Missing my mother

After a lot of discussion, S. and I have decided that only he and I will be present for the birth of our daughter, and the only visitors allowed to the hospital after her birth will be my brother and his wife. Part of this is a function of geography – both sets of our parents live eight hours away in opposite directions – and part of this is a function of S.’s very strong desire to keep E.’s birth a private event.

See, for a while I tried, quite unsuccessfully, to convince him to let my parents come down near my due date so my mom could be with me during the birth and the days following.  It is something both she and I would like, but, as S. pointed out, would open a whole host of problems we otherwise don’t need to be dealing with during such an exciting-yet-stressful time in our lives.

Throughout these discussions, S. was completely reasonable, and completely loving, about pointing out his concerns and his needs.  Firstly, he said, if my parents are going to be down for the birth, the his parents are going to want to do the same, and that is simply too many people to be dealing during the labor. Secondly, with my mom comes my dad, who has been so squeamish about my pregnancy he can barely bring himself to talk to me over the phone, let alone visit. My dad would be so on edge that he would send the level of nerves around the entire women’s hospital skyrocketing. Thirdly, S. only has a couple of weeks with his newborn daughter, whereas I have four months, before returning to work, and he would like at least a few of those early days to belong just to us three. Our families, he said, can come visit two or three days after we are home from the hospital.

All of his points are fair and well-reasoned. S. rarely has terribly strong opinions about things related to family and so I have chosen to respect his wishes, while all the time the only counter argument I can think of is this one: but, I want my mom!

Ever since my first (yes, I admit – I took several) pregnancy test I have wanted nothing more than to have my mother here in Pittsburgh instead of all the way up in northern Michigan.  I’m not even fully sure what I want her here for…I don’t have expectations of her taking care of me on days when I feel poorly, nor would I take her to doctors appointments. I just want her, here, and the feeling only heightens as early February draws closer. Fortunately, she is visiting twice in December, but I don’t think those visits are going to satisfy this primal need I feel to have her near me.

This need is impossible to explain to S. and so I don’t try – it is emotion in the face of reason.  And I know that as difficult as this is for me, it is perhaps even harder for my mother, who wants to be with me not only when the baby is born but for the days leading up to it as well.  Until now, that is how birthing babies has been done, in my family.

My parents grew up together in the same hometown, their homes never more than two miles apart.  They ended up moving across the state because that is where my dad managed to land a teaching job, and back then that two hour drive from their families seemed like an unimaginable gulf – neither set of my grandparents felt comfortable with such a faraway move.  When my mom became pregnant with me, she ended up needing a high-risk obgyn – none of which existed in the town she and my dad moved to, although there were several in the town they were from. To this end, near the end of both her pregnancies, my mom moved back in with her parents around the 7 1/2 month mark in order to be close to her doctors and the hospital where she would deliver.  Because I was due in early May and my father was a high school teacher, my mom spent the last months of her pregnancy with her mother, father and her aunts, my father visiting on weekends – a pattern she repeated four years later when my  brother was due in July because my dad was spending the summers in graduate school earning his master’s degree.  For both births, my mom was accompanied to the hospital of course by my father, but also by her mother and his mother – a family affair. As a little girl, both of my grandmothers liked to brag how they held me on the day I was born, and helped my mother care for me as she covered from her emergency c-section.

My mother’s experience is entirely different from my mother-in-law’s – she and my father-in-law moved quite far away from their families and so the birth of their three children was strictly a nuclear-family affair. Sometimes I mention to S. that I am nervous about having this baby so far from our families, so far from any sort of motherly help or guidance but this is one of those topics of conversation we fail to communicate successfully about – he points out that his mother and father birthed and raised three children without any extended family support so certainly, we can do the same, and I point out this concept is entirely foreign to what I know. We don’t fight about this – rather, we marvel at how skewed the other’s view on this subject happens to be.

When I broached the subject with my mother, I emphasized the fact that S. and I want to spend the first few days with our child together – after that, any and all are welcome to visit.

“Your father and I never got the time to do that,” she said. “I’m so glad you and S. will be able to. I spent the weeks recovering with you and Grandma’s house.”

“It must have been wonderful,” I said.

“Oh, it was,” she said. “It really and truly was.”

Logically, I know the decision S. and I made is best for us, and best for our family.  I am looking forward to having our daughter with him by my side, and I am looking terribly forward to those first days with just the three of us – I know I am going to be grateful for the privacy as I recover from the birth, learn to breastfeed and get to know our baby.  But none of this reasoning is strong enough to fight the need I feel to have my mother near me when I am feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed about this undertaking, none of it keeps me from missing my mother like one must might miss a limb.  It’s a feeling that can’t be explained, even as it’s passed from one generation to the next.

