does not have the right to get his feelings hurt. This is the way life is.

            Let me help you to understand how private birth is. Suppose a man is having surgery on his penis and testicles, and he wants his own dad to be in the room to console him, but he does not want his wife’s dad, who is his father in law, in the room, because he will be exposed and he does not want his wife’s dad to see his genitals. Okay so do you all understand now? Do you see how a daughter can block ner mother in law and her husband can block his father in law?
            Now do you get it? This is so simple! In laws do not have the right to see the daughter in law or the son in law, laying in bed in pain and naked. Why would you think that a daughter in law has to be fair. That is so ridiculous.
            Therefore a pregnant woman’s husband can’t holler ” not fair”. But he needs to grow up and learn how to respect his wife’s wishes. Husbands cannot control everything, and certainly not his wife’s labor adelivery and the room where she gives birth. 12-16-15

          • Guest

            Anita,
            Even then the mother who just gave birth. Still gets to make the call on when and who us in there. She will not be in the mood for visitors and her husband cannot make her.
            Her husband still does not get to make the decisions about visitors. Someone needs to sit down and have a little talk with the sensitive and rude husbands and help them to know what their wives experience before, during, and after birth. ( breastfeeding, uterine massage, menses commencing, feeling unclean, tired and worn out, teary and moody, and the list goes on.

        • Laura

          I too only wanted my partner and I to be present at the birth of my son. I had a home birth, and I invited both mothers over to help during early labour, as in clean our apartment and bring us food. My MIL has great boundries and left when the midwives arrived, my mother never left. Even after my partner asked her, even as I shouted from the room that it was time for her to leave. I’m still upset with her as I had discussed that it would just be the 2 of us when I was pregnant. Birth is trans-formative and deeply personal. You should have any one who you want to be there and no one you don’t and everyone should respect your boundaries.

    • Aubry

      Totally making that fingering joke if I’m ever in that situation and need a laugh. Amazing. I tend to diffuse tension with humor always, and inappropriate jokes are great. I bet the medical staff had a chuckle :)

    • Kara E

      Love love love the last line. Thanks.

    • Crayfish Kate

      Really that last paragraph says it all.

  • Natalie

    I think instating a policy of “only people who have already been up close and personal with my vagina get to watch me shove a tiny human out of it” is the way to go. Your mother, husband, doctor, and nurses pass this test. Presumably your MIL does not.

    • Alyssa M

      That’s really really a good policy, as long as other diaper changing relatives aren’t trying to push their way in…

    • emilyg25

      Like the policy of only inviting people who have seen you naked or crying to your wedding. :)

      • Jean

        At her wedding she will to be naked!!

    • rg223

      Yes! My husband was really surprised that I said I wanted my mom at the birth of my child (we both agreed that his mother should NOT be there, haha). He was like “But she’ll see your vagina and she’ll see you poop,” and I was like “Well, she’s seen both of those things before!”

    • Meg Keene

      When Maddie saw this question she was all, “If I came out of your vigina, or we came out of the same vigina, then maybe, MAYBE we can talk about you being there. Otherwise, oh hell to the NO GUESTS.”

    • My stance for years has been you had to be there for the conception or be a medical person to be at the birth. If my mother or mother-in-law had been there for the conception they could be at the birth, but we’d probably have other issues to talk about at that point.

      • Dawn

        I had my husband, doula, medical pros, and my mom and dad there when I gave birth. I know my choice to have my father there is unusual, but I want to get it out there in case others are considering it. Our family is open about a lot of things, and this way of doing it seemed natural to me. I am so glad he was able to be there along with my mom. If my MIL had wanted to be here, though, I would have refused. If my husband hadn’t backed me up, we would have been in counseling about it.

        Other notes, because I am not signing in again: Our doula was also awesome, and I recommend the Bradley Method to anyone considering trying to do natural birth or anyone really interested in practicing relaxation before labor.

        • Jean valley wildcat

          I never could understand it when a female said she let her dad be in the room when she gives n birth where so much of her would be naked. For me, that would’ve the ultimate boundary breech. No way could you dad seems grown up breasts and vagina when it is bleeding and stretched. Makes me wonder what else this family allows.
          I would have to wonder if her dad would invite her to come into his patient room if he went in to have a penile pump placed in his penis. I bet he would say “hell to the no” to his daughter if she asked him if she could come in. 12-16-15

  • Sosuli

    Oh man. I feel for LW and anyone in the comments who has had similar experiences.

    On a lighthearted note, this reminds me of how my FH asked me why my mum wasn’t in the delivery room when my sister was giving birth. I was a bit confused, and said that it’s private and she wouldn’t want anyone other than her husband there. To which his response was, “When you give birth though, won’t it be me, you, your mum and my mum? You know, like it always is on ’16 and Pregnant’.”

    In hindsight I think this whole conversation may have been a ploy to make me stop forcing him to watch ’16 and Pregnant’. It worked. I have never watched it since, especially not around him.

    • scw

      HAHAHAHA. this is some much needed comic relief in this comment chain.

  • anon

    Possible that this is a cultural thing? When my fiancé was 13 years old, he was expected to watch his aunt give birth along with his mom, his sister, his grandmother, and his uncle and his uncle’s parents. After that, he was terrified of pregnancy up until a few years ago (because it was not fun for him to watch, to put it mildly). Apparently, in his mom/grandmother/aunt’s culture, it’s expected that the whole family will “welcome” the new addition.

    We’re a few years away from kids, but I’ve already been thinking about how to shut that shit down as politely and culturally-sensitively as possible. Because YEAH, ain’t gonna happen.

    • Sosuli

      Wow – that is interesting, thanks for sharing that experience. I come from a country where nudity is really normal (among people of your own sex) and people sometimes freak out when I tell them I’ve seen all my female friends naked. So in a way, perhaps this sort of approach is healthy in the sense that it encourages people to view birth – and all that comes with it – as a natural thing. So I guess it depends where the private/communal lines are drawn. But yeah, as the one who would be giving birth, I’d think it is totally your choice what cultural traditions are followed. Though since it sounds like your fiancé didn’t enjoy his experience, fingers crossed he’ll back you up!

      • anon

        Yeah, he had been pretty assimilated into American culture at this point (much more than his mom really wanted, I think) AND was an awkward young teenager, so it was not a good recipe for a positive experience. His older sister speaks well of it, for what it’s worth.

        I respect it as a concept within that culture for the reasons you’ve said here, but it honestly gives me hives thinking about it, which is why I have such a strong reaction even writing about it. I’m sensitive to them seeing me as the uptight American, generally, but in this case? NOPEnopenope, don’t care.

    • Ashlah

      It could definitely be cultural, even just between different families. My mom had a ton of people in her room (husband, mom, MIL, BIL, nephew, etc, etc) when she birthed me. My sister gave birth last year and had a ton of people too (parents, boyfriend, friends, aunts). It seems it’s expected in our family to call when you go to the hospital, and anyone who’s available will meet you there. The family members who were present when my niece was born have talked at length about what a special experience it was, so it makes me really nervous to have to put my foot down when it’s my time. I’m not even sure whether I’ll want my own mother there, so it’ll be interesting.

  • MommaCat

    I actually had my MIL present at the birth, but not because she or my husband pressured me or anything. I asked her because 1) she’s a semi-retired nurse and 2) I trusted her to advocate for me. My mom is shy, and I knew my husband would be as overwhelmed as I, so it was very comforting to know that I had this fierce little woman with me who I could sic on the doctors if necessary. But I’m extremely lucky when it comes to in-laws!

    • MDBethann

      I was willing to have my MIL present at my daughter’s birth for the same reason #1 – she’s a retired nurse & I would have been 100% okay to have her there advocating for me if there were issues. My husband is a sweetheart, but he doesn’t like confrontation, so having our moms there would have been helpful to give him a break if he needed it.

      But in the end, it was just my husband & me because our daughter decided to show up a week early & contractions started on Friday night, right before bed. We called and told our parents & sisters that I was in labor, but they all live at least 3 hours away & none of them were going to drive down in the middle of the night. We went to the hospital around 1 am and our daughter was born by 7 am. My parents told us to call them when we went to the hospital, but I wasn’t calling them at 1 am when they were going to drive down on Saturday morning anyway. And my MIL was dealing with her father’s health issues (he’d fallen a few days earlier) so our daughter was 10 days old before she met my husband’s parents. I got lucky in that I was only in labor for 10 hours from start to finish. I think if it had been longer, my hubby would have been glad for some help in distracting me during contractions.

  • Suzanne

    Hey folks, the partner may be female.

    I think it’s a slightly different conversation (but agree with the advice Liz outlines here, just not the assumptions people are making below about the gender of the partner and how their partner wouldn’t understand because they’re male).

    In our case, my (female) partner won’t be giving birth, but my MIL has always hoped she would be present at the birth of her daughter’s child. Boundaries still apply, clearly, but it makes a lot of sense to me why the MIL would want to be there.

