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Grandmother from Hell

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Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Imagine this childbirth scenario: You have a very long labor. Your husband checks in with his mom from time to time. He insists that you don't want any visitors until after the baby is born. Your mother-in-law, who lives nowhere near you, decides she can't wait and shows up at the hospital anyway and ends up meeting your newborn child while you're still in the delivery room recovering from an unexpected Cesarian. Then she writes an article in the newspaper about what a great experience it was for her. That's what happened to one Montreal mom. Not exactly what I'd call an ideal birth plan.

Grandmother holding a baby

Rhona Bennett, a Toronto resident, wrote the story of her adventures in becoming a grandmother in the Globe and Mail. And my oh my, did readers react to Rhona's story. All I can say is: Thank God this woman isn't my mother-in-law.

Here's how labor went for Rhona: Like many a grandmother-to-be, she gets a call on a Friday afternoon from her son Jon. His wife, Ellana, is in labor. Unlike the legions of mothers-in-law before her who waited anxiously for news to come, Rhona takes matters into her own hands.

"Why hadn't Jon called? Had I raised a man completely lacking in basic human compassion or had something really terrible happened?" she writes about not hearing from her son for a few hours. "I decided to go immediately from the train station to the hospital. Never mind the kids' admonition: 'Don't come till we tell you.'"

May I digress. Maybe, just maybe, her son thought it was more important to attend to his wife's needs than it was to give his mom a blow by blow of every contraction. Just a thought.

News from Quebec might be slow to arrive, but that doesn't stop old Rhona. She boards the next train to Montreal and meets her partner in crime, Ellana's mother, Carol. Determined to override their children's wishes, the two head off to the hospital. "The nice man sitting at the nursing station told us Ellana was in surgery, having a Caesarean section. We were actually relieved: At last a concrete piece of information to clutch. He told us to get dinner and come back in a couple of hours."

Relieved! Relieved! Ellana was in surgery. Unplanned surgery. This is good news? Is Rhona on drugs?

No matter. Rather than heed the nice man's advice to get a meal, Carol and Rhona cast patient privacy aside and figure out where new dad and baby are waiting for mom to return. They meet their granddaughter. It's not clear from the story if Ellana has met or held her daughter yet. But that doesn't matter, Rhona is a grandma! In case Rhona's worried that she hasn't disrespected her daughter-in-law enough, she throws in a few snarky remarks about how silly things like doulas, birthing centers and extended breast feeding are.

All I can say is: Ellana, you win the prize for the mother-in-law from hell. Hat's off to you if you decide to keep her in the family.

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15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous December 3, 2008, 3:15 PM

I don’t find it that terrible she showed up at the hospital. Two of our three sections were planned and everyone showed up and waited. Having had an emergency c-section with a tragic ending, I wish my family or my husband’s family had been there with him while I was still under. Sure, it is their child, blah blah, but the grandparents love their grandchild and their children and inlaw that are having the child. Why is her mother innocent in this as well? I read that she met the mil and also went to the hospital? Why is this acceptable and not the mil? Why weren’t they welcomed at the hospital anyway? Isn’t the birth something that you would want to share with your parents? I certainly did. And I think it was the husband’s first priority to be with his wife, not calling his mother, but I cannot blame his mom or her mom for being worried. There is a lot that can and DOES happen during childbirth.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 4:44 PM

i didn’t want anyone in the room either, but of course my husband called after they admitted me and told them no need to hurry to get there…..20 MINUTES LATER they were knocking on my door….i wasn’t even in my room yet, they were so busy that morning that i was still in a triage room. my parents took a while to get there since they lived 3 hours away. thankfully my husband and doctor knew my wishes and would kick them out when the doctor would come in to check me and and when he’d come in to start the delivery. but it was nice to have them in there in between, but there was NO way i wanted anyone in there during. oh, and i was in labor for 17 hours so there was no rush for everyone to get there!

threeundertwo December 3, 2008, 4:59 PM

Wow, I have to really disagree with the anonymous commenter there. The parents made their wishes clear, and the grandmother was way out of line. She needs to learn to step back - it’s not all about her any more. She must be used to being the center of attention.

I certainly didn’t want a bunch of relatives at the hospital when it was time to give birth, and I’m so glad my husband and I had that private time to recover and meet the babies by ourselves first.

