Pregnancy Predicaments

From birth plans to diaper options to naming your baby, it seems that the minute your pregnancy is announced, opinions about how to raise your child are shared more than a Pinterest nursery décor post. What do you do when this well-meaning advice isn’t exactly, well – sought after? Here a few local experts provide some great suggestions on how to graciously handle family and friends as you prepare for your own growing family.  

My parents want us to call them the moment I go into labor so they can rush to the hospital and be part of the experience. (Both my sisters have done this.) While I appreciate their enthusiasm, this is our first child and my husband and I would prefer to have a more private experience to welcome our child into the world. What is the best way to tactfully tell my parents we don’t want them there right away? 

Congratulations on your bundle of joy! This is so exciting for your family! Many moms and couples prefer to have a more private birth and everyone who wants one should really be firm on that. Don’t worry about hurting other’s feelings. This is your special moment so plan for what you really want. Try sitting down and having a conversation just the four of you. Explain to your parents what you really want for your birth and your vision of it. Reassure your parents that this is nothing hurtful or negative towards them. I’m sure they will be one of the first people you call to visit when you are ready. They are more than welcome to wait in the waiting room if they want to be close, if that is okay with you. Be clear on your boundaries and ask them to please follow them, even when really excited. This is important to you. This is what you want. You can have that. 

Erin Robinson, MA, LPC 
Licensed Professional Counselor 
BeechAcres Parenting Center 
Butler Behavioral Health Services  

I have a very traditional mother-in-law who has not so subtly stated her opinion that once a woman becomes a mother, she should leave her career to stay home and raise her children. I like my job and plan to go back to it after my maternity leave ends. I want to be respectful of her opinion, but her comments are starting to get under my skin. What should I say next time she brings this up? 

If your mom-in-law is treading into this territory, I would go ahead and assume she’s an opinionated person to begin with. So this likely won’t be your last awkward encounter with her. Burning bridges isn’t going to be the route I would suggest, though you might just be annoyed enough to consider that! This is a clear boundary issue. Recognize that you are not doing anything wrong by continuing with your career. It’s your choice. While you may never change her mind, you can meet her at a place that you both can connect on – the love of your child and her grandchild. You can express your stance and also recognize her concerns, for example “I know we may not see eye to eye. I want the best for my child, as do you. For me to be the best mother I can be, it’s important that I continue with my career. I appreciate your love and concern. I really do.” All you can do is be up front with her about what you believe is the best for you and your family. Recognize this is her issue. You don’t have to feel bad at all. Honest communication is the best route!

John Harrison, MA, LPCC 
John Harrison Counseling, LLC 

We are receiving quite a bit of pressure from my husband’s side of the family to carry on the family name and give our son a name we definitely do not like. We don’t even want to use it as a middle name! Choosing not to follow tradition here will really ruffle some feathers though. What can we say to family members to help them accept our decision? 

Your question raises a few important concerns and challenges. As parents and parent-in-laws get older and are in a different developmental phase of their lives, they become more focused on legacy. This can manifest itself, for example, in wanting their children (i.e. you and your husband) to carry on the family name through your child. On the other side, you are focused on your immediate family and your soon-to-be born child is most important to you. For some, battles across generations like this can continue for many years, so it is good to establish your position early, i.e. not following what has been a family tradition. Sometimes without intending it to be, standing up for what you want can be seen as an act of separating from the family or forging your own path, which may be perceived as hurtful to your husband’s parents. The best approach, if you have decided there is no compromise, is to state your position but also assure your in-laws that it is not meant to hurt or slight them. You must accept that you may be disappointing them and sometimes acknowledging this to them can be helpful. In addition, it is likely that this one event (naming of your child) represents a bigger issue, which is your relationship with your in-laws and the pressure from them that you are feeling. It is important to keep the channels of communication open, be positive with them and assure them that this act does not discount their importance in your or your baby’s life. Be grateful that you and your husband agree on your decision and recognize that family members may not accept easily this breaking of tradition.

Sheila S. Cohen, Ph.D. 
Child Psychologist 
BridgePointe Psychological and Counseling Services 

Although my pregnancy seems to be going well, I have had a miscarriage in the past and am very nervous about things turning out okay this time around. It doesn’t help that several coworkers, upon learning I’m pregnant, begin to tell me a horror story they’ve personally had or someone they’ve known has had during pregnancy. Maybe they are trying to “bond” by sharing these experiences, but it just makes me upset. Is there a nice way I can redirect these types of conversations when they begin? 

I love your positive view on this situation! Women tend to relate to one another and “bond” through pregnancy conversations, even if they are unpleasant. Let’s face it, there are natural anxieties that come along with having children. There are two parts to this one. First, you need to work on turning your “very nervous” into a “little-normal nervous.” You deserve to be happy, enjoying this whole process and not be a worried mess. People can see anxiety and it becomes a feeling of the environment. You got through a miscarriage, you are so strong! Second, you need to put your health first. Don’t participate in things that upset you. When you notice you are starting to feel upset, end whatever is going on and focus on feeling better. When someone starts an unpleasant story just interrupt them and simply say, “I’m sorry I just can’t hear your sad/scary/negative/tragic story about motherhood right now, I don’t want to worry. Tell me the greatest things about being a mom.” Surround yourself with positivity, hope and happy thinking. What you focus on is important. Focus on the good.

Erin Robinson, MA, LPC 
Licensed Professional Counselor  
BeechAcres Parenting Center 
Butler Behavioral Health Services  

Whether it’s Aunt Dot pushing her home remedy cream or your mom’s insistence on using cloth diapers, not everyone realizes when their “helpful” suggestions cross the line. Learn how to handle these situations in an assertive (but gracious) manner now and you can lay the foundation for good relationships for years to come!  


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