    OP, I think your instincts are right on – trust them! I have some friends who were in this position and they eventually decided to have a neutral 3rd party to help advocate for the birthing woman, so they didn’t have to pick one mother over the other (there was a 2 person cap).

    • Lian

      Good call, that would change the dynamic. Althouh I noticed Liz did not assign the partner a gender, so Go Liz. And in any case it’s still only the Letter Writer who is pregnant. It could make the conversation more difficult but yeah, in the end it is up to the one who’s pregnant regardless of genders all around!

    • A.

      Dummy straight person here… while it’s obviously not your responsibility to educate me, could you explain a little more about why the dynamic might/would be different with a female partner, beyond the lack of understanding you mentioned? To me, it still seems like the same conversation (“My vagina/invasive medical experience is private and only for those I feel most comfortable with,” or some variation, etc) but I must be missing a nuance.

      • qj

        My partner is male, but I was just thinking about how the conversation would shift if my mom was the MIL in question. Part of me thinks that because I = female, my mom’s assumption has always been that I’d be the one birthing her grandbabies, and that she might be there. I have to imagine that this same kind of assumption doesn’t necessarily play out for people with biologically male children (i.e. not assuming that their kid will be a birthing partner later in life). So, if my partner was birthing my parents’ grandbabies, I think my mom might have a different relationship to it than if she’d never really operated under the assumption that I would be the birthing partner.

      • Alyssa M

        I have to say I agree with you. I understand that MIL in a same sex partnership might have different expectations/disappointments, But mother doesn’t get to be in there because it’s somehow her right as a parent, she’s only there because the birthing person wants her there…

        • KM

          I don’t think anybody is saying it is the ‘right’ of any mom (of birthing parent or nonbirthing parent) to be present. I believe it is 100% the right of the woman who is actually giving birth to determine who is present in the room. The point is that if you care about your partner, and you care about your relationship with your MIL, you would consider where the partner and MIL are coming from when making your point that MIL will not be present. And yes, if the partner is a woman and her mother always imagined being present at the birth of her daughter’s child, you can be sensitive to that when addressing the issue.

          • Alyssa M

            Yes it’s an issue to consider and be sensitive to, but my point is that it doesn’t change the bottom line. Those thoughts about caring about your partner and your relationship with your MIL are valid even if the partner is male. But when it comes down to it, all that matters is what situation makes the person in labor feel most comfortable.

      • Suzanne

        Sure! I think eventually the conversation with the MIL could definitely go the way you’ve outlined, no matter the genders of the expecting parents.

        There were just some comments downthread that were making gendered assumptions about why the MIL shouldn’t be in the room. I’m not trying to critique any particular person, just point out that it may be more helpful to frame it as “I’m the one having the invasive medical experience, so I’d like to find a way to meet my needs” rather than “I’m the woman.”

        For how the dynamic might be different: I can totally see a case where two women are getting ready to have a baby, and the MIL of the non-birthing partner has always dreamed about being present for the birth of her daughter’s child. The MIL may not have come to grips yet with the fact that her daughter is not the one giving birth, so MIL might need some time to deal with that reality. That’s one way the situation would be different for an same-sex couple.

      • Jules

        I agree that the conclusion – it’s your body and it’s an extremely personal and scary experience, so you get to decide who gets to be there – is really no different and that’s the most important takeaway. I can easily see, though, why a MIL who has a daughter that is not the one giving birth may have a difficult time working through the fact that she won’t be there. She may have had an expectation to be present for her daughter’s child’s birth, whereas (in my family) that’s a less common expectation for a son – and you know that his entire life.

        In my family, we joke a lot about “Alpha” grandmother and “Beta” grandmother, where Alpha is the maternal grandma in a hetero relationship. I don’t buy into one being more important/higher ranked than the other, but I have often perceived a difference in the experience of being paternal vs maternal grandma. I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing some of the weird body stuff that I’m sure will accompany pregnancy with my MIL, but maybe I would with my own mother. It has nothing to do with whether my partner is male or female in that instance, just….the fact that my mom is MY mom! She’s used to taking care of me and all my gross functions and things.

        Basically: I can see how it would be an adjustment if you were expecting to be in one role (maternal grandma) but your experience wasn’t lining up with that.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Another dummy straight person. Sorry for making heteronormative assumptions in comments. I love being inclusive and using gender-neutral language, but in this particular case it seems to have just inspired confusion. I hate to criticize OP, especially if she didn’t want her orientation to be an issue in this discussion, but maybe it would have been easier for commenters to give good advice if she had been specific? Then we could be sensitive the way we need to be. If her partner is a woman, and we’d known, we wouldn’t have gone down a rabbit hole of criticizing an assumed male partner for not understanding what it’s like to be a woman. If her partner is a man, and we’d known, then we wouldn’t need to have the current discussion of heteronormative assumptions. Am I wrong to wonder this? I want to be sensitive, and I know it’s no one’s job to educate me. But I had this reaction and I hope it’s not a bad one.

      And kudos to Liz for not being heteronormative like the rest of us. That’s why she’s the pro here.

      • anon

        Maybe this isn’t the most ground-breaking thought on this, but I’ve always assumed that a lot of LW’s keep details vague because this is a pretty well-known website with (I assume) heavy traffic, beyond just the commenting community. So there’s fear of someone recognizing the situation and tying it back to the LW IRL (or the LW ends up “doxxed” as the tech-savvy among us might say)

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        “If her partner is a woman, and we’d known, we wouldn’t have gone down a rabbit hole of criticizing an assumed male partner for not understanding what it’s like to be a woman.” But it’s good to avoid criticizing someone based on assumptions – it’s the reason heteronormative assumptions are problematic. The criticisms of and suggestions for the OP’s partner are based on an assumptions that 1) OP’s partner is a man and 2) men don’t know what it’s like to give birth. I have never given birth, but I am aware of how physical and personal it is. There’s no reason my husband can’t have a similar understanding. So even if the OP’s partner is male, if he doesn’t fit within our assumptions about what men know about birth, the advice isn’t helpful. If we can shed our assumptions, we can give better advice.

        Also, what I value about Ask APW posts are that the advice can be helpful to more than just the OP. So thinking about whether the advice we give would be appropriate for people who don’t meet our assumptions will improve the overall quality of these posts and this community.

        I sympathize with what you’re saying – I referred to the OP’s partner as “husband” down thread a ways. I’m sorry! Sometimes it’s easier when we don’t have to question our assumptions. But we’ll be a more inclusive community and have more thoughtful things to say if we do a little questioning.

        • Mary Jo TC

          Thanks for showing me why I’m wrong in a way that doesn’t make me feel like crap. I want to question my automatic assumptions and become more inclusive. Thanks for helping me with that. And you’re right about checking assumptions improving the quality of responses.

          I think this might be one of the things where your mileage may vary, but some women might insist that no one who has never given birth truly knows what it’s like. They can understand that it’s physical and personal and the woman should be in control of her own experience and its boundaries, but they don’t really know what that experience is like from the inside. So I’m not sure that this is an assumption to interrogate as much as a way that some women feel is a fact about the birth experience.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            :)

            I hear what you’re saying about really knowing the experience vs. understanding that it’s physical and personal and messy, and I agree. Totally fair for someone to say I don’t really know because, yeah, I haven’t had that experience. But the OP did say it was a firstborn, so it’s possible that OP and her partner have a similar level of theoretical understanding of the process, if that makes sense.

            That parity in theoretical understanding is why whenever I learn something “bodily” about giving birth or hear a terrifying birth story, I share it with my husband. Just so he knows too! ;)

          • Dawn

            Tangent: The OP does not have experiential knowledge of giving birth yet, but she does have experiential knowledge of pregnancy. I think that matters.

      • Liz

        In honesty, another staffer pointed out my own use of male pronouns that I then changed (with much embarrassment).

        The sex of the letter writer’s partner is the LW’s own business.

        I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s unfair to flip the blame and say, “If you would’ve just said, then we wouldn’t have assumed!” because the fault of assumption is always in the, er, assumer. It’s MY fault that I originally used male pronouns because I couldn’t see past my own experiences and am comfortable within them. Not the LW’s fault for sharing only the info she intends to share.

        And is it ever bad to have a discussion about heteronormative assumptions? Only in that initial flush of embarrassment (but hopefully I won’t make that mistake again, as a result!).

        • rg223

          I agree with you Liz, I think if the partner’s gender mattered in the situation to the LW, that would have come out in the letter. In both cases!

          So for example, if the partner is a man, and the LW felt that because of that, he doesn’t get the birthing process, the LW would have put that in the letter if LW wanted advice on that.

          On the other hand, if the partner is a woman and the MIL feels that she should be included at the birth of her daughter’s child (as people have been saying in the comments) then I think that too would have been in the letter if that were a concern to the LW.

