Children at Birth
I often am asked if children, especially young children, should attend the upcoming birth of their new sibling. Having children at birth can sound exciting, nerve-wracking and like a bad idea all at one time.
I have attended a few births where young siblings were present and have seen it gone well and also a be little bit disruptive.
Make it Optional
First of all, always give your child the option of opting out attending a birth. They should never be coerced one way or another, but a part of the decision making process of them being present.
Throughout this pregnancy I keep offering alternatives to attending a birth to my son – go to the park with Grandma, go play with a friend, etc. Each time it’s talked about he wants to do other things.
If a young child does decide that he/she wants to attend the birth, an adult friend or family member needs to be their “buddy” throughout the entire process. The two parents who made the new baby have a lot of work to do and need to concentrate on birth.
Active birth is not a time for parenting or consoling a younger child. This “buddy” needs to be someone that your young child is comfortable with and will allow to be cared for by them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that birth noises can be alarming to younger children. Some of the vocalizations needed to get the baby out can seem like the same noises that people make in grave danger.
It is understandable that this can be upsetting to young children. Pre-birth preparation on what is normal and ok needs to happen to prepare children on what to expect during birth. This can help reassure children when they see their mother giving birth.
When showing birth videos to my son he has seen blood when the baby was born and was quite alarmed. He started to ask questions – is the baby hurt? Does it hurt to push a baby out? All of these are GREAT questions that led to great three year old conversations. I hope that if he does attend the birth these conversations will help keep him calm and informed.
The DVD Birth Day is a great film for young children to watch in preparation for a homebirth. It just so happens to be the first childbirth video I show in my classes. It is calm, peaceful, surrounded by family but at the same time shows the sounds and movements of birth.
Birth is boring for young children. There is a lot of monotony involved and seemingly no progress being made (from the perspective of a child). Keep this in mind when decided if your child should attend your birth.
Having a child visit periodically during labor and just attending the actual birth can be a great alternative to being present throughout the entire birth.
One last thought I’ll leave you with is it might be wise to decide ahead of time what to do if your young child gets upset and wants mom/dad. I have seen a young child (rightfully so) get upset while her mama roared her baby’s head out.
This became disruptive when mama was consoling her child instead of focusing on the fact that she needed to push the body of the baby out. Deciding ahead of time what would be best for all might come in handy.
Siblings attending each others births can be an amazing thing. Both of my brothers were at my birth and everybody reports that it was a positive experience. The key, however, is a lot of preparation, planning and flexibility.
What was your experience with young kiddos at birth? I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you’ve thought of. Leave a comment and let us know!