Long before I even got pregnant, I knew I didn't want my mom in the room during delivery. It was a combination of wanting just my husband and I there, completely on our own, as we brought our first child into the world and my mom's strong personality — her penchant for sharing her opinion and usually wanting things done her way — that sealed the deal for me. That's not to say that my mom and I aren't close. In fact, we're very much connected to one another. I knew quite well that she would've loved to be in the room, but I also knew that she would've never wanted to be there uninvited.
Around 38 weeks pregnant when I told my mom my wishes for how I envisioned things going once I went into labor and the role I wanted her and my dad to play — minimal participation while still being respectful of their place in my life — she was much more composed than I had expected her to be. Throughout my life, I never had to guess what my mom was thinking about a situation I was facing or a decision I had to make, because she has always made her opinion known, loud and clear. As her adult daughter, I haven't always agreed with everything she's said and felt, but it's just who she is. However, I was surprised my mom wasn't more disappointed by my decision to keep her out of the delivery room. In fact, it was a huge relief.
I told her that we'd let her and my dad know when I went into labor, keep them updated, and then call them when we were ready for them to meet our daughter.
The years leading up to my pregnancy were often scattered with interactions and remarks from my mom about how I "needed" to have a baby. I'm sure it's every mom's dream to have a grandchild from their firstborn, but I hadn't appreciated the incessant commentary on when I should start my family that began pretty much day one of my marriage. This was my decision and my life. Though I wanted a close bond between my mom and my future children, I also wanted room to be myself — something both my parents have had a hard time allowing for. Drawing the line for myself once I did get pregnant was a display of the separation of what used to be and what is now. I was also concerned that if I didn't make that distinction in the labor and delivery room then I might fall back into how I tend to handle things when my mom is around, which is usually just to go with what she wants since that's easier than putting up a fight. Stunningly, there was no fight.
Perhaps more than anything else in my life, my mom understood what it was like to have a baby for the first time, and she graciously accepted my desires for my birthing experience. Instead of being apart of and present for the big event from start to finish as she might have hoped, I told her that we'd let her and my dad know when I went into labor, keep them updated, and then call them when we were ready for them to meet our daughter. I'd planned for however much time I felt necessary after my daughter's birth for just me and my husband to have as special bonding time together.
If she were in the room, my ability to remain calm and make the choice for myself would've been compromised, and even if the same decision had been reached, it probably would've felt a little less like my own.
As my due date approached and then passed, I was increasingly eager to experience the big finale of my pregnancy. But my daughter's birth story didn't go like I'd imagined. I was at my doctor's appointment four days after my due date when he explained he wanted to induce me since I didn't have much amniotic fluid left in my womb. We went home that morning, gathered a few things not already in my hospital bag, and told my parents the news. Once at the hospital, it was going to be a while before I actually went into labor, so I called my parents so they could visit. When I wasn't dilated enough for anything to really happen by late afternoon, I told my mom to go ahead and go home for the night.
By late night, I was feeling consistently stronger contractions. I was getting through them with my husband right by my side lovingly offering words of encouragement and strength, but as I was still only 5 centimeters dilated, and we knew this was likely going to continue into the morning hours. We decided he should try to get some rest on the couch in my hospital room for the final stretch of labor.
That's when I called my mom.
All along, I remembered the calm support of my mother the night before.
She sat with me through hours more and more of contractions coming more and more frequently. She told me how well I was doing. She stroked my hair. She did exactly what I didn't know I needed her to do: be my mom. On this side of being a mother myself, I can now imagine the delight it was for her to be there for me. I hadn't planned for this special time between us in my birthing arrangements, and it was her willingness to go with my initial game plan that gave me the desire and empowered me to ask her to be with me when I really needed her.
By mid-morning the next day, 23 hours after I'd arrived at the hospital, my body was still not fully ready to deliver my daughter, but I was growing too tired to keep up with the contractions without pain medicine, so I'd it ordered and asked my mom to go home once again. She understood my request yet again and said she'd be back soon with my dad to wait in the waiting room instead. Another two hours after that, I opted for an epidural and was able to get some rest myself. But all along, I remembered the calm support of my mother the night before.
When our daughter was under distress, and my own heart rate climbed higher than ideal, there were no other voices in my head of what to do except my doctor's, my husband's, and most importantly my own. We decided to have a c-section. Whether my mom would have meant to have this effect or not, if she were in the room, my ability to remain calm and make the choice for myself would've been compromised, and even if the same decision had been made, it probably would've felt a little less like my own.
It's not usually in her nature to "let go." But she did — not just for me, but also for my daughter.
My husband updated my parents while I was prepped for the surgery. They didn't know how long they'd be waiting to meet their granddaughter after she was delivered. My previous plan was to take my time with her once she was in my arms, but when that time finally came, it didn't take me long to want my parents to join us in seeing the most incredible tiny thing I'd ever laid my eyes on. The four of us sat in that room together enjoying her long-awaited presence. An hour or so later, we sent away my parents to be alone. And my mom happily left.
In the months since then, I look back on my birth experience and I know that my mother gave me a precious gift during those days. It's not usually in her nature to "let go." But she did — not just for me, but also for my daughter. Having gracefully accepted my wish for her to not be in the room, she gave me the freedom to be myself and to be true to my own judgment calls instead of hers or anyone else's. Essentially, she gave me the freedom to become a mother. I wonder what it would've looked like had I not set a boundary for myself, even with my mother's truest intentions. I won't ever regret asking her not to be in the room, because the freedom to be myself made all the difference.