Saying ‘No’ to Unwanted Birth Support People

Saying 'No' to Unwanted Birth Support People

Birthing is one of the most intimate, instinctive and personal experiences of a woman’s life.

For most people, it’s very easy to understand that a woman in labour will need and appreciate as much privacy as possible.

However sometimes, it’s those who are closest to us that are unable to respect that all important need for privacy, when we need it the most.

Family Psychologist, Daniel Chable, finds this is a common issue within families. He believes only those people who were at the conception should be at the birth, unless:

  • There are specific reasons for others to be there, like midwives, doulas etc;
  • The woman who is about to give birth makes a specific request (preferably in writing) for others to be there.

Some women couldn’t think of anything better than having their mother with them while they give birth, but that doesn’t mean that you should be made to feel guilty for not wanting family there – these are your birth wishes and not a family Christmas bash. You also have the right to change you mind at any time.

Daniel says, “The most important thing at such a time is for the pregnant woman to feel as relaxed and as comfortable as she possibly can. She should not feel obligated to have any other person, apart from the father, present at the birth. She should not be made to feel guilty if she doesn’t want anyone else there. If the people who presumably care about her, like her parents, have any sensitivity to her needs and best interests, they would respect her wishes and behave accordingly. The birth is actually nobody else’s business apart from the new mum, the dad and the baby.”

Chloe recalls her mother-in-law’s insistence on telling the family she would be there during the birth of her grandchild. “My mother-in-law drove me crazy throughout my pregnancy with this. She never once asked me if I wanted her there but told all her friends and family that she would be there. She had even been telling everyone that she was taking time off work to be at the birth.”

How Who Is At Your Birth Can Impact Your Labour – And The Outcome

It’s more than just a matter of respecting a woman’s decision to birth her baby in privacy – she may already feel apprehensive, anxious or frightened about how the birth might unfold.

This can have a negative impact, especially if she has extra stresses of people being present who she doesn’t want to be there. The birthing mother may become even more nervous, self-concious or feel the pressure of performance anxiety.

Doctor Sarah Buckley writes about the effect of adrenaline (produced as a result of anxiety) on the birthing mother. She says, “The hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are known as the fight-or-flight hormones, or, collectively, as catecholamines (CAs). They are secreted from the adrenal gland above the kidney, in response to stresses such as fright, anxiety, hunger or cold, as well as excitement, when they activate the sympathetic nervous system for fight or flight… high CA levels inhibit oxytocin production, therefore slowing or inhibiting labour.”

So if a mother-to-be is stressed during her labour, it's not good news for the mother or her baby. It could slow or stop her labour from progressing, which can result with interventions to speed things up. For example, a labour augmentation with synthetic oxytocin (same drug used for induction) might be ordered. Pain medication may be requested to escape the stress of the situation and to provide a feeling of control — or to escape the pain of the augmented labour.

Ultimately, where there is no progress or if the baby becomes distressed from the stronger or longer labour, a c-section may become necessary. A slow or stalled labour in a hospital can not only be uncomfortable and exhausting for the mother, but it will often result in an augmentation to hurry things up.

Just Like Sex, Giving Birth Thrives With Respect And Privacy

Some birth advocates talk about how making a baby is exactly like making love – and should be treated with the same respect and privacy.

Doctor Buckley writes, “Some writers have observed that, for a labouring woman, having a baby has a lot of parallels with making a baby: the same hormones, the same parts of the body, the same sounds and the same needs for feelings of safety and privacy. How would it be to attempt to make love in the conditions under which we expect women to give birth?”

Juliette remembers feeling horrified and vulnerable when her parents walked into the delivery suite when she was in labour.

