Selling Tickets to the Delivery Room
September 21, 2010 12:09 AM   Subscribe

How to negotiate difference of opinion between mum and dad on who should be present at baby's birth?

I don't want any family/friends in the delivery room other than my husband. Husband insists his mother be allowed to attend. How do we come to a compromise on this?

I've tried to have a rational discussion explaining that I think it's a private time between he, baby and I and that anything that adds to my lack of comfort is going to make an already stressful situation worse (and potentially dangerous due to existing high blood pressure issues). His response was to become upset, express dismay that I wanted to deprive his mother of the experience and threaten that he too will leave the room if I ask her to.

I have absolutely nothing against his mother - she's a wonderful woman - but the only people I'm going to be comfortable with whilst actively pushing out a person are my husband and the medical professionals. I have no problem with the entire extended family being at the hospital and traipsing in once baby has arrived, just not while I'm getting down to business.

I know I can have the nurses run interference on my behalf when the time comes but my main concern is coming to some kind of understanding with my husband, rather than getting what I want at any cost.

He comes from a large and fairly close family whereas I'm from a very small, dysfunctional one so it's no wonder we don't see eye to eye on this. As a secondary issue, I'm a little hurt that my partner is so willing to sacrifice my peace of mind for his mother's, but that may just be crazy pregnancy hormones talking.

Am I being unreasonable here? If you've been in a similar situation, how did you deal with it? What's the best tactic for coming to an agreement on this before the birth?
posted by Kappi to Human Relations (87 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Not unreasonable. You guys (you, the baby) rule, your comfort is paramount. He must - and will be able to - control his (what I assume is) anxiety and be there for you guys. At the end, he wouldn't want to have his mom there, I promise.
posted by Namlit at 12:22 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are absolutely not being unreasonable, and if your husband is threatening to walk out of the delivery room if he doesn't get his way, well... maybe you'd be better off if neither of them were there. Do you have a doula?
posted by makonan at 12:23 AM on September 21, 2010 [42 favorites]

"honey, when you have a baby, you can invite whoever you want. I will be going through possibly the most physically painful experience I will ever have. I will be screaming, swearing, shitting myself, possibly bleeding, puking, pissing.

"I will be afraid, angry, disheveled and disrobed. I don't want anyone else to see me like that, and I don't want to be worrying about their reactions, or my reactions to their presence, when I should be concentrating on delivering a healthy baby.

"Please respect my wishes on this, it's my body that's going to be enduring the birth, and my body running the health risks of giving birth. The most important thing for me will be to feel safe, private and comfortable during this time, and I really want you to help me feel that. Your mother has her whole life to see her grandchild - an hour or 25 at birth won't change that, but it will change how I fill about it, and I may only get to give birth once or twice, so please help me feel good about it."
posted by smoke at 12:26 AM on September 21, 2010 [113 favorites]

Tell him you'd be alright with it if your mom can come to his next prostate exam.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:27 AM on September 21, 2010 [76 favorites]

Your husband is being very odd about this and I wonder why. Is it only about "depriving his mother of the experience", i.e. concern for his mom, or is there more to it - Is he scared of being there alone? Scared of his mom? Family dynamics and guilt tripping? What? Maybe you can find out why he is getting so disproportionately upset about it, what it means to him?

You on the other hand are being extremely reasonable and explaining yourself well.

You say that his mother is a wonderful woman - if you get along with her, maybe you can speak to her directly and discreetly and tell her how you feel - that she is a wonderful mother in law, but that it kind of freaks you out to have anyone but your husband with you on that occasion.
Only you can tell if she would be a possible ally in dissuading your husband from this, or whether that would stir up even more drama. At any rate it's a possibility.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:31 AM on September 21, 2010 [11 favorites]

Also, gah! I am getting pissy at your husband just reading about his stroppy fit! You totally deserve having your wish respected and I hope he'll come to his senses! Good luck with it all.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:33 AM on September 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'd show him a video of a woman giving birth.

Then I'd explain to him why you don't want an audience.

If he doesn't get that, I'd look him clearly in the eye and just tell him no.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:40 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

This would border on "DTMFA" territory for me. Really not something that should be up for any debate; presumably rational discussion is not working because this is not a rational demand.
posted by kmennie at 12:45 AM on September 21, 2010 [19 favorites]

If you have a good relationship with the mother, I'd try to speak to her directly, you might be dealing with some issues about his relationship with her that aren't immediately apparent. I don't think you're being unreasonable at all, you're entitled to privacy during any kind of medical procedure. It's hard to say anything else, because this isn't really a close call, no one has a right to be in the delivery room, not even the father, much less the grandmother. She can wait a few hours to start spoiling him.
posted by bluejayk at 12:50 AM on September 21, 2010

Your husband threatened to abandon you while you are giving birth if his mother couldn't attend?

Tell him to grow the f$%k up and cut the cord.

This borders on "DTMFA" territory for me too.
posted by LudgerLassen at 12:52 AM on September 21, 2010 [14 favorites]

Could his mom be the coordinator of the full-extended-clan postnatal assault-- which would require him to hand off updates and her to engage everyone else/ make phone calls/ ensure your privacy?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:00 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree wholeheartedly with all the above posters - he is behaving unreasonably and it is your call who gets to be present while you sweat, strain, and all the rest as you labour and give birth.
His threat "that he too will leave the room if I ask her to" crosses the line so hard - if my own beloved husband tried something like this on me he would find himself living back at mummy's house in a heartbeat.

As for depriving your Mother-in-law of the "experience" of being present at a birth - presumably, she already has experience.

Does he have an older male role-model figure who you can approach to straighten him out about the undesirability of being a Mother's Boy and a PITA to his wife?
posted by Catch at 1:06 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The situation you're in is a tough one, because it's obvious that he did something wrong. If he were a stranger, it would be easy: you could just tell him to fuck off and get on with your life. But you don't want to do that – nor should you, considering that this man is going to be the father of your child. And I think everybody has moments when they say things that are unfortunately really, really dumb, and that sound horribly wrong when you think about them for a second. I'm sure he's worried about you, and feeling a lot of anticipation and nervousness; it would make sense that he might channel some of that into an irrational and nonsensical demand that his mother be present. We men can be strangely fragile in these situations, I think.

If he's a good man – and I hope it's okay if I assume he is – he'll probably be kicking himself for having said that at some point. From your perspective as a partner with practical concerns, however, making him feel guilty about it or driving the point home forcefully isn't going to help, as satisfying as it may sound, particularly to those of us out here in internet-land who don't know him from Adam and can therefore easily jump to the conclusion that he's just a random jerk. He's not, though – he's your husband. You don't want to win the argument – you want to get the real support that you need and that he ought to give you.