The fact that the MIL also made snide remarks about doulas and breastfeeding shows just how out of touch she is. I hope she takes one of the many grandparenting classes out there.

dizzymum December 3, 2008, 4:59 PM

I disagree with anonymous. The birth of a child, and labour is incredibly personal. It’s different if mothers or others have been invited, but when they’ve clearly been told to come later, they should have respected their childrens’ wishes. It is about the couple and their child. Grandmas should have waited until baby and parents were settled and ready before meeting the new member of the family. These women seem incredibly self-absorbed and selfish, which doesn’t bode well for their future role as grandparents.

Suzanne Eller December 3, 2008, 5:00 PM

I think you are overblowing this. She didn’t barge into a room and demand to see the mom or be a part of the process. She came to meet her grandchild. There are many grandparents who somehow miss how amazing it is to be a grandparent. This woman was excited, and that makes snese. One day when my grandchildren arrive (in the future) I will definitely honor my children’s privacy and wishes, but I also know in advance that they are excited about sharing that beautiful moment with us. I’m grateful.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 5:10 PM

I am anonymous there…lol. and I by no way meant she should be IN the room. I didn’t want anyone in the room with me and at our hospital hubbies only in operating room for sections. I simply meant at the hospital. I think you all misunderstood what I was saying.

Wonder why December 3, 2008, 5:18 PM

Why didn’t they just wait til after the birth to call their parents and other family members?

just sayin' December 3, 2008, 6:56 PM

This story is so sad. When I had my unplanned c-section my mil wanted to come visit asap, but I was too tired to want to see anyone. She threw a huge fit and and upset me and my hubby so much that the day of our child’s birth was just about destroyed.

ashley December 4, 2008, 7:37 AM

My mom was with me the whole time from start to finish in the birth of my son which was great. That’s who I wanted with me. She even held my hand while I was pushing. With my daughter, we had a scheduled cesarian because she was breech. My mother in law rode with us to the hospital!! I had to drive because I can’t ride with her, she stops at green lights, and I was in no mood to hear her gripe at my husband about how fast he was going, so I drove, and we got hit on the way there. This jerk ran a red light and hit our front left fender. Terrible!!! Anyhow, my mil sits in the room while I’m laying in the bed for 5 hours waiting for surgery and she just stares at me and smiles the whole time. And she takes pictures of me and the nurses. I was like please just leave me alone for 5 minutes!!! It was embarrassing and annoying!!

Barb December 4, 2008, 10:32 AM

I, unfortunately, had a similar situation. We had planned it all out — my in-law’s would bring our 4-year-old daughter to the hospital WHEN WE CALLED THEM, and we’d bring our daughter in first to meet her sibling, have a little “just us” time (and I’m talking 30 minutes, not days or anything), then invite my in-laws in to meet the baby. WE ALL AGREED TO THIS PLAN BEFORE MY SON WAS BORN.

However, my mother-in-law had her own agenda. They showed up at the hospital, with my daughter and brother-in-law, and somehow made it to my c-section recovery room (why would nurses allow this!?), all within the hour of my son being born. So rather than the sweet family meeting, I felt bum-rushed and angry (not how you want to feel after a glorious event). Not to mention, I had just had a c-section less than an hour ago, so I was still unable to walk, the nurses were constantly checking me, etc.

I will forever hold this against my in-laws. They were selfish and obnoxious, and, as you can tell, I’m still not over it 15 months later.

Joan Rempel January 8, 2009, 1:04 PM

Did any of you, other than Ronda, actually read Rhona’s article? She is a very talented and often published writer. Her article was light-hearted and warm; the remarks about the doula etc. were not snide, they were tongue-in-cheek. As with all good writers, Rhona embellishes fact for effect in her anecdotes.
I have know Rhona both personally and professionally for several years as an intelligent, generous and gentle person. The last work you would ever use to describer her is “pushy”. Her children, in-laws and step-children adore her.
Several of you have obviously had bad experiences, but if you read Rhona’s article from my viewpoint,and not as a literal rendering of the facts, you will see its humour, love and humanity.
Lighten up, Ronda.