          But, because the partner’s gender wasn’t specified either way, I don’t think it’s something that the LW sees super relevant or wants advice on. And given that it’s not specified, we shouldn’t assume anything.

    • Kara E

      I had the same reaction. Changes the family dynamics somewhat in a way that calls for different sensitivity. And yes, maybe a doula would be the right call.

    • Christina McPants

      God bless my MIL, there was zero pressure for her to be in the room when I delivered. She came up the same day to help after I’d been like – maybe a week, maybe a few days later, OMG WHEN CAN YOU GET HERE. Because you try figuring out how to take care of a tiny human on three hours sleep after 20 hours of labor after 4 hours of sleep.

  • Amy March

    I’m 200% on board with mother-in-law just getting a no here, but I’m struggling a bit with an assumption that your mother is fine because that’s what you want. For me, part of the commitment of marriage is transitioning the role of person you trust most to advocate for you from your parents to your spouse. If your spouse doesn’t get to have their mother there, he or she might feel better about this if it were a truly personal time for just the two of you and necessary professionals. I don’t think that’s a compromise you have to make but it might be worth discussing.

    • Emma

      Obviously we don’t know this about LW’s mom, but for me, my mom IS a doula/nurse/birth class instructor. She has very real skills to advocate in this scenario. We don’t know if LW’s mom has specific experience in the health field that would make her more qualified.

      • Mary Jo TC

        I wanted my mom there at my birth not because she was a health worker but because she had given birth 7 times and had significant experience that could help her advocate for me. For me, that was a good qualification. We had a lot of conversations about her varied birth experiences and our shared opinions about the birth experience. Luckily, my birth was uncomplicated and advocacy wasn’t necessary.

        • Emma

          Absolutely! Because of my own situation I mentioned experience in health field, but there are lots of other experiences people can have to be uniquely qualified as an advocate. Also- holy cow 7 births!! Mad respect for your mom.

        • Amy March

          Right, obviously there can be great reasons. But I think her partner also gets a say, and if the grandmaternal inequality is a sticking point, hiring a doula is something I think the OP owes it to her spouse to at least discuss.

          • lmba

            This is how I (inadvertently) got myself out of a similar sticky situation. We were actually staying with my mother-in-law at the time my baby was due (because we couldn’t access appropriate medical care where we live). We had also hired a doula, because we thought it would be beneficial to have her and I didn’t have anyone I wanted to ask to attend alongside my husband. Well… apparently my mother-in-law had just ASSUMED that she would be attending the birth in the hospital with us! I didn’t find this out until I casually mentioned the doula and she got upset (this was at 36 weeks!). I would NEVER have even dreamed that she would make that assumption, so I was glad to already have a contract signed and a hospital policy that stated only 2 support people were allowed!

          • Eh

            My husband will the only one with me in the delivery room but we are having a couple friends who are going to be there to support us while I’m in labour. They will make sure that at least someone is always there in case we need something. For example, for someone to run and get my husband food. Or if my husband needs to leave they can be with me. This support system was instituted because one of my friends was in labour and the doctor just told them that they would not be making a decision about a C-section for a few more hours so it was ok for her husband to get food and go for a smoke break. Within minutes of him leaving the doctor decided that she needed an emergency C-section (no explanation as to what had changed that made the situation urgent) and the hospital would not call her husband (he got back just in time for his daughters birth). If someone was there with her they could have found him. The next friend in the group to have a baby knew her baby needed to go to the NICU right after she was born. The NICU was in another (but connected) hospital. Two people always stayed with them and when the baby was transferred to the NICU the father and one person followed her to the NICU, while the other person stayed with the mother. The friends also sent important people the announcement and pictures so the new parents didn’t need to worry about that.

          • Lawyerette510

            Respectfully, I disagree. labor and delivery are about the birth-mom and what is going to work for her as the individual who is going through it. Caring for the baby that’s a couple decision and those issues of making sure both sets of grandparents feel valued and fair can come in, but her birth, her choice.

    • Alyssa M

      I have to strongly disagree with getting rid of someone who adds to her comfort level to make her partner happy. To me, birth it’s simply one of those things that it only matters what the person going through it needs, not questions of what’s fair or who comes first, just what’s going to make this easier for her.

      • Lauren from NH

        I agree and will add that I think it is a mistake to think your partner can be all things for you at all times. That’s why you have a network of different people in your corner to serve and support in these various roles.

    • lmba

      A person giving birth is EXTREMELY vulnerable, both during the labour and immediately afterward. It is absolutely vital to feel 100% supported and cared for during that time… I wish I had a link handy, but I’ve read from several sources (The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin being one I can recall off hand) that the degree to which a woman feels supported in labour is THE defining factor in how she later feels about her birthing experience, and is a major contributor to things like successful breastfeeding, bonding with the baby, avoiding PTSD, postpartum depression, etc. This is regardless of how the birth actually plays out. So a mother could end up with an emergency C-section and potentially feel better about her birthing experience than someone whose birth went ‘according to plan,’ simply because Mother A felt constant love and support and Mother B felt unsupported or undermined.

      On top of that, having someone that you don’t trust or feel comfortable with present during labour is likely to inhibit progress. Whereas having someone that you feel very comfortable with, like the writer’s mother, is likely to help the labouring woman relax and birth confidently and calmly.

      Having both the partner AND the woman’s mother present is not about trusting the mother over the spouse. It’s about having the strongest support team possible during an incredibly transformative, high-stakes experience. Women from almost every culture and time have had female birth attendants help them through the birthing process. There’s no reason why that beautiful support needs to be given up – either in the name of “trusting” your spouse or in the name of being “fair” about whose parents get to attend.

    • Christine

      My step-mother has said many a time that when she was giving birth to my little brother the sound of my dad’s voice was the most annoying thing in the world. She could not stand it, and I believe she actually told him to leave the room. They love each other and he only wanted to support her during the birth. The best way he could do that was by leaving the room. Which he did. The disucssion should be about “how can we best support the person we love who is giving birth?” not “what is the fairest decision we can make for all parties involved.

  • Gina

    Um nope. Nope nope nope. I am also about to give birth to the firstborn grandchild on both sides, and guess what? My mom will be there and my MIL wasn’t even a consideration, and I LIKE her! Labor is something that goes best when you trust the people around you and can relax. Having a MIL there–especially one that you feel will not be a positive encouraging presence–generally does not contribute to your comfort. You need to have a serious “come to Jesus” talk with your husband about why you are not comfortable being buck naked in front of his mother. He should understand this already, in my opinion.

    • Aubry

      Yes, I think the father might be having a little more of an idolized vision of what happens in birth. Would you really want your (said to the partner) mom there when I am naked, possibly pooping, screaming and with blood all over? I don’t think so.

  • Eh

    I am due in August and my husband and I have discussed not telling his parents that I am in labour until the baby is born. My MIL has another son who has children so she knows the “protocol” that it’s not customary for her to be in the room. Our situation is a little different than my BIL/SIL’s though since my MIL/FIL live about 1.5 hours from the hospital I’m giving birth at. They went to the hospital to see her other grandchildren shortly after they were born but my SIL had scheduled C-sections and they were in the local hospital (15 minute drive). Since it isn’t a 15 minute drive for her and she won’t know the exact time I am giving birth we are worried that she will drive to the hospital when she finds out I am in labour and camp out in the waiting room until the baby is born. She is a pretty manipulative person and we are worried that she is going to distract my husband.

    Another thing that complicates the situation is that my mother passed away when I was a teenager so she can’t be there (we also live far from my father so he won’t be able to meet our baby until later). I am pretty sensitive to situations where it seems like my MIL is “replacing” my mother (for example, my SIL calls our in-laws “mom” and “dad” and I don’t – I also did not invite my MIL when I was trying on wedding dresses or any fittings, and we are not having an elective 3D ultrasound because I don’t want her at that either). Our plan is to tell two close sets of friends when I am in labour and they will come support us. Then they will help spread the news when our baby does arrive. And then my MIL can come an visit – I would actually feel more comfortable with her coming to the hospital where the expectations of me are low then to come visit a week later at our house (I don’t need to host her at the hospital plus I will have more excuses to ask her to leave).

    • Lauren from NH

      That sounds like a good call. Also if you have any concerns that she will make a stink about not being told until after, I would bullshit til I’m blue in the face that “the baby came so fast!’ even if your labor is long. Do what you gotta do ;)

      • MommaCat

        The excuse “We were a little distracted” works wonders, as well! ;-)

        • Eh

          I am very used to my in-laws being upset with us when we don’t meet their expectations. One of their expectations is that every time we have a day off together that we visit them. It is unrealistic, especially since we rarely gets days off together. We had three days off around Christmas together and they assumed we would stay there for three days (even after we repeatedly told them that we weren’t). Last month, my husband has both a Saturday and a Sunday off and we visited on the Saturday and they were upset we weren’t staying over since he had the Sunday off too. I mentioned that we had stuff to do that day but they were still upset.