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11 Responses to Missing my mother

  1. It is a need and a very real one. However, S’s instincts to keep that as family time are also real. I had to wait six weeks before my mother could come from South Africa to see my firstborn and while that was really hard for me too, it gave us time to bond as a threesome, to have a babymoon, and to allow my husband time to grow into his role as father before the little grandmother arrived with her own ideas. I promise you Courtney that the fathers I’ve seen who’ve been sidelined by the grandmothers with all their knowledge and experience of child-raising take far longer to grow into the role than the fathers who are part of it from the beginning. It will be the right thing for your family, I promise you, and your mother will have every chance in the world to be the adoring grandma.

  2. Emily Barton says:

    I don’t blame you at all. If I’d had children, I think I would have felt exactly the same way you do, wanting my mother there. I do think it’s a primal feeling and can’t be argued against rationally. It’s only been relatively recently in human history that women didn’t have all kinds of other women present before, during, and after a baby’s birth. But I can see S.’s arguments, too, about the three of you bonding with no interruptions, and it might be far less stressful for the baby in getting used to this new world only to have two around for the first few days instead of a whole slew of people.

  3. laura says:

    I think it sounds absolutely natural to want your mom there – after all, that’s the point, she’s been through this before (and I think I remember that you have siblings, so likely more than once). It wasn’t an option for me, and we kind of defaulted to it being just the three of us. He wanted it to be just the three of us too, but having been through it, the actual birth part I mean, I wonder if he would have done things differently, if we had the option. (Just speculation, of course, my mom’s been gone since I was 15.)

    The birthing process, and the caring of an actual newborn are really two different events. For us, the birth was scary, and as much as you read up beforehand, it’s really not something you can prepare for. My hubby would admit it was scary too. Not that I want to scare you – I totally don’t! But I just think men come at some things with a kind of bravado (like getting lost and not asking for directions?), and well, when it comes to childbirth, I wonder if maybe having them both there might be better? (If they generally get along, that is – if they don’t, then S is absolutely right to want to keep it stress-free.)

    But like I said, it wasn’t an option for me, so it could be that I’m just talking out of vague impossibilities. Is there no way you could include just your mother for the birth, and no one else? Maybe have everyone else show up a few days later?

    Afterward though, taking the baby home, I think some private time with just the three of you is absolutely a wonderful thing, and makes those first days as a family really special. The happiest part of having a baby, for us, was taking him home, putting him in his own crib, settling back into our own environment. It was magical! Though, I wouldn’t shove away a little help if someone wanted to bring you dinner or let you take a nap 😉

    I’m so sorry if this sounds scary! That’s totally not my intention. I guess I’m just sharing what I wish I would have known beforehand.

    We’re away from both of our families too. I’m not gonna lie – it is really hard. Feel free to write if you ever want to talk about anything!

  4. laura says:

    ETA: by “just your mother for the birth” of course I mean S too, lol! Sorry, too many cold meds here! 😉

  5. shoreacres says:

    OK, no kids here, so what do I know? 😉

    But what I can see from the outside is the terrific depth and breadth of your relationship with your mother – obviously there are strong, intense ties there.

    And if I were your husband, I might very well be nervous about having your mom around for the birth and the first days afterward precisely because of the intensity of your ties with her.

    It’s far more important for your new one to bond with the two of you than with anyone else – and I’ve seen what happens when “Grandma” gets more than what a father feels is her fair share of time at first.

    I think, too, that changes in medical practice and in the experience of giving birth have changed so radically that the need for immediate help isn’t quite so pronounced. When I was born, Mom was in the hospital for two weeks, for heaven’s sake. There weren’t any problems, it’s just the way it was done. Same thing with hysterectomies these days – mom took six weeks to recover from hers, and again was in the hospital for over two weeks. I had mine done by laser on a Thursday and was back at work on Monday 😉

    The really good news is that you’ve talked about all this and made your decision together. That’s more important than anything!

  6. katy says:

    I absolutely can relate to everything you are feeling right now! When my mother left me after I had my son, I wept and we wept together. There was just something about her being there while I was in my new moments of mother hood…it seemed so primal and necessary.

    But, having family from out of town staying with you for long stretches is very draining and I did crave private time with just my nuclear family. I like S’s instinct to keep it just the 3 of you for a bit.

    Depending on how the birth goes, you might consider hiring a post-partum doula to help you guys until your family gets to town. I wish I had had one around and certainly plan to hire one next time!

  7. Amanda says:

    Having a baby generally involves a significant re-negotiation of relationships. I think it’s a very good idea to set boundaries with your extended families before the baby comes. I wish we had.

    I live in the same city as my parents, in-laws and our combined siblings. I had a traumatic birth culminating in an emergency caesarian but was almost straight away forced to be a hostess to all our relatives and to manage a constant stream of visits and insensitive demands. eg. people turning up without warning, sulking and pouting when we wouldn’t wake the baby up to be cuddled, demands as to why I hadn’t written thank you notes for presents to friends of my parents and etc. I’m not the sort of person who can bear to have visitors to an untidy house so in addition to coping with pain from the caesarian, sleep deprivation etc I had to make sure the house was always tidy and stand by to offer cups of tea etc. The first year of my daughter’s life was far more stressful than it had to be because of all the tensions and confrontations and passive aggressive nasty fall out from the process of us gradually asserting our right to establish some boundaries around our family life and our status as adults.

