Can I keep my mother from visiting the maternity ward?
May 29, 2011 7:53 AM   Subscribe

How inappropriate would it be to prevent my boundaries-challenged mother from visiting the hospital upon the birth of my child?

I have a mother with serious boundary issues—she is a writer, and regards anything in her life as fair game to write about, and that includes the private lives of her children and grandchildren. (My wife is three months pregnant, and we have not informed my mother that we're going to have our first child, because my mother freely admits that she could never keep quiet about that, and that we have no right to make her.) This means that interactions with her involve the sort of narrative-shaping that one must do with a reporter, as I learned after The Wedding Incident. It's exhausting. Yes, we've seen a therapist with her.

We do not want to deal with this in the hours after having a child. We do not want her to snap photos and issue a birth announcement to our friends and family—we'll do that, thankyouverymuch—and we do not want to find our labor room exhaustion described in the pages of the local paper.

The simplest solution seems to me to keep her out of the whole thing. We won't inform her of the child's birth until we're home. And, if she does find out, we'll simply say that this is a private affair. Sadly, that probably means excluding my entire side of the family for the same period, to avoid the awkwardness of explicitly barring my mother. While singling out my mother might be taking the bull by the horns, I suspect that will not be a time when we'll have the time or energy for bull-taking.

Again, this is our first child, so I don't know—is this approach within the bounds of reasonable etiquette? Is there an expectation of grandparental maternity ward access?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If the goal is to keep your mother out of the maternity ward, why not assign another family member to run interference on the day of the birth? Depending on the hospital, their personnel may also be good at keeping unwanted people away.

Hiding this from the rest of your family just because of your mother seems rather cruel to the rest of your family.
posted by dfriedman at 7:55 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

How far away does she live? You can always avoid telling her until you're about to leave the hospital and tell her it was all just a whirlwind and everything happened so fast. Or maybe you "forgot" your phone charger and your battery died.
posted by katypickle at 7:56 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't tell her until it's over, you're not out of line if the history is as you've described.

Also, now that you'll have a child, there are many more issues that will arise with a person like this. You might want to make it clear to her that your priority is the health and mental health of your child, and if she interferes with that she will not be seeing you OR her grandchild.
posted by tomswift at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2011 [14 favorites]

This is such a big milestone--is it really not possible to sit her down and say, "We're at the point where we were actually considering whether or not to even tell you we're pregnant--but it would be horrible to cut you out. Can we have a very serious talk about boundaries, so that we can establish the trust necessary for you to be fully engaged in our child's life?"
posted by availablelight at 8:00 AM on May 29, 2011 [30 favorites]

THERE IS NO EXPECTATION OF GRANDPARENTAL MATERNITY WARD ACCESS. It is actually entirely and completely normal (in the US, anyway) for the wife's mother/family to be there shortly after the birth and the husband's mother/family to wait a little longer. As the wife is going through the medical drama and the pain and the embarrassing parts, and then recovering and learning to breastfeed (if applicable) and so on, it's natural for the wife to feel more comfortable with HER mother there than with her mother-in-law who, no matter how wonderful, is not the person who took care of her when she had the flu for 18 years. Barfing in front of your mother is different than barfing in front of your mother-in-law, you know? Similar rules apply with the various rather public disgustingnesses of childbirth and recovery.

If your wife is comfortable with it, the two of you can tell your mother that your wife prefers only you and her mother (or whatever) shortly after the birth. This is not weird at all.

You can ABSOLUTELY keep her out of the maternity ward -- the hospital will do that for you, even -- and you can ABSOLUTELY just not tell her when it's time, and notify her a day later -- I have plenty of friends with FINE relationships with their parents who chose to do just that just to have private new-family time.

And, on a more direct confrontational line, I'm with availablelight that you can totally have a talk with her about boundaries and make clear that if she violates the boundaries you set for your child, that will be the end of her relationship with your child. Tell her no cameras at the hospital (when she comes to visit AFTER the birth), no articles, no birth announcements, and if she violates your trust, then you will take that as a sign she does not wish to have a relationship with your child. Period. She's an adult, she can make a choice. And then write about how mean and awful you are in the newspaper, if she wants.

But yeah, I personally can imagine few things more horrifying than having grandparents there for the birth. I wasn't sure I wanted my HUSBAND there for the birth -- I prefer to be disgusting alone. Nobody thought this was even the tiniest bit unusual. And maternity wards are well-used to keeping nosy grandparents out until the parents say it's okay. If the parents say it's okay.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 AM on May 29, 2011 [48 favorites]

Do you mean you won't tell her your wife is pregnant until after you're home, or you won't tell her that your wife has gone into labor until after you're home? Important distinction.
posted by griseus at 8:06 AM on May 29, 2011

It sounds fine to me. It's not remarkably different from the decision to have a big wedding, a small wedding, or to elope. Plenty of folks prefer to keep these things private; and at least in my experience (other families/locales may differ), it is generally true that families will visit the hospital during and shortly after birth, but it's not such an automatic expectation that taking more privacy would be rude or off-putting. You don't need to explain to people why you're doing it, although if there's history then your mother might realize. You can simply take your privacy during that time and share what you choose.

