Deciding who to have in your birth space is such a special and important decision. Who do you envision with you as you labor and birth? If you are considering having your older child(ren) at your birth this post is for you! We are excited to share some tips we've learned during our experience as doulas and midwives supporting birth as a family.
Tiffany, a mom who had her 4.5 year old son and 6.5 year old daughter present for her home birth spoke to us about her choice:
"Honestly, I feel that if anyone wants to play a small role in changing what society has told us birth should look like, have your kids in the room. It normals natural birth and lifts the taboo that surrounds home birth. Plus, it's one of the most amazing moments in your life! Why wouldn't you want to share it with them. Having them outside really only makes them more anxious and sends the message that there is something to hide. Besides, it shows how tough mom really truly is. Don't mess with me!"
Tiffany's favorite memory of having her kids at her births was her kindergarten daughter exclaiming. "Mom! I can see her head! She has a lot of hair! Will she have teeth?!"
If you are considering having your toddler or big kids with you during your birth here are some of our best tips!
1. Take your kid(s) to at least a few of your prenatal appointments (consider asking for the option to have some in-home prenatal visits if you're having a home birth). Let them get more familiar with your care provider. Talk to them about what's happening - that your growing belly is home to their little sibling, that you’re listening to their brother or sister’s heartbeat. Listen to the big kids heart beat next. Help them make the connections. Keep them involved hands-on. This prepares them not only for birth, but helps them build a more tangible relationship with their sibling. They are never to young!
2. Watch (prescreened) birth videos and make birth noises together. I think one of the biggest concerns parents have is that their children may be frightened of birth. That hasn't been my experience, but preparing kids for the noises of birth can help guide their expectations. Really, most kid's have no expectations of birth unlike us adults. For them it's normal unless you tell them otherwise.
How to: "Moo" together! A really deep cow "Mooooo" is a silly way to practice. Talk to kids about how making noises helps mom feel better and is a normal.
Tiffany remembers " I remember looking over at Taylor who was 4.5years old, completely passed out asleep. I figured I must be doing this whole birth thing right because he clearly wasn't scared or stressed out at ALL!"
3. Designate a person for the kids for the day of. This is a must. No one wants to be laboring in their birth tub and also have a little person in their face demanding their afternoon cheddar bunnies. This designated grown up may or may not be in the room to witness the birth, and is not the birthing person's support person. Their sole responsibility is to take care of the older siblings.
4. Have fun activities prepared - most often children go in and out of the birth space. Whether you are planning a home birth or a hospital birth, it's a good idea to pack a little bag of new or favorite activity books and toys.
5. Think about your kid's personality and general approach to life. You know your child better than anyone else. Does he or she take a pretty cautious approach to new experiences? Or are they excited to learn new things and try new things? Do you have a nurturing kiddo who would relish the opportunity to participate? Or the kid who cries when you get your blood pressure taken? There’s no right or wrong. There are many adults who would love to see a baby being born…and probably just as many who wouldn’t! It’s okay!
6. Know yourself and be flexible. There's a huge emotional aspect of giving birth. Often we see that labor really "kicks into gear" when older kids are asleep or are taken care of. I've also seen the birth tub surrounded by adorable older siblings (some reminiscing about the other births they seen).
There's no way to predict exactly what you or your little ones will need while you are in labor. Just take that off your plate. You cannot plan all the details. Deep breath...Toddlers are unpredictable. It's okay to not KNOW.
Create a plan if you want your older children to be at your birth and then let the chips fall where they may. If you follow these tips (including having a designated person for your older child), you and your birth team should be able to adapt and accommodate to your needs and your child's in the moment.
Did you have your older kids at your birth? Tell us how it went! What tips would you give other moms?