So my suggestion would be to sit him down and quietly, carefully, and firmly explain where you're coming from and why this has to be the way it has to be here. Sit down with him and tell him you're sorry, but he's going to have to wait and hear you out on this; and spend a good ten minutes, if you can, describing precisely how you feel and why you feel that way. Tell him that you care very much about his mother, and you mean no slight whatsoever to her, but this is going to be a difficult and important time for you, and it's very, very important for you to know that you're going to be comfortable. (If he wants to break in and give you an answer for that, tell him to please wait until you've finished.) Tell him that you care about him deeply, and you respect him and his familly and are happy that they're part of your lives together; but this is something that you feel is important, so that's how it's just going to have to be. Tell him that this isn't an ultimatum, but quietly explain that there are certain times when it's you suffering through the ordeal, and that you'll really need his support through this. Explain that you really love him and value his contribution, and that you really need him to be behind you on this right now. And tell him that he needs to know how important this is to you – that it's a situation you're already approaching with some trepidation and some anxiety (which is perfectly natural, of course) and that it's really, really important that everything be comfortable for you on that day. And it probably would be good to tell him that one of the most important things you'll need is for him to be there with you.

That's all you need to do, I think – the idea is you just need to convey how really and truly serious this is to you. Probably because he's worried himself, he's convinced himself that it's no big deal, and he's going out of his way to show that it's no big deal by dragging his mother into it. He needs to know that you need him to shut up and support you. I have a strong feeling that if you communicate this with love and some seriousness, he'll accept it and want to back you up.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 AM on September 21, 2010 [26 favorites]

Agree with all the others that you are totally in charge here. I gave birth 6 weeks ago and my partner knew long in advance that if I wasn't comfortable he would have to leave the room. Ironically in my case I wanted my mother-in-law to be there, which she was thrilled about, but she was adamant that if I wanted to change my mind at any time that would be just fine by her.

It actually doesn't have much to do with embarrassment or anything like that - I can promise you that late in the game you won't know or care who is present - but that oxytocin is a very shy hormone and if you are not comfortable, it's entirely possible that your contractions will stop, particularly early in labour. I think your husband needs to learn a lot more about labour and delivery and really understand what the whole thing's about. It can be very long, unlike what the movies show it's generally not unstoppable, and it's all about what the labouring woman wants. The others are there to support her, not to have their own needs met.
posted by rubbish bin night at 1:22 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mom gets to call this one. Period.
posted by serazin at 1:29 AM on September 21, 2010

Sorry, that came out unintentionally ambiguous. I mean YOU, the mother of the new baby, get to call this one.
posted by serazin at 1:31 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

He comes from a large and fairly close family whereas I'm from a very small, dysfunctional one so it's no wonder we don't see eye to eye on this.

Your husband's insistence on having his mother present at the birth of your (plural) child makes it sound more like he comes from the dysfunctional side of things.

As a secondary issue, I'm a little hurt that my partner is so willing to sacrifice my peace of mind for his mother's, but that may just be crazy pregnancy hormones talking.

As the father of two, I think this is so fucked up I don't know where to begin.

It's not hormones, it's perfectly rational. When my first child was born there was no one in the room except for my wife and me - and team of NHS professionals who performed the emergency c-section on her. But it was incredibly intimate experience for us as a couple.

Before that we spent hours with the midwife trying to coax that big baby out the normal way and any other family member in the room would have been a huge interference in one of the most significant events in both of our lives and in the life of our marriage. This is about you, your husband, your marriage, and your soon to be little family. Tell him NO. Tell her NO. No deal, no compromise, simply NO. You will be doing him (and yourself) a huge favor.

And that lovely woman, your mother-in-law, move as far away from her as you can. If she expects to be be in your delivery room, she'll be sticking her unwanted nose into everything else. This woman is trouble. Mark my words: Start hating her now because in a few years you will hate her so much that you will only kick yourself for not having started hating her earlier.
posted by three blind mice at 1:44 AM on September 21, 2010 [20 favorites]

I come from a very close, loving family, and I am a female, and I would struggle to understand both your husband's and MIL's point of view on this. My bits, my body, I decide who sees me in this extremely difficult circumstance, not him, not her, not anyone.

You are squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. This is your private body bits you are talking about, and someone other than your partner seeing you in a time of extreme vulnerability both physically and emotionally.

And I'll be damned if my partner impregnated me, wants this whole "let's have a baby together" she-bang, and then tells me that he'll be leaving the room during delivery. Oh hell, no. You'll be staying by my side, my dear, holding my hand and letting me cuss and cry at you incessantly, if that's what I need.

I am appalled at his being adamant firstly, but his ultimatum? Oh no. If my partner tried this he would be already cleaved up to shreds with my rapier tongue and then sent home to spend the weekend at his mummy's. If he can't prioritise you now, this will be a long term issue. You deserve better. For me this isn't DTMFA territory but it's certainly "honey, we need to TAWK" time.
posted by shazzam! at 1:54 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised you haven't stabbed him. There is nothing to compromise about; his mother has no right or reason to see your naked crotch, first of all, and secondly as you mention there are medical reasons why you need to be as comfortable as possible during delivery. "Medical" is here defined as: of or relating to health and life -- the most important shit that there is, period. Could you perhaps explain politely to your mother-in-law that you'd rather she wait outside?
posted by creasy boy at 2:15 AM on September 21, 2010 [15 favorites]

I am so sorry but this is one of those genuinely rare occasions when what you want goes. She who is pushing the 7-pound human out of her vagina trumps in this disagreement. That's really all there is to it.

If your husband is threatening to not be present to support you in the birth of his own child unless his mommy can be there, then his priorities for his new family are severely fucked up. Tell him No. What you tell him after that is up to you, but if this is indicative of his general attitude rather than a one-off fit of stupid, I'd be looking up single parenting resources.

Genuinely, that is how inappropriate he is being.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:18 AM on September 21, 2010 [27 favorites]

I second the hormonal thing - if you aren't comfortable it is going to adversely impact labour. This isn't hippie feelgood bullshit, but an undeniable physiological response to stress.

The baby is coming out of you. Your call.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:33 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was in your position also for my first kid except the controlling Grandma-to-be (with my husband on her side) was my own mom. Yikes.

In the end, I just had to say to my mom that I knew how much she was looking forward to being at the delivery and that I know that in a lot of families the grandmother is there, but it just wasn't okay with me (trust me, start practicing that line for when she thinks it's fine for the baby to ride in the car without a car seat because back in the day, everyone held babies on their laps, etc.). I appreciated her enthusiasm and support, but to me, the process of delivery was wonderful but still and all, it was ultimately a medical procedure that involved stress, some discomfort and I just didn't want anyone there other than my husband and the nurses, etc.

I told her that I was excited for her to join me in the after-delivery room where we could hold the baby, smother it with kisses, and celebrate. I'd see her there.