On preview: It's my understanding that you (OP) are asking only about keeping the actual birth to yourselves, not excluding your mother from the entire pregnancy. I know you haven't yet told her, but my read of your question is not, "Is it okay to keep this pregnancy secret until after the birth?" That would be a different question, and I think it would be much more of a social deviation than simply keeping the hospital and birthing process private.

I'm sorry you have to think about this. Ideally, families would work like well-oiled machines to make things like pregnancies easier, not harder. Hopefully you'll be rewarded with a healthy, happy child and in retrospect you'll be grateful that your "problems" were things like this.
posted by red clover at 8:09 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

i don't know.... this seems extremely harsh to me and could have unintended consequences for your child's relationship with its grandmother (which is not fair to either of them). to me, big milestones are very hard b/c other people do have an actual interest in them. Meaning it is not just about you -- even if you very rightly feel that your mother is stomping all over your boundaries.

my advice is to try to be understanding and compassionate towards your mother in this circumstance. do your best. this is a big day for her, too and it is pretty harsh to take that away from her altogether.
posted by wurly at 8:13 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You do realise, of course, that preventing your mother will simply lead to the narrative of her story being something else - how adult kids can be wicked to their parents, or the sanctity of birth and what a pain it is to miss it etc etc.

I would try and sit your mother down and explain that her boundary issues will stop her enjoying all sorts of privileged access as you seek to put boundaries in place where she will not. She recognises she has boundary issues. On the assumption that she recognises you have a right to choose your own boundaries then she has a choice which side of the fence to sit on.

The point I'm making here is that the birth will not be the last time you face the tricky choice of inclusivity v privacy - and as you grow to be more protective of your family this issue will keep coming up.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh Anonymous, I hear you. My mother has similar oversharing/boundary issues, but thank god she's not a writer. It is 100% your prerogative to announce that while you are at the hospital, you are in Family Bonding Mode, and do not want any visitors. Don't single her out to exclude- a blanket rule will work much better. This birth is your story, not your mom's.

You can enlist the assistance of the nursing staff to keep her out if needed. This will not be the first time for them.
posted by ambrosia at 8:15 AM on May 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

"we'll simply say that this is a private affair." OMG. Is that seriously going to be your explanation to her for keeping her away from something that parents/grandparents DREAM about? I can almost literally feel the knife being twisted in her heart. Way too harsh.

Why not talk with her, let her know your boundaries (again) and be firm. But for the love of all things holy, do not cast her aside with "it's a private affair." Wowsers.
posted by GeniPalm at 8:23 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

It isn't that I have an issue barring problematic grandparents from maternity wards; it's that I don't think this is going to solve your problem. The baby is going to be there after the birth; this will likely be a literally lifelong issue. I think you may be better off deciding this is in fact the hill you want to die on and drawing super-clear, totally firm boundaries with consequences here.

Tell her your pregnant when you're ready, give her a chance to squee and tell all her friends, and then lay down the law IN WRITING for your expectations. She will not send out a birth announcement until you do, she will not write about the birth, she will not publish photos of the baby without your permission, etc. If she balks, you can simply not tell her until you are home. That is the consequence.

Babies give you so, so much more power than you've ever had before. You control access to the baby. Do not underestimate how compliant previously obstinate grandparents are willing to be in light of that.

This is a brand new game.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2011 [27 favorites]

This means that interactions with her involve the sort of narrative-shaping that one must do with a reporter, as I learned after The Wedding Incident.

[...] and we do not want to find our labor room exhaustion described in the pages of the local paper.

This is the key to it right here. You're not keeping your mother from visiting the maternity ward, you're keeping a reporter from visiting. It seems very reasonable to me that you don't want the press in attendance. Not many people would.

That's how I would explain it to her when it inevitably comes up, and that she'll need to earn back your trust by demonstrating that she can leave her reporter role at the door before you'll feel safe inviting her to important private events in the future.
posted by FishBike at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

let her know your boundaries (again)

This is exactly the thing, though. The "again" part. It's no small thing.

When you say, "Here is my boundary," and the other person stomps on it, you don't say, "Oh, sorry, I guess you didn't understand--here is my boundary." And when the other person makes a habit of ignoring and overstepping boundaries, you don't say, "Since this is a special occasion, I want to include you, but please respect my boundary this time." You don't do that because you can't trust the other person. What you do in that case is you recognize how sad it is that the other person cannot share in the experience because she has chosen to exclude herself from it.

OP, this isn't an etiquette issue from your side. It's not a matter of you needing to do the right thing towards your mom. It's an etiquette and decency issue from her side, it's about her needing to learn to respect other people and put their needs and their boundaries ahead of her desire to play reporter.

You and your wife need to do what's best for the two of you and your child. It's really sad if that means your mom can't be there, and sad if it means your side of the family is somewhat excluded. But that doesn't mean you should let your mom come and make you and your wife miserable and uncomfortable. That would be even sadder--do what you can to make your experience and these memories the best they can be.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2011 [31 favorites]

You do realise, of course, that preventing your mother will simply lead to the narrative of her story being something else - how adult kids can be wicked to their parents, or the sanctity of birth and what a pain it is to miss it etc etc.

