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My wife and I have just started trying to expand our family. Last night, the topic randomly came up of who should be in the delivery room with us (if we are lucky enough to conceive) as my wife asked me:

Should we be alone with the medical staff or should my mother [my mother-in-law] be in there with us?

As this will be our first, I have no idea what is common - if this is a moment that should be experienced just with us or should others be in the delivery room with us.

How do I convey to our family and friends our eventual decision about who should be around (and not sound rude/hurt anyones' feelings)?

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    Hey! I've nudged your question a bit to be less about "how do I tell them they can't be there" to "how do we convey our eventual decision"... We try to avoid invalidating existing answers with edits, so I think this gets what you want without doing so. – Catija Feb 23 '18 at 21:26
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    I am not understanding why you anticipate that there would be any offense taken. Both your moms did this at least once themselves, unless you're adopted. Why wouldn't you assume they'll respect whatever your wife wants at the time? – joiedevivre Feb 24 '18 at 0:46
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I'm going to tell you a bit about my experience... it's only been 18 months, so it's still pretty fresh.

Here's what you do:

Let your wife decide.

You invite them all to be with you at the hospital/birthing center/your home/wherever. And let them know as things progress how your wife is feeling and whether they're welcome to visit her (labor often lasts several hours in the hospital depending on how far along your wife is when you get there). You tell them that they may have that rescinded depending on how she feels. And they should be happy to comply.

That's it. She decides what she wants and you make it happen. Recognize that what she wants may change every five minutes while she's in labor. So, the actual answer to your question is that you talk to your parents (all four of them if they're all around) and you tell them, up front, that it's your wife's choice and you need them to respect that decision and not gripe about it and that if she changes her mind, they don't get to gripe about that, either.

They tell you that part of labor (transition) is loss of any sorts of feelings of modesty. I don't remember if that's true or not but I knew that I wanted to be safe and allowed to focus on what I was doing - laboring. If I felt that someone was hurting my ability to focus, they were out. And that was it. And along with modesty, it's quite likely that your wife won't have any issues telling someone to get out of her room.

This isn't about what's "fair". It's about your wife being comfortable when doing one of the most physically demanding and "natural" parts of her life. If she's happy with just you and the medical team, great. If she wants that plus all of your parents and cousins and other family... ok! But it's her choice and she's allowed to change her mind without judgement.

My mom was at the birthing center when I had my son and she was in the room briefly and being overly annoying so I kicked her out until she promised to shut up. She promised, and she was allowed back in and got to welcome her first grandchild with us, and our midwife. Everyone else met Bennett the next day or later that week.

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    I've been in the room for both of my kids and this is the correct answer. – Forklift Feb 23 '18 at 20:44
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    +1 for the entire answer but especially for the sentiment that things change and that's okay and that it's necessary for everyone to understand and accept that. If there is anyone associated who is unable to respect that sort of potentially fluctuating boundary then they shouldn't be anyplace near the building. – Bryan Krause Feb 23 '18 at 21:03
  • @Catija Thank you for this and well said – Zero Stack Feb 23 '18 at 21:22
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    +1 Keep in mind that this applies to everyone who is not physically in labor. That includes even the father and the doctor--with my first, there was a particular resident who I did not want present at the birth because she had such a terrible bedside manner (it was very complicated, we had 15–20 medical personnel in the room, and I had gotten to know her during my antenatal hospital stay). – 1006a Feb 23 '18 at 21:55
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    The nursing staff is also sometimes willing to be the "bad guy" if needed in order to enforce your wife's wishes. Sometimes they'll even do it with vague references to policy and procedures... – rrauenza Feb 23 '18 at 22:55
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No matter what the two of you plan in advance once labor starts your wife is going to have the final say.

It's probably best for each of you to talk individually to your respective mothers. Your relationship is going to be closer which will make them more receptive to whatever requests you make.

Regardless of what you decide it sounds like you want them involved in the process at some level. Let them know this. The more they feel appreciated and valued the less likely their going to feel snubbed by potentially unequal treatment.