I get that this is more of an issue with your husband, though; you're just going to have to tell him to cut it out because it's not happening.
posted by dzaz at 3:09 AM on September 21, 2010

I have absolutely nothing against his mother - she's a wonderful woman

Then could you perhaps outline your concerns to your mother-in-law rather than your husband? Your husband is being a dick, no doubt. But the issue might resolve itself if she could be persuaded not to attend.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 3:17 AM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

This pregnant lady is angry on your behalf. You are absolutely not being unreasonable. I also would suggest discussing this directly with your MIL. Hopefully, she's more respectful of you than her son is on this matter.
posted by chiababe at 3:30 AM on September 21, 2010

You are giving birth so you decide who is going to be there and who is not. As simple as that.
posted by Glow Bucket at 3:37 AM on September 21, 2010

Just coming in to concur with the consensus. Your body, your call; end of story. If you need ammunition, show him this thread.

Mr. Kappi, your attitude makes me ashamed to share a gender with you.
posted by flabdablet at 3:52 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

His "deprive her of the experience" thing holds no water. She's BEEN in the room when someone gave birth - her! Unless she's going to let you be there when she does it again, nope, nope, nope. I'm sorry you're having this stress during your pregnancy, and I hope your husband gets his head out of his posterior ;) Happy healthy baby to both of you, by the way.
posted by lemniskate at 3:56 AM on September 21, 2010

Tell him when he is birthing a baby you will let him decide who will be in the room and who won't be. And tell him if he wants to die on this hill with his mom and miss the birth of his child, that's his decision, and not yours. I don't think there's so much of a "coming to an understanding" here as there is him respecting you as a person, his wife, and bearer of his child...or him refusing to.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:02 AM on September 21, 2010

You might want to mention your wishes to the delivery room nurses, too. In case someone gets overexcited or steps over your boundaries during labor.
posted by dragonplayer at 4:03 AM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]

I think also that the advice to speak to your Mother-in-law directly is good - but not to discuss, persuade, ask, bargain, or 'outline your concerns'- all you need to tell her, clearly and definitely, is that she won't be in the delivery room.
posted by Catch at 4:07 AM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you have a midwife (or sympathic dr) tell them and they should back you up by telling your husband he is really innapropriate. Just in case he dismisses you again.
posted by saucysault at 4:08 AM on September 21, 2010

Your husband's attitude is so completely unreasonable and weird that I feel like there must be more to this story than what you've told us... Likely more than you even know.

Could it be that he's terrified of this birth? That he's terrified he won't know how to help you, or that the event will overwhelm him, or, just generally, that something could go wrong? I can understand someone wanting their mommy present during a huge, dangerous, life-altering experience, especially if they have a close relationship. I can imagine someone getting so freaked out at the prospect of not having someone they want present at a scary occasion that they then threaten to leave the occasion entirely. In short, I can imagine your husband being frightened and worried and not knowing how to handle it other than by insisting that someone he loves be there to help him.

Is what I imagine accurate? Who knows. If it is accurate, then the right course would be to help him overcome his fear and anxiety through some other means -- get him more information, or make sure his mother stays right outside in the waiting room. However, it's just a guess. There could be plenty of other things going on in his mind, and the best way to help him in any case depends on what the real reason for his insistence is.

But, I'd be willing to bet that, no matter what, there is actually a real reason for his insistence, hidden underneath the weird, convoluted claims he's making to you. Something that's driving him to make such an unreasonable request. A large part of working with him here will depend on discovering whatever the heck it is that's really on his mind.
posted by meese at 4:21 AM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

Since the mother is doing pretty much all the effort on this one, I'd say she gets to call the shots.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:34 AM on September 21, 2010

I know for a fact (because it happened to me during the birth of my second child) that if you are upset enough labor will STOP.

My suggestion is this: Have him come to a doctor's appointment with you. (You will have spoken to your doc and given him/her a head's up first.) Doctor then explains to husband about how stress can affect labor and how mom needs to be in charge of who gets to be there.

(you can also have the doc write it into his/ her orders that because of your blood pressure issues only your husband can be there. Hey, doc's orders! And I bet your doctor would be more than willing to accomodate you with this.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:50 AM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

What everybody else said. There is no "negotiating" here. DarlingBri totally has it: this is one of those genuinely rare occasions when what you want goes. She who is pushing the 7-pound human out of her vagina trumps in this disagreement. I too feel so strongly about this that if my husband did this I would consider single parenthood, and I'm someone who almost never agrees with the DTMFA calls in askMe.

dragonplayer has a good point too. Unless you come to a really, really good understanding on this with your husband and mother in law I would not even want the mother in law to be in the hospital when you are giving birth after all this (but I don't know how it is in the US. I know that where I live an excited MIL could easily bypass the busy nurses if she wanted). When you're in labor you do not want to have to deal with any of this at all.
posted by davar at 4:51 AM on September 21, 2010

Just another voice confirming the consensus here. My wife didn't want anyone but me in the delivery room; sure enough her father walked right in as she was pushing-and backed right out. And if she wanted anyone else there it would have been him, since he is an obstetrician! Your desires are reasonable and you should have any number of allies as suggested above to help rein your husband in.
posted by TedW at 5:09 AM on September 21, 2010

Your vagina pushing out a basketball = you decide who gets to be there. Your husband is acting like a spoiled brat, and it's downright cruel for him to put his mother ahead of you in this moment.
Do you have a female friend you could bring in as your birth partner instead, since your husband seems to be determined to add to your stress instead of helping with it?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:14 AM on September 21, 2010

Even if you were being unreasonable by not allowing his mother in the room (you're not, but let's pretend), it would still be very wrong for him to threaten you in order to change your mind. "If you don't do what I want, I'll intentionally hurt you"--that's essentially what he said. Do you understand how wrong that is?

There are ways to be a loving, supportive, mature spouse while expressing displeasure at the other person's position: "Honey, I'm really frustrated that you won't budge on this, can't we come up with a compromise?" or "Honey, this is really important to me, can we talk about it some more?" but not--never, ever--"Honey, if you don't do it my way, I'll try my best to make you feel alone, unsupported, and abandoned when you're already scared and vulnerable."

Hopefully this is just an ugly, immature thing that spilled out at a moment of intense stress--he's scared, or he's feeling pressure from his family, or whatever else is going on--but do you understand how wrong it is? You want to know the best tactic for coming to an agreement on the birth. I think the first step is to take threats off the table. Make sure he understands that whatever happens, in this disagreement or any other, it is never acceptable for him to threaten to hurt you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:14 AM on September 21, 2010 [16 favorites]

Am I being unreasonable here?
Just nthing what everyone else is saying, your desires are totally and completely reasonable and should be respected without any serious question. That said, I understand your desire to come to a peaceful and happy resolution here. But I'm edging towards the DMTFA side if he doesn't change his mind on this and soon, as his stance and threat are completely unacceptable. Perhaps he's stressed and scared, then yeah ok, he get's a pass if he comes back 5 minutes after saying that and apologies profusely and comes clean about being really scared. But that doesn't seem to have happened.

