'Dear Prudence' thinks siblings don't belong in the delivery room

Nov 19, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. ET

A concerned mom asked popular advice columnist "Dear Prudence" for guidance after being shamed for her birth plan. Instead of encouraging Mom to stick to her plan, Prudence supported the people shaming and criticizing her.

The expecting mom in question wants to allow her stepdaughter, 13-year-old Lydia, to witness her delivery. Lydia requested to be there, and it makes perfect sense. She's by all accounts a mature, reasonable girl and it sounds like she's excited to meet her new sibling. "My husband, her mom and I all think this would be a good experience for Lydia," the mom writes.

What's the problem? Family members and friends are "horrified" that Lydia might be included in this event. The mom asked for an appropriate response to their reactions. Instead of offering a polite way to stick up for herself, Prudence backed these people up with dubious logic. The advice columnist thinks birth isn't appropriate for a 13-year-old to witness.

Can we stop treating teens like they're incapable of making decisions for themselves? There's no reason to discourage a 13-year-old who has expressed interest in participating in her siblings' birth. If the going gets rough and she wants to peace out, it's as simple as walking back to the waiting room. Cutting her out of a major life event that means a lot to her will be more damaging than whatever horrors Prudence thinks she'll witness during childbirth.

"My concern is not that Lydia gets a good look at your privates, but that even the most mature, grounded 13-year-old would be better off meeting her new sibling once the baby is cleaned up and swaddled," Prudence writes.

How about we don't sanitize childbirth? Lydia is old enough to know that birth is bloody and loud and messy. She's also old enough to know that those aspects of birth don't make it nasty or gross or horrifying.

Florida mom Amethyst was 14 when she acted as a labor coach while her mom gave birth. "Attending the birth of my brother was a very special experience that helped prepare me for childbirth later in life, and created a bond between my brother and I," she says. "Some may argue that it was too much for a 14-year-old to see, but I disagree. It was an invaluable experience that I wouldn't give up."

If we want to end the culture of shame around women's bodies and the miracles they're capable of, we have to start by being honest with our kids. I hope Lydia's step-mom and father stick to the plan. It's a good plan that any family should feel comfortable embracing if that's what works for them.

More on childbirth

Dear mom who didn't have a home birth: Stop judging me
Here's another reason to stop feeling guilty about your epidural
A journey from new mom to birth advocate

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