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Dear Abby: My mother came to help us when my wife, "Dana," was due to give birth. When Dana's water broke and her contractions started, Mom insisted that I take her shopping. She argued that deliveries take a long time, and she needed certain ingredients for a special meal. Dana wanted to go to the hospital. We argued back and forth, and finally Dana said: "Fine. Go. But come back as fast as you can."

Once we were at the mall, my mother said she also wanted to rent some movies. The short story is, we ended up spending a long time shopping. When we arrived back home, Dana was desperate. We drove to the hospital, and the doctor was annoyed that I had waited so long to get her there.

Dana delivered a healthy baby after three hours, but the doctor insisted that we should have arrived at the hospital earlier, and my wife agreed. I told Dana she should have been more assertive and demanded to be taken to the hospital. Who is right?

-- Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught: Your mother's ignorance and lack of sensitivity are appalling. Childbirth is painful and traumatic enough without adding the stress of a power struggle with an in-law. Your wife's wishes should have taken precedence over your mother's desire to go shopping. Please remember that, and while we're on the subject of childbirth -- and weddings -- read on:

Dear Abby: My best friend is being married in Las Vegas. Her brother's wife is pregnant, and her due date is seven days before the proposed wedding date. My friend's brother is trying to make her feel guilty about wanting to keep the date. My friend would very much prefer her brother to be present on her big day, and she's angry that he is making this about them instead of her. Should she reschedule her wedding around her sister-in-law's pregnancy?

-- Bride's Best Friend in Canada

Dear Best Friend: I doubt that the ob/gyn would want his patient to travel such a long distance so late in her pregnancy. The father-to-be should be with his wife when she gives birth. If the bride wants to be absolutely sure her brother can attend, she should change the date of the wedding. If that is not possible, perhaps the ceremony could be videotaped, and a copy sent to the brother and his wife.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.