Yes, that's my reading of the situation too. You can't stop the oversharing, you can only massage the message. Set it up so that in the inevitable narrative, you are neither being taken advantage of, or the asshole.

I think the prudent move would be to do two things. Announce the pregnancy as late as possible, and when the birth becomes emminent, inform the hospital staff that under no circumstances is your mom allowed in, and nobody is allowed to have a camera, and that she is to be told that it is because of HIPPA. She can sit in the waiting lounge like everyone else. Her narrative will be how cruel the hospital is for following the law.

Two, pre-write and pre-print the birth announcement. When it comes time, hand them to your mom and ask her to help you distribute them. Her need to be the center of attention is placated, and you control the message.

But also: don't let your mom's behavior ruin a wonderful family moment for you and your wife. Enjoy it as you see fit, and your mom's behavior will be a sideshow. Even if your mom messes some things up, you still have the basic joyful memory of starting your family. (Rather than the memory being how hard you had to work to corral mom.)

(A particularly evil maneuver might be to fudge the due date by a few weeks late. If she is due Nov. 1, tell people it is Nov. 15. That might keep your mom out of your hair.)
posted by gjc at 8:39 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your wife is preparing to go through a major medical procedure that is likely to be painful and scary and a bit embarrassing at times, you believe that your mother is likely to print the details of that medical procedure in the local paper, and you're wondering whether YOU are the one being inappropriate?

Your mother is behaving terribly, and I agree with those above who advise that it's time to draw a firm boundary. The reason that we confide in people and allow them to be privy to the parts of our lives that are not generally open to the public is because they have earned our trust that they will keep what they know about us within that inner circle. Your mother has proven that she can't be trusted. She needs to know that she will not be included in your private life until she earns your trust. That means no access to any non-public information about your life until she stops this nonsense. And let her know that if she writes a story about how awful you are for protecting your privacy, that will substantially decrease the odds that you will ever trust her to be a part of your family life. Be firm, and stick to your limits here.

I also think that you may want to talk with the rest of your family. If other family members are trustworthy, there's no reason to exclude them, provided that they can respect the boundary you've set regarding your mother. Let them know that she is not to be given pictures to print in the paper or information about your hospital visit or any other information that you don't want her to know about.

Basically, your mother is behaving like those celebrity photographers who hound famous people and force them into hiding. So if you want some privacy, you need to treat her the way celebrities treat the paparazzi. Only give her information you want to have publicized, and let her know that until she can treat you like a personal relationship rather than part of her job, she won't get to have the personal relationship.
posted by decathecting at 8:47 AM on May 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

As someone who went through the hospital birth experience 2 weeks ago, I think you are totally justified in keeping everyone away while you are in the hospital. We did not have any one come visit us, telling them to wait until we got home, and I am so glad we did. The time in the hospital was very precious to us, and let our new family of 3 bond very tightly without anyone else interfering (it helped that the baby roomed in with us, and there was a bed for my husband, too). Plus, that oasis of calm has helped us deal with the endless onslaught of family visiting that has followed! Given that your mother's visit is likely to be even more stressful than the regular stress of visiting family, I think you should enjoy the sanctity of the quiet hospital time while you can.
posted by girl scientist at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

To my, it crosses the etiquette line in respect of the rest of your family.

I would talk with your mom and establish a boundary. Directly tell her that she must agree not to do [all the things you're concerned about], or else she can't be there because of your privacy and other concerns, which are [fill in the blank].

That would resolve the etiquette dilemma by not excluding from your life the rest of the family, which is innocent bystanders, and with respect to your mom, who would have been given her options and made a decision.

Also, keep in mind that this is going to be a recurring issue. Start drawing lines with her now -- you can't passive aggressive your way out of this fight for the next 18 years.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:18 AM on May 29, 2011

Oh, and you may want to explore the option of contacting the editor or publisher of the newspaper and any other media outlets in which she writes about you. Let them know that you consider stories about your personal life to be an invasion of privacy. First off, if the editors are decent people, they may attempt to rein her in for you. But secondly, private individuals do have in many jurisdictions a right against public disclosure of private facts about them. If your mother writes about medical procedures or makes other disclosures that a reasonable person would find objectionable, it is possible that you have a legal cause of action. I'm not suggesting that you sue your mother or the newspaper, but I am suggesting that the mention of laws that potentially protect you may spur the editors to be more cautious about what they print about you.
posted by decathecting at 9:24 AM on May 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Contacting her publisher or editor is a bad idea. If anything, they'll be on her side, and will suggest that you deal with your mother yourself.

But you need to establish ground rules for grandparenting. If she's a fabulously best selling author, suggest a split of royalties, with the baby's share going into a trust. If she's not, make it very clear to her what's off limits and what's okay for publication. Tell her that you're not willing to be grist for her mill any longer, and that your child's life is his/her own. (Mommy bloggers are going to reap a whirlwind of resentment, I guarantee.)
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 AM on May 29, 2011

I think it's okay to keep her out. I think it's super frustrating to have to manage someone who is intent on violating your boundaries for any reason, 'because you're wrong!", "because you're over sensitive!", "because I'm your mother!"....which is all just another way of trying to justify, "because I want to, so Nyah!".

