Family

Will baby’s grandparents be there when the cord is cut?

Labor & Delivery

Grandparents in the Delivery Room

will baby’s grandparents be there when the cord is cut?

By Nickie Harris, R.N

Despite her swollen belly, day-to-day life hasn’t really changed for this mother-to-be. It seems as if it never will. Worn out, she slumps into a recliner and opens a book. Her warm cup of tea rests on the round table of her belly. She laughs at the absurdity of having a personal cup holder that thrusts her tea so close to her mouth she wonders if she could almost bow her chin and sip without using her hands. It seems impossible that anything will change.

But change is inevitable. Later that very night, a final rasping breath escapes her parted lips as this new mother gives the most visceral push of her life. Her moist skin, furrowed brow, shaking hands and intensely focused eyes strike awe in those around her, invoking empathy and tenderness. Fervently they wish for her ordeal to be over, for her victory to be safely nestled, pink and perfect, content against her breast.

“Perhaps it would be helpful to have a family meeting, expressing each person’s hopes, expectations and fears.”

All sound and movement cease. A stuttering whimper and then a lusty cry shatter the silence. Tearful hugs are exchanged. Congratulations are passed around twice, then thrice. Ten tiny fingers and toes are counted, caressed and marveled over. The young mother reluctantly, but proudly, passes the warm, fragile, yet amazingly solid bundle to her husband who then places a most tender kiss on her tiny wrinkled forehead.

Carefully he puts this unbelievably perfect creature in the arms of her doting grandparents. A family circle is completed. Hope in a new generation is literally renewed. All have shared in this most meaningful of experiences, and the memories of this perfect moment will be indelibly imprinted onto their hearts and minds forever.

Despite her swollen belly, day-to-day life hasn’t really changed for this mother-to-be. It seems as if it never will. Worn out, she slumps into a recliner and opens a book. Her warm cup of tea rests on the round table of her belly. She laughs at the absurdity of having a personal cup holder that thrusts her tea so close to her mouth she wonders if she could almost bow her chin and sip without using her hands. It seems impossible that anything will change.

But change is inevitable. Later that very night, a final rasping breath escapes her parted lips as this new mother gives the most visceral push of her life. Her moist skin, furrowed brow, shaking hands and intensely focused eyes strike awe in those around her, invoking empathy and tenderness. Fervently they wish for her ordeal to be over, for her victory to be safely nestled, pink and perfect, content against her breast.

“Perhaps it would be helpful to have a family meeting, expressing each person’s hopes, expectations and fears.”

All sound and movement cease. A stuttering whimper and then a lusty cry shatter the silence. Tearful hugs are exchanged. Congratulations are passed around twice, then thrice. Ten tiny fingers and toes are counted, caressed and marveled over. The young mother reluctantly, but proudly, passes the warm, fragile, yet amazingly solid bundle to her husband who then places a most tender kiss on her tiny wrinkled forehead.

Carefully he puts this unbelievably perfect creature in the arms of her doting grandparents. A family circle is completed. Hope in a new generation is literally renewed. All have shared in this most meaningful of experiences, and the memories of this perfect moment will be indelibly imprinted onto their hearts and minds forever.

The only reason Miller’s own mother, a veteran of six births herself, did not attend the birth was that her compassionate nature made watching her daughter’s pain unbearable. This is a valid consideration when grandparents evaluate the pros and cons of attending the birth. Most appreciated by any laboring mother is having her older children at home in the care of a loving grandparent. This may be a great option for those tenderhearted souls who can’t bear to watch the rigors of labor.

More The Simpsons than The Cosby Show?

Not all families have such uncomplicated dynamics. During stressful and emotionally laden times, feelings can be hurt. Ugly and petty jealousies can arise. “Why can she be there and I can’t?” or “I let you see my baby being born” are some common arguments.

Well intentioned, but frustrating, comments may also abound, such as: “Have the epidural!” or “Don’t have the epidural!” or “I brought your cousin. She can come in, too, right?”

Planning, communication and your nurse should be able to remedy many of these nightmarish scenarios. Jennifer Atkinson, a certified marriage and family therapist practicing in Pomona, Calif., stresses the importance of communication between family members well before the big event.

“Perhaps it would be helpful to have a family meeting, expressing each person’s hopes, expectations and fears,” Atkinson suggests. “An important ground rule should be set that at any given time the mother can ask for a ‘time out’ where all parties except the designated labor coach leave the room without discussion or argument.”

A refresher course in labor and delivery for grandparents might put everyone more at ease, as there will have been numerous changes and forgotten details regarding the three stages of labor and hospital protocol. These courses also cover the topic of Cesarean deliveries, which change many aspects of both birth and recovery. Hopefully this will increase grandparents’ understanding of their role and abilities to be supportive.

Have a plan and be organized, but relax and be open to the possibility that your expectations may not go hand in hand with reality. Whether your expectations were exceeded or came up short, a healthy, happy mother and baby starting out together on their wild and wonderful family journey is the best possible outcome of all.

Let Your Nurse do Her Job

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, your nurse is invaluable. His or her responsibility is simply to be an advocate for you, the patient. Don’t be afraid to let your nurse know exactly how you are feeling and what your expectations and fears are. When both parties are treated respectfully, there is often a powerful and almost instant bond between nurse and patient. You will count on your nurse to be your guide and your protector, and he or she will be willing to step in to protect your best interests, even if that means politely, but firmly, asking certain family members to leave the room because things are not going as planned.