I’m 34 weeks, so the baby is coming soon! Here’s my problem: my husband’s whole family– mom, dad and adult brother– live about two hours away. Last night my mother-in-law told my husband casually that all three of them were planning on coming down the day before my due date and staying for the birth and asking if they can stay with us, with the parents in our guest room and brother on the couch. This is not okay with me! Oh, and she says they want to “be there for the birth,” which I am worried means that they plan to be in the actual room while I have the baby. I don’t want to cause a rift with them, but the idea of having to have them watch me give birth and having houseguests to take care of while taking care of a new baby is giving me panic attacks. What can I do? My in-laws are very pushy and my husband is not good at saying no to them.”
Let me guess, this is your in-laws’ first grandchild? Probably they’re excited and enthused and they mean well, they’re just not so great with boundaries. If it makes you feel any better, few hospitals or birth centers will let more than one guest in the room for the actual birth, and nurses and doctors are very good at hustling people out when the time comes.
But this still leaves the problem of your houseguests, and more urgently, your husband. Dealing with in-laws really is his job, and as a dad he is going to have to learn how to say no to people who don’t want to hear it — children, strange grownups who want to hold the baby, salespeople. He may as well start practicing now with people who love him. If he simply can’t, then you will have to help him along.
First, are he sure he knows how you feel about these houseguests? And are you sure he feels the same way? Because it could be–especially considering he’s known to be a yes-man- it might seem like he agrees with you, but that on another level he’s actually looking forward to having his family around as a way to deal with the stress of this big life change. So you need to be extra-clear and firm about your own boundaries.
You won’t be able to keep his family away forever, and them having a relationship with the baby is a good thing for everyone (grandparents and an uncle this eager might be willing to babysit for entire weekends in the future!), but it’s entirely reasonable to ask them to at least wait to come down until you are actually in labor. Due dates can be off by as much as two weeks, and that is an extremely long time to have houseguests when you’re heavily pregnant. Would you be okay with the in-laws staying for a day or two after you get home from the hospital? Or are you not going to be able to relax until you know they’re staying at a hotel?
After you and your husband agree on how long it would be okay for them to stay, help him make the phone call or write the email. Write the main points down for him if that would help. “We will call you when we’re in labor, we want to see you guys, but we really can’t accommodate you for more than a day or two/ accommodate you at our house but would be glad to help you find a place to stay nearby.” If your in-laws really are pushy people they will probably come back with a “why not?” or a “but!” like, “but it’s our first grandchild, how can you leave us out?” If that’s the case, don’t offer excuses, apologies or explanations– that might just open the door to more arguing. Repeating “I’m sorry, we can’t wait to see you but simply don’t have the space in our home” should be enough for most people.
If you must tell them, make the call or write the email yourself, make sure your husband is CC’d or in the room, so your in-laws know you’re on a team and it’s not just you being the “bad guy.” Be polite, loving and kind but firm. If they choose to be huffy or offended, you can’t control that, and chances are as soon as they see the baby you will be forgiven.
Fortunately they are a two-hour drive away and don’t have to book plane tickets. If they show up anyway, don’t be shy about putting them to work. Doing laundry, fetching carry-out, washing dishes, vacuuming and holding the baby while you take a shower are all good ways to press in-laws into service. Make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and wash hands before handling the baby, and don’t let them hold the baby if they have any kind of symptoms of a cold.