But a consistent response is key, regardless of person or situation. A person doesn't get a pass on selfishly violating your boundaries because they're thoughtless, crazy, a relative, eccentric, addicted to drugs/etc., are overcome by the meaningfulness of this milestone experience known as a wedding, childbirth, etc. The answer is always the same. You get to decide that she doesn't get access, not because you're vindictive, but because she is intent on putting her self centered need over your well being. You get to keep her out. But you also need to try your best to be consistent and do all of the steps involved to protect yourself, even if it's tedious and annoying. You stick to your values. That is, telling your mom that she isn't invited because you aren't convinced that she will limit her role to that of mother, explaining to family that you're requesting that they don't share this information with her, not because you don't love her, but because it's important to protect the privacy of your family.

You can't control her response, or that of your family - but you don't have to. You just need to stay true to your values and boundaries, and respond accordingly. It's tiring, but it's a lot more okay and less tiring than betraying what you believe is best for you and your partner/kids, or letting someone tread on your boundaries. Make it clear what she has to do (it sounds like you did), and acknowledge when does do those things. When she doesn't, and if she gets fighty about it (or if family members insist you are being cruel, etc. -- folks always insist that whatever a person is trying to put a boundary around is 'not that bad', until it happens to them.) let everyone know (again) that she can control her ability to have access to her grandkids. It involves her taking responsibility for her actions and respecting your really, quite reasonable boundaries that you've put in place to take care of yourself.

But the order is your kid, your partner, your extended family, including your mom. For your mom it's her, and then everyone else. Everyone's drawn their lines - so as long as they remain, just play your position: linebacker to stop anyone from interfering with what your partner needs to have your child.
posted by anitanita at 9:32 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's your wife's hospital room, she has every right to keep people out of it for any (or no) reason whatsoever.

Personally, though I've never given birth, I would at most want my mother, sisters, and husband present at the hospital. When my stepmom gave birth to my little brother, her brothers, her mother, my dad, and I were the only visitors at the hospital; everyone else came later. And her family was with me at their house until at least five or six hours after the birth. And they're all really, really close (and OK with grossness - my stepuncle is a nurse.)

And nthing what people said above about enforcing your boundaries. Therapy and kindness clearly haven't been enough, and it's acceptable, to my mind, to flat-out say "if we appear in any more of your stories, you don't get to visit us and we won't be visiting you." I've even seen writers say things like "my kid asked me to stop writing about her in this column, so I'm going to stop" before. I'd also put this to the rest of your family - "we're tired of Mom writing about us, so if we share things with you that get back to her, we're going to have to stop sharing with you, too."

(And really: it is totally OK to not accept visitors until you're home from the hospital. I've even read etiquette questions about how soon is too soon to drop by after a friend has a baby, how to behave when you're visiting, etc..)
posted by SMPA at 9:36 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

All you have to do is inform the hospital of your wishes. They will enforce them for you.

I happen to know (since I work for a florist) that you can even have it so that if someone calls the hospital and asks for a room number, they would be told that there is no record of your presence. If I were you I would do that, so just in case word got out you were there, she'd have no way to confirm it or find you.

Having a baby is a big, exhausting deal. You have the right and privilege of protecting your wife and child from invasions of privacy. Go forth and do it (and if it matters, with my blessings*.)

*I am a grandma myself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:38 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm appalled at some of the answers in this thread. Your wife's comfort and well being during a potentially painful and stressful time trumps anyone's expectations of being there. Your mom being the grandparent doesn't give her any rights in the delivery room. If your wife doesn't want her there, then she doesn't want her there and she doesn't have to justify it. If she wants her mother there and not yours there, she still doesn't have to justify it.

Even though it's from a different perspective, this thread has some answers that can be useful.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:41 AM on May 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

Like girl scientist, we also just had our first baby. Believe when I tell you that you, and your wife especially, will not want or need visitors during or after the birth.

I know people who didn't entertain friends or family for 3 weeks after the birth of their son for bonding reasons. Folks were permitted to leave gifts by the door, but that was it. An extreme example, sure, just letting you know you're not the only one who needs or seeks privacy after the birth of a child. In fact, I get the feeling it's the fashionable way to handle a birth event these days. Certainly I can tell you that as a new mom, I found the presence of the helpful helpful nurses intrusive at times, forget entertaing guests at the hospital or when at home!

You have our permission to handle this exactly the way you and your wife want to from start to finish. You're an adult now, soon to be a parent. Tell your mom to cool her jets, that it's your way or the highway. Protect your family now and in the future.

Anyway who cares what narrative this person puts together? That's a subtle from of bullying! Fuck worrying about that, you don't need to. Crazy people say/write crazy things. Meh.
posted by jbenben at 9:52 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I were you I wouldn't tell your mother until after the baby was born. Your wife and baby are the only factors that matter right then, in the delivery room. Have zero guilt about this.
posted by marimeko at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

*If* I were you
posted by marimeko at 9:54 AM on May 29, 2011

Instead of excluding your entire side of the family, you could also consider dealing with her or even that entire side as one would deal with a reporter -- a press release-esque email, talking points ("we are so excited" and "it's a big adjustment" should cover most converations) and staying on message, maybe a designated spokesperson ("oh hi, so nice to hear your voice, let me get your son on the phone for you")...

I'm with the "pick this hill" people, but if you believe that her need for the story is so pathological that she won't be able to resist, then by all means, manage her as you would the media. Maybe someone with more of a celebrity PR background can elaborate.
posted by salvia at 9:57 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I totally get the idea of keeping her physically away from the birth, maternity ward, and immediate aftermath. That seems completely reasonable.

I'm having a hard time dealing with the "not telling her at all" business. I understand that your mother comes with her own unique set of problems, but this isn't doing anything to solve those problems, it's just avoiding them (and it's not even avoiding them for very long. She's going to see the kid eventually).

Do you really need to exclude the rest of your family, however? Presumably they know how nuts she is about this, can't they be trusted not to tell her? Run interference? Take her camera away from her? Something? Punishing them for the transgressions of your mother seems unnecessary.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2011

Before Little Murrey was born, my husband and I discussed how it was going to work--ok, I dictated how it was going to work. I unequivocally shot down his idea of joining Twitter for the purpose of informing people that I was in labor or that Baby Murrey had arrived. I did not want his family in the waiting room waiting for the moment of arrival. Needless to say, no one was going to be in the delivery room except for Mr. Murrey. I even didn't want anyone to know that I was in labor. Notifications could be made after Baby Murrey had arrived. End of story.

I simply did not want Mr. Murrey the least bit distracted by outside people. If someone was in the waiting room, he might have felt compelled to go and give them updates. If he had his nose buried in his iPhone looking at tweets or texting updates to people who knew, I would have been wildly irritated. I did not want to feel guilted into letting people into our room once Baby Murrey had arrived because they had been waiting all that time in the hospital. I also thought it was a very intimate and private experience that didn't need broadcasting.

I did all of this and I did not have a family member who might literally broadcast the blessed event. So I am with marimeko on this one..."Have zero guilt about this".

posted by murrey at 10:13 AM on May 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Your discomfort is enough to bar her from the hospital. But you don't seem worried about her in the actual hospital, only what she will do afterwards. And you are holding on pretty tight to the right to share the news any way you want, which is of course your right. It's your beat after all. [Maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and you are a stubborn reporter yourself deep down??? ;) ] AskMeta answers are often big on sticking up for rights, which is good but idealistic. You also have a grandmother and a child in the picture.

So does your right to "snap photos and issue a birth announcement to our friends and family" in a way that you choose trump all else? How important is your privacy or creativity to you? More important than the baby's relationship with a grandmother? You can probably tell that I would choose the relationship with the grandmother over privacy, simply because I would need babysitters long after the sting of the local newspaper story about the delivery wore off. Pragmatism.

Maybe a compromise? She can announce but no pictures. Or she can announce but only after three days, etc.

So while you are within your rights to keep her in the dark, as with every covert op, there might be blowback. But if you can't get comfortable with her knowing between now and birth, then yeah, keep her out of the loop.
posted by acheekymonkey at 10:27 AM on May 29, 2011

: "The simplest solution seems to me to keep her out of the whole thing. We won't inform her of the child's birth until we're home."

Bingo. Don't tell her till it's all over.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:32 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The etiquette is that the person delivering the baby gets to decide who is around while she's giving birth and they are both recovering. No one has the right to be there.

A positive way to spin it is "[wife's name] just gave birth to a healthy baby boy/girl! Both are doing well. We're enjoying our time together as a family and we will let you know when we feel up to having visitors. Love, [baby daddy]."
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:45 AM on May 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

My sister didn't tell my parents about her third child until after she was born. The news was devastating, and my parents will not likely recover from it completely. I always knew my sister had a flair for cruelty, but this seems to have been her crowning achievement on that front.

I don't have any specific advice, here (from my perspective, my parents aren't unusually transgressive), but you shouldn't take the decision to keep her out of the loop lightly. If you're worried about what she'd write about the birth, try to imagine what she'd write about having been snubbed by her own child on the second most important day of her life.
posted by klanawa at 10:55 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

To amplify the young rope-rider: "the person delivering the baby gets to decide" AND NO HAGGLING OR BACKTALK IS PERMITTED. At all.

The pregnant woman calls the shots here, and everybody else adjusts themselves to HER rules.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

The only person who is required to be in the hospital room during the birth is the mother. Conventionally, the father is also included, but that's at mom's discretion. It's a no-brainer; keep her away. My mother and my mother-in-law were present at the births of both of my children, and they both made it very clear that they were there at my sufferance and that I had the right to change my mind. The hospital WILL help you enforce this.

