Giving birth can be a terrifying event; there’s pain, fluids, and — in some cases — a lot of people nearby. As a mom (or mom-to-be), you’re within your rights to dictate exactly who will and who won’t be allowed in the delivery room. But one mother-in-law didn’t seem to get the memo, writing into Slate’s advice column to complain about her daughter-in-law’s decision to request she not be present in the room when her grandchild was being born. Fortunately, Prudence, aka Mallory Ortberg, and the rest of the internet put mom-in-law in her place.
The mother-in-law, who we will now refer to as MIL, begins by explaining that her son, Steven, and daughter-in-law, Julia, are expecting their first child and her first grandchild. MIL says that up until this point, she and Julia had a “good relationship,” so she was upset to learn that Julia would not allow her to be in the delivery room when she gives birth.
“I was stunned and hurt by the unfairness of the decision and tried to plead with her and my son, but Julia says she ‘wouldn’t feel comfortable’ with me there. I reminded her that I was a nurse for 40 years, so there is nothing I haven’t seen. I’ve tried to reason with Steven, but he seems to be afraid of angering Julia and will not help. I called Julia’s parents and asked them to please reason with their daughter, but they brusquely and rather rudely got off the phone.”
Instead, Julia has said that MIL can come in only after Julia and the baby are clean and “presentable.” Of course, this all seems very unfair to MIL, considering that Julia’s own mother will get to be present to witness her grandchild being born.
“I’ve always been close to my son, but I no longer feel valued. I cannot bring myself to speak to Julia. I’m being treated like a second-class grandmother even though I’ve never been anything but supportive and helpful. How can I get them to see how unfair and cruel their decision is?” she ends the letter.
As for Ortberg’s response — it’s totally spot-on! “This is not about you. You are going to get to see your grandchild the day they are born. You will get to be in your grandchild’s life for as long as you live. Nothing is being taken from you. You are not being snubbed. Your daughter-in-law and your son are drawing a totally appropriate boundary, and you need to stop trying to argue with them about it. Frankly, I can see why they don’t want you in the room, if ‘But I was a nurse!’ and ‘I’m a second-class grandmother’ is your response to ‘Please hang out and read a book in the hallway while Julia is crowning.’ Let this go. Do not rob this moment of its joy by keeping score and demanding more.”
Regardless of how desperately MIL wants to be in the delivery room the exact moment her grandchild enters this world, it’s ultimately up to the person lying on the hospital bed, legs spread open, to decide who is and isn’t allowed in the room. Like Ortberg says, MIL will get to meet her little bundle of joy soon enough.
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