Just a fib January 13, 2009, 5:03 PM

I had a scheduled c-section at 7:00am so I told my family that it was scheduled for noon. What do you know? My family showed up right at noon. This gave me time to meed and feed my daughter before being bombarded with visitors. Besides…it was just a little white lie.

Mom of Two Who used her brains second time around January 17, 2009, 2:39 AM

Well, I agree with certain aspects. I agree that the grandparents should respect their children’s birthing wishes/requests. I also agree that the grandparents should be there to hold the baby and enjoy becoming grandparents once again.

For my first baby, I had a scheduled C-section and in those days I was used to a lot of family support so my entire family and my entire in-laws knew beforehand that my surgery would take place at 10:00 a.m. Everyone - EVERYONE - held and saw my firstborn even before I awoke from my C-section! When I came to, I felt miserable that my first baby had bonded with everyone except her own mother in the first few minutes of her life!

2 years later, I was all the wiser, and much more mentally mature and ready to put MY OWN plan in action. I told my own parents that they won’t be at the hospital until after the baby arrived…..thankfully, the hospital did not allow any “women” in the delivery room (MIL, mother, sisters or friends etc.) so husband was the only one to be with me. I had a normal delivery this time, so I was in control till the end. My mother — of course — worried out of her skin, showed up the hospital for a few hours, but when the staff didn’t let her in, she knew there’s nothing she could do, so she left. My husband had been forewarned by me throughout my pregnancy that whatever the case (normal or C-section delivery), HIS PARENTS WOULD NOT BE INFORMED until after the baby was born, because his family is habitually very intefering (e.g. when my husband’s brother’s 4 year old daughter was going to have appendicitis surgery in another city where they live, as soon as his parents found out over the phone, MIL insisted that they fly over THE SAME DAY!!!).

So when my son was born, my parents and daughter were waiting outside but thankfully no one allowed them in. I asked to hold him, I beheld him, he turned towards me when he heard my voice …it was THE BEST DELIVERY IMAGINABLE! Then my husband gave me his cell phone asking me to inform his family (who had NO IDEA I had been in labour all night…my son came early b the way!). So I informed my husband’s parents, not HIM. They were very happy but surprised that my son came so early (18 days to be exact, but they hadn’t been told the due date, so they didn’t know that either). They all came over after 3-4 hours….by which time, I had bonded with my son by my side, and had a change of clothes, the first breastfeed and a nap! My parents and daughter had seen my son when they wheeled him out for a few minutes (after asking me if it was okay). They then left for home.

By the way, I did not share my due date WITH ANYONE - not even my husband - in my second pregnancy…for the same reason. I had it all planned, that my second baby would be all mine for the first few minutes of his/her birth this time around. So, use your brains, don’t reveal due dates (which lets mothers and MIL’s start planning to monitor you as it approaches), and don’t talk too much about the baby’s position etc. in the last month of pregnancy. And ask your husband not to tell anyone when you go into labour or the date and time of your pre-scheduled C-section!

Charlene June 10, 2009, 6:28 PM

When my daughter was born, on the second request we had to almost force ourselves down to see them. She was 4-months old. She is now 2 and 9 months and they have not wanted to see her since. My husband works for the airlines and we can travel for free. When we even offered to come down for lunch so they can see their granddaughter, “You know how I get sick” is the response even when she is o.k. When she feels that we are coming, now she is sick. When my husband came down that one time, his father was excited about the baby. The drive to their house was 2 hours from the airport. I called my husband after he arrived and asked him who did your mother say the baby looked like. He said “she didn’t see the baby yet”. o.k…maybe they had to leave the airport without a glance. Then an hour later I called. He was at the drug store with his mother getting a pacifier. Still excited…who did your mother say the baby looked like? His response “she still hasn’t seen the baby”. At that point, I started laughing. She can get out of the car to shut the baby up and not even look at her. I would also like to say that his father had offer to buy the baby a high-chair when we needed it. They did send a walker for her as a gift. So a few months later, my husband called and got his mother on the phone. He told her that the baby needed her high-chair now. She said “can’t she eat out of the walker”. When my husband pressed further, she said “ask your sisters”.- Charlene

Youngand hot May 24, 2010, 9:48 AM

My advice to all of you young women, stay away from old women, no matter who they are your mother your mother in law etc etc. When some of them get old they get very jealous and bitter and think they should control everyone.

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