Has your child ever toned interest in seeing your baby be born? Is it tough for you to find childcare for your other child(ren) while you give birth? Would you like to give your child(ren) the gift of seeing a sibling being born?
Whatever your reasons for considering having your child(ren) at the birth of their sibling I hope there are some tips and food for thought here that will help you decide if it is for you and your family and help you to make it happen in a memorable and peaceful way for you and your child(ren).
I wanted to share some of my experience with clients who had their older children at the birth of a sibling. All of these births happened to be home water births. Somehow a water birth is gentle and easier to watch. If you have ever seen a water birth then you will understand what I mean when I say it is the easiest kind of birth for a sibling to witness.
Tips on how to prepare a child to be present at the birth of a sibling.
- Act like its the most normal natural thing in the world because for your child it is. The baby is in your belly and it needs to come out!! Your child, if it is older than about two, knows that needs to happen somehow so why wouldn’t you just say it how it is?
- Watch a few carefully chosen you-tube birth films with your child. Preferably where children are involved too. Also ones that show the baby coming out. Children like to know how it happens and its not strange to them.
Here are some links to my favourite family centered birth films.
- Purchase and read a child’s story book about sibling birth. Link to “Our water Baby” a book I lend to clients planning on having a child involved in the birth of thier sibling amd being read with the children in the photos above.
- If you are planning a water birth then involve the children in the test run of setting up the pool and make it a memorable experience. This family above had the same pool for each child’s birth and they grew up knowing they were born in that pool so when the next sibling was due to be born it became a tradition to test run it.
- Talk honestly about how you (the birthing mother) might respond during labour. Talk about how its normal that you may shout, breath deeply, cry, be very concentrated and focused and not be able to talk.
- Talk openly about how the baby grows inside and what the baby’s house looks like inside the womb and how that needs to come out after the baby is born. Talk about blood and how it is normal and not scary.
- Make a plan with your child about if it happens at night. Will you wake the child up and what will happen when you do? Do you want to wait and see if it feels right at the moment?
Out of the mouths of babes… priceless comments made by children at these births:
After bedtime stories one almost 3 year old girl said to her Mum “Just poop my little sister out tonight will you Mummy?” Later that night her Dad woke her up a few minutes after the baby was born to see her baby sister and the first thing she said with a big sleepy smile was “Mum, you did it, you pooped the baby out!”
After peeking over the edge of the pool and seeing the baby’s head crowning this 3 year old boy quickly said “I am going back to my cars now!”
A while after the baby had been born big sister said “Mama, when is the baby’s house coming out?”
Things to consider are:
- How will it affect you to have your child going in and out of the room while you are in labour? Will it relax you to have them around or will it stress you out? Of course if your answer is the later then seriously consider another option or having them only join the party after the baby is born.
- How does your child respond to you when you are visibly in pain?
- Don’t project your own fear on your child of how you think your child might respond to the process. Try to listen to what your child says it would like.
- Think of a plan for extra care for your child if you need to go to the hospital. You always need to have a back-up plan. Who will take care of the children? What do you want to happen to the children if there is an emergency? Will you discuss this possibility with them beforehand or see what happens on the day?
- You may consider having an extra person in the house to take care of the children if necessary. If you can miss your partner as your main support, or if you have no other option, then maybe he can care for the children. In this case you may want to consider extra support for yourself such as a family member or a doula.
- Having older children at your birth is a little different. They understand a lot more and may have less need for a baby sitter to be present especially for them. You know your child and can best judge if they need extra support or not.
- Not everyone has the same ideas about the presence of children at birth. Think about how you will respond to reactions of friends and family. It is well possible that your child will naturally talk about their experience to others. If your child is school age, maybe it is a good idea to prepare the teacher at school so he/she can be prepared for any conversations with class mates.
- There is a certain amount of flexibility you need to have as you never know when labour will start and how it will go. It may be stressful for you to hold on to planning to do it only one way. For instance what time of day you give birth has an influence. Some parents decided not to wake the child(ren) up, when the labour was at night, and just got them up when the baby was born.
My observation of the young children I have seen present at a birth is that they treat is as a very natural thing. They play and then have a look and maybe give a hug or a sweet caring gesture and then they go on to the next thing for a while. Maybe they see the moment the baby comes out maybe they don’t. It needs to be their choice at that moment. Maybe you just want to have them around you while you are in labour, maybe you only want to invite them in after the baby is born. The choice is yours.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful birthing experience however you choose to receive the new little baby into your family.