“They got to the hospital and just decided to tell the hospital staff that they were here to see me. The staff let them into the room I was in (hooked up to the syntocinon drip, having some pretty intense contractions at the time) and they both just walked in and started talking to me. I couldn’t believe it. I felt so vulnerable, invaded and kinda betrayed. They stayed for ages and it was all I could do not to scream at them. I felt like crying. I know I was holding back (labour) because I didn’t feel that I was emotionally in a safe place where I could “let go” and just let it all happen. I was so tense. Even after they left (about an hour later) I was stewing about it for the rest of the labour. Something to focus my anger on I guess!”

Kerry’s mother also arrived uninvited into the birth suite. “Prior to giving birth to my first child, I made it very clear that I only wanted my husband there – i’m a pretty private person and only felt comfortable having him there. Although this was made clear to mother-in-law, she turned up anyway and came into the birth suite while I was in labour. I was just gob-smacked. After she left, I was in floods of tears and found the birth experience more stressful to cope with than I imagine it would have been if she had stayed away and left me and my husband to share the experience alone as planned.”

Because Kerrie’s mother had a previous history of inviting herself into the delivery suite while Kerrie’s sister was labouring, Kerrie had already thought ahead. “We decided that we wouldnt be telling anyone when we went into labour. It annoyed many people, especially parents, but the decision was ours and no-one else.”

What If My Mother / Mother-In-Law Is Angry Or Upset With Me For Saying No?

Daniel says, “Generally I believe that most mothers probably have a genuine wish to be supportive and helpful and that setting a limit can leave them feeling hurt and upset – sometimes this can be expressed by being angry with you.”

Daniel’s Tips:

#1: Let her know you can understand she might be feeling upset and hurt, however you certainly had not intended for her to feel that way. Add that you and your partner would really value her contribution to your baby’s life after the birth.

#2: You might also let her know you have really valued her contribution to your life up until now, but you and your partner are clear about your wishes with regards to whom you would both like to be present (apart from yourselves).

The technique may be described as kicking and stroking, in that you maintain your limits (kicking) but acknowledge valuable qualities (stroking).

Always Let The Hospital / Midwives Know

It’s a good idea to let the midwives know if you feel family turning up unexpectedly is going to be a problem or if you don’t want any visitors. They often deal with these situations and you can even have your partner remind them when you arrive in the delivery suite to be sure.

Create your own sign to stick on the door of your room — something simple, but to the effect of, ‘strictly no visitors please.’ This may not only fend off visitors, but remind the midwives that you don’t want any either. Include your preference for no visitors in your birth plan, but make sure the staff working on the day of your labour either read your birth plan or are aware of your request.

It's a difficult thing to say no to those who you love. But once your gorgeous little bundle has arrived, it wont be long until it's all forgotten. If your friend or family member is unable to move past it, remember, it's their stuff, not yours. You're well within your right to say no, and don't owe anyone the right to be present at birth – because you will never forget the day you gave birth, how you felt and how it turned out.

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Kelly Winder CONTRIBUTOR

Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.


22 comments

  1. How do you tell friends who assume they are welcomed not to come . I am scheduled for a ceserian section and my recovery is difficult and really dont want any visitors except my mom and kids other than my husband . Yet friends want to invade our time and space with the new baby .

    1. Tell them the door will not be opened to unexpected visitors. Put a sign on your door to say exactly that. And if they still knock on the door, do not answer it. If they care, they’ll call ahead to see if you’re up for visitors, or if you need them to bring anything to the house for you. Like the phone, the door is there for YOUR convenience, not theirs.

  2. There shouldn’t be any visitors while you’re in labor any ways. Unless you want them there. I would like to think that the staff would have half a mind to at least ask you before someone walks in!

  3. This is totally what’s going on in my life right now. I’m 35 weeks and my boyfriends mother is throwing a temper tantrum because I don’t want her in my delivery room. Even goes so far as to say that since she can’t be in the delivery room she’s not coming to the hospital to see the baby at all. She is mad bc I am letting my soon to be sister in law In the room and not her. But I’m extremely close to her. And my whole family lives hours and hours away. Am I being to harsh? This is her first grandchild.