          Anyways I could definitely said that “we were a little distracted” they will be upset but oh well.

    • Angela Howard

      Both my mom and in-laws live about 15 minutes from the hospital where I gave birth. My MIL had promised not to come until we told her it was okay, but I had contractions close together from the beginning and when we told her they were 2-3 mins apart and we were heading from the clinic to the hospital, she came anyway. Despite that lapse, she was patient waiting in the waiting room for about 6 hours while I labored with just my husband and our doula until I’d had my daughter and we were ready for visitors. She and my FIL also went out and got dinner for my husband (at our request).

      • Eh

        If I could be confident that my MIL/FIL would act like your in-laws did I would have no issue with them being in the waiting room. I don’t think she will respect our request to stay in the waiting room while I’m in labour (I think she would respect our request for her to be in the waiting room while I deliver) and she will want constant updates from my husband while she is not in the room. Oh, and instead of getting my husband food, my FIL would suggest that my husband go for a walk with him to get food, leaving me all alone (I know that this is partially my husband’s fault too – he’s easily distracted).

        I have absolutely no issue with them coming after the baby is born. Our friends who will be there supporting us understand that it’s time for my husband to be with me. They will deal with everyone else (e.g., informing/updating people as required) and the running around for us. They also respect boundaries (unlike my in-laws) and they have had babies in the last couple of years so they understand what we might need for support.

  • anon

    Is the heart of your fiancé’s concern maybe that they feel like your mother will have more access to your child in the long-term? Maybe it’s less about your MIL being there for the birth (which is definitely something you can non-negotiably veto), but more about their worry that you don’t have the highest opinion of her and that this sets a precedent of your mother/parents being the “primary” grandparents. It’s not an uncommon dynamic/fear, so there’s a chance it could help A LOT to discuss ways that the two of you can ensure equitable (if not exactly identical) ways of developing your child’s relationship with both sets of grandparents. In my experience, there’s usually something underlying in “out there” demands/requests like this and getting to the heart of your partner’s hurt might help you understand them better AND help this birth issue fade away, since it’s not necessarily the *real* (or only, to be fair) issue.

    • anon

      *partner, not fiancé! Got too much wedding stuff on the brain :)

    • Aubry

      A very mature perspective. I hadn’t considered the motivators for this question. I agree the LW should dig a bit and see what comes up. Maybe we can escape a difficult conversation all together in the reasons are known.

  • emilyg25

    Whyyyy do people do this? Insist on being in the delivery room, I mean. Giving birth is such a raw, intimate experience. Let the woman giving birth own that process as much as she can.

    • Inmara

      I have read quite much of these “relatives wanting to be present at delivery” stories in U.S. based sites, and always wondered. Is it common along all regions and social groups? Has it been like that forever or started as a new trend recently? I can imagine that other women might have been present at birth traditionally before hospital births (to help and encourage birthing mother), but many of these stories include male relatives too (who might not be in delivery room for pushing part, but burst in the second cord is clamped). I see that quite few women admit that they didn’t even consider other people being in hospital and their relatives didn’t push this, but at the same time huge number of women see “extended family labor” as a standard of practice.
      In my country it could be never ever imagined that relatives push their way into delivery room – it’s laboring woman only, medical staff and 1-2 persons for support (usually partner or doula, or more rarely her mother). Huge reason for this is Soviet era hospital practices when nobody but medical staff could be present at birth and few days after (THAT was harsh, actually, because women didn’t have any support from partners or other close persons), but now we have quite flexible choices regarding who is at delivery, and no pressure from any parents to be there or visiting right after birth.

      • emilyg25

        I do think the majority of women just have their partner or maybe their partner and their mother present. It also varies by social group. For some people, it’s normal for a bunch of people to be there. Personally, I mentioned to my mom that I just wanted my husband there and she was surprised I’d even thought of doing anything different. She understood how sacred that moment is.

        It does seem like a newer phenomenon. Maybe a result of parents being so very involved in their children’s lives these days?

  • Jennie

    I agree with Liz. As someone who recently gave birth and has been a doula for six years, you need to feel comfortable and safe for birth to work. Having people who make you uncomfortable will slow the process and make things harder. Will you and your partner be taking any birthing classes? Or could you meet with a doula (even if you don’t plan to use one), or have an in depth conversation about this with your care provider? One of those platforms should help your partner to understand how important it is for you to feel safe and comfortable with all of the people in the room.

    As a doula, I’m concerned with your language around the birth. It sounds like you are scared and feel that birth is dangerous. While it *can* be those things, it is often not. Especially if you’ve had good prenatal care and will be attended by professional care providers during your birth. Echoing what I said above, you need to feel safe for birth to work, doing things (reading books that show birth in a positive light, taking a birth class, meeting with a doula) that help you feel calm about the process may help things go better.

    Wishing you the best of luck and many snuggles with your new tiny human!

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      This is such a thoughtful and supportive response! As someone who is totally freaked out by the prospect of birth, I think you’ve hit on something. When there’s something I’m scared or anxious about, I’m not the best communicator and I take issue with things I wouldn’t usually care about. I imagine that – if at some point I am going to give birth – I might have unexpected disagreements with my partner/family as a kind of a manifestation of that anxiety. (Not that those disagreements are any less valid – I am 100% in support of OP’s MIL not attending this birth.)

      • Aubry

        I agree! I am also terrified of giving birth, and it isn’t an insignificant player in deciding to have kids at all (still wavering on that). On the note of a medical proceedure, she might be having a scheduled c-section and that is really a surgery. But I’m guessing not because there are far fewer variables in that kind of birth and she seems most scared of the unexpected nature of a vaginal delivery.

        I feel like I might also be struck with a difficult situation if anyone wanted such a strange and un-wanted thing in a time I am super anxious about something. If someone wanted to be there for a different situation, I would have no problem telling them no in no uncertain terms. Starting polite but getting more stern if they insisted. For such a delicate thing and with sensitive relationships it could get messy.

        Maybe your MIL could be in the hospital waiting room if she really wants to be there. She can come see the new life once it arrives and then promptly leave because you are exhausted. And come visit you with tea a few days later when you have recovered.

    • emilyg25

      I also noticed that and wasn’t sure how to bring it up.

      OP, I was attended by midwives for my birth and it made a big difference in how respected and involved I felt and in the outcome. Doulas and midwives are awesome!

      • macrain

        Now that you bring this up, I’m curious! Did you have a dedicated doula for your pregnancy, or were there just midwives/doulas present where you gave birth? Had you met with them before? Just curious how it works!

        • emilyg25

          I didn’t have a doula actually. If I’d seen a doctor, I would have hired one but I didn’t feel the need with a midwife.

          I saw midwives throughout my pregnancy for prenatal care and then they attended my labor. I actually drove to a nearby city for this because midwives don’t have privileges at the hospitals in my area. Driving 2-3 hours round trip every week at the end of pregnancy was pretty unpleasant, but it paid off for me. I ended up having a pretty unusual labor and would have almost assuredly ended up with a cesarean if I’d seen an OB instead.

        • Mary Jo TC

          I had a midwife too. There was a practice of nurse-midwives in my city that works similarly to a practice of OBGYNs. They deliver in a hospital. I had checkups at their office ahead of time. I was also lucky enough that there was a volunteer doula program at that hospital for women working to be certified, so I had a volunteer doula too.

          My mom had her first 6 births with OBGYNs and experiences ranged from OK to awful. Then her last baby was with a midwife and she said it was amazing.

        • AGCourtney

          Just to offer my experience – I had a doula for my pregnancy. We met a couple times leading up to the birth and figured out expectations, a birth plan, and whether we were a good fit. (You know how if you’re doing a photographer for your wedding, it’s stressed that you need to make sure you click because you’ll be with them all day? Same deal. xD)

          I managed to hold off going to the hospital until I was pretty much in transition (translation = hell), so I don’t remember exactly who called her, but boom, there she was in my room, and she was priceless to me – such a calm, practiced presence. I didn’t worry about what she thought of me and she was so helpful, did a million little things to make me more comfortable and talked me through things without being the slightest bit intrusive or overbearing. She really made a huge difference in my birthing experience and I can’t say enough good things about her, haha. So that’s my experience with a doula. :)

          • Another Meg

            How do you find a doula?

          • AGCourtney

            That’s a question I’d have a harder time answering, as mine found me. I was receiving help from a crisis pregnancy center, and this particular doula was still getting established and wanted to offer her services for free to people in need, so we connected that way.

            So all I really have are suggestions. Word of mouth is always great, of course. Otherwise you could ask people connected to childbirth – give your local childbirth class teachers a call, your obstetrician, any new parent support groups that might be in your community. I googled “how to find a doula” and there are websites devoted to making those connections.