As for information about the pregnancy. . . I would strongly encourage you to begin as you mean to go on. I know the baby is still kind of abstract, but you're going to be bringing a real, precious, very vulnerable person into your mother's sphere of attention, and her feelings don't mean bupkis compared to the emotional safety and privacy of your child. It's very easy to make boundaries looser and very, very, VERY hard to make them tighter. So if you would prefer that she not even know y'all are expecting, I would take that preference seriously.
posted by KathrynT at 11:04 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

So, the consensus among folks on the thread who have given birth recently is that labor can be (is?) a pretty exhausting and private affair. Also, etiquette is that the woman in labor gets to decide how she wants that experience to play out. By now I hope that you realize you're in the clear - maybe it was different back in your mom's day, but the whole parade of visitors and folks in the waiting room is not common today. Relax.

I'm wondering if you can let this play out organically instead of making a big deal about it now. You've got a looong road before your wife goes into labor. Maybe that was your thought, anyway?

People only know you are in labor if you tell them! When the time came to go to the hospital, only our neighbors who would be feeding our cats were told. And my husband's work obligations.

murrey made an excellent point about not wanting mr. murrey on his iphone tweeting or texting, or out in the waiting room entertaining folks and giving them updates.

My husband was at my side the entire time, no distractions. Best. Memories. Ever.

Aim for that. You could even explain when the time gets closer time that this is your family's Birth Plan. The rest will take care of itself.
posted by jbenben at 11:04 AM on May 29, 2011

To start, you are absolutely in the right to include whomever you wish in the birthing process. Create your own guest list and timeline for company. If that guest list includes nobody, that's fine. If the only person excluded is your meddling mother, that's fine too. If you request that people make 10 minute appointments to meet the baby, this is also ok.

(This is also a very good time to request that Great Aunt So-and-so make a batch of her delicious 7 layer dip - if she's the type that will want to help out and needs a task. Know which of your friends have babies and will run to get last minute supplies for you - and know what they're getting.)

Regarding the writing:

Is there any way you can beat her to the punch?

In all seriousness, can you contact whatever outlet she uses to write about you guys about preparing a piece about being the son of this reporter, how that effects your interaction with her, how it colors the experience of bringing a child into this world?

Bear in mind, that may backfire with a side by side piece - one by her in addition to yours. But it may also shed some light for her on what this situation is like for you.

It may not occur to her that having this light shined on you has consequences for you, and for your wife.
posted by bilabial at 11:08 AM on May 29, 2011

Even before the birth your wife might want to set up some boundaries such as no uninvited visits, no unauthorized photographs (not even unpublished), no touching the baby bump (and later, the baby), and whatever else protects your peace of mind.

One young mother I know drops out of everything the last couple of months of pregnancy and doesn't reenter the social sphere until she is good and ready. She learned with the first child that people (not just pushy in-laws) consider a new mother fair game and are unbelievably rude.

Birth and infant care are completely consuming and it's going to take both of you paying attention and tag-teaming to get even the minimum amount of sleep and keep the household functioning. As for how long this might be, I recall friends adopting a baby being told to let no one pick up the child except mother for six weeks in order to ensure proper bonding. Obviously your child will not be an orphan needing that kind of remedial bonding but this does highlight the importance of those early days of intimacy within the immediate family.

For the birth itself, exclude everyone except the people your wife wants to be there and limit hospital visits in any of the ways suggested here. For informing the extended family, create a phone tree and assign someone (perhaps even the great communicator) the job of spreading the joyful news while you control the message.

As new parents, there will arise privacy, safety and security concerns that you haven't imagined yet. I'd advise starting off with an absolute ban on visits, photographs and published information and then decide together, as you're ready, who, how much and when you lift the ban. Insist that your mother understand that you are adamant about privacy and security for your wife and child.

Unannounced visits that were formerly inconvenient can quickly become overwhelming. Trust me on this, your mother will not be the only person to blithely rush past your wife's boundaries. Every older woman fancies herself a guru to the new mother, a fount of, if not wisdom, at least ghastly stories, all of which are best left untold.

In case anyone should ask, good gifts for new parents include delicious home-cooked meals delivered to the door in labeled non-returnable containers by someone who is not coming in to visit.
posted by Anitanola at 11:10 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, can you test your mother?

Depending on how close she lives maybe you could combine the pregnancy announcement to her with the serious boundaries discussion that is clearly necessary.

"Mom, we're pregnant. We're really happy and we know you are too. BUT, the pregnancy is new and special to us and we would really appreciate it if you can keep the details out of your paper / blog / book / whatever. If you cannot do that, then you will not be told when we go into labor. You will not be invited to the birth or any gatherings after wards. Your relationship with your grandchild will be in jeopardy if you can't respect the sanctity and privacy of our family from the very beginning. It is your decision."

Or something like that. And be prepared to enforce your promises if she spills the beans all over her pages.

Also, depending on the details of you & your family that she's released in the past, it might be appropriate to contact her editor and say that you greatly dislike the extent to which they publish your personal information and let her boss know that you expect greater discretion on his / her end to information that you have not consented to share.
posted by motsque at 11:37 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about what she'd write about the birth, try to imagine what she'd write about having been snubbed by her own child on the second most important day of her life.

