You won’t be surprised to learn that among one of the most stressful things that can upset a mother’s hope for a calm birthing is the presence of an unwanted relative. And what do you do when that relative turns out to be the grandma?

If any bodily process ever required a maximum degree of relaxation and trust, it is birth. Ina May Gaskin, a highly successful and internationally known midwife who attended thousands of peaceful, un-medicated, births in her career, writes; “My midwife partners and I…learned by observation and experience that the presence of even one person who is not exquisitely attuned to the mother’s feelings can stop some women’s labors. All women are sensitive. Some women are extraordinarily so. We learned this truth by observing many labors stop or slow down when someone entered the birth room who was not intimate with the laboring mother’s feelings. If that person left the room, labor usually returned to it’s former pace”.

If you are a pregnant women who has a relative, for example: mother, mother-in law, sister, or cousin who wants to attend your baby’s birth but you are feeing unsure or stressed about it, I have 3 suggestions for you to consider:

  1.  Give yourself permission to honor yourself and your needs first. This is your baby’s birth and your choice who attends.
  2. In the most caring and clear way, explain that you will be happy to see your “relative” after the baby is born. Remember, this is about what is best for you and your baby, not about what someone else might think is best for themselves, whether it’s your mother or not.
  3. Hire a Doula. The great thing about a Doula is that she is in the business of doing all she can to support you in the birth you desire. Once you have made your wishes clear to your relative, your Doula is the lion at the gate. She will do what she can to work with your relative and sometimes that means just giving her a useful job to keep her occupied while you are involved in the task of birthing.

Okay, please don’t assume that I have anything against mothers or other close relatives in the birthing room. In fact, I am a strong proponent of as many helpers at the birth as possible…if they are intimate and compatible with the birthing mother.

I have four daughters and one daughter-in-law. I want to be with my girls when they are giving birth. I just happen to be very lucky that I am on the same page with them and they feel comfortable letting me nurture them during birthing. Unfortunately, I happen to know first hand that this is not the case between all mothers and daughters.

If you happen to be the mother or mother-in-law of a pregnant daughter who has not invited you to attend her birthing, I have 3 suggestions for you!

  1. It feels sad to not be invited.  Unfortunately it’s not your concern who your daughter wants or doesn’t want at her birthing. She has her reasons for not inviting you and all you need to worry about is being grown up enough to realize that this birth is NOT about you, it’s about the couple and their little family!
  2. There are many other ways you can be present and helpful to your daughter besides in the delivery room. Please consider offering to bring a meal or two. Clean the house, do the laundry, care for the older children at home during the birth. Offer to rock the baby so your daughter can get some sleep during those first rough weeks after birth. Do what you can to nurture your daughter without expecting some reward.
  3. Do not hold this over your daughter’s head as a reason to be resentful or shaming toward her after the baby is born. If you are tempted to feel sad and resentful for not being included in the birth party, this is your reason as to why you were not invited.

I have a great relationship with my daughter-in-law but initially she did not want me to attend the birth of her first baby. I understand how it feels to not be included at the birth, especially when I have always been included before. I really did feel sad about it for a few days but I realized pretty quickly that it could change my relationship with my daughter-in-law and I didn’t want that. I grew up and got over it! It became more important to me to honor my daughter-in-law and whatever choice she made, even if it offended me, it is not about me!

After I came to terms with the situation as it was, my daughter-in-law decided to invite me to attend the birth after all. It turned out to be a beautiful and memorable experience for all because of the spirit of love and trust between us.

Recently I heard of a birthing mother who did not want her mom to come to the birth. She had a clear conversation requesting that her mom please stay with the older child while she was giving birth. In the middle of the night, labor became active so the husband called his mother in law to come stay with the little one. When mom arrived she was with a younger daughter who she intended to leave at the home to do the job she had been asked to do.

When the Doula arrived she found her client to be very stressed which she attributed to active labor. When the time came to leave for the birthing center, some unfortunate events occurred.  The laboring woman’s mother hopped into her own car and inserted herself into the birth party without permission, completely ignoring her daughter’s wishes.

Soon after arriving at the birth center the midwife checked the Mother’s blood pressure and found it was dangerously high! Now we know that it was the presence of her mom that was creating extreme stress in the laboring woman. Tragically, during the birth, the woman’s Mom was taking selfies with her daughter’s image in the background then posting the photo’s on Facebook and Instagram completely violating her daughter’s privacy in a most unseemly way.

It can be said that the birthing experience for this Mother overall was truly lovely and rewarding, but unfortunately her mom’s inappropriate and covert actions during the birth and following, will forever taint the memory of an otherwise lovely experience.

Even though you may be the sweetest most encouraging and supportive woman in the whole world, if you are not invited to attend the birth…please be willing to honor that decision and be willing to support in some other way.

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