            Hope that was helpful!

          • emilyg25

            You can start here: http://www.dona.org/

            Or google your city and doula.

    • Angela

      Yes especially to your second paragraph. “Birth is dangerous and scary”…”massive medical procedure I am undergoing”…you sound really afraid, which is completely understandable. But I think that working through some of these anxious feelings with the help of professionals could be just as important to having a good birth experience as making sure the people you trust most are in the room.

      • StevenPortland

        Hiring a doula was the best decision we made. The doula’s role is to support you and only you during labor and the birth.

        • Angela Howard

          I agree 100%! Having a doula allowed me to have the birth experience that I wanted. Her knowledge and reassurance gave me (and my husband) the confidence to follow my instincts and have confidence in our decisions.

      • Inmara

        To me, she sounds just realistic. Birth IS dangerous, and to dismiss it and gloss it over with “Mother Nature has designed women to give birth, just relax and trust the birth” is outright obnoxious. Mother Nature doesn’t give a shit if an individual woman or baby dies, as long as there are enough babies to continue species. Admitting that things can go wrong even in the most low-risk pregnancy and birth (and LW didn’t specify whether she has low risk or high risk pregnancy!) and being in environment where help is only minutes away makes many women to be calm and confident, not anxious.

        • Antonia

          This is so true, Inmara: “Mother Nature doesn’t give a shit if an individual woman or baby dies, as long as there are enough babies to continue species.” Ina May Gaskin and her “birthing stool” and Ricki Lake and her bathtub home birth, just, no. Having lost my baby suddenly at 32 weeks, I don’t need to be “empowered” by birth. If I want empowerment, I’ll train for and run a marathon. (Note: I will not be training for and running a marathon.) Mother and baby getting through L&D alive and fairly unscathed is, for me, really the absolute best possible outcome.

          • KH_Tas

            Greatest sympathies and e-hugs

          • Inmara

            I’m so sorry for your loss.

      • Kayla

        Maybe she’s planning on a c-section? That’s how I read it when I first read the letter, but I can’t tell if it’s correct.

    • Shotgun Shirley

      ALL OF THE UPVOTES!
      Birth is very very VERY rarely dangerous, and going into it with the attitude of expecting things to go wrong, viewing it as a ‘medical procedure’ that’s happening to you… is problematic at best. It is a natural process that our bodies were built to do. They really were! I never learned much about anatomy before my pregnancies, but the research I did into the female body, and the very detailed birth class I had with my midwife dispelled (most of) my fears. It is scary because it’s all new, but it’s also exciting… and something you need to be calm and relaxed for!

      • Antonia

        I’m going to have to gently disagree with “viewing it as a ‘medical procedure’ that’s happening to you… is problematic at best. It is a natural process that our bodies were built to do.”

        Before modern medicine stepped in, the lifetime chances of dying during childbirth were about 4 percent. Even today, bearing a child is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do — it’s the sixth most common cause of death among women age 20 to 34 in the U.S. Our bodies *were* designed to birth children — but poorly.

        A consequence of the development of bipedalism is that our hips became narrow, which made the birthing canal smaller. Then selective pressures caused us to have larger brains, which means babies have larger heads that make it difficult to push the baby out. These two features make birthing difficult, painful, and sometimes very dangerous for women.

        Many women have complication- and intervention-free births — but many do not.

        Granted, I view pregnancy and birth differently because my first and only child was stillborn at 32 weeks after an easy, textbook pregnancy. (Cause of death was sudden placental failure.) I am not at all confident in my body’s ability to do what it was “built to do.” One in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and one in 150 pregnancies ends in stillbirth.

        The LW is correct — birth *is* dangerous and scary. We have so little control. I can absolutely understand her wanting to limit who she has in the delivery room. It needs to be her call, and her call alone.

        • Shotgun Shirley

          I’m so sorry for your loss.
          To add to the evolutionary notes – we’ve also evolved to be born premature so the head fits – hence the ‘fourth trimester’ with a ton of head expansion. That being said, yes things can go wrong. I myself was in bed rest for half of my second pregnancy. And my first kid turned out to have a super rare super random super fatal placental condition that was completely missed.
          So yes, things can and do go wrong. But the vast majority of the time they don’t. (And the U.S. is behind in this compared to other developed nations.) my point is that a little education about how our bones move and joints flex and sphincters open can go a long way towards being able to dispel the fear surrounding birth, which can be a real self-fulfilling prophecy for a lot of women (see sphincter law, which another commenter mentioned).
          I don’t mean to go on a rant; this is obviously something I’m passionate about!
          Oh, and absolutely it’s up to OP who is there. I hope I hadn’t implied anything else!

        • Marmoset

          Antonia I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine going through that. My heart goes out to you.

          There are a lot of strong opinions out there on both sides of the “birth is inherently safe vs. inherently dangerous” issue, and I think the lack of control you mention really touches on a key point.

          It seems to me that when many people talk about birth being dangerous, they talk about it being impossible to control, yet people who talk about birth being safe don’t generally claim to be able to control it. So I think there’s some really rich food for thought there about the relationship between control and safety / lack of control and danger.

          Much, much love to you and your child. <3

  • Sparkles

    There’s a whole host of theories that discuss how feeling comfortable with the birth process will make everything easier. Not that birth will be easy, but if you are uncomfortable it can cause things to drag on. Read some Ina May Gaskin (particularly her cervix-sphincter stuff) and then politely tell your partner and his mom that because you’re still getting to know her, and you’re going to be very vulnerable in this situation, and so in the interest of things going more smoothly you’d prefer if she come after the birth to visit.

    Solve it with science!!

  • Kate M

    I agree with the birthing class suggestion, I know for me it really helped in a non scary way to be walked through all the steps and you better believe my husband was there for the class as well. It was a ton of new information for both of us, especially about how your stress levels can contribute to longer, more difficult and even stalling labor. We had our class at home given by a labor and delivery nurse with 35 yrs of experience, a doula, and 7 kids of her own (she is in the DC area and is freaking awesome), so it was comfortable and easy to ask any questions we wanted. It helped my husband get why I didn’t want anyone there, fortunately both sides of our family completely respected our boundaries, and since the little guy was born at 2:30am we had some breathing room.
    I do think having her visit in the hospital is important if your mom is helping you with the birth, it levels the playing field a lot and and doesn’t make his mother feel like the less important grandparent. We also set expectations in advance of the baby coming around visiting, that visits needed to be short, and calling ahead was mandatory and that we would both be sleeping a lot, which I highly recommend. Also I recovered pretty quickly, so I was all about getting out of the house and getting for coffee, which lets you visit, but keeps people out of your house. Also as stated below, newborns are a get out of jail free card, you can leave anywhere at anytime because the baby “needs a nap”.

  • Laura C

    My father’s mother was in town when I was born ON HER BIRTHDAY and my parents designated my uncle (who also lived in town) to keep her distracted and unaware that my mom was in labor. Though to be fair, my mother also would not have wanted her own mother anywhere near the process.

  • Christina McPants

    I had a homebirth where only my wife and the medical professionals were there by design. I love my mom but did not want her in the room (she wouldn’t have been comforting) and having friends / MIL there was just deeply awkward. Birth is really physically and mentally hard and you really do need to do the best self-care you can to ensure you have the best experience.

  • AGCourtney

    Oh my gosh, I am so sorry that you even have to have this discussion. The good news is, you’ve got common practice on your side. I love my MIL, get along with her even better than my own mother, quite frankly, and even then, I would not have wanted her there – but I didn’t even need to say so, because she informed me on her own that there was no way she was going to be in the room. As others have said, birth is a messy business…it’s terrifying and, in a way, the worst kind of vulnerable. Quite frankly, it would have been miserable – well, even more miserable – if I had to worry about other people in the room.

    So yeah, as everyone is saying, hold your ground on this. Having your mother there but not your partner’s is not selfish or wrong or unfair – this is the intimate, vulnerable challenge of bringing a child into the world – not a party. Welcoming her to visit the baby in those first few days at the hospital is quite a sufficient honor in itself.

  • LTurtle

    My midwife always says that you shouldn’t have anyone in the room while you’re giving birth unless it’s someone you feel comfortable crying, pooping and having sex in front of. That is a short list. And also generally that the fewer people who are in the room the better, labor is likely to go more quickly with fewer complications.
    IMO, regardless of the gender of the partner here they need to be more supportive of the birthing mom and help set boundaries with the MIL in question. OP, the best thing for you and your baby is for you to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible – do whatever you need to do to make that happen.

