Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I know this will go away in a little while – but my sister-in-law had a baby this week (yay!), and three of the people she had asked to assist with the delivery were unavailable. I ended up being drafted into the delivery room at the end of a VERY long labor. It was amazing, I was totally freaked out and I was happy to assist.
Here’s the problem: When she tells the story of the delivery, it’s all about endless hours of all of us bothering her. How she was in pain and tired and everyone kept bothering her to ask her how she was doing and offer to help. How dare we!
I’m trying to cut her slack – long labor, new baby, etc. – but I spent three days off work to be there for her and my brother, and to hear the story, the folks who didn’t show up to help apparently made the right choice.
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Any suggested mantras for not making snarky comments the 9th time I hear how awful I was for asking how she was doing?
A gentle and lighthearted, “I did my best!” seems to me a response with the right pitch and message. Just once should do it, if she’s even remotely self-aware.
If she isn’t and it doesn’t, then, yes, be grateful that birth stories generally stop being told after a month or so, except at random times when people get into swapping war stories. (At which point you can repeat the lighthearted “I did my best!” interjection, possibly to greater effect for the repetition.)
I’m sorry. File this as a reminder to decline favor requests from ingrates – and hope for everyone’s sake she has the sense to recognize for any subsequent births that she lacks the temperament for having friends in the delivery room. I liken such helpers to bridesmaids – as in, much less of a requirement than people seem to think they are.
Re: Delivery: Your sister-in-law is still sorting out her own feelings about the birth, and the crash of post-birth hormones affects a lot of women with baby blues for the first couple of weeks. I imagine she'll be much more grateful – possibly embarrassed even – in a couple of months. Meanwhile, it might be good to give them some space while she’s in this vulnerable spot. She might feel like there are too many people around still and not feel able to speak up.
You are very kind.
Re: Birth Bridesmaids! You did NOT just put that into the universe. BAD CAROLYN. I hereby blame you for the resulting carnage that is (will be) matching birth-day dresses, even-more-high-pressure baby showers, chief attendants, programs, and seating charts where only the favored people get to see what I once heard described as a wet St. Bernard trying to get out through a cat door.
I’m not sure I put Birth Bridesmaids out there, but I am sure you just put the wet St. Bernard out there. Apologies to anyone who read this while trying to eat.
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