The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Husband won’t tell his mom she can’t be in the delivery room

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Sept. 23, 2007.

Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law is insisting she should be in the delivery room when my son is born. I don’t want extra people in the room, anyone other than my husband and my own mother. (I will be trying to do this drug-free.)

My husband feels as if he is between a rock and a hard place, since his mother and I are both adamant. But I think I get to choose, since I will be the one in labor.

I already told my mother-in-law I am uncomfortable with her presence during delivery, and she apparently spent a week crying about it, much to the dismay of my husband and father-in-law, who are pressuring me to change my mind, because they are used to giving her her way when she does the drama thing.

But I feel it is important to set some boundaries and not be manipulated. Do you think I am being unfair?

— Va.

Va.: I think I am chromosomally incapable of sympathizing with anyone who would bully her way into the delivery room of a woman who has said to her face that she isn’t wanted there.

Therefore, by extension, there’s no sympathy here for your husband, either, who is not between a rock and a hard place but between a sane and a stupid place. A bed and a couch place. A forehead and a hand place.

If he were writing to me, I would suggest he avail himself of this valuable opportunity to practice being your husband and your child's father, by letting his mother know where her family leaves off and where his begins. He can say very sympathetically that he understands how much this means to her, but that you and he have made your decision (note the two words of crucial backup): that you're the one running this marathon, your needs are paramount and the matter is closed.

But he isn’t writing to me, so all I can do is encourage you to hold that boundary and to pass along my suggestion to your husband. Maybe with a bit more diplomacy.

It might help, too, if you can find some other bone you wouldn’t mind throwing your mother-in-law’s way. (Just to be clear: I do mean that figuratively.) Invite her, say, to help you pick out X or decide on Y. Her tactics notwithstanding, she does deserve some acknowledgment that she’s not just “extra people”; she’s the grandma.

Finally, don’t be afraid, just this once, to let others do the dirty enforcement work. You’ll have enough to worry about, so warn the obstetric nurses that they need to barricade the door. It’s okay: They don’t have to face your mother-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner.

Dear Carolyn: Who normally pays for the wedding pictures: the bride and groom, or the parents of the bride?

— A.

A.: “Normally.” How quaint.

Normally, the person who wants something pays for it, and the only exception (aside from a court order) is when someone else volunteers. Because you’re asking, I have to believe the people who want them — the happy couple, yeah? — either can’t or don’t want to pay, and her parents haven’t volunteered.

If so, then the bride and groom either find the money, skip the photographer or take enough luxuries out of the picture so they can record the ones they keep.