It’s the kind of issue that’s often raised in newspaper advice columns and in online discussion groups like our own Mothers-in-Law Unplugged: Do mothers-in-law (or mothers, for that matter) have a place in the delivery room when a grandchild is being born?
New moms might bemoan the invasion of privacy, the uninvited presence of a mother-in-law ruining a special and intimate family moment. They may talk of feeling bullied into letting a mother-in-law in, and then feeling obligated to include their own mother in a suddenly quite crowded hospital room. They talk of husbands unable to talk their own mothers out of plans to invade what they see as an almost sacred space (at least until the next couple needs it …).
As for the mothers-in-law, some of them counter that this is, after all, the birth of their grandchild, and that they are entitled to be there when it happens. Those who speak more frankly might point out that the daughter-in-law’s own mom, sisters, or best friends all stand poised to beat them into the delivery room to see the baby first, and what they really want is not to be left out.
What’s the Etiquette?
If your daughter-in-law is about to give birth, you haven’t been invited in, and you’re feeling an urge to barge in anyway because you just know you should be there, here’s a quick piece of advice: Don’t do it. No one will be in the right state of mind to have a real heart-to-heart with you in the bustle of the delivery room. Hurtful words might be thrown at you, and the resentment your son or daughter-in-law may feel from your intrusion will not quickly be erased.
But, if the due date is a while off, and you want to make your intentions known, raise the issue with your son. Let him know you’d like to be present and let him decide whether he’s willing to raise the issue with his spouse. Giving him the chance to say clearly, “We would like to be alone in the delivery room,” goes over better than waiting to find out that “she doesn’t want you there.” (Any daughters-in-law out there reading this, my tip for you is to make sure with your husband that decisions on who is allowed in the delivery room are always communicated as team decisions.)
What a mom wants
If your own daughter is giving birth, and she tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you’re not going to be in the room, you may be able to take in stride. After all, you’ve seen her at her best, her worst, and everything in-between, since the day she was born. But you don’t know a daughter-in-law as well, and maybe, up to this point, your relationship has been free of stress. So if you broach the subject of being present at the moment of birth with her, and she shoots it down, try not to be resentful. Remember, this is a lady about to give birth — she may be a little on edge to begin with. And you’ll be giving her a great compliment if you can accept her rejection as if it came from your own daughter.
And finally, once the issue’s been settled, make a plan with your daughter-in-law for coming to help out in the hospital or when the family gets home (maybe if she just turned down your request to be in the delivery room, she’ll try to make it up to you by welcoming you for an extended visit when the baby comes home).
Above all, keep in mind that even if it’s your daughter-in-law’s first child, she’s probably eager to discover the dos and don’ts of parenting on her own. Although you may be poised to share your expertise, this may be a time to sit back and bask in the glow of a new arrival while providing his or her mom with respect, patience, and love.
There will be plenty of time to dish out your opinions as the baby gets bigger!