When it comes to a woman in labor, who gets to be in the delivery room?
This week, Slate’s regular “Dear Prudence” column offers some tough love for a mother-in-law claiming she’d been pushed to the sidelines of excitement by being banned from the delivery room during the birth of her first grandchild.
“Second class Grandma” (SCG) wrote of her “devastation” over the decision by her son and daughter-in-law to allow only the daughter-in-law’s mother in to witness the birth of their child.
Believing she had a “good relationship” with her daughter-in-law, SCG explained her deep disappointment over not being allowed in the room:
I was stunned and hurt by the unfairness of the decision and tried to plead with her and my son, but [my daughter-in-law] says she “wouldn’t feel comfortable” with me there.
SCG admitted she tried to change her daughter-in-law’s mind, first by pointing out her decades-long career as a nurse:
I reminded her that I was a nurse for 40 years, so there is nothing I haven’t seen.
Then, by appealing to her daughter-in-law’s husband:
I’ve tried to reason with [my son], but he seems to be afraid of angering [her] and will not help.
And lastly, by trying to influence her daughter-in-law’s parents:
I called [her] parents and asked them to please reason with their daughter, but they brusquely and rather rudely got off the phone.
SCG wrote she had “felt nothing but heartache” since learning she would not be present in the delivery room, calling the decision “unfair”:
[My son] told me I could wait outside and I would be let in after [his wife] and the baby are cleaned up and “presentable.” Meanwhile, [my daughter-in-law’s] mother will be able to witness our grandchild coming into the world.
The grandmother-to-be described how the arrangement had caused a rift in her relationship with the family:
I’ve always been close to my son, but I no longer feel valued. I cannot bring myself to speak to [my daughter-in-law]. I’m being treated like a second-class grandmother even though I’ve never been anything but supportive and helpful.
Given the failure to change the couple’s minds, SCG asked: “How can I get them to see how unfair and cruel their decision is?”
Prudie replied (like ripping off a Band-Aid):
You can’t! You shouldn’t! You are entirely in the wrong!
The advice columnist continued:
I say this in the hopes that, after the initial flush of indignation fades, you will be braced and supported by the realization that you have been acting badly and that you need to change. It’s difficult to admit when one’s been wrong, but there’s nothing quite so clarifying as figuring out how to do better.
Prudie explained SCG’s daughter-in-law had “every right” to choose a birth plan aligned with her interests— and to not factor in those of others (hint hint):
Your daughter-in-law is giving birth, which is a pretty difficult, painful, and intimate process. She has every right to plan ahead for just how many people she wants to be in the room for that.
“This is not about you,” Prudie warned.
SCG was reminded the excitement of the baby’s birth wasn’t limited to the delivery room, and there was joy to be had if she could see past her current predicament:
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.
Prudie wrote SCG’S son and daughter-in-law had drawn “totally appropriate” boundaries and advised the grandmother-to-be to stop fighting to change the couple’s minds.
And in perhaps Prudie’s toughest moment of love, the advice columnist agreed with the couple’s decision, given SCG’s unrelenting determination to be in the delivery room:
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.
Prudie’s final point? “Let this go. Do not rob this moment of its joy by keeping score and demanding more.”