    All that said, my family is not your family and I’m not meaning to imply your mother would be insensitive or demanding- from the sounds of it she’d be quite the opposite. I would have loved to have seen very little of my family and my husband’s family in the first six weeks but I’ve heard other people who didn’t have that say otherwise. I suspect that whatever people do the first six weeks of the first child are going to be a huge roller-coaster emotionally and physically. It’s been my observation and it was my experience that it all gets easier after that.

  8. Smithereens says:

    That is a highly personal matter, but I think I rather side with Charlotte (and S) on this one.
    There was no question about including anyone else than Mr Sm at the (hospital) birth, it’s standard practice. Anyway, I can see the point. This is a highly intimate moment where you (and no one else, even with medical assistance and emotional support from your husband) bring another human being to the world. Personally I wouldn’t bother with anyone else at that moment. 2 days later my parents visited at the hospital, only for the day (they live 3 hours away). And still 2 days later, my inlaws came and staid at a hotel for 2-3 days (they live 4 hours away). I was in post-birth hormonal mess and I don’t remember much, but I was grateful that my mil cooked and filled the fridge and that they didn’t stay with us. I would have been grateful to have some more help with the chores for the few first weeks because it was a lot to take care of for Mr Sm. But not someone who would pepper us with advice on baby care and all. It’s something that you and S will learn and get to trust yourselves on your own.
    My guess is you think you need your mother because you’re afraid (I hope you don’t mind me saying so), and that’s totally okay. My other guess is that once labor starts, you won’t care about these questions anymore!

  9. litlove says:

    Of course you want your mom! When a woman becomes a mother, she needs some high-grade mothering herself, while she gets used to the idea. Your own mother is the very best person to provide that, not least because she comes with built-in experience. But it is true that husbands can easily get sidelined by competent grandmothers. If S wants this (and yes his reasons are good ones), then that’s fine, but he has to mother you in your mother’s place a bit, as well as help practically with baby care. He has to be your rock and your support, and show you that anticipation of your needs that a mother would. I’m sure he can do it, but he might need to realise that he has a task to look after you as well as your new baby. Of course he may be a renaissance man and have that all figured out already. 🙂

  10. Charlotte – I know you are completely right, and as much as I have this primal desire for my mother’s company during this time, I am equally excited about the time S. and I will have with our daughter, sans anyone else. And you make an excellent point about grandmothers coming in and taking over…I hadn’t thought of that possibility before!
    Emily – I really like your point it being less stressful for the baby – that’s so important and so easily overlooked in all of this.
    Laura – I like how you distinguish between the birth, and caring for the infant afterward, as two separate issues. They really are! And since my mom lives so far away, one can’t be distinguished from the other in terms of her visit. Thanks for the offer to talk…I have no doubt I will be taking you up on it!
    Shoreacres – In some ways I think I really was just trying to work through the strong (albeit complicated) ties I have with my mother. And you are so right – our bonding time with our baby is of the utmost importance. I am very glad we are putting it first (despite a hormone swing or two from me!)
    Katy – Yep, I think S.’s instincts are right on! And one thing I don’t want to be worried about right off the bat is hosting people, Lord knows!
    Amanda – oof, your story is frightening but I greatly appreciate your insight. I think the fact that everyone is just going to have to wait a bit for the baby, S. and I to hit our rhythm and heal a bit is the best thing, especially after hearing your story! I don’t expect the first weeks to be magical – but I would like them to be manageable!
    Smithereens – I don’t mind you saying that I’ll be scared at all – I am already terrified! Not so much about labor since I really just don’t see a way around that, but I am nervous about the healing process, post-birth, as well as the expectations of others around me. I am glad you pointed it out because it isn’t something I directly addressed.
    Litlove – I have definitely pointed out to S. that the month or so before E.’s birth and immediately after i will indeed need some mothering…I think that is a lot of what I was trying (somewhat uneloquently) to get to – she has always taken such superb care of me, and I feel a need for that now. But to be fair, S. has been wonderful in this department so far!

  11. Cam says:

    My sister got married on my due date – I had nightmares beforehand that all sorts of relatives would show up at the hospital. I delivered late, so tha didnt happen. My mother made the decision w her first grandchild that she would not be present at the birth, but she did come see all the babies born locally the first day. I was glad she was there that day, but it was a few weeks later that I really needed her. That bonding time is so important fir baby and parents, but fatique and postpartum hormones hit a week or two later. Thats when you’ll really need your Mom’s advice and care, whether that is in person or by phone. The best baby gift anyone gave me was my boss sending over her housekeeper to dust, vacuum, and do laundry for a day a few weeks after my son was born.

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