Delivery Room Drama: A Husband’s Perspective and Forewarning
AS A FOREWARD: If you want to avoid drama, make these big birth decisions ahead of time.
In the words of Ricky Ricardo… “THE TIME HAS COME!” You’ve waited 40 long weeks (or in our case 42) for wifey’s water to break and the day is finally upon you. After rushing to the hospital (or moseying on over in the case of an induction), you’ve found yourself in the delivery room and can’t help but to begin contemplating your entire life and what’s to become of it. You’re nervous yet excited, everything’s going to plan. You’re fully prepared to be your wife’s rock. Today will easily be remembered as the most intimate and awesome day of your entire marriage. And then your mother-in-law walks in…
Who Should Be in The Delivery Room?
It should go without saying that the question of who should be in the delivery room is subjective in nature and will vary from person to person. Ultimately this decision should be the decision of the mother-to-be (after all, she is the one about to go through an extremely traumatic experience). With that said, all healthy relationships need a few sacred moments, a certain expectation of privacy, and a handful of boundaries to keep them healthy over time.
I would suggest that future Moms and Dads clearly discuss with one another who should and shouldn’t be in the delivery room months before the due date. While you may think to yourself, “my mother-in-law won’t walk into the delivery room and try to act as a birthing coach, especially without asking for our permission,” she will. Mine did….
Mother-in-Law in Delivery Room
I was fully prepared to set boundaries with the in-laws for after the baby was born. Having said that, I now feel naïve that I had not considered the setting of such boundaries for the birthing process itself… Yes, it’s true that I told my mother-in-law what I needed her to do come the big day, my mistake was in neglecting to tell her what not to do.
Logistically, having a baby can be somewhat of a nightmare for an expecting husband and wife should they have animals or small children at home. Frankly speaking, someone needs to man the fort in your absence. Children need to be fed, dogs need to be let out, plants need to be watered, you get the point.
All my plants are dead… When my mother-in-law unexpectedly strutted in the delivery room after agreeing to look after our home for the big day, I knew there would soon be fireworks. When she let me know that she could not leash my 3lb chihuahua and that she quite literally let my two dogs piss and shit throughout the entire house, my feelings of impending doom were then amplified. Then, I was absolutely certain we were on a collision course when a nurse politely poked her head into our room and stated visiting hours would cease from 11pm-8am and my mother-in-law (also a nurse) simply refused to leave. She stated to my wife and I that, “they just have to say that,” but never actually remove anyone from the premise for overstaying. She made it very clear to us that she had no intention of respecting the visiting hours…
What pains me most about writing this article is that I have had a fairly good relationship with my mother-in-law over the past 10 years of being married to her daughter. I would quite honestly describe our relationship as above average; she has always proven to be thoughtful, caring, and considerate. Up until the day of my child’s birth, we had been in no real fights or contentious situations, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t irritated by her presence in the delivery room from start to finish. I am convinced that the delivery room drama she had conjured up was totally unnecessary and avoidable. In all likelihood it could have been avoided in its entirety should I have been more clear upfront about the boundaries I expected or if she had simply cared to ask. Where to begin…
Her incessant reading of text messages between her and friends and family. Not only did she feel the need to make her presence felt within the delivery room, she felt the need to make the presence of more or less our entire family tree and high school graduating class as well. She provided them will real time updates of my wife’s labor progression and was sure to read aloud every response from friends and family. Nonsense like “OMG if baby is born on 07-11 she’ll get a free Slurpee!” and “Your cervix sucks” was read rampantly. In the midst of my anxiety, and yes, I had a lot of it, none of this banter was comforting. I wanted nothing more than for her to be quiet, but nevertheless she persisted… And the worst part, her phone was never put on silent. For nearly 33 hours, my wife and I helplessly listened to message ding after message ding.
As mentioned earlier, she was supposed to be caring for our dogs. She did no such thing… In 3 days’ time, they were let out to use the bathroom roughly twice, though she did feed them to her credit. In short, she allowed them to urinate and defecate all over the house and no, she did not clean it up. She felt it more important to be in the delivery room with us than to be at home with them (like we asked), and for that I fault her.
Her constant need to call us. During the short stints of time she spent out of the delivery room (stints of time that were supposed to be used to care for our pets) she was sure to call us. And she called us a lot. Mind you, my wife had been having painful contractions for over 24 hours and my mother-in-law was well-aware. Even with that said, she was sure to call both our phones to inquire about how to turn the home computer volume down, how to work the microwave, and where we keep the bars of soap. These things happened…
Her inability to read a room. Admittedly and without pride, I slowly became more condescending and passive aggressive as minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to days. I made more than a handful of comments that would have prompted even the most socially inept individual to grab his things and give me space. She never budged, seemingly hell-bent on total and complete encroachment.
I had mentioned that I did not want her in the delivery room early on in the experience. She interpreted that statement as invitation to stay until the birthing process would begin at 10cm dilated. Not wanting to fight with my wife, who was in active labor, I allowed it, though I lamented the situation.
At 9cm dilated, my mother-in-law was fully animated in her excitement and took it upon herself to make comments to the likes of, “Oh I can’t wait for baby!” and “10 cm here we come!” which is when I took it upon myself to remind her of the plan. That is the plan where she gets the hell out of the room…
It is at that point in time in which she went ballistic. She began stomping around more or less pouting and rambling on about how I’d already made my wishes clear and she’d agreed. While this was great to hear her say aloud, it was clear to me she had either planned to leave at literally the moment and I mean the exact moment of my baby’s birth or would “accidently” stay when it was time to go. She cried, she cursed, and she of course, slammed the door on her way out.
My wife naturally broke down crying and more or less hyperventilating. My wife who was about to actively give birth that is. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand my plight or agree with it for that matter, but rather, the way I went about it. While I still feel I could have been a lot more disrespectful, I could have used more tact just in the same.
Choose Your Delivery Room Team Wisely
Consider who's in the delivery room a part of your third trimester checklist. Really ask yourself, “Who should I have in the delivery room?” Your lady parts will be fully exposed often, and “exposure” is an understatement. They will more likely be poked, prodded, and pulled. Do your best not to invite guests with conflicting personalities, as was the case in my story, it will only exacerbate your stress and add to the madness. Use my story to help find the courage to tell your loved ones who you would simply prefer to wait in the family lounge to do just that. Otherwise, you may very well be giving birth in front of family members that you might have preferred not to… or end up like me, and get into a verbal quarrel at the hospital during—what should be—the happiest day of your life.
- Matthew Kane