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.