Welcoming a new baby into the family can be a wonderful experience. From the little one’s birth to parents bringing junior home, there are many magical moments that relatives can share. But when certain clan members feel that they should be more involved than the parents would like, sometimes it’s not the baby who is throwing a tantrum.
So when a woman complained in a “Dear Prudence” letter about her daughter-in-law banishing her from witnessing the arrival of her first grandchild, it caught the attention of many readers. Introducing herself in February 2018 as a “second-class grandma,” the clearly put-out lady cut right to the chase.
The woman’s story naturally sparked a plethora of reactions, not to mention a candid response from Prudie, a.k.a. Mallory Ortberg, author of Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column and podcast. The story begins with the upset grandma-to-be sharing the happy news that her son Steven and his wife, Julia, were due to welcome their first-born into the world in March 2018. To add to the joy, the complainant said the baby would be her first grandchild.
But where other relatives might be popping open a bottle, this mother-in-law had other plans. After revealing her otherwise “good relationship” with her daughter-in-law, the “second-class grandma” complained about not having been allocated a bedside slot to witness her grandchild’s big entrance. “I had what I thought was a good relationship with Julia, but I find myself devastated,” the woman wrote.
She added, “Julia has decided only Steven and her mother will be allowed in the delivery room when she gives birth.” It was clear that the grandma-to-be deplored the pregnant woman’s decision to not allow her to be a guide through childbirth. Furthermore, it became obvious that she had not managed to take her daughter-in-law’s decision lightly.
But when she’d begged her son and his beloved to change their minds about the decision, she’d learned that Julia “wouldn’t feel comfortable” with her in the room while she pushed out her first-born. This hadn’t convinced Steven’s mom, though, as she believed a nursing career spanning four decades was enough to override that feeling. Indeed, she’d claimed that she had seen it all before.
As she put it to Prudie, “I reminded [Julia] that I was a nurse for 40 years, so there is nothing I haven’t seen.” But of course, she hadn’t seen quite everything; her daughter-in-law’s birth canal was still a mystery to her. That fact had not satisfied her, however, and she continued to argue her case.
She said she had approached her son directly, imploring him to convince his wife to change her mind. However, he had refused to badger his pregnant wife into allowing his mother to witness her in the throes of labor. Consequently, the grandma-to-be had criticized his reluctance to collude, accusing him of being afraid of his significant other.
Given Steven’s deaf ear, then, the woman had turned next to other sources of comfort. Amazingly, she had called up Julia’s parents, aiming to get them onto her side. But “grandparents united” was not to be, as the grandma-to-be had been met with rejection once more.
With that in mind, she continued her complaint to Prudie. She explained that she had “felt nothing but heartache since learning I would be banned from the delivery room.” The awkward situation had even left her feeling unable to talk to her daughter-in-law and even questioning her relationship with her son.
Her appeal concluded with an account of what a good mother she had been over the years, and she rounded off her letter by asking the agony aunt for ideas on how she might make the couple see how “cruelly” they were treating her.
The qualified nurse explained finally to Prudie that Julia had said she would have to wait outside the delivery room until Julia and the baby were made “presentable.” After 40 years of patient care, this did not go down well. Indeed, the upset woman moaned to Prudie that it was “unfair.” She announced, “I no longer feel valued.”
After turning to the columnist for support, the angry mother-in-law received a less than encouraging response. It began with Prudie announcing that the woman is “entirely in the wrong!” Prudie continued, “I say this in the hopes that you will be braced and supported by the realization that you have been acting badly and that you need to change.”
As her letter quickly spread across social media, the complaint sparked fury among readers. Self-proclaimed “Utahn” and Slate writer Nicole Cliffe expressed her shock at the mother-in-law’s demands, for instance. “‘Unfairness.’ There is no fairness in birth!” she tweeted. “The person having the baby invites you to be in the room or not, and if the answer is ‘not,’ you do not make a fuss.”
Other Twitter users agreed with Cliffe and shared similar labor ward disaster stories in support of Julia’s decision. MMR tweeted a story about a colleague who had been joined by her brother-in-law, his wife and their three children during childbirth. Meanwhile, Donut Dad relayed an account of how he and his partner had been sent on a grandma guilt trip while their offspring had been delivered.
These responses only mirrored the advice offered by Prudie. Consequently, the riled relative was swiftly knocked off her perch. “This is not about you,” the columnist reminded her. “You are going to get to see your grandchild the day they are born. Nothing is being taken from you.”
The advice columnist added insult to injury by showing full support of the decision made by Steven and Julia. “Your daughter-in-law and your son are drawing a totally appropriate boundary,” Prudence said. And if that wasn’t enough, the adviser continued, “Frankly, I can see why they don’t want you in the room.” And Scary Mommy put it very clearly for her, “BOUNDARIES, GRANDMA. BOUNDARIES.” Ouch!
Even a fellow paternal grandmother advised the aggrieved woman to back off. Indeed, Mirror reader Charl1963 sympathized with Steven’s mom as a mother of boys herself. However, she did suggest that any woman giving birth would rather have her own mother by her side.
The mom-of-five tried to console the support seeker by telling her that she would have “plenty of time after to bond with your grandchild.” After all this, the woman may have welcomed one reader’s thought that it was “sweet that she cares enough.”
In the final analysis, though, Prudie had a top tip for the grandma-to-be to take away. The columnist said, “Let this go. Do not rob this moment of its joy by keeping score and demanding more.”