    1. Here’s why you are not being too harsh. When you are in labor, you are already stressed out. My best friend ended up with an emergency C-Section because her mother-in-law wouldn’t leave the room and the stress caused her and the baby to go into distress. Her blood pressure wouldn’t go down after the baby was born, and after the hospital kicked the mother-in-law out, it immediately went down and it was smooth sailing from there.

  4. Im almost 39weeks and am thinking just me and my husband in room now. My decision changed and dont know whow to tell anyone. It changed cause my mother likes to butt in when im talking to dr ir even my husband. Also she likes to make things about her. So unfortunately i cant say no to just her but possibly all 3people i was planning to have and just keep it husband and i. I just dont know how to break the news to all. I stress ill upset them

    1. Just don’t tell the people you’re in labor. Go to the hospital do your thing and when the baby is here and you are ready for visitors call or post on social media.

  5. With my first my mother in law kept pushing past the nurses who told her she was not aloud in. My husband didn’t know what to do with her. Eventually he told her she had to get out. So when we were getting ready for our second, I told her, well ahead of time so she could process, that I felt very vulnerable and exposed in labor and because of that I would be having a super private birth. But we would call as soon as the baby was born, so everyone could celebrate with us. I had my mom with me as well, but that was between me and my family. We did not announce baby coming at all until after the birth. My second experience was amazing and full of love. not anxiety, embarrassment, and disrespect I felt with the first. I am not harboring ill feelings any more, but the second birth was wonderful in all of its crazy and private glory!

  6. My daughter had her first baby two weeks ago. She called everyone to let them know she was going to hospital. Her partners Mother and Auntie decided to drive to the Hospital from the Sunshine Coast, they went to the labour room and stayed the whole night in the room with her, so can you imagine how mortified I was when I visited her the next day, still in labour and these two women still in the labour room, this was 4pm in the afternoon, she had her partner with her the whole time, so I didn’t think it was right for me to stay, but they did stay, the only time they left to sit in the waiting room was when it was time for her to give birth. So much for respect and privacy

    1. My son imformed me a few days ago that he and his girlfriend do not want anyone at the hospital, she is scheduled for a cesarean in 2 days. I was shocked and cant even began to explain my heartache. This is his first child. She has been trying to isolate him for several months. My husband and I have been there all the way from helping them obtain their own place as they have been living with her mom whom she has never had one positive thing to say. We helped them obtain a car so they wd have no car payment so they cd afford to l8ve on own. Between his dad that lives 6 hours away, we have provided them with everything possible needed for the baby. We have been in full family support. The excuse is they want time to bond with the baby,which I dont buy into. You dont bond in hours or even a few days. I think they are being selfish and disrespectful. After the girlfriend received everything on her wish list she then has my son to make it known we are not welcome. I don’t even know who this son is. When my children were born, I couldn’t wait for family and friends to see them. Some day they may become grandparents and they won’t like the pain of being told to stay away.I dont know of any other friends or family that has taken this b9nd8ng thing to such an extreme, but according to what I have researched the last few days there are many selfish human beings that dont care how much they hirt the parents that brought them into this world. A baby is not a possession.

      1. I completely agree. Calm down. This isnt your baby. Im scheduled for a c section in january and ive already let everyone know that its juat going to be me and my husband at the hospital. If you dont like it, i dont care, ita my baby not yours.

      2. You are a cruel sounding woman. This young pregnant mother, needs privacy , not stress. She needs privacy and serenity as she prepares to give birth. She needs to be relaxed and calm so that she can heal.
        This is her birth, not yours, and you can’t get mad because she doesn’t want you all up in her space. Your son is not the one who is giving birth. He can’t tell her how to be a patient. He has no say in her patient status. He must respect her wishes, because if he was going through something like surgery with his penis and testicles, he wouldn’t want her dad to invade his space.
        So respect this woman’s privacy. See, she us the one who gives birth sweeetie. You need to back up and be happy for them. You are not the parent here, only the grandparent.