So how does his mom feel about being there in the delivery room? What's your husband's relationship with his mother? Does he have siblings? Sisters? What is his families usual custom when a member gives birth? Who does your husband listen and respect the most in his family? These are questions I would be asking myself where I in your position (and had a uterus!), to more fully understand what's going on and where he's coming from, so we could sit down and talk about things. So see what his mother says about it, not because she has a say in it, but because you need to see where she stands on this, and if possible engage her as an ally. Conversely, you also need to know if she really wants this. If she does, I think it's ok to engage her in discussion where you really make an attempt to listen to her, again, not because she's right, but because she's the kid's grandmother and you should make an effort to understand her and work with her, as long as she isn't being too unreasonable or difficult.

He comes from a large and fairly close family whereas I'm from a very small, dysfunctional one so it's no wonder we don't see eye to eye on this.

Please don't sell your background short by painting it as dysfunctional and his is normal. Frankly, any large and close knit family is going to have a lot of political and dysfunctional aspects to it, no matter how well it works. And while you certainly have to adjust to them to an extent, they also have to adjust to YOU, particularly when it's your body and health on the line.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this stress on top of another stressful situation in what should be a relatively happy and joyous time in your life. I hope everything resolves to YOUR satisfaction and wish you nothing but the best in this and in the birth of your child. Good luck!
posted by nomadicink at 5:28 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Come on, people, stop with the DTMFA already! She's about to have a baby with this man, people. Recommending divorce for a stupid comment?? Man, there must be a lot of single people in here.

That said: OP, you are completely in the right, as everyone else has already stated - this is 100% your decision. But please read koeselitz' excellent answer - I'm sure there's more to this than we know. Your husband may be really nervous. Or maybe his mother comes from a family where grandmothers being present at the birth is the norm, or something she's been wanting to do for a long time, and your husband has been hearing about this from his mom. We don't know the back story.

What we do know is that this choice is entirely yours and there is excellent advice upthread about things to say to your husband to make him see that, as well as to your MIL to make her see that. Don't freak out - this is just a minor blip in something much bigger and incredibly wondrous - and you and your husband will make it through this just fine. Together.
posted by widdershins at 5:46 AM on September 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

All the men in my immediate vicinity I have run this by have been APPALLED and offered variations on, "She who pushes the giant baby out of her vagina gets to decide who's in the room."

What's the best tactic for coming to an agreement on this before the birth?

Is there someone -- a friend, a relative, your doctor -- who can talk about this to your husband about this and give him THE CONSENSUS OF ALL OF WESTERN SOCIETY about this, someone he might understand as neutral and rational?

As others have suggested, trying to understand WHY he's pushing this -- is it him, or is it her? What's driving it? (My husband was eager to have his mother visit immediately after the birth b/c his mother's mother came immediately after HE was born to take care of him; his mother pointed out that I have my OWN mother to come do that and that there's a difference between the mom's mom and the dad's mom. My gratefulness for this clear understanding on her part knew no bounds. My husband wasn't trying to override my wishes; he just had an idea of what was "normal" right after birth and hadn't really thought it through.)

You're not being AT ALL irrational, and you're right to be hurt. If my husband had pulled this stunt I'd be seriously contemplating divorce, but then I'm someone who needs to be alone to barf or to moan in bed with the flu -- that is, I need PRIVACY to be medically vulnerable. But that's the whole point -- you, as the patient, get to decide who's there! Because some people need privacy for medical stuff, some people need support of a spouse or friend, some people need a cast of thousands. Birth is a special case because babies are happy (whereas barfing is not), but it's still painful and scary and can be complicated and YOU HAVE A RIGHT, morally and legally, to decide who you want there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

There's a clear consensus above that we all agree your husband needs to simmer down over this issue. It is not his call at all.

I'm just weighing in to confirm for you that the medical staff will listen to you; not him. You're the patient. You're the one they are working with until the baby is born and then it is you and the baby. They are not there to accommodate the husbands, grandparents, loving friends or nosy neighbors.

Husbands are tossed out of labor and delivery rooms if they become an issue or don't follow instructions. My doctor had spelled out her rules for birthing partners in advance of the delivery. One rule she had was that if I ended up having a c-section, the partner had to stay firmly behind the curtain. She had previous partners glimpse the procedure or the fluids being suctioned and then pass out. When that happens, a partner suddenly becomes another patient. Well, wouldn't you know that my dear husband who had worked on a dairy farm and assisted with problem deliveries of calves decided he wasn't one to pass out. So, he peeked around the curtain and she caught him. She yelled at him with "I don't perform for an audience. You pull that again and I'll have your ass in the hall."

Good luck with your labor and delivery. May it be a positive and loving experience.
posted by onhazier at 5:58 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It would be nice to come to an agreement beforehand, but ultimately, the doctors will listen to you when the chips are down, and you WILL NOT be in the mood to tolerate bullshit.

You might point out to him, though, that she's already seen all this. If that doesn't work, you might try talking with her. Even if she's a Evil Mother-In-Law from Hell, there's a possibility she will be able to relate to your point of view. Especially if she's from the pre-cameras in the labor room era.
posted by Ys at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2010

Oof. If you are considering that the best solution to this dilemma really may be to ask the doctor to write an order to compel your husband and his mother to respect your wishes at this time, when your peace of mind, your health, and the baby's health are truly at stake, then if I were you, I'd go ahead and find a marriage and family therapist right now and book an appointment as soon as possible.

I agree with all above that there seem to be more complex issues in play for your husband, but his position is indefensible: completely irrational and unsound and not in your or your baby's best interest.
posted by Spinneret at 6:04 AM on September 21, 2010

Please do not compromise on this. As anyone who has had a child can tell you, giving birth is a very elemental experience. I know that in my own case, I lost all sense of dignity and composure and was reduced to a shrieking mess (at points). Your husband cannot possibly expect anyone other than himself and some trained professionals to witness this. If my MIL had been present I am quite sure I would have attempted to kill her. Seriously.
posted by Go Banana at 6:11 AM on September 21, 2010

It's a simple rule:

You are giving birth. You decide who gets to be there. This includes your husband. If he cannot support you in your needs (and that includes not having people there), then he doesn't get to be there either.

Yes, it's his child, and yes, he should be doing a lot to help and support you. But if he's going to make it more about his needs and his desires than your needs to birth your child how you feel most comfortable, then he may not be in a position to support you the way you need.

It sounds harsh, but you know what? Too bad. And the nurses and medical staff will back you up on this. You are the patient until the baby is born. And then you and the baby are the patient. The patient gets to decide who gets to be there. End of story. Do not compromise. Do not back down.

