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!


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

The only advice for this should be: You never ask if you can be in the delivery room. It's rude and it puts the expecting couple on the spot; not only that, but it reeks of entitlement. Most of these very women probably wouldn't have wanted their own mothers-in-law in the delivery room, yet expect their son and his wife to extend the invitation.

My mother-in-law is a tricky one and waited to get me alone to ask me this question. We were at a restaurant, my husband left the table, and she immediately turned to me with the sneakier way of asking: "Who is going to be in the delivery room with you?" I immediately answered, "Just your son and me." I've seen how tit-for-tat she is with her daughter's in-laws (i.e., they're all very competitive and want to be 'best'), and I know she would've flipped a lid and immediately insisted on barging in had I told her my mom would be in the room (she isn't going to be, though, for clarification).

She then told me about how she and her daughter's mother-in-law were in the room for her daughter's delivery. Well, good on your daughter for not minding having extended family in the room, but it's not for me. Not at the conception, you aren't invited into the delivery room.

As others are saying, if you want to up your chances of being invited into the delivery room, be kind, cordial and sweet from the beginning. Take a genuine interest in her and her life, even if she doesn't immediately reciprocate.

My in-laws have spent 6 or so years more or less ignoring me. The one big event we had -- our wedding -- they flipped out because the person we designated as photographer didn't get enough pictures of them and their grandbaby. Note that they were not at all concerned about getting some nice pictures with the people actually getting married.

Then they find out I'm pregnant, start giving unsolicited advice and slyly trying to ask if they can be in the delivery room? They've got to be joking.

RedSpeck on 2014-04-29 08:28:51

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