      3. Wow you are a TERRIBLE person! I am a nurse in labor in delivery, and it’s selfish people like you who only care about themselves (It’s MY grandchild, that’s MY son, I bought him and her EVERYTHING, I’M hurt). Suck it up, buttercup, and understand that this is NOT ABOUT YOU. It is about the woman giving birth, ALWAYS. Wow, your selfishness is really something. And you don’t understand bonding, and neither do your friends? That’s OK, because clearly your daughter-in-law does. I’m glad she does, she is doing the right thing for her and her baby, and your son is doing the right thing for his child and his wife. YOUR SON has a new family, you are no longer his only family. His child and partner comes first before you and anyone else. Stop being selfish, and TRY to understand things from HER perspective.

      4. Donna,
        I can completely relate to where you are coming from – you have legitimate concerns that your son’s girlfriend is using birth as an excuse to exclude his parents which may be a form of manipulation and is a red flag if it is.

        As for not allowing grandparents to show up to visit during labor, it goes both ways. As a laboring mother, no, I didn’t want parents hanging out for long during labor but I did appreciate their presence and support and they had enough consideration to leave after a short visit. No, I did not want them there for witnessing the delivery.

        Did I bond less with daughter number 3 because I let my husband and mother-in-law hold her before I did? No. She and I bonded just fine. I enjoyed watching my mother-in-law’s face light up with joy when she held her for the first time. She didn’t know I hadn’t held her yet and still doesn’t know, that was 17 years ago.

        Am I hurt that my daughter is currently in labor with both families’ first grand child and she and her husband don’t want anyone there at all? Somewhat, but I understand. It’s their right, their choice, their experience, their memories, their child. This exclusion isn’t helpful in bringing together families but rather seems divisive.

        I wholeheartedly agree with you that bonding is a process and happens over time, not in moment of perfect bliss.

  7. I feel like you should acknowledge that sometimes the father shouldn’t be in the room either. Ultimately it is the mother alone who goes through labor and needs AND deserves to have a low stress environment. My ex husband was the biggest stressor durring my births. And due to his selfishness, I compromised with his wishes that it be just the two of us in the room and he left me *entirely* ALONE for 45 minutes of active labor. Had I had my Mom there as I wished, I would have felt safe not abandoned.

  8. There’s another side to all this: Imagine being left alone after the birth? Husband goes home a few hours after the birth to take care of older children, no extended family comes to visit and see the baby while in the hospital, all in the name of respecting our privacy. It sucked! I was lonely! Happened all 4 times.

  9. Stacey,
    No matter how you look at it, a woman needs privacy during labor and delivery. So what if she is all alone for a while. The husband should not have left her so quickly anyway. People need to shut up talking about pregnant women wanting privacy. Would you all be screaming at men if they wanted privacy during their penis exam?

  10. Hi,

    I’m pregnant with my first baby and the only person I want in the delivery room is my partner.
    I also don’t want any visitors while in the hospital. I would much rather see my mother in law and the rest of his family after all this ‘hospital’ experience. How can I explain this to them. Will I upset them if I tell them my wishes?
    I really can’t handle all this excitement around pregnancy and all I really want is peace and alone time with my partner and my baby.

