Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.

This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie helps a woman who doesn’t want her mother-in-law in the room when she gives birth.

QUESTION: I’m seven months pregnant and my mother-in-law is expecting to be in the delivery room on the big day. She is beyond excited as this is her first grandchild, and she is a wonderful woman who has always been supportive and welcoming to me. But I still don’t want her there during the most vulnerable time of my life. My husband is on her side and says I should let her as it would mean so much to her, and I’ll be distracted anyway. How can I keep her out without causing a big family rift – and damaging my marriage?

ANSWER: I’m honestly shocked beyond words that this is even an issue. I’m sorry you’re in this position. It’s surprising your mother-in-law is so insensitive and it’s concerning that your husband isn’t supporting your wishes right now.

You deserve to feel safe and comfortable during labour

You’re right. Labour will be an incredibly vulnerable time for you. You deserve to feel safe, comfortable and supported.

Women who feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible during the birthing process have been shown to experience enormous benefits. Research shows that women who feel safe and supported experience shorter labours, control their pain better and have less medical intervention.

The science in this area isn’t my specialty, but your supporting doctors may be able to offer you more details on this.

You deserve to feel supported by your partner

Dealing with extended family can be a major source of tension for many couples.

Research shows that for your marriage to remain strong, you and your husband need to support each other when it comes to dealing with extended family.

What I’m hearing so far is a major red flag for your husband. By actively siding with his mother and not you, he’s damaging the trust, connection and sense of family that the two of you have together.

You deserve to have your needs met

Whether it’s you or your husband who has this conversation with your MIL will depend on a few factors, but the same principles apply.

Start with the positives

When addressing any difficult topic, it can be helpful to start by sharing positives and expressing a positive intent.

I can hear a lot of appreciation for your mother-in-law in your question. Share your gratitude and appreciation with her first.

For example: “I’m so grateful for the way you’ve welcomed me into your family. I really want us to continue to have a close relationship together.”

Voice your emotions and needs

When we focus on sharing our own emotions – rather than what we don’t want from the other person – it’s often easier for them to hear and understand us. Remember that you deserve to have your needs met, especially at such a vulnerable time.

For example: “I’m feeling nervous about labour. I need to feel as comfortable as I possibly can. For me, that means having only a few really critical people present. That’s going to include (anyone you choose). We’re asking everyone else to wait until after the birth to be there.”

Offer an alternative

You shouldn’t really need to do this, but given how this situation sounds, it may help to offer your mother-in-law a concession, such as arranging for her to be one of the first people to hold the baby after birth.

For example: “I know this is a really special time for you too. I want to make sure you’re among the first people to hold our baby when we know it’s safe and healthy.”

You are not solely responsible for managing the relationships in your family

Your mother-in-law is an adult who needs to take responsibility for her actions.

Everyone is welcome to their feelings. And she may well feel upset about this. But mature adults learn to regulate their emotions and take appropriate actions. She needs to make sure her actions don’t damage her relationship with you.

Similarly, your husband needs to ensure he acts in the best interests of his relationship with you by supporting you and your decision through this time.

If your marriage is damaged because of this, please know that it isn’t you who damaged it.

Isiah McKimmie is a Couples Therapist, Sexologist, Sex Therapist and Lecturer. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy.

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By Rahul

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