Another rule I had: No one knows when I go into labor. They find out the baby was born after the baby was born. No phone calls were to be made during labor, except to my employer as I worked right up until labor began.
posted by zizzle at 6:22 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

His response was to become upset, express dismay that I wanted to deprive his mother of the experience and threaten that he too will leave the room if I ask her to.

Start sweet and say that you love him and that this baby was made with your love and that this is a special moment you want to share only with him. If he's still an ass, then say he is welcome to be there and she is not and that if he is going to walk out of the delivery room then it is your request that he not attend at all so as not to provide an additional emotional shock.

If he keeps pressing, tell him his mom can be there if you can bring your ex-boyfriend. ;)
posted by Ironmouth at 6:23 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I seem to recall Miss Manners once saying that only those there when the baby was created get to be there when it's born.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:38 AM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]

Is there someone -- a friend, a relative, your doctor -- who can talk about this to your husband about this

Yes! Is there an older brother or brother-in-law - whose opinion he usually respects and who has been through the experience - who can speak to him in terms that will make sense to him?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:56 AM on September 21, 2010

Do I even need to tell you my opinion on this? I will let you guess how I feel, based on how everyone else in this thread has been responding. Note that while I have been contrarian at times in the past, in this case I am not being. Considering the clues I've now given you, I think you can probably determine how I feel about this as well.

Um, seriously, your hubby sounds a bit out of his gourd. I think the DTMFA is a bit extreme, but all the same I understand where those folks are coming from; this guy is asserting his right to something—and making it into an ultimatum—that is, as far as I can tell, completely absurd. In this case it really doesn't matter whether there is some family dynamic at work, or cultural thing, or whatever: you are the boss here. I suggest the guy talk to some of the more calm medical staff, maybe there is even a sort of counselor at the hospital for this kind of situation? Some neutral party getting involved may help.

Also, this thread. Show him this thread: HEY GUY GET WITH IT ALREADY AND CALM DOWN AND BACK OFF.

Oh, and I'm a male if it makes any difference, just for the record, although never been in his position.
posted by dubitable at 7:01 AM on September 21, 2010

My wife and I had a similar situation except I certainly didn't demand such an arrangement, it was merely my preference. I wanted to express it in case she changed her mind but ultimately it was her decision.

That said, I wanted my wife's mother to be there, not mine. Why? I see childbirth as a motherly experience where women thrive. I ended up playing, as expected, the sergeant major "everything's OK, you're not dead, it could be worse, the baby's fine, get on with it" role. But, hey, what mom wants, mom gets :-)
posted by wackybrit at 7:03 AM on September 21, 2010

Deprive his mother of the experience? Did she not 'experience' this when she had her son / your partner? He can handle this without his mother. If his mother is the one pressuring him he needs man up and have her stand down.

Though this is the job of your partner, to make you comfortable, if all else fails tell the nurses your wishes. They will enforce them. With security personnel if necessary. You won't even notice - you'll be too busy delivering a baby!
posted by csmason at 7:04 AM on September 21, 2010

I came on here ready to write a scathing tirade about his unreasonable request. But look! Everyone else beat me to it! So instead I'd like to recommend The Birth Partner. It is all about explaining his role as your support team while giving birth. I dunno how soon your delivery will be, but if you've got even a few weeks I would get this book and have him read it. Hell, you should read it too. It has so much information about what to expect and how you both might be feeling. I really think it's an impressive book. It sort of demystifies the birth experience for guys, who frankly haven't been bombarded with information since puberty the way we ladies have.
However you decide to approach this, I hope he'll come around. Good luck.

If all else fails, you could show him the virulent reactions on this thread and maybe he'll get the idea that he's the odd one out.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:06 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

and threaten that he too will leave the room if I ask her to.

Please tell me that you responded, "Okay by me."

This is one of those times that you need to put your foot down hard. Unless you want to have Grandma running your household and second guessing your parenting. Forever.
posted by 26.2 at 7:10 AM on September 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

I want to use some extremely harsh terms to describe your husband's behavior, but suffice it to say that as you've described him, he is being utterly unreasonable and rude—as is his mother if she knows of your wishes and is persisting on trying to gain admittance to the room. It was bad enough that my mother basically invited herself to the hospital when my wife was giving birth so she could see the baby soon after he was born, which was not what my wife or I wanted, but at least she was not trying to be in the room during labor.
posted by chinston at 7:13 AM on September 21, 2010

Not that you need anyone else to confirm this at this point (the entire MeFi community has backed you up), but, as a guy, it's a privilege to be invited in there in the first place, we don't get to bring a friend (or family member) as well.

I find it very strange that he's reacting this way. Best of luck (both with dealing with this ridiculousness on his part and having the baby).
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 7:17 AM on September 21, 2010

Wow...I am dumbfounded by your husband's response and hope to God that he was speaking out of fear of being alone and unable to help you (and not anything else which would make his actions bordeline unforgiveable to me). If that is the case (and even if it's not and you need someone to help you through labor if he carries thorugh on his threat), get a doula to be there for your delivery.

As for the immediate problem, try to express your feelings as clearly as possible, but do not debate the issue. There is no debate here. If he is going to miss the birth of his own child over your completely understandable position, you'll have the doula there.

And I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. It really sucks that your husband is being a complete tool.
posted by murrey at 7:27 AM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all. These responses have really helped gather my thoughts.

I know the nurses are going to be on my side so bottom line, there is absolutely no way anyone who I don't want in the room will be there on the day. The practicalities of having her removed are not a concern.

But decisions have repercussions and I don't want to start a world of familial shit by dealing with this issue indelicately. I've given birth before (albeit very prematurely and with a baby we knew was already dead) and I ordered his parents out of the room. There are still some hurt feelings surrounding that event, prompted by a lack of understanding that while they were clearly only there in an attempt to be supportive, I didn't want or need their support - I had a job to do and I wanted to do it, quietly and on my own terms.

I think that's the crux of the issue for him - he can't wrap his head around why I don't find his family's attempt at help helpful and is uncomfortable being the middle man between two people he loves that do not see eye to eye on how things should be done.

There's a very different set of expectations in his family. When his sister gave birth, everyone she'd ever met and a video camera were in the room. It was (and was expected to be) a communal event.

The suggestion to speak to his mother is a good one, I think. While I'm sure she'll be disappointed, she's not going to push the issue. I've also explained to him that while he may not be uncomfortable with audience, I am, and he doesn't need to understand or agree with that feeling but he is compelled to respect it.

Threatening to walk out was a terrible thing to say but it was spoken in anger. If I thought for a second he actually meant it I wouldn't be married to him, baby or not. I've made this clear to him also. For the DTMFA crowd, I understand your reaction but if everyone got divorced any time their spouse said something hurtful while upset the courts would be overflowing. I've made it clear that threats won't fly and if he repeats anything even remotely similar on the day, his bluff will be called and he will be escorted out to suffer the consequences of his decision in the corridor.

