Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared April 29, 2005.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am pregnant with my first child. I have a sister I am very close to and would like to have with me to help support me during labor and delivery. This is fine with my husband.
We made the mistake of mentioning this in the presence of my husband’s sister, with whom I do not have a close relationship. She announced that since my sister gets to be there, she also plans on being there.
I told her I am not comfortable having anyone else there. She says she will be just as closely related to the baby as my sister, so if my sister gets to be there, she should have the same right. She says there is nothing to be uncomfortable about since she is female.
Well, that is not the issue. My husband is only halfheartedly supporting me and says his sister does have a point. Shouldn’t I have the right to decide who will be present at a time like this?
DEAR S.: Yes. You also have a general right to stand fast against pushy people. Or sit on them.
Please explain to your husband that, no no no, his sister does not have a point. This is not about being an aunt to the baby; the baby isn’t pushing itself out, and probably couldn’t process, “Go, baby, go, just one big push!” even if it were. This is about being a comfort to you.
And when you tell someone you won’t be comfortable with her around, and she insists on being around anyway, because she thinks her feelings are more important than yours, this someone is not going to be a comfort to you.
Which would be stating the forehead-slappingly obvious, except that it apparently isn’t. So, to be safe, please also explain to your husband that, when it comes to what will probably be the most emotionally and physically demanding day of your life — and the most intimate day of your marriage — it’s best not to place his sister’s concerns on a footing equal to yours.
If you want fortitude, run this by your obstetrician or midwife. They’ll tell you the mothers with the happiest experiences are those who give thought to their preferences beforehand and aren’t afraid to stand up for them when it counts. Great practice, if you think about it, for when your new person comes home.
HI CAROLYN: How do we go through life feeling content and happy with our lives while constantly being told we need more more more? More money, bigger house, 14 cars! There are plenty of us happy at our 9-to-4 nonprofit jobs; that is, happy until comparisons of material wealth are brought up … again.
DEAR WASHINGTON: … And when those comparisons come up, you have to remind yourselves, again, that you’re not willing to trade your 9-to-4 nonprofit jobs to take on the kind of hours or compromises required at the kind of job you’d need to pay for cars two through 14. Or else you’d have done it by now. Contentment isn’t a diploma, you don’t achieve it once and for all. It’s something you maintain, through small actions, through big choices, through shops you can’t afford, and sometimes through sheer force of will.