He left his wife, but wants to watch baby’s delivery

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 14, 2011

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m seven months pregnant. Six weeks ago, my husband confirmed my suspicions that he has been having an affair. She is now his girlfriend and he has moved in with her.

Above all else, he wanted me to know he didn’t intend to hurt me and that he wishes he could control his feelings, but he can’t. He also wanted to make sure I understand his intentions of being a loving, involved father. All very comforting in the wee hours of the morning, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I know that I have no choice but to accept this, and that I have to do my best to make sure my baby gets to enjoy an uncomplicated relationship with her dad.


My husband wants to see the birth, and his entire family was planning on being at the hospital as well. I don’t want any of them there. Many of them knew about the girlfriend but kept it from me, and I don’t want my husband to have the satisfaction of comforting me when I’m in pain. Do I have the right to tell them this, in some collected, nonconfrontational way?

Expectant mom

You have the right to decide who supports you in the delivery room. You have the right to tell your husband he’s a source of stress, which is bad for labor. If he thinks that’s unfair, then he shouldn’t have cheated and left.

And if his family doesn’t like your decision, then they can talk to your husband about it.

When you explain this to your husband, tone is everything. You are absolutely right — and deserving of a standing ovation — to want to keep your anger out of your baby’s relationship with her dad, so avoid phrases like, “I don’t want you to have the satisfaction of comforting me when I’m in pain.” That says your decision is punitive — and if that indeed is what you’re after, then please reconsider your choice.

If instead you’re just trying to minimize stress during childbirth, then let him know calmly and kindly that you want to focus on the birth without the added pain and sadness of having him there with you. It’s more than fair to ask, considering.

And you can also say you’ll make sure he knows in time to hold his newborn — also a fair peace offering.

I hope you have a supportive parent or friend who can be there. If not, then please consider a doula. Labor takes time, and you’ll want warm, inoffensive company.

Re: Mom:

You do have control over whom you tell when you are going into labor. If you fear either the cheating dad or his family is just going to show up, don’t tell them you are in labor until after you have the baby. You should also make sure the hospital is aware that you would like your presence there to be confidential. He gave up his right to be there when he walked out on you.

Anonymous

True, thanks. I think it’s best, though, to assign the friend/parent who’s with you to call the father at some point, so he can greet the baby. She wants him arm’s length from her, but not from the child.

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