There’s a whole lot of decision-making that has to be done before you head to the hospital to get ready to welcome your new addition. In addition to all the standard stuff — what will go into your bag? Are you going to get the epidural? — there’s a “guest list” of sorts. Who, if anyone, gets a front row seat to your baby’s crowning moment?
We’d wager that pretty much everyone can answer this question immediately. It’s usually either, “Oh God, no one who hasn’t actually had an active role in making this baby” or “As many people as possible — when it comes to support, the more, the merrier.” Nowadays a lot of moms are extending that latter category to include their children. Jools Oliver, wife of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is just one such mom.
She announced the arrival of their newest, albeit nameless, addition on Instagram. He’s a handsome little lad, and that’s a post-delivery glow on Jools if we’ve ever seen one. Apparently it was a family affair, and in her post, Oliver even says that her daughters — Poppy, 14, and Daisy, 13 — cut their little brother’s umbilical cord:
It’s a sweet tableau, but it’s not one that comes without comment, because of course. Like all things parenting, the decision to let kids into the delivery room is fodder for debate. People who love the idea cite the normalization of birth and a family bonding experience as great reasons to let your older children have a bedside seat. People who hate the idea argue that childbirth is pretty grisly and that watching your mother writhe in pain or go under the knife can be traumatizing.
So who’s right?
Well, if you’re asking us, we’re going to say everyone. When people make parenting decisions and then vehemently defend them, they’ve usually got just one or two people in mind: themselves and their kids. It’s only natural. Your children are the barometer by which you measure what is and isn’t OK, because those are the kids you have extensive experience with. The only flaw, of course, is that children and the relative OK-ness of things like taking on a tween doula role vary greatly.
Fortunately when it comes to making a decision about whether it’s OK for your toddler or teen to be at the birth of their baby sibling, the only kid you need to know is your own. But you do really need to know them.
The fact is, witnessing a birth can be a great bonding experience, and it has the potential to be a chaotic shitshow that gives your children nightmares. What kind of kid do you have? Do they cry with you when you stub your toe, or do the both of you enjoy watching gnarly ER trauma videos over a pizza? Is an invitation to the operating room theater where you’ll have your innards sliced out and a baby extracted their idea of an un-skippable opportunity, or is it a chore they’ll resent? A 4-year-old kid with one personality might absolutely dig the idea of cutting their sib’s cord, and a completely different 14-year-old might be majorly squicked out by it.
We don’t know, but you do.
Ultimately the decision to let your kids into the delivery room with you is just like any other decision you make in the months leading up to the big day. And like every part of your birth plan, you’d better have a contingency or backup in place when you’re making up your mind. If you do decide to include them, you’ll want to prepare them, prepare yourself and grab an extra adult to swoop in and run interference just in case your child actually isn’t up for the miracle of birth.
It’s worth mentioning too that you might not even have the choice: Not every hospital will allow more than a few people in your room on the maternity ward, and those coveted slots might best be spent on adults who can provide the emotional care you just can’t get from a kid.
There are lots of reasons to ban kids from the birthing bed, and just as many to let them in. But one benefit I think we all can agree on is that even if your child is fascinated or inspired by the process of an 8-pound baby making their way out of your nethers, a front row seat will probably ensure that they won’t want to be trying it themselves anytime soon. And really, you can’t put a price on that kind of birth control.
Before you go, check out our slideshowbelow: