The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Expectant dad feels torn loyalties


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

Three months from now, I am slated to be in a good friend’s wedding party a week before my wife is due to give birth to our first (three-hour plane ride away). I committed to doing this before my wife got pregnant.

She doesn’t want me to go, which I can understand, but she has a good friend who can stay with her while I’m gone. She said she won’t tell me not to go but says that if she gives birth while I’m gone, she’s going to name the baby her favorite baby name (which I don’t like). She says she’s scared and doesn’t want to do it alone.

I say not only is it unlikely she’ll give birth during the two days I’m gone, but her girlfriend will be with her. I think she’s just trying to punish me — she doesn’t care for this particular friend. Is she being as unreasonable as I think she’s being?

Baby-Wedding Impasse

Um. Some people are excited to be there for the birth of their children. For their own reasons? And not just to keep the laboring mother appeased?

[Eye rub.]

I’m going to try to answer this straight.

A week before her due date is prime time for her to give birth. It is not at all unreasonable (or punitive*) for her to be concerned that you will be a three-hour flight away when she goes into labor.

She doesn’t have to be a grudge-holder to be unable to forget 20 years from now that you made this choice when you were expecting your firstborn. If you want to avoid making a decision that will put a permanent dent in your marriage, but you still want to give attending the wedding your best shot, then you and your wife can talk to her doctor about this — about how “unlikely” your wife really is to give birth early, and how even a routine birth can be eventful.

If assurances are as elusive as I suspect, then YOU STAY HOME SO YOU DON’T RISK MISSING THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD. Being in this together has the potential to be one of the most exciting, romantic, marriage-cementing things you can do, and I want to weep that I have to spell this out.

Even having a rush-home-on-the-next-flight plan is dicey. First labors tend to be long, so technically you might have time, but it could also introduce needless stress for your wife, and stress is known to interfere with childbirth.

*If you believe her capable of wanting more to punish you than have you with her during childbirth; if she’s not joking about using the hated name; and/or if you really see yourself as interchangeable with her friend in the delivery room, then, for the sake of this baby, please consider marriage counseling or a reputable marriage workshop. Wow.

Re: Impasse:

Does this portion have any merit? “I committed to doing this before my wife got pregnant”? What if you’re going to be the best man?


Not a speck of merit. And if neither groom nor best man gets this, I weep afresh.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style,

1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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