I think there is a lot to be said for koesilitz's idea that pre-flight jitters are influencing him here. I'm sure he's shitting himself, both with the stress of impending fatherhood and the prospect of being sole support for a potentially sick wife. I've explained that if he needs his mother there to support HIM then I absolutely understand and he can step out to see her at any point without complaint from me, and also that if he's feeling under too much pressure I can easily lean on the nurses as opposed to him if he just lets me know.

The ball is now in his court. Hopefully it'll work out for the best.
posted by Kappi at 7:27 AM on September 21, 2010 [32 favorites]

His response was to become upset, express dismay that I wanted to deprive his mother of the experience and threaten that he too will leave the room if I ask her to.

You don't have to ask her to LEAVE the room. She doesn't have any permission to be there in the first place. (One more voice on the "WTF is this man thinking?" pile)

In addition to everything else, you'll probably have a patient chart at the hospital, definitely will have one with your OB/GYN. You can make sure both the hospital and the doc's office have very clear instructions in your chart beforehand.
posted by galadriel at 7:33 AM on September 21, 2010

Ok, given your new background info... now I'm starting to think it's his mother pushing for this in the background and not him advocating for his mother's presence solely out of his own concern for her "experience" or deprivation thereof.

Foot down, and foot down hard. I know you are trying to navigate delicate waters with his family and their apparent need to see every female family member's va-jay-jay during birth, but this is ultimately up to you. Under the guise of support or not, it's your call. I seriously can't imagine anyone but my husband, and perhaps my own mother (iffy on that one) being there.

Moreover, I echo the sentiments stated above about maintaining control now or somewhat losing that ground in the future.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2010

I concur. You're in the right. It's astonishing that your husband would take that stance. But yeah, men about to be fathers can be stressed-out and crazy, too.

You could actually use this as a way to deepen your relationship with your MIL. Sit down with her directly and, as above, explain that you just aren't comfortable having her in the delivery room. But provide a lot of context -- you love her, you think she's wonderful, you'd never want to hurt her feelings, but...

Be sure to emphasize that this isn't a reflection on her, it's all your thing, it may not be what she expects but you're a very private person, etc., etc. If she tries to come up with reasons to dismiss your concerns, be firm, and say that it might be because you're a crazy pregnant lady right now, but this is the way you want it. Try to engage her sympathy and support; lean on her as a mother-figure. A mother-in-law you have a genuinely great relationship with is a treasure.

Then come up with another baby-related honor to bestow on her instead, if you can. Picking nursery colors, or organizing a meet-the-baby party, something.

But most of all -- hey, whatever happens, it's going to be OK. You'll work it out.
posted by Andrhia at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2010

"I think that's the crux of the issue for him - he can't wrap his head around why I don't find his family's attempt at help helpful and is uncomfortable being the middle man between two people he loves that do not see eye to eye on how things should be done."

You -- or y'all's doctor, or a good friend -- may need to help him with the right language to express himself to his mother/family. Something along the lines of how his #1 job right now is to protect and comfort you, and that his mother taught him that by being a great mother, and he knows that her preference would be to be there, but that she always taught him his biggest job as a dad would be to be there for his wife and child, and that's what he's going to do by backing you up on this one. Or whatever version of that would "make sense" in his family's language.

I also have in-laws who want to be emotionally supportive by BEING THERE when I don't really want people around, I just need to COPE in my own way and without worrying about other people's feelings -- and that's the crux of it for me, anyway, is that I'd have to worry about their feelings and comfort instead of focusing on what I have to do. I mean, I've apologized to doctors for, you know, coughing up phlegm when I'm dead sick, because I worry that I've grossed them out. My in-laws don't really UNDERSTAND why I want privacy for this kind of stuff (and I'm not sure my husband does either, though he stands up for me on it), but they have, over time, come to accept it and don't get their feelings hurt about it anymore. Or at least pretend not to.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Given your prior history with the dead child, I think your hubs might be dealing with some special overwhelming feelings of panic. Maybe he wants to replace the sad scene with a happy one. Maybe he's feeling panic that this one will be a repeat of the other. Sort of birth PTSD. You guys need to talk this out. That's the compromise - get to the root of this so you can both heal and be good partners and parents.

Also, you are not his sister, raised in his family dynamic. Your upbringing deserves as much respect and is not inferior to his. You may wish your family was different but that time has passed. You are who you are and he and you should embrace that.
posted by amanda at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2010 [12 favorites]

You get to make this call. He's going to have to learn that as a father, his responsibility is now to do what's best for his child, not necessarily what he feels is best for him. He might as well start practicing now.

I'd be willing to bet anything that he wants his mother there to support him, especially since your first delivery was undoubtedly traumatic for both of you. Your suggestion that he step out to talk to his mom whenever he needs to sounds like a solid compromise. He's probably very scared right now and you're offering potential solutions to him; the ball is indeed in his court.
posted by corey flood at 8:00 AM on September 21, 2010

Could you do a redirection? They want so much to be helpful, so tell them how to be helpful to *you*.

"I know how much you want to help and I appreciate it ever so deeply in my heart. So, here's what we're going to do. This will be a closed-door delivery. We'll let you know as soon as the baby is born. Now, I need you, MIL, to get the house ready - stock it with food, blankets, etc. You will also field the phone calls from relatives. I need you, sister-in-law, to help write thank you cards and birth notifications.

Use lots of praise, and praise the desired behavior as if she's doing already.

"MIL, you are such a perceptive and caring person. I really appreciate how you've made me feel welcome to the family. You are very intuitive to see that I'm a private person and I appreciate that you give me the kind of help and support that I need."
posted by metaseeker at 8:02 AM on September 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

I wanted the "cast of thousands" hospital birth. My husband wanted a dim, intimate candle-lit birth center birth. You know when I found out about his wishes? When our daughter was seven months old. Because my husband knew, deeply and intimately, that while his desires and opinions were important, MY desires and opinions were critical. So rather than cause me any cognitive dissonance or conflict, he just kept his opinions to himself.

We have talked about them in the intervening nearly four years, though, and I'm having the candlelit birth-center birth with this one. . . but still him and a doula and two midwives and possibly my mother and mother-in-law. I need my people around. And while I respect his opinion and want him to be happy, ultimately, labor and delivery is a deeply one-sided process. Trying to accommodate someone else to your own detriment is like trying to run a marathon while carrying someone piggyback.
posted by KathrynT at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

You have two problems: (1) Your husband thinks childbirth is a communal event; (2) your husband thinks decision-making about your personal privacy is a communal event. One is more easily solved than the other.

