Should Mothers-in-law Be in the Delivery Room?

Is it your right to be there for the big moment, or an invasion of privacy?

By Georgia Witkin, Ph.D.

It's the kind of issue that's often raised in newspaper advice columns and in online discussion groups like our own Mothers-in-Law Anonymous: Do mothers-in-law (or mothers, for that matter) have a place in the delivery room when a grandchild is being born?

New moms might bemoan the invasion of privacy, the uninvited presence of a mother-in-law ruining a special and intimate family moment. They may talk of feeling bullied into letting a mother-in-law in, and then feeling obligated to include their own mother in a suddenly quite crowded hospital room. They talk of husbands unable to talk their own mothers out of plans to invade what they see as an almost sacred space (at least until the next couple needs it ...).

As for the mothers-in-law, some of them counter that this is, after all, the birth of their grandchild, and that they are entitled to be there when it happens. Those who speak more frankly might point out that the daughter-in-law's own mom, sisters, or best friends all stand poised to beat them into the delivery room to see the baby first, and what they really want is not to be left out.

What's the Etiquette?

If your daughter-in-law is about to give birth, you haven't been invited in, and you're feeling an urge to barge in anyway because you just know you should be there, here's a quick piece of advice: Don't do it. No one will be in the right state of mind to have a real heart-to-heart with you in the bustle of the delivery room. Hurtful words might be thrown at you, and the resentment your son or daughter-in-law may feel from your intrusion will not quickly be erased.

But, if the due date is a while off, and you want to make your intentions known, raise the issue with your son. Let him know you'd like to be present and let him decide whether he's willing to raise the issue with his spouse. Giving him the chance to say clearly, "We would like to be alone in the delivery room," goes over better than waiting to find out that "she doesn't want you there." (Any daughters-in-law out there reading this, my tip for you is to make sure with your husband that decisions on who is allowed in the delivery room are always communicated as team decisions.)

What a Mom Wants

If your own daughter is giving birth, and she tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you're not going to be in the room, you may be able to take in stride. After all, you've seen her at her best, her worst, and everything in-between, since the day she was born. But you don't know a daughter-in-law as well, and maybe, up to this point, your relationship has been free of stress. So if you broach the subject of being present at the moment of birth with her, and she shoots it down, try not to be resentful. Remember, this is a lady about to give birth — she may be a little on edge to begin with. And you'll be giving her a great compliment if you can accept her rejection as if it came from your own daughter.

And finally, once the issue's been settled, make a plan with your daughter-in-law for coming to help out in the hospital or when the family gets home (maybe if she just turned down your request to be in the delivery room, she'll try to make it up to you by welcoming you for an extended visit when the baby comes home).

Above all, keep in mind that even if it's your daughter-in-law's first child, she's probably eager to discover the dos and don'ts of parenting on her own. Although you may be poised to share your expertise, this may be a time to sit back and bask in the glow of a new arrival while providing his or her mom with respect, patience, and love.

There will be plenty of time to dish out your opinions as the baby gets bigger!


I have to say as a grandmother to be and a mother of two Children I am sick and tired of seeing all of the negativity that surrounds the fact that a mother-in-law wants to be in the delivery room during the delivery of her grandson or daughter. I would like to be in there to help support my son if my daughter-in-law decides that she does not her mother in The delivery room then that is somewhat of a different story but I do not want another woman besides my daughter-in-law comforting my son and I feel that my son has every right to want his mother in the delivery room, all I am reading is till he is able to squeeze a watermelon out of his vagina then it is the woman's choice. It takes two to tango and I feel like the father has just as much right to voice his opinion. Every body has given their horror stories of having their mother-in-law in the delivery room but again I delivered two children and had six people in the delivery room each time, I had lost all worry over who was going to see my vagina I was in so much pain that I really could have cared less if the New York orchestra walked in and and watched, for me I needed the support of family and friends to get in my face and tell me that I could do this and not to give up. There were times during my labor where I had to tell certain people to be quiet but mostly every body was very respectful and quiet and let me sleep I pushed for three hours and 45 minutes with my first child and again I'm going to say it if I did not have family in my face telling me that I could do this, yes I still would have delivered my son but it could've gone towards A C-section, if I would have given up and said I cannot push anymore but I had the support of my family telling me that I could do this I also could not feel either one of my legs and needed the support of several people on each Side holding my legs while I pushed. I understand that there are some women out there that only want their husband in the room but when it comes to the woman making a decision to have her mother in the room the father should also have a choice and whether or not his mother is able to enter the room and be there for support for him as this is a very scary event for him also and you can take all of the Lamaze classes you want to to try to prepare you for the birth but until you get down to actually being in labor and experiencing pain the Lamaze classes for me were a joke. I am not Anyway trying to downplay a woman's right to choose yes she is going to be spread eagle but she could also ask for her mother-in-law To please be quiet and stay at the head of her bed. I have just had it was so much negativity towards grandmothers who want to be in the delivery room and people saying it's only up to the Woman giving birth on 2017-04-11 13:35:29

No. My experience with DIL's is that they usually want you to come but to be in the room when they get back from delivery. If they want you there they will let you know. Our sons were the only one's in the delivery room and that is how it should be..It's a very personal time for the two of them on 2015-01-02 15:37:50

Is this satire? Surely it has to be, or at least that is the impression I've gotten from it.

First of all, it's not a decision made by the father of the baby, it's the mother's decision. She can take his input into consideration, sure, but she gets the final approval, unless the husband is willing to get naked, expose his genitalia, defecate, vomit, sweat, have hair glued to his face, be in a considerable amount of pain and scream his brains out, then he can have equal say, of course. Otherwise, this is a very intimate, private, vulnerable time for the mother. And guess what? It is about HER, the father, and the baby. Not you!

I am speaking as a grandmother, btw. I am a mother-in-law, a grandparent, a mother and I wouldn't even dream of asking my DIL to be in the delivery room during such a private time. I have two sons, one daughter, and they all have children. It is -not- my right to see my DIL defecate, scream, vomit and to see her vagina. I may be the grandmother, but -she- is the mother. You wrongly presume that being a grandparent to a child is the same thing as being the parent of that child, and it is not.

Don't even get me started on the whole unsolicited advice thing. Major etiquette gaffe, always has been, always will be.

amelia1951 on 2014-05-18 19:08:33

I agree with previous posters...this advice is terrible! It seems to suggest entitlement to an incredibly personal, initimate, life event. I am saying this as a person who invited both moms into the delivery room for number 1. For number 2, guess who ignored our desire for privacy in the delivery room and tried to barge in: MIL! The delivery room experierences foreshadowed MIL's expectations of barging in and seizing what she believes she is entitled to by virtue of being a grandparent. MIL has serious trouble respecting boundaries. As a result, I am less compelled to be equitable to her, although I am (mostly), because it's the right thing to do, I just don't feel it in my heart like I did in the beginning.

meghan on 2014-04-30 07:24:45

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