You’re having another baby and you really want to include your older child/ren in the birth process, but how? It can be so incredible to include the entire family in the birth process but there are a few logistical issues to consider beforehand.
1. How old are your children?
2. Who will be responsible for them while you are working hard to bring this new baby earthside?
3. What is your child’s temperament?
4. Where are you birthing?
5. Do you feel as if you can really relax and open into labor with your other child there?
1. The age of your child really does matter. Very young children, 12-24 months can have a very hard time disconnecting from mom. This isn’t to say they cannot or should not be in attendance, but it is vital to have a dedicated care provider for the under 2 crowd. Additionally, the very young child does not have the depth of understanding that an older child will Developmentally they are
2. While your child may be very independent and/or get along very well with your partner, your partner should NOT be the childcare solution. Children of all ages need a dedicated adult who is not only comfortable with them, but also comfortable with the birth process to be responsible for them. This may be physically putting them down for naps, feeding them, playing with them, changing diapers, etc. It also encompasses providing emotional support and age appropriate explanations for what is happening with mom.
3. Is your child particularly anxious or going through a “mommy” phase? How does your child cope with stressful situations? You know your child better than anyone else and also, your child will likely not be traumatized by your birth with the proper support. Highly anxious or empathic children may need extra support during the labor and birth. Make sure their caregiver knows them very well and is equipped to give them the support they need.
4. Your birth location plays a huge role in how easy it will be to have your child involved in your birth. If you are birthing at home or in a birth center it can be much more comfortable to involve your child in your birth as there are fewer restrictions. Midwives are very comfortable including children of all ages at birth. A home birth has the benefits of providing an incredibly comfortable space for your older siblings. However, if your child become uncomfortable or your labor is slowing down due to having them present it can be harder to send them out than if you are birthing at a birth center. It is essential to have a very comfortable and competent caregiver who can take your child to the park, the movies, a bounce house, or their home to give everyone an emotional reprieve if needed. Most birthing rooms in birthing centers are set up very much like a bedroom and can accommodate children in the room. The benefit of bringing children to birth center birth are the ability to send your child home if things are feeling too overwhelming for either of you. The disadvantage of having your child at a birth center is that it just isn’t their space, so they may get bored sooner. If you are bringing your child to your birth center birth bring them to as many prenatal appointments as possible so they can become accustomed to the birth space beforehand. Hospital rooms are generally smaller and filled with more equipment than home or birth center and offer rather uncomfortable waiting areas. Additionally, it is important to clarify not only hospital but your MD’s policy on having children present at the birth before you bring your children to the hospital.
5. Dig deep, how do you really feel having your child at your birth? Do you feel like it would be distracting? Would it increase or decrease your anxiety? Do you feel 100% confident in your birthing team and childcare provider? There is no need to force it and have your older child present at your birth if you feel it would impede your labor. You know how you feel better than anyone else and you understand your relationship with your child very well. Trust your intuition on this one and have a back up plan.
Tips for children of all ages:
Ask your child beforehand if he/she wants to be a part of the birth process. Older children can verbalize their desires. If possible, do not force a child to be a part of your birth if they feel strongly against it. They will be getting plenty of birth energy from you even if they aren’t in the room or even in the building. For some people the energy and emotions are just too overwhelming, and this is OK.
Prepare your child throughout pregnancy using age appropriate teaching materials such as birth films, books, discussion. It’s important to follow your child’s lead and only go into as much detail as they are able to handle in the moment. This may take several small discussions to cover one topic. They may ask you “where does the baby come from?” In our effort to be completely open and factual with our children we may go into a full explanation of the sperm and egg, fetal development and the like when they really just wanted to understand where the baby comes out of, i.e- the baby moves from the uterus through the birth canal and out the vagina. Not out of mama’s tummy or bottom.