  • Sarah

    I haven’t read through all the comments on this thread, so I may repeat what others have said, but I just wanted to add another voice of support for the author to feel confident in advocating for what she wants her labor and delivery to be like. I gave birth to my first child six months ago and it was the most emotionally and physically intense thing I have ever done. It is of course intense for birth partners as well in many ways, but ultimately you are the one taking your body to the brink of what is humanly possible in order to bring a baby into this world. You can communicate your empathy to your partner about what he/she wants the experience to be like, but in the end everyone involved should support you however you want to be supported (even if that means telling certain people that they cannot be in the room). As others have commented, your nurse (or doula or midwife, if you have them) can also be a great advocate for you during the birth and if it comes down to it in the moment, make up rules that require people to leave the room. I think most if not all nurses/doulas/midwives have no problem doing that because their job is to support the birth mother and I think they deal with these kind of situations a lot.

    There is so much in pregnancy, labor, and parenthood that you don’t have control over. Who is in the room with you when you labor and deliver is absolutely something that you can, and have every right to, have control over. I wish you lots of luck for a wonderful birth experience, and most of all, a healthy and beautiful baby when it’s all over! That moment when you first meet your child is unlike anything else in this world.

  • I am about to read through all the comments and I’m sure someone else has said this, but I think this is a truly fantastic time to have a thoughtful, respectful conversation with your mother-in-law about your boundaries. Frame it around the fact that you are an adult, you are the one giving birth, and you really just want your husband and your mother there, because… it’s your experience. Yes, your husband is involved, but ultimately YOU’RE the one giving birth. I don’t know her and I don’t know the best tactics for this conversation, but hopefully she can get it.

    ALSO, if it helps: if you’re birthing at a hospital, a lot of them only allow 1 or 2 extra people in the room these days. I used to photograph births and it started to become an issue. I’d check with wherever you’re giving birth and see what their policy is.

  • enfp

    Everything Liz said – birth is a really important time to prioritize your own needs and feel as supported as possible. Especially if you have a lot of fear around the birth, encouragement from people you trust is SO SO important. I also really hope that you can have some good, open and honest conversations with your partner about this, because it’s so important that your partner support you in your birth choices.

    But what I really wanted to comment on was your fears about birth and how it’s a medical procedure. I gave birth two and a half weeks ago, and my birth was probably close to the type of birth you are fearing. It was a terrifying medical procedure that I had no control over. Yet I can still say, even if that happens to you, you can do it, and you’re going to be okay! Nothing went as planned. I was induced early, my midwife was off-call so I had someone new I didn’t know, and I had to have all kinds of medical interventions (short of a caesarean) that I didn’t want (the induction, an episiotomy and forceps). First, the painkillers are magical. If you are having a difficult delivery, get the epidural, and soon you’ll be dozing off not even noticing your contractions. Second, even a long labour is a relatively short period of time in the span of your life, you can and will get through it, and before you know it you’ll have your baby with you. Now, two and half weeks later, I feel much recovered, enjoying my gorgeous new baby and the delivery is far from my mind and just doesn’t seem important. I wish you a comfortable and smooth delivery, but know that even if you don’t have the delivery you hope for, you’ll get through it and the chances are great that both you and your baby will be just fine.

    And OMG, I get along well with my MIL and she is a lovely person, but NO WAY was she ever going to be in the delivery room! As someone just commented below, you don’t get to control your birth experience, but you can and should control who is in the room with you.

  • Anita

    I totally get not wanting her to be in the birthing room, but to not want her around for a week??? “I have said that they are welcome to visit in the week following.”

    I think that is selfish. It is your partners baby too. Your side of the family is not the only one that matters. If you would have the attitude ONLY MY MOM AND PARTNER in the room and other immediate family can visit after i have had some rest then fine but to actually say your partners mom can visit the next week? WTF??

    Did people really read the whole thing and agree telling your partner’s mother she can’t see her grand baby for a week is an OK thing to do?

    I went through child birth, it was not fun, i had many people in the room i did not want. I didn’t notice them and think that this is a douchy move. The my body/my way is not a thing i understand. Women usually don’t get pregnant on their own. If they did THEN AND ONLY THEN are they the only ones who matter. My husband doesn’t want kids, mine is almost an adult but if he did i would certainly consider him & his feelings.

    • Marmoset

      Hi Anita, I think you might be misreading the LW – I believe she means that they are welcome to visit during the week after the birth (when they might still be in the hospital). That’s not the same as asking them to wait a week.

      Even so, your use of all caps makes it sound like you are yelling at the LW which is really not necessary at all, and your calling the LW’s choices a “douchy move” is completely unkind, uncalled for, and as far as I know not really within the commenting culture here.

      Also, even disregarding the issues with your delivery, I completely disagree with your core point.

      • Marmoset

        (Clarifying that I mean “issues with your delivery” as in, your word choices & tone in this post, just realized that might be confusing when the topic is birth!)

      • Anita

        I didn’t misread anything.

        You can disagree all you want. It doesn’t change my stance. I don’t have to agree with the masses. I emphasized in caps for a reason. I wasn’t yelling. I was pointing something out that i wanted bolder (and that wasn’t an option). I don’t need the internet police. Thank you.

        • Marmoset

          Cool, it seems we have very different ideas about what constitutes respectful disagreement. Disengaging now!

  • Caroline Sjööh

    OMG! My MIL is a midwife, and I still would never ever want her in the delivery room if me and my man where to have a baby! I have a daughter from a previous relationship, and I didn’t allow his family to even visit us for about two weeks after I hade her (they live far away so they stayed for a few days. Drove me crazy.) If a MIL, or even you own mother, expect to get to be present during the delivery, they need to get a serious reality check. As I said, my MIL is a midwife and could be actually be helpful, but because of my relationship with her I don’t want her anywhere nere my going through a experience like that. And to have here there because of my partner being uncomfortable telling her no? Well, tell her yourself if she wants to be there, and tell your partner to fuck of. It really really is your choice, not your partners, really not the partners mother.

  • raccooncity

    Hi there!

    My mom was a long-time labour and delivery nurse and often saw instances in a related vein where a mother to be invited people to be present and then decided once things were underway that she couldn’t handle the people there.

    Consider if your MIL shows up unexpectedly, or if you decide you don’t want your mom there or ANYTHING to that effect, telling your nurse. My mom had no problem telling non-parents of the future baby that “hospital policy” indicated they couldn’t be there and thus took the blame off the new mom. She told them it was her job to do whatever needed doing (within reason….don’t ask your nurse to get you your favourite movie…) so mom could focus on the task at hand.

    Now whenever I hear family complaining about stupid “hospital policies” I wonder to myself….

  • Marmoset

    Echoing Manya below, if you don’t want to put a lot of energy into explaining your reasons or making your case or anything (which you shouldn’t have to because, um, just no), you could go with “But it’s my vagina” just repeated over and over and over again.

    Partner: “My MIL will feel left out!”
    You: “But it’s my vagina.”
    Partner: “I think it would be more fair to have both mothers there”

    You: “But it’s my vagina.”
    Partner: “I don’t want to cause friction in the family.”

    You: “Okay. But it’s my vagina.”

    An extra sneaky move if somebody is trying to bully you about this is to agree with whatever they’re saying… and then add “but it’s my vagina.”

    MIL: You are being so unfair about this!
    You: “You’re right, I am being unfair. But it’s my vagina.”

    Internet stranger: “You are being sooo selfish!”
    You: “Yeah, I am. But it’s my vagina.”

    I feel like if you just say VAGINA enough times it will have to get through to people eventually!

    • Marmoset

      P.S. In case this was unclear you are definitely not being unfair or selfish, it’s everybody else who is completely and totally out of bounds. :)

    • Meg Keene

      EXACTLY. That’s sort of how I feel about pregnancy in general, which is no walk in the park. Anyone else growing a human on their insides, and being poked and prodded and dealing with scary medical shit may get an equal vote with me. Anyone not doing the above work will be listened to, but does not get a co-equal vote.

      Unless they offer to take a turn. Maybe take the baby on their insides for a few months, just so I can get a small break?

      • Eh

        Just this morning my husband complained about me being a bed hog. I mentioned that his daughter growing inside of me likes her room so I need room in bed to find a comfy position. I suggested that my husband take his turn growing our baby and she could kick him in the side just when he is just about asleep. He declined.

    • Jess

      Oh god… I’m using this unto eternity.

  • Mags

    This is one of the best ATP responses I’ve read and it is so true. Depending on the culture, some MIL may think they will be invited (my husband is Mexican and describes the births in his family as a huge party in the hospital afterwards), but they are not. And should not be. And your partner absolutely needs to understand this (and that you get nightly foot rugs) because you are the one carrying the child, you are the one who will be giving birth, and you may be the one breastfeeding. This means it gets to be all about what you want until the baby is born and then it gets to be all about what you and the baby want for at least a few weeks. If you want MIL around to help out and cook plus she gets to see the baby, then invite her over. If you don’t want MIL around or you don’t have time for her to hold the baby for an hour because oh wait baby is constantly breastfeeding, then she’s not allowed over/allowed what she wants.