    Thank you.
    Mary

  11. When I was almost going to have my first child (the last month of nine) I was staying at a woman’s shelter for people specifically about to give birth. My partner at the time was looking for an apartment so that my child and I (and him) have a place to settle into. I specifically told him I don’t want to have to live in any place in the same hometown as his parents. His parents made me feel so uncomfortable about being with child. They told me they didn’t want me going to a midwife (since that’s what I wanted) and wanted me to go to a hospital instead.
    He picked a place that was in the same small hometown as his parents. It really stressed me out. I didn’t want them to know about the baby when they would come because I knew they wouldn’t respect my need for privacy since I made it clear I wanted to be alone (just me and partner). My partner accepted a phone his dad gave him because he knew we don’t have any form of transportation so I thought he was just being nice and offering us the ride with no consequences. But they came to the birthing suite anyway and asked to be let in. My partner came back to ask me (but he should have known that coming back to ask me would have just made me look like an asshole if I said no). So I felt pressured to let them come because I figured it would be okay for them to come as long as they are just thankful to see the baby. But instead they were all but grateful and complained that they were waiting so long and hadn’t had supper and so when I was being driven back home they went back to their own house first to eat dinner and tried to get me to come inside but I just wanted to get home and rest because I had just come out of labour and was tired but my partner’s mom just called me ungrateful and selfish for not coming into their house. I already have a history of suicide attempts under my belt and to this day I still don’t know how or why I am still alive. I really just wanted them to be happy to see their grandchild but instead in the end my first birthing experience was just every sort of terrible. My parents hadn’t been told at all about the baby and my partner’s parents got to know AND be there for the day the baby was delivered. My parents never knew until four days after the baby was born and the reason why was because they had always made me feel bad about anything to do with pre-marital and stuff like that (catholic background). Instead of my partner’s parents saying how thankful they were to know about and see the baby they instead just complained that they didn’t have supper that day.

  12. As a first time grandparent to be, I was recently told I would not be welcomed to my grandchild’s birth, by my daughter & her boyfriend, i.e. not at the labour (didn’t want to) but not told of when “my child” goes into labour. Advise given by BF, Midwife, Doula, Drs., Books or her own conclusions and goodness knows what other fads are out there in 2017.

    A knife going through my heart wouldn’t have hurt so much.

    This is a daughter that we have always been there for, throughout her pregnancy and every time since she was born. We used to be very close but after some soul searching I guess that was all a lie.

    Don’t know who what where or how or if there were outside influences or just her own conclusions,
    but found this analogy from her or those who advised her very selfish and short sighted.

    I’ve read everyone says, “they are your parents they will get over it”. I really don’t think so, that you ever really get over something like this. Even if fences are mended this will leave a huge emotional gap and will affect how we communicate/help them in the future, so hope you guys are there to pitch in. So stop telling young-to-be parents that their own parents don’t matter and are secondary unless they go to them in crocodile tears wanting something.

    Who do they turn to when they have their first after birth crisis, i.e. whether health or financial or any other day issues. You guys I suppose. I certainly don’t feel my opinion matters anymore so not bothering.

    You guys think you know everything but will you be at the other end of the phone when they need that emergency babysitting that grandparents are supposed to drop everything and run over, or are you going to help with their downpayment for their first house. ARE YOU WISE GUYS. OF COURSE YOU WLL NOT BE.

    Congratulations – You have ruined a possible long term grandparents and other extended families relationships and bonding that also happens with them.

    No, we cannot and will not forget, so stop talking for u, we don’t authorize you to be grandparents or extended families voices.

    My kid has girlfriends who recently gave birth without any family around and envied my kid cause she still has hers, only problem I wish now I was her friend’s mom who would have wanted me around and I would have spoilt her to death as mother’s are supposed to do (or used to do in the old fashioned days).

    This situation has caused me to reconsider my relationship with my daughter, the endless privileges she has had without limitations and see her in a true light, as being self centred, selfish, self-serving and no compassion.

    Come on guys, we’ve all given birth without excluding our love ones and extended family. They were helpful in providing meals, cleaning and emotional support (not paid help for a couple of days, but for years to come).

    You want to take over the mother’s role in my daughter’s upcoming giving birth to my first grandchild. You want to create nuclear families. She’s all yours. Yes, I know I am being selfish also ( but last time I looked I have my own rights too) AND ITS ABOUT FREAKING TIME AND TIME TO THINK ABOUT ME AND THE REST OF MY EXISTING FAMILY. How will this affect seeing my innocent grandchild, well one thing for sure is, we won’t be blackmailed.

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