You should communicate your decision as part of a longer conversation. Ask them about their birthing experiences, any tips they might have, and advice on how to handle a newborn in the house.

If you decide you want one of them in the room you or your wife should tell them as much.

Mom, it would mean a lot if you were in the room with us.

If you decide you don't want one of them in the room, but still nearby during the birth, tell them that. Don't frame it as a consolation prize, or a competition between mothers.

Mom, it would mean a lot if you were there for the birth.

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Who should be there is: people who will help your wife feel calm, people who will help your wife feel less pain/fear/stress, people who your wife doesn't mind seeing naked parts of her own body, people who won't faint or throw up when witnessing bodily fluids, people who are otherwise healthy and safe enough to be around a newborn (it's recommended that any adults interacting with the baby have up-to-date Tdap vaccines). Anyone who does not pass all of these should be prepared to not attend.

Many hospitals have restrictions on the number of visitors who can be present in the labor and delivery rooms (to make sure that the medical staff can safely provide care as needed). These should be taken into consideration when making your plans.

As far as how people are informed about this, one option is just to not tell them you're going to the hospital. Related, tell them when you are going in and tell them specifically when they will be welcome. Blame it on hospital policy. Take the responsibility for your own parents (don't say "You make Wife uncomfortable").

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First of all, this is YOUR decision. Some women want everyone possible in the room with them; others don't want the mob. It's intensely personal and there's a lot going on.

Some mothers really want to be there; others don't. So part of this involves both potential grandmothers' reaction. It's also a rule in OB-GYN circles that all babies are born at 5 am, so there's the time factor to think about if you're not going with induced labor/c-section.

That said, keep the first sentence in mind. YOU make the decision, and YOU are the ones to call and say "it's time".

I'd first ask what the moms' feelings are. That will have some impact on this. If they don't want to be there, and you don't want them there, then it's easy. "We'll call you when the baby's here". If they want to be there, and you want them there, then it's easy. "We'll call you when she goes into labor." The only hard one, then, is Mom wants to be there and you don't want her there.

Depending on the relationship, that can be easy or hard. I'll give the worst-case scenario: it's Mom's little girl and she feels she has to be intimately involved in everything, and your wife wants her to keep her distance. Then I'd say something like "Having a baby is pretty stressful for us; we don't know when it will arrive and we're going to have a lot going on at the time. So please forgive us when we say it's probably not going to work out to have you there."

Yes, there may be hurt feelings, but quite often those subside when then meet the grandchild. Also, women understand how taxing childbirth is, so most women will support whatever decision you make.

Lastly: what's normal for who's in the delivery room? It depends on the country and the woman. I've known people who had seemingly everyone in the room, and I've known people who insisted it be just them. I'd ask the facility where you plan to deliver. Trust me, any question you ask will be something that they've heard before and are ready to answer. They'd rather answer a question you consider silly than have you do something silly because you were embarrassed.

  • When you say "you" do you mean the OP? or the OP and their wife? – sphennings Feb 23 '18 at 20:46
  • "You" plural. OP and wife. Actually, more wife and OP agreeing with her decision. – baldPrussian Feb 23 '18 at 21:12
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    It's a very different reading depending on whether "you" is plural or not. This answer could benefit from some clarity. – sphennings Feb 23 '18 at 21:13
  • @sphennings: Is it still unclear after you read 2 more sentences? – Mehrdad Feb 24 '18 at 20:38
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I find it strange that anyone other than the mothers, sisters, and father would be in the room. That's probably antiquated today. If anyone expects to be in the room, that is also strange to me, but I would just tell them something like, "we want to keep this small and within the family", or whatever group it is you're allowing in. I'd be surprised if anyone took that the wrong way, but then, I don't have too many really close friends.

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    This looks like more of a comment than an answer. Can you edit this to more clearly address the OP's question? – sphennings Feb 24 '18 at 22:36
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    To reiterate sphennings comment, I find it strange that you even consider mothers and sisters here, but that doesn't make it an answer. – pipe Feb 25 '18 at 17:06

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