    Having a baby can be really tough, both the birthing part and the few following weeks. You deserve to have the experience as much like what you want as is physically/medically possible. For me I didn’t want any mothers in the hospital during the labor and birth. I also didn’t want to be texting/tweeting/sharing my experience in any way with anyone other than my husband. And I was very strict about this (my husband was also not allowed to text his family and friends with regular updates, which for him was a really long time without texting his mother — about 30 hours) and I felt like it was absolutely my right as the person having the baby and continue to feel that way. This is a sensitive time and you deserve to feel as loved and taken care of as much as possible, and should be able to have control of things as much as you want. Your partner has to understand this and I am furious if he or she doesn’t and isn’t willing to put your needs first at this time.

  • jubeee

    Totally agree, the mother is the ONLY one giving birth, she calls the shots in her birthing experience.

  • Kara E

    You know…I think you got a lot of good advice here.
    I would say a couple of things:
    (1) Is there a reason you think your mother is more capable than your partner to express your needs and advocate for your needs? Unless she’s a doula other type of medical professional, my guess is that it’s been a long time since she’s been in a delivery room!
    (2) have you figured out why your partner wants his/her mother present? Can he/she express that?
    (3) Birth may be scary, but it’s not inherently dangerous and isn’t a major medical procedure (unless/until it becomes one via c-section or episotomy); It’s birth. It might be helpful for you and your partner to spend some time reading some Ina May Gaskin and about ways to lead to a less stressful/tough birth experience ( I think someone referenced the sphincter stuff below). In fact, the fewer medical interventions there are/are required, the less likely it is to become one (my google isn’t finding what I want, but I know the articles are out there). I’m happy my child was born in a hospital, but that’s mainly because she came so quickly, we might not have made it to the only birthing center in the area, and car birth = not my idea of fun times.

  • Sarah

    What convinced my mother was the explanation that the birth was about me and my wife starting our baby family together, about the three of us forming as a unit for the first time. It wasn’t about keeping her out; it was about holding the space sacred for us.

    • Kara E

      My mom actually made that same argument when I (very tentatively) asked her whether she would be hurt if she wasn’t present at my daughter’s birth. I’m so thankful that she did.

    • Eh

      I am very glad that you mom understood when you explained it that way. I think it depends on how your parents/in-laws see family and marriage if this would work. My in-laws see marriage as extending their family to include me and not creating a new “baby” family (i.e., me and my husband as a separate entity). We believe that there is a happy medium between the two. We need our time as a couple (and with our daughter when she arrives) but we want to include our family of origins in our lives too. Since my in-laws don’t respect our basic boundaries (or even common curtsey for that matter) we had to institute stricter boundaries. If my husband or I told his parents that we needed time for the three of us right after our daughter is born my MIL would think that we were excluding her since the idea of us as a “baby family” is not how she see family.

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah. We really needed that too. We actually held off on phone calls and everything for a bit after, just to take that time.

    • qj

      Yes! Baby family. So so grateful that my mom already understands this (i.e. she never imagined being present at the birth) and has offered to come if/when we want to help help help (and she’d be an amazing helper), but is all about standing back and saying, “I’d love to meet my grand baby and help, but this is your special time as a brand new family figuring things out so if/when you want to invite me in, I’d be honored to be there, but no expectations about when that is!” (She’s the best.)

  • Shotgun Shirley

    Late to this comment party, but MIL at my birth? Pretty much my worst nightmare.
    I didn’t want her involved in the birth AT ALL, even to the extent of watching my toddler… which may or may not have contributed to me giving birth in the (parked) car, whoops. (It all worked out fine.)

    • anonynon

      I really worry about my toddler being cared for by MIL while I’m at the hospital this time around… I would be thrilled to have the baby in the car (assuming no complications, of course) if it meant my husband could get back to the kiddo faster…

      • Shotgun Shirley

        Haha yeah, thankfully zero complications (only 2 pushes, and the midwife came to us about 30 min later)! I would never in a million years recommend it, but it really worked out splendidly for me.

  • Sara

    I get the distinct feeling that I’m the only person who feels this way, and I’m not even the HUGEST fan of my possible MIL, but… I’d totally let her be the room. My mom and sister too. And whatever other female friends wanna watch that literal shit show, labia to the wind and all. I am fascinated by birth and have pretty much zero modesty. So, bring it on.

    That said — OBVIOUSLY what the mother says, goes! To even imply that anyone else has a right to make demands or plans involving a pregnancy (aside from perhaps the partner) is insulting and degrading. This is one of those “Unfortunately, your feelings don’t matter right now as this has little to nothing to actually do with you” type of situations.

    • Sara

      I should probably also put a further disclaimer on this post: I do not doubt at all that my possible MIL loves me genuinely, and we have a good relationship. I also am not convinced she’d actually WANT to be there for the birth (especially if it isn’t considered “proper” or whatever), so maybe it’s too easy for me to say this as a hypothetical.

    • Eh

      One of my SIL is the exact opposite of you. She has been very supportive during my pregnancy (I have been sick and she has been very sick in all of her pregnancies) and one day we were talking about home births. She does not want one because her house is way too busy (two dogs, two kids) and she likes that she is removed from that at the hospital. She actually said that she would be perfectly ok if my brother was not in the room when she gave birth.

  • MDBethann

    FYI for those interested in a doula/birth companion but not sure if they can afford one:
    In Maryland, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing has doula training for its nursing students and the ones that
    want to can serve as volunteer doulas/birth coaches. The downside is
    that because they are student nurses, they might be in class or on duty
    when you go into labor, which happened to us (middle of the night labor,
    early morning birth), so we never actually got to use her. But the
    birth coaches/companions through the nursing school are FREE, so if you
    have a nursing school in your area, it is worth seeing if they have a
    volunteer birth companion program with their nursing students. We met with ours beforehand and she was really nice. If/when we get pregnant again, I’m definitely going to sign up for the program.

    • Mary Jo TC

      My hospital had a similar program. We used it and it was awesome. The way ours worked was that we didn’t know which doula-in-training we’d get because they were on a rotation, and we didn’t meet her ahead of time. They were first-come-first-served, so if too many women wanted one on a single day, some might be out of luck. When we got to the hospital we requested the volunteer doula and got her. Totally free.

    • Emma

      That’s awesome! I would also suggest doing some research of the options available. My mom is a doula and works on a sliding fee/in exchange for goods and services for parents who can’t afford the fee.

  • Brenna

    I had a friend who went through a version of this last year: Mother in law expected to be there at the moment baby popped out so she could *pray over his first breath*. Friend and husband only wanted medical personnel in the room during active labor and delivery so all relatives were asked to leave. MIL got her nose bent out of shape and had a little fit in the hall. Nurses did a great job of not letting her in the room until Friend and baby were cleaned up and decent. This event was a trigger for more drama and I guess I learned to have your birth plan known and arranged BEFORE you it happens. I don’t especially see eye to eye with my MIL and didn’t want her around while I was birthing and recovering so she was invited to visit the next day. Luckily she respected my/our wishes. I sure hope LW makes sure she has wants she wants and that partner supports her wishes!

  • Ashlah

    I said all this as a reply down-thread, but I wanted to bring it up in its own comment. While it might not be the common expectation in the culture at large that anyone but the partner and maybe the birthing parent’s mom will be in the room, I think it varies a lot family to family. My mom had a ton of people in her room (husband, mom, parents-in-law, siblings-in-law, nephews, etc, etc) when she birthed me. My sister gave birth last year and had a ton of people too (parents, boyfriend, friends, aunts). It seems it’s expected in our family to call when you’re heading to the hospital, and anyone who’s available will meet you there. The family members who were present when my niece was born have talked at length about what a special experience it was, so it makes me really nervous to have to put my foot down when it’s my time. I’m not even sure whether I’ll want my own mother there, so it’ll be interesting. When it’s not just one person demanding they’re special enough to be present, but rather it’s the expectation of your whole family that everyone should be there (and that you should WANT that), it adds a whole level of feeling like…almost like you’re betraying your family by wanting to be (mostly) alone. Like you’re saying they aren’t important to you by not including them in this important moment in your life. We’re still a couple years away from any of this, and it already makes me anxious!

    • genevathene

      I think it’s important to remember that we’re all going to disappoint our parents in one way other another. That’s just part of the deal, and it comes up a lot during milestones like weddings and births. You’re allowed empathize with your family’s feelings about not getting their expectations met, while still drawing a boundary around what’s most important for you. Because in the end, if your needs aren’t getting met, you’re going to be resentful – and that kills relationships much faster than disappointment does.

    • Lauren from NH

      Ooof! There is some uncomfortable cross over to wedding planning there for me. Yes, who gets to say what life events are public versus private. Being exposed and giving birth is clearly different and more private to cultures/perspective, but then again not to others.