Hmm, I think I'd sooner be described in public as the most undeserving, ungrateful and horrible child in the world than have my privacy violated by a detailed description of what I consider to be one of the most personal events of my life.......but that's just me.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

....because my mother freely admits that she could never keep quiet about that, and that we have no right to make her.

This is your out.

I'm a firm believer in giving folks, especially family, as much agency as possible in how they maintain their side of the relationship fence while firmly but kindly maintaining your side.

When you tell mom about the pregnancy, have an explicit talk about your wishes regarding disclosure. Yes, you've had this conversation before, but have it again. Explain to her that there is a direct relationship between her discretion and her involvement in your family.

The choice is hers - if she chooses to write about you and your wife she is choosing to limit her involvement. The greater her discretion, the more involved she is allowed to be. She will likely balk, but keep repeating your stance that if she is going to assert her right to share what she wishes, you're going to assert your right to withdraw behind a curtain of privacy.

I'm sure there will be opportunities for little tests of this boundary before the baby arrives.

Explaining all of this at outset keeps everything above-board and relieves you of the burden of hiding/keeping secrets since you're telling her exactly what the consequences of her actions will be if she can't respect you.

Doing this now, while you have time and energy on your side, sends the clear message that mom is singling herself out and that her exclusion is of her own making.

If talks, therapy, all the I statements in the world fail to change the boundary-trampling dynamic, the only tool you have left are consequences. With any luck the grandma impulse will trump the writer impulse. If it doesn't, at least she's had the opportunity to choose which one wins the day.

Good Luck and Congratulations
posted by space_cookie at 12:01 PM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know this suggestion is going to sound a bit extreme, but then, this situation sounds a bit extreme. What about:

1) Having that boundary talk about about your family private life being just that and NOT acceptable fodder for published writing.
2) The happy announcement that your family is preparing to welcome its newest member.
3) Unfortunately, in the past, mother has decided to ignore these boundaries, and this has hurt your relationship with her. This makes you sad because you love her and want her involved in your life. It's been extremely uncomfortable for you and your wife to find yourself featured in mom's column, but now it's not just about you two--it's about your child. A parent's number one priority is protecting his/her child. So if grandma-to-be wants any access or news about the little one and your family, she needs to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Then you will be thrilled to share this experience with her.

If she doesn't agree, then continue to talk to your mom, but without mentioning anything about your family. This would be a very sad outcome, but then I think it's incredibly sad that your mom is putting her writing above your feelings.

If you do choose to take the non-disclosure agreement route, lawyer up. I know it's only as useful as your will to enforce penalties if she doesn't follow the agreement, but hopefully the legal nature of it will impress upon her just how serious you are about this. If nothing else, her editor might care.
posted by smirkette at 12:06 PM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

....because my mother freely admits that she could never keep quiet about that, and that we have no right to make her.

Your mother has made her position clear: she is a writer first, a parent second, and her relationship with you is obviously important in as much as she can turn a buck from it. Your wife and kid deserve better.
posted by rodgerd at 12:27 PM on May 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

....because my mother freely admits that she could never keep quiet about that, and that we have no right to make her.

Your mother has made her position clear: she is a writer first, a parent second, and her relationship with you is obviously important in as much as she can turn a buck from it. Your wife and kid deserve better.
Seconding this. I'm not so sure I would want her to have a relationship with my child at all, much less be present at the hospital.
posted by ndfine at 12:31 PM on May 29, 2011

The simplest solution seems to me to keep her out of the whole thing.

It's also the best solution.

We won't inform her of the child's birth until we're home.

That seems extreme. Don't call her before labor, but call after.

Then make an appointment. "You can come visit at X time at Y date at Z location." Don't negotiate this point.

In fact ... and this was helpful to me ... you need to ensure that issues are never framed as negotiations. These are the rules, and that's that, and don't enter into any judo matches, or you'll get thrown.

"Congrats, you're a grandma."
"Wonderful, I'll be right over."
"You can come visit at X time at Y date at Z location."
"But I want..."
"Couldn't we..."
"You're really being mean to me."
"Aren't you going to say anything to your mother?"
"You can come visit at X time at Y date at Z location."
"Don't you think this is harsh?"
"You can come visit at X time at Y date at Z location."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:49 PM on May 29, 2011 [12 favorites]

The part of me that has dealt with people who absolutely can't grasp boundaries adores the idea of a non-disclosure agreement. I would give this idea more favorites but that's not possible, so.
posted by SMPA at 1:32 PM on May 29, 2011

This reminds me of something I read recently, vis-a-vis Buddhism and setting boundaries. It said that setting boundaries with someone who has a poor sense of them is actually the most loving thing you can do, because not only are you making choices for your own well-being, you are helping the other person not to behave hurtfully (i.e., to the detriment of someone else's well-being).

It may or may not work for your mother to explicitly frame it this way (she may just hear "we're doing this for your own good," which no one particularly likes to hear!) but it might at least be a way for you and your wife to frame it in your own minds, so that you aren't second-guessing yourselves judgmentally as being bad or unkind for doing something that is actually very positive and healthy.

(And congratulations on expecting your first child!)
posted by scody at 3:25 PM on May 29, 2011 [15 favorites]

I wouldn't bar her family (assuming she wants them there) to avoid some awkwardness with your mother who has clear boundary issues that she's already aware of, because you've been to therapy over them.

By all means, don't tell her until it's all over but the next 18 years. If she finds out, bar her -- just don't put her on the list of people the hospital is allowed to admit. Tell her you're barring her. She knows why. She's a grown-up and needs to own the consequences of her actions.

It's not fair to make your wife's family suffer for your mother's inability to defer to your privacy.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2011

I speak from a place where I kicked my (very similar mother, from your description) out of my house after 3 days into what was supposed to be a 2 week visit. This after she threatened to leave after less than 24 hours.

Why? Because she waltzed into our lives after our son was born and immediately tried to start calling the shots. I've been you. You don't want to cut your own mother out of this very important part of your life. Hard truth: your mom's relative comfort and feelings are WAY down on the list of things that deserve your attention right now. Many grandparents have a very hard time dealing with that reality after the birth of the first grandchild, and many (like mine, and I predict yours - if you let her) act out horribly because of it.

Good luck. Err on the side of protecting your wife and child from the probability cloud your mother has already defined for you. People advising you to have some talk with her prior to the event don't have mothers like ours.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

People advising you to have some talk with her prior to the event don't have mothers like ours.

It depends, at least in part, on the kind of talk the OP has with his mother. (I speak from having observed both what worked and what didn't work in terms of my mom dealing with her own extremely boundary-challenged mother, e.g., the time grandma rented out our house as a vacation home while we were out of the country, or the time she and grandpa took my sister and me to Disneyland for a week, both events without my parents' foreknowledge or permission).

A talk that lays out completely clearly and unambiguously the consequences of her failure to respect boundaries is different from a talk that's framed as a request (for the thousandth time) to please respect their boundaries. The difference is that having a consequence-based talk rather than a request-based talk empowers Anon and Mrs. Anon to move forward with their choices on their own terms, rather than being forced into operating on his mother's terms. In other words, the problem arising from Anon's mom's desire to write about anything her little heart desires is removed from Anon's hands (where it has been existing all this time) and put in mom's hands (where it rightly belongs).

This forces mom to come face-to-face with what is more important to her: her writing, or her family. Up till now, she's successfully managed to avoid having to make that choice openly, because she's (evidently) never had to suffer as a consequence of her bad behavior -- she's only made others suffer.
posted by scody at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2011

If she has some kind of need to feel "special," could you find one detail that you don't mind making public, that you tell her and no one else so that she has the opportunity to spread some original news (I am thinking of telling your family and friends, not the general public)? Something like "yes I'm going to breastfeed" if you're cool with that being public, or "Oh I'm going with cloth diapers, they're so eco-friendly!" I live in a family that runs what we call the "Lastname Broadcasting System." If something happens, EVERYONE knows about it within 24 hours, because my grandma and some of her kids, will get on the phone and call everyone to tell them. So yeah, if I were having a baby they would be the last people I told so that I had opportunity to tell who I wanted to tell myself. But perhaps letting one unimportant piece of data be hers would help. Maybe not - maybe that would encourage her to breach your boundaries more. But only you know your mom and can make that decision.

Check out your hospital's labor and delivery ward and then tell the hospital your preferences and then relax because they'll enforce them. I recently went to visit a friend just before she was induced (at her invitation) and, at my hospital, the maternity ward is locked - you have to give your name and the patient's name to even be buzzed in. She also had a form she filled out upon check-in that had a box she could check to say that no one was to even know she was in the hospital, if she wanted that.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:05 PM on May 29, 2011

Tell her once new baby arrives she can have the relationship of a grandmother or a relationship of a reporter but not both, and if she chooses the latter it will, by necessity, involve much less access to the grandchild. Make it crystal clear that this is her choice.
posted by 6550 at 2:26 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

For different reasons, I did not want my mother present at my son's birth. The hospital put a No Visitors sign on my door.

This is an opportunity for your mother to learn that her lack of respect for your privacy has consequences. I'd tell her honestly that as long as she feels free to ignore your wishes for privacy, her access to you and your life will be strictly limited. Suggest that she publicize your request and see what her readers have to say about it. She may learn that they respect her less because of her lack of respect.

If you set rules and share that information with your family, don't specify your Mom; she'll publish it. Just ask everyone to respect your privacy, state that no cameras will be allowed during delivery, birth and post-partum. Note that photographs of someone in the hospital are not freely available to publish. You do have an expectation of privacy in a non-public place.(IANAL) Make sure she knows that you will enforce that, i.e, you'll send takedown notices if she infringes, and you will complain to her publisher. (IANAL) She has a legal right to write about her own experiences, but she does not have a legal right to publish photos taken in a private space, certainly not in a for-profit publication. (IANAL)

I built boundaries with my Mom, but at the cost of having a reduced relationship. It's a price that makes me sad, but it was important to being a healthy person.

"Mom, we want to share our lives with you, but not the whole world. We hope you'll respect our wish for privacy. We would be really sad if we weren't able to share this milestone with you. "
posted by theora55 at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why should you respect her if she doesn't respect you?
posted by tarvuz at 10:30 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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