By the time most pregnant women go into labor, they have a pretty clear idea of how they’d like their birth experience to go. They know whether or not they want the option of an epidural, how they’re planning to help themselves cope and, most importantly, who they want present as their child makes its way into the world. Moms have been known to ban a particularly mouthy mother-in-law or sibling from the delivery room, but one Staten Island mom is making headlines after she got a court order to keep her husband away.
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Brianne Stoffer Tagliarini is expecting her third child any day now with her estranged husband, Eric. Last week, she sought — and was granted — an emergency court order barring her husband from being present in the delivery room when she goes into labor. Brianne told her husband she wanted a divorce in early February, and the couple has been apart ever since. She says having her husband in the delivery room would cause her too much emotional distress, but her husband firmly believes it’s his right to witness the birth of his child.
In a groundbreaking ruling, Richmond County Supreme Court Justice Catherine DiDomenico sided with Brianne, saying the mom has the sole legal right to determine the course of her medical treatment, including who she allows into the room while she’s being treated. Eric may not like the ruling, but allowing him into the room would violate Brianne’s privacy and potentially cause a messy situation. That’s not something any laboring mom needs to worry about while she’s trying to give birth.
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It takes two people to make a baby, but at the end of the day, we have to remember it is the woman’s body that’s being used to grow, nurture and deliver the child. A laboring mom is a patient in a hospital, and it’s up to her to dictate what happens during her delivery experience. A father may have rights to his child, but that doesn’t mean he gets to override a woman’s rights to her own body, privacy and peace of mind.
We tend to think of birth as a shared experience, but we have to be careful that we’re not stripping rights away from moms in our attempts to make it “all about the family.” If a man were demanding to be present during his wife’s pap smear or while she got her wisdom teeth removed, that’d be ludicrous. It’s equally absurd to say that anyone would be justified in barging in on a woman’s labor. Hospital births have to abide by the same rules as any other medical procedure.
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Brianne has said she doesn’t plan on keeping Eric from seeing his child. As soon as the baby is born, the father will be allowed to meet and bond with the new arrival. The only time he’ll be asked to stay away is while his soon-to-be ex is actually laboring and giving birth, and that seems like a fair compromise. Just a few short decades ago, it was common for dads to be asked to sit in the waiting room during delivery. Brianne’s court order may be unprecedented, but making a dad wait outside the room is not. And, more importantly, it guarantees this mom her right to a private, distraction-free labor experience.
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