Dear Carolyn: So, I'm a guy with a serious girlfriend. No children, but it's been talked about — after marriage, which has also been talked about. Mid-30s.
And my girlfriend told me her preference is to have her mom in the delivery room with me when the time comes.
Let's just say, I'm mid-processing how I feel about this. On one hand, my girlfriend would be the one doing all the work. So, whatever makes her comfortable. And her mom and I get along. Hey, anything that spares me a headache I should be on board with, right?
But, my gut tells me this is a moment I would want to be just the two of us. Also, one reason my girlfriend wants her mom in the room is because she doesn't feel I would be enough of a "bulldog" (which she says in most other situations is a good thing).
I'm biased, but I'm confident in my ability to step up and proactively advocate for my girlfriend mid-chaos.
Now I'm making this some sort of litmus test. If she doesn't trust me in the delivery room, then what does that say about us? Is it really a thing that grandmas are in the delivery room (said ducking for cover from feminist grenades)? Any help would be appreciated.
— Enough of a "Bulldog"
Enough of a “Bulldog”: The only thing that had me reaching for a feminist grenade (I keep them on my desk, next to the bonbons) was your stupid aside about feminist grenades.
Come on. Everything else about your letter says you’re better than that.
A bit shaky on history, though. Women across time have gone through labor with the support of other women. So yes, it is “a thing.”
That doesn’t mean it has to be your and your maybe-someday-wife’s thing. Each couple would be wise to think and talk about this without holding back, drawing from all relevant information about their own strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses (and boundary awarenesses) of the potential birth attendant — and come to the decision that suits them best as long as it comports with relevant hospital policy. The bearer of the child gets the tiebreaker vote; you’re right about that part for sure.
It’s also possible for a woman to find her mother/sister/mother-in-law/friend/doula useful or comforting without snubbing the partner in the room; medical staff are already there, right? It’s a team effort regardless. Labors can be long, and their demands on a support team extensive. One is the hand-holder, say, and one is the fetcher of things.
Her mom can also be in the room for the hours of labor — the support marathon — and step out for the sprint of the actual birth, to preserve that moment for you.
There is just no one answer that’s “right” — except for you both to be honest with each other and with yourselves, and for you both to feel heard and respected.
So don’t brush off the “bulldog” thing, or even postpone it till gestation time. That’s your real issue here: What does this say about “us” (including joint parenthood)?
It’s the right question to pose to her, and answer for yourself by observing day-to-day life. See what she says about your role in your lives together, then let actions confirm what she means.