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My 7-year-old belonged in the delivery room watching her sister's birth

Stephanie Land is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change. Her work has been featured in Vox, The New York Times and The Guardian. She lives in Missoula, Montana, with her two daughters.

Why I wanted my 7-year-old to watch me give birth

“Mom, you’re not going to have the baby today,” my daughter said from the back seat. We were on our way to drop her off at school in her final week of first grade.

Every morning I gave Mia a rundown of who would come pick her up in case I went into labor. For the past couple of weeks, since experiencing signs of early labor, I'd been carrying a list of about a dozen people’s phone numbers in my purse. As it got closer to the due date, I also had sheets containing a daily schedule of who was available at what hour and for how long to be on call in bringing me to the birth center.

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And Mia wanted to go too.

I tried to prepare her for this. Since I was a single mom and had decided to go through with the pregnancy without a father involved, I didn’t have a birth partner. Not that I expected my then 7-year-old to be someone who’d support me through labor, but I supported her wanting to be there when her little sister was born.

I showed her videos I found online of women giving birth at home, surrounded by midwives and doulas, in tubs of water. My birth would (hopefully) be the same, only not at our house, but at a house set up as a home environment for women to birth their babies. Mia watched the videos with her fingers in her ears, sometimes with her eyes shut.

“Are you sure you want to be there?” I asked. She nodded. “Well, this is what it’s going to be like, probably, so maybe you could watch this?”

“OK, but I just don’t like the screaming,” she said.

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I called Mia’s old preschool teacher. Jess was someone who’d connected with Mia emotionally and whose presence calmed her and kept her grounded. They had being a child of a single mother in common. Whenever Mia’s emotions got too big for the both of us to handle, I called up Jess to see if they could hang out. Now I called her to be my kid’s doula.

The baby came fast, like I knew she would. I called my friends over to my house at four in the morning after having some mildly painful cramps with 10-minute regularity. By the time we decided to go to the birth center, they were coming every three minutes.

My friend drove me, and Jess had the job of waking up Mia, getting her dressed and driving her in behind us. Mia showed up only five or 10 minutes before her sister emerged into the water. I had the baby in a swift, white-knuckled 20 minutes after arrival.

Mia had to step outside when I started crowning, but Jess was there for her to sing songs and assure that even though I was screeching for the midwife to just take the baby out, everything was perfectly fine. They came back in, and I sat, calmly, in the tub of water, with a scrunched-up-faced newborn under my chin.

The midwife handed the baby to Mia, who was sitting in a large chair with Jess next to her. She held her while I delivered the placenta, got shots to help the bleeding stop and was situated over several pads before they handed my baby back to me to nurse her. We’d been at the birth center for about an hour.

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Mia’s response to this has been that she’s never having a baby. I don’t blame her. The experience definitely left me not wanting more. I know she and Jess talked about it a little more than I did or ever could. I think the experience brought them closer, which is something Mia needed. Now whenever Mia goes through a difficult, emotional time, she asks if she can spend time with Jess.

“It’s good for me to have someone to talk to about things,” she said once. “I need to have someone to talk to about stuff I can’t talk to you about.”

Coraline’s almost 2 now, and Mia’s just now getting used to having a little sister around.

“OK, Mom,” she said the other day. “You’re right. She really did grow up to be someone I can play with.” 



Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

Why I wanted my 7-year-old to watch me give birth
Image: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images
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