Labor and delivery — once the domain of a woman, her doctor and attending nurses — has now become a welcoming party that not only Dad is invited to but sometimes grandparents, aunts and uncles, birth doulas and birth photographers. Also, some parents wonder if it’s OK for their children to be present at the birth of their new sibling.
We talked with moms who welcomed their kids into the birthing room, whether it be a home or a hospital birth, and we also spoke to those who felt their youngsters would be better off meeting their new brother or sister after delivery was over.
Some moms we spoke with felt that giving their children an option to be present is important. “I think birth is a natural part of life and not scary, and what better way to welcome a new baby to the family than having the entire family be present,” shared Rebecca, mom of four and owner of Know Thy Food and Warehouse Cafe, whose older children were present at their siblings’ births. Her oldest was nearly 8 when her next sibling was born and was not only present, she was given her own video camera to capture the moments from her perspective.
Parker, mom of one, said that it really depends on the personality and unique disposition of the child.
“I was very interested in pregnancy and meeting my brand new siblings as a kid, so being at the fifth child's birth when I was 11 was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” she remembered. “I loved being there.”
Other moms agreed with her, like Kelly, mom of two, who felt that in her case it would not have been a wise choice. “I'm not opposed to it in general, but not for my son,” she explained. “He is very sensitive and I would have been worried about comforting him, rather than focusing on the task at hand.”
If you have plans for a child to attend your birth, it’s necessary, and not really optional, to have alternate arrangements in place. Rachael, expecting her third baby, plans to let her older daughter be there when her little brother is born. “My mother will be on standby, however, if things were to go downhill for any reason and we couldn’t have her around,” she said. “I think there definitely needs to be a backup plan when you have siblings around for a birth.”
Your child also may not be able to handle the events very well, and if you’re busy focusing on her instead of your labor, it can be distracting and not productive for either of you. They also may lose interest, as Kimmy experienced. “I planned in having the boys at Suzume's birth, but after a few hours, I could tell they were bored,” she told us. “We had our babysitter on standby and she took them to bake birthday cupcakes at her mom's house.”
It’s important to keep in mind that things may not go as smoothly as planned — a complication may arise, or you may be transferred from home to hospital for other reasons.
Also, some hospitals have age restrictions on who can and cannot attend the birth.
And be sure to prepare your children for the realities of childbirth by watching birth videos or talking about what will take place ahead of time, as Shelly, mom of two, plans to do if the situation arises in her future.
“If I had another baby I would love to invite my girls to witness it,” she shared. “I would warn them that I may scream and there will be blood and it can get messy, but it's OK. I’d also have an escape plan for them if they got uncomfortable and let them know they would be free to go when they wanted.”
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