A troubling undertone to your original post and update, and a reason why I think there have been so many DTMFA comments, is your husband's belief that he has a right to try to change your mind and that he is allowed to get angry when you won't agree with him. You may have many reasons for not wanting your mother in law around, but at the most basic, I would think you might not want her looking at your vulva when a baby emerges from your vagina. You might not want her in the room when you are most vulnerable, when you may be screaming, crying, pissing, and pooping uncontrollably. You may not want her or anyone else around at that rapturous moment when the baby is handed up to you for the very first time. Even if your husband can't understand those things -- and I don't see how he can't -- does he have a right to even debate this with you?
posted by hhc5 at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am a student midwife, and I have never seen or heard of a husband acting so rotten or selfish until I read your question!

Your body, your rules, period.

If your husband doesn't shape up and act right starting NOW, you need to:

1: Hire an amazing doula to be with you during your birth. (I am a birth doula, so contact me and I can tell you what to look for.)

2: Tell your husband that neither he nor his mom are needed for the delivery.
posted by long haired child at 9:27 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't really have anything to say that hasn't been said already, except this:

You mention in your original question the possibility of "crazy pregnancy hormones" and I was pleased to see that everyone had already told you how right you were (because if not, I have no idea how the world works), but when reading your response, I couldn't help but think if you could bottle those hormones, I'd inject them. Because even on my best, never-going-to-be pregnant day, I'd have trouble responding to this sort of family situation with half the rationality and forgiveness you have going.

Don't let fear of acting like a crazy person prevent you from following your instincts; you seem to be doing a great job so far. As a generally kind person who has made some really insensitive mistakes when trying to be "the strong one", I really think your husband might be more freaked than he's letting on, and even though that doesn't excuse his behavior, he's lucky to have someone who is willing to give him the chance.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:43 AM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Kappi: “Threatening to walk out was a terrible thing to say but it was spoken in anger. If I thought for a second he actually meant it I wouldn't be married to him, baby or not. I've made this clear to him also... I've explained that if he needs his mother there to support HIM then I absolutely understand and he can step out to see her at any point without complaint from me, and also that if he's feeling under too much pressure I can easily lean on the nurses as opposed to him if he just lets me know... The ball is now in his court. Hopefully it'll work out for the best.”

Hey, Kappi –

I just came back and saw this follow-up, and I wanted to say: we all have advice to give, and frankly sometimes it's easy to tell a complete stranger what they ought to do in a given situation. However, I really admire your cool head and steady handling of this; it's not an easy thing, and you've been incredibly graceful and wise about it. Sometimes in ask.metafilter when I give an answer that people like I'm struck by how easy it was for me – I mean, all I had to do was think about the situation from an unbiased, detached standpoint and give a bit of advice on that line. But you are the one living through it, and with some sheepishness I have to admit that I doubt I could handle this half as well as you have. People often don't have any idea how hard it is to set aside personal feelings about this kind of thing and do what you can to make things work out well. I mean, look at us – we're complete strangers who've never met you, and even we were spitting mad about this! For you to stand in the thick of it and still be self-aware and thoughtful enough to step back and try to handle this properly is a mark of your character – a very, very good one.

Anyway, I just wanted to express my regards, and say that it seems to me that this isn't a small thing, this ability to stand in the middle and be firm in expressing your needs but forgiving of unreasonable demands. That's a skill that I'm certain will serve you well in the future, in fact, and I have no doubt that you'll make a fantastic mom. Your husband and your child-to-be are lucky to have you.
posted by koeselitz at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

Jesus Christ, people, maybe a little empathy? Try putting yourself in his shoes?

Personally, I found the firth childbirth experience completely rotten right up until the baby was born. The fact that you don't get feedback from feeling that thing moving around all the time, the fact that you're just a bystander in a process that's going to change your life so dramatically, the fact that no one really gives a shit how you're doing, the fact that this whole thing could end *very* badly in a matter of's awful.

I can see wanting to take ownership of something like this. Making crazy demands like this isn't acceptable, but it's understandable. Yes, this is the time for him to learn how to man-up and force his emotions into his newly ulcer-riddled gut, but it's not like he's doing this because he doesn't care how his wife feels...more than likely it's because he's so wound up and freaked out that he can't get past it.

My guess is this'll all be solved by watching six straight hours of childbirth videos and then asking him if he'd want your mom there if he were the one going through that insane experience. I think he's just a little clueless right now and will get over it in good time.
posted by pjaust at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2010

As an 8.5 month pregnant woman I have to say that I found this situation to be the most infuriating as I have read recently on AskMe. But I can't really add any more about that than has already been contributed so instead let me make these comments:

First of all, we ALL come from dysfunctional families.
Every single one of us. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and there is no 'more' or 'less' or 'better than'. Every family is fucked up. Primarily because of point #2:

You don't get to pick your family.
This includes the one you marry into. I don't like or agree with all of my blood relatives choices; I certainly don't expect to hold my in-laws to a different standard. While it's admirable that you are trying to negotiate peace, you don't really have to - you didn't marry his mother, you married your husband. You are under no obligation to make her happy. If there end up being hurt feelings and repercussions as a result of your decision... welp, then I guess they're just as dysfunctional as everyone else.
posted by lilnublet at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

first, not firth. We're inland folks here.
posted by pjaust at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the DTMFA crowd, I understand your reaction but if everyone got divorced any time their spouse said something hurtful while upset the courts would be overflowing.

No kidding.

Kappi, it sounds like you have done things exactly right. I hope your husband comes to his senses. Good luck with your new child!
posted by grouse at 10:03 AM on September 21, 2010

I'm not going to pile on.

But I think you and he need to have couples counseling, very badly. I'm frankly aghast at your update information.

Your husband's family has its own dysfunctions, which are being played out ON you. Your background info suggests that you are not cluing in to that because your own family was dysfunctional in different ways.

I am sympathetic to the idea that the previous stillbirth may have left him with a terror of childbirth. But the birth, it isn't about him.

I'm so baffled that I keep wondering if there are cultural factors at play which are confounding the issue.

But you need a neutral third party to talk you through your problems forming an independent family of your own, if this is in fact your goal.

In the Christian tradition, the text "A man shall leave his father and mother, and join unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24) is often interpreted as meaning that "wife trumps mother" in this kind of situation. It comes up a lot, because, well, it comes up a lot.

PS. As for the DTMFA crowd -- this may be the stupidest thing he's ever said to her. Every curve has its tail, and I'd bet they happen in high stress situations, like a pregnancy after a stillbirth.

PPS. Kappi, you might or might not value reading An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, which is a memoir of a stillbirth.
posted by endless_forms at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Explain to him that his mother's presence during your child's birth feels inappropriate to you in the same way that, presumably, his mother's presence during your child's conception would have felt inappropriate to him.

If he does not find this a compelling argument, run for your life.
posted by elizardbits at 10:30 AM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

If it's truly a matter of wanting to be helpful, can you give the family some jobs to do outside of the delivery room? Basically tell them, especially your mother-in-law, "I love that you want to support and help me, and the best way you can do that is to..." and then delegate things like family meals, keeping relatives updated with labor/baby news, wrangling guests (letting people know when you're available for visitors, helping you politely shoo people out when you need some peace and quiet), errands to the pharmacy, etc. The message would then be, "I need to be alone with my husband in the delivery room, but I also need you, the rest of my family, in other ways as we welcome the baby into our lives" rather than "I don't want you at the delivery" (even though "I don't want you there" is a perfectly valid reason for her not to be there).
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am absolutely schocked that his parents were there for your stillbirth that you knew would be a stillbirth! That they assumed they would be welcome and helpful in such a stressful and emotional context speaks volumes about their immaturity and cluelessness.

You need to make it very clear to your inlaws now that their way is not the right way for YOUR new family. That goes for birth, parenting, holidays, everything. Just because your MIL is a nice lady doesn't mean that she's capable of understanding other emotional and social ways of being. It sounds like she was raised without any idea of how people set boundaries with each other so that we can respect individual differences and not make each other uncomfortable. Sadly, you get to educate her on this fact or she will continue to be "helpful" like this for the rest of your childs life.

I think a talk with your husband about his priorities is in order as well. He needs to get behind your shared vision of parenthood and defend that vision against intrusion from his parents. Sometimes he needs to choose you over them and that's part of his job as a spouse.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

Many parent's loyalties lie with their spouse first, children second, and then their family; it's as common to see children first, spouse second, and then family. Most of us prefer one or the other, but don't find the other too strange because the interests of children and spouse are so often aligned. Any other order of operation is rare and strange, and that's why this touches the nerves of so many of us in here -- his reaction seems to place his true loyalties in question, and now we all worry about where you rank in his world.

I would suggest that you need to explore this now, and know the truth of things. The answer, whatever it is, isn't a deal-breaker if you don't want it to be... but making decisions with clarity is a lot different than letting a seed of doubt fester into resentment and distrust. How we handle life's events varies widely depending on whether we can expect support from those around us, so it's important to know where we stand.

They who give ultimatums generally lose, so in my world it would be appropriate to let him twist on it... and let his actions speak for him. Let him choose between swallowing his pride and being there for you when you need him... or being stubborn and going outside to hang out with his mom. If he's picking mom over you, doesn't have the stones to be strong when you really need him to be, or is too proud to do the right thing... well, at least you'll know what to expect from now on.

Whatever you do, good luck.
posted by Pufferish at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2010

A moment of sympathy for your female in-laws. I can't imagine that every single one them actually enjoyed coming-out parties.

Good luck, Mrs. Kappi!
posted by whuppy at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find it extremely disturbing that your in-laws were "hurt" that you didn't want them to be there when you had a still born. They should be very thankful that you are even willing to allow them to remain in your life after they behaved so deplorably during one of the saddest times in your life.

I have a feeling that no matter what you do, your in-laws are going to find a reason to be "hurt" by you. Your husband needs to step up and tell his family that they are not welcome in the delivery room. Frankly, I find your husband's behavior to be appalling.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:01 PM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]

I've given birth before (albeit very prematurely and with a baby we knew was already dead) and I ordered his parents out of the room. There are still some hurt feelings surrounding that event, prompted by a lack of understanding that while they were clearly only there in an attempt to be supportive, I didn't want or need their support - I had a job to do and I wanted to do it, quietly and on my own terms.

Am I reading this correctly? "There are STILL some hurt feelings..." People in his family are STILL miffed because you didn't want them around to watch you deliver YOUR DEAD BABY??!!??

TMOT, HE has a dysfunctional family. This is fucked up beyond all belief. Best of luck to you, dear.
posted by cyndigo at 1:47 PM on September 21, 2010 [16 favorites]

Kappi, it sounds like you're handling this great. Families are different and that's ok, it doesn't make them monsters if they think it's supportive to be all up in each other's business. But that doesn't mean you need to accept that's how it will be for your birth.

I think the comments about giving them some honored role to play is exactly right on. They want to be supportive, you appreciate that, and you're so glad they're going to be at the hospital (in the waiting room) on the big day, so they can be the first ones to see the new baby after you're all cleaned up. It's the best kind of support for you to know that they are there. Since you're a more private person, it would be too stressful for you to have others in the delivery room, so that's out, and you so appreciate their understanding about that, but you're so looking forward to seeing them later in the hospital. (etc)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:02 PM on September 21, 2010

Based on your additional info, I think Meese really nailed it: I think he's afraid. Seeing his previous baby born dead, expected or not...we're talking traumatic. We tend to think in terms of the mother's experience, but I don't doubt it was anything but absolutely wrackingly painful for him, expected or no. He wants his Mommy; he's afraid, deep in his heart of hearts, of being shattered again.

That still doesn't mean he gets to call the shot, but I do think it does puts his behavior in a much more meainingful context. If you can, talk to him about his fears. It sounds to me like here's a man who's scared to his bones, & being able to talk about what happened before and how he felt, may help him a lot, if it's something you can do.
posted by Ys at 5:34 PM on September 21, 2010

he can't wrap his head around why I don't find his family's attempt at help helpful and is uncomfortable being the middle man between two people he loves that do not see eye to eye on how things should be done.

Wrapping his head around that is not what his job is.

What he needs to wrap his head around is the idea of your body, your rules, your call. Once he's done that - really done that - he will find dealing with his mother a lot less wrenching, because he will be able to support you in your dealings with her without feeling like he's doing the wrong thing.
posted by flabdablet at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2010

His response was to become upset, express dismay that I wanted to deprive his mother of the experience

What experience? I honestly don't get that. I'm assuming this is a "not how the people I know do things" situation, but the expectation on her part that she *would* be in the delivery room is beyond my understanding. Especially after you made it clear that you didn't want it that way.

I've given birth before (albeit very prematurely and with a baby we knew was already dead) and I ordered his parents out of the room. There are still some hurt feelings surrounding that event

I am so many infinitely times more baffled by this than by the previous bit. His parents were in the delivery room to watch you deliver a dead baby. I'm sorry; if this is a cultural thing and I'm being insensitive, I'm sure people will tell me, but that is fucked up in ways for which there are no words. I mean, seriously, seriously fucked up. It's like they don't understand that other human beings exist apart from being what *they* want them to be.

Finally, and I don't think anyone else has said this (I did read through, but I might have missed it), PLEASE come back and tell us how the discussion goes, either with your MIL or your husband, or both. I don't know you at all and will probably never meet you, but damned if I'm not feeling very protective of you right now, and angry on your behalf.
posted by tzikeh at 6:02 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

On reread, I strongly suspect Mr. Kappi's got a wodge of unexpressed emotions around the death of your child, Kappi, and that's making him play up. He's going to need to face that first before you guys can rationally discuss the birthing plan.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:40 PM on September 21, 2010

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