      I think more and more I am coming down on the side of your life = your choice. If it’s not your life and you disagree with the way things are being done, you can do it for yourself your way or you need to be quiet about it. I don’t understand people believing they have a claim to participate in someone else’s major life event. If that’s what you want, find a “tribe” of like minded people and do just that, but you don’t get to force your expectations on others.

      • Eh

        Thanks for the wedding planning flash back. My MIL requested that if we elope we invite her. She didn’t care if anyone else was invited (including my FIL). I think she was missing the point of eloping. We did not want our wedding to be a private event (but if we did that would have been our choice to make not hers) but we did restrict our guest list to people we were close to (which meant cutting out her cousins and their adult children and other people my husband had not seen in over 15 years). On the other hand the birth of our daughter is a private event.

  • Many years ago, long before marriage and babies were possibilities in my life, I heard in a child-development class that a good rule is you need to be there for the conception to be there for the birth. I liked that rule, so I started talking with my mom about it way back then. She had no expectation of being at the birth of our children. Unfortunately she had an expectation of being told I was in labor and being called immediately after the birth because that’s what my sister did and that’s not how we decided to do things. We didn’t tell anyone I was even in labor and didn’t announce the birth of our daughter till an hour or so after she was born and we were all settled in the hospital room we’d be in for the duration of our stay. And we said absolutely no visits till at least a week after the birth to give us time to figure out being a family of 3 before we were a family of 3 with visitors.

    I would LOVE to be able to do it that way this time around. I don’t want anyone to know when I’m in labor. I want some days alone with our family of 5 before we have to let others into our world. I want a “honeymoon” after the delivery where it’s just us and we can get used to each other. But we have an almost 2-year-old who needs someone to watch her while I’m in the hospital. So I won’t get that. My parents will know the moment I leave for the hospital this time. It will be more than just our daughter visiting in the hospital while we do the rest of the introductions of the babies over Skype (which is wonderful for providing distance) instead of having that space all to our own immediate family. And a big part of me is hating it and it hasn’t even happened yet.

    • Ashlah

      I love the idea of not telling anyone a thing until after it’s all over and done with. No one can argue with you over something that already happened! Well, they can, but it won’t do a lot of good, and besides, there’s a cute baby to look at instead.

  • Lauren

    There are medical reasons that she should not be there. Birth is an intimate act, not unlike sex, and much like sex, there can’t be bystanders, particularly ones who are stressful to you, the mother to be, present at birth. I think Ina May Gaskin talks about it at length and I’m sure there are other authorities who will say the same. Furthermore, the first several hours are important for your bonding– again, you’ll need privacy.

  • Anon

    *Like*

  • SChaLA

    This is the kind of thing I’m not looking forward to down the road… Great response.

  • Pregnancy terrifies me and I’m sorry but just the idea that I’ll be making any sort of compromises regarding my own comfort at the moment of labour gives me the nope nope NOPES. 9 months of discomfort and anxiety culminating in a day long pain fest buys me the right to have that day long pain fest happen exactly the way I want.

    If partner would like MIL around (and outside of the birthing room until your explicit say so) as support, that’s a conversation worth having but I don’t think MIL being present during labour needs to be considered at all if you’re not into it. MIL might be more comfortable with a discussion of what the expectations are after the birth, and that’s a reasonable thing for her to want. If not and she’s still pushing for access to the birthing room though? TOUGH.

  • TeaforTwo

    I wonder if it might help to frame things a bit differently. The letter writer talks about not trusting her partner’s mother as the reason not to have her in the birth. And that’s a perfectly good reason, but it’s not like trusting someone is sufficient to get them a spot in the delivery room. I trust my accountant and my housecleaner, but neither one of them would get an invitation to watch me give birth.

    Furthermore, I can see why the conversation with LW’s partner gets heated when it’s about trust: I would be very hurt if my husband told me he didn’t trust a member of my immediate family. But if he said “I want this to be private,” or “I’m not feeling up for being around other people while we are dealing with xyz,” I would understand a lot more readily.

    Finally, here is where my advice diverges a bit from Liz’s: don’t lie, if you can help it. It may seem like an easier way out to tell her it’s against hospital regulations (and if it’s the only way, DO IT), but there will be much longer term dividends from learning to set gentle but firm boundaries. She brings it up? Kind and even-toned, “we are going to keep the birth pretty private, but as soon as we’re home from the hospital, there will be lots of time for visits.” I am not a parent, but I have learned a thing or two about boundaries with in-laws, and it seems that they only get more important when kids are in the picture. Right now the birth is the big thing on your mind, but a woman who invites herself into your L&D room may be a woman who needs some other gentle but firm guidance over the next few years.

  • InHK

    I know what I’m about to say is an echo of what a lot of others here have already said, but seriously: We have a right to our bodies. Pregnancy does not change that. No one – not even the person that got you pregnant – has a “right” to be with you when you give birth. Your body, your choice.

    I find the trend of family members asking/expecting to be present when you give birth really upsetting. If someone wants you at the birth, they will ask you. And look, every relationship is different, but I don’t personally feel that asking to be at the birth is okay. If delivery comes up (of course it will) you could say something like, “Well, if you would like me to be at the birth, I’ll be there for you,” and then let it go.

  • This is the first time that I don’t agree with Liz. I mean, yes, you can ban the MIL from being in the room during the birth (usually only 2 are allowed anyway) but why can’t she come in and see her grandchild a few hours later, or even the next day? The next week is really insensitive.

  • LW, I really like your framing of this as a medical procedure. I mean, it IS a medical procedure, but culturally we tend no to think of it that way.

    Have you emphasised – to your spouse and the MIL – that your mother is not going to be present out of any romantic notion, but as a practical issue regarding your need for an advocate in the hospital during a time when you may not be in a position to be able to advocate for yourself the way you usually would? I feel like maybe they are getting caught up in the romantic, new-life, bonding aspect and forgetting the whole thing about the actual WORK that you and your doctors will be doing.

  • Apples

    This is where the spouse needs to remember that with wedding vows you “leave” your birth family behind and “cleave” to your new spouse. That person takes precedence when setting boundaries. The pregnant wife should not need to create a scene for her wishes of privacy to be understood by her spouse, who by saying that might damage his/her relationship with his/her mom and really pushing back on doing it, is not putting pregnant spouse first. Put your wife’s wishes first, over your mom’s. Mom is important. Wife is moreso.

  • Thought this was an appropriate article to share here. “If you weren’t there for the conception, don’t expect to be there for the birth of the baby.” http://www.xojane.com/issues/childbirth-is-not-a-spectator-sport?utm_source=huffpost_women&utm_medium=pubexchange

  • Portlandgal

    A little late to the discussion, but had to chime in. Former OB nurse here. This advice is spot on. Yes, the ideal is that all grandparents (and fathers for that matter) would be able to at least visit the new baby in the hospital and that they would provide encouragement and assistance to the new mother, but that is by no means reality for a lot of families. Laboring and post-partum women are uniquely vulnerable, and anyone who is not contributing to a positive and comfortable environment should not be allowed to visit.. Everyone needs to remember, Mom is the patient. Even if her mother in law is really super nice but maybe just a bit overbearing and doesn’t know when to leave, if it’s stressing the new mom out then either the father or the nursing staff need to set some boundaries and get her out of there! And let me tell ya, I have seen some crazy behavior from all kinds of family members over the years from in-laws, siblings, moms, even new dads, and we have had to remove them from the unit. My personal favorite was a mother of the woman in labor who was so aggressive about her daughter having a natural birth that she tried to body-block the anesthesiologist when he went to start the epidural that her daughter had repeatedly asked for. We had to have security come remove her. I think it’s interesting now that I work in critical care that there’s not this underlying assumption that any family member has the “right” to be there. It’s crazy to me that that attitude was more common with laboring women than with family members who are critically ill.

  • KLB999

    How about her partner doesn’t call mom until it’s too late for her to get there on time? Then they can just say – “it happened so fast!”

  • yrbest

    Holy I’d be scared too giving birth in this situation. Waaay before we had our baby my partner knew it was his job to gatekeep in the days after the birth, let alone during. I’m a really private person to the extent that I chose a home birth but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the first time the in-laws came by, I hid upstairs while they checked out the baby… and this was a few days later. The hormones at that point are something else.
    All the support for getting what you need for this birth LW!

  • Zeph

    Late to this, but very interesting topic and thread. I’ve not had kids, but when my niece was born only my brother was in the room with my sister in law. A group of extended family (me included) were allowed to wait in a waiting room – which was perfect for us. We were able to support my brother, but we didn’t need to invade the privacy of my sister in law. And it was a very special evening! Would this be an option for the OP?

    Also, I’ve heard it’s not always a good idea for (grand)parents to be in the room for the delivery, because they can find it distressing to see their daughter in pain. A friend of mine had her mother in the room for her delivery and her mother fainted! It all turned out fine, but it did sound a bit chaotic! Of course this is a very personal thing and everyone needs to make the decision that’s right for them.

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