Siblings at Childbirth
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Pregnancy & Childbirth > Siblings at Childbirth
I have a mature 5 year old who I would like to be there for the birth of her sibling.
I know friends who have done this with very positive results at home births and births
at Alta Bates. My doctor at Kaiser Oakland where I am delivering thinks they will
allow this, but isn't sure. The literature says siblings are okay and then in other
literature says they should be over 12 in the delivery room and during certain hours
in the recovery room. Have any of you had a younger sibling be there during the birth
at Kaiser? I am not asking whether it is a good idea or not,that is another
discussion. I am adamant on having my 5 year old there for a lot of reasons I won't
mention. My daughter will also have an adult to watch her at the hospial, take her
out if necessary. Thanks for any experience/information.
For what it's worth, I was five when my brother was born and was present for
the birth. My godmom was there to care for me. It was in a
hospital-supported birth center in SF. I had heard books, seen photos and
talked extensively about the birth experience with my parents. However,
nothing could have prepared me for the actual experience of seeing my mom
screaming, my brother coming out all blue and the afterbirth. I thought she
was going to die. And this was a natural birth with no complications. It was
a traumatic experience for this city kid. Perhaps it would have been
different if I'd lived on a farm and seen animals born before? I don't know.
I write this because I was a mature 5-y old and my parents did everything
''right'' but it still was terrible. Everyone always talked about what a
great experience it was; it wasn't till many many years later that I could
admit I wish I had NOT been there and it wasn't a great experience for me. I
was unable at the time to say it was scary and that I wanted to leave,
although I had parents who were good communicators. On the flip side, my mom
told me much later that having me there really slowed things down and made
it harder to concentrate on the labor. Do what you must do but know that
your child might not fully understand the implications of birth and it may
be too much - and your five year old may not be able to tell you or the
caregiver that in the moment. This is probably a lot different for kids who
are much older. My $.02.
Been there, seen that, wished I hadn't
I was 13 and my sister was 11 and we were there for the (hospital) birth of
our brother, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I'm a doula
now, probably because of that. My husband's brother was 3 years old when my
husband was born, and he was in the room as well (a home birth), and it all
went well. So if they allow it and you/your partner/5 year old are
comfortable with it, I say go for it. There is nothing inherently scary or
disturbing in birth that a 5 year old shouldn't see. I think it's a lot
easier to have a young child attend a homebirth, but it is possible in the
hospital if you plan ahead.
But as a doula, and as a mom who had a long, difficult birth ..... I would
say make sure you have a back-up plan. Hopefully your birth will go super
smoothly, but if there are complications or it's very long or you end up
needing lots of medical attention, you want your partner to be able to focus
100% on you. I attended a birth at which the mom and dad lost their
childcare and had to labor/deliver with their 3 year old in the room and it
was total chaos. And the little girl was lovely - but she was a little girl
and she didn't understand why her mom couldn't pay attention to her for
hours and hours.
If you're going to have your 5 year old in the room, there should be an
extra adult there who is ready and willing to be with her at all times - go
get snacks, take a nap in the lobby, explain things to her if she gets
concerned, take her out of the room if you suddenly decide you don't want
her there, take her home if anything unexpected happens.
I'm a big supporter of kids/families at births - but I know from experience
that birth is unpredictable and you want some extra support so you don't
have to worry about yourself, the baby AND your daughter. Just my two
Family births are great
I work at Kaiser Oakland, and children are welcome at births, provided they
can refrain from getting into things or being disruptive. I am willing to
support your mature 5 yo through the birth, just like any other family
member. I am not willing to provide childcare, which is sometimes the
expectation. It sounds like you have your bases covered with another adult
to support your older child.
That said, I must comment: I am adamant, and I want her there. What does
she want? Birth can be rough, graphic, and unpredictable. Even mature
adults have a hard time with it sometimes. Seeing your mother bloody and in
pain is not for all kids. That said, some of my best birth memories are
those with a curious little one at the mom's side.
If you have a C-section, your child may not be present. Also, you child will
not be able to stay with you on the postpartum unit.
Hope that helps - have a beautiful birth.
Childbirth involves intense physical pain, blood, sometimes injury, needles,
and multiple nurses and doctors. I cannot imagine why you'd want a small
child, or anyone not there fore medical purposes, to see this. I'd have been
scarred for life.
Mom of two.
Has anyone given birth with a younger child also in the hospital
(maybe not in the delivery room for the painful part)? A
distraction? Bad idea? We have the option to leave her alone
How your older child will fare at a birth depends entirely on your child
and on her relationship with his/her parent(s). My five year old
goddaughter was at the birth of my son, in the hospital, and she was not
only fine with it but was at times very supportive of me and the
outcoming baby. (At one point during labor, she chanted to the baby,
down!) Good luck with your decision.
I am pregnant and my daughter will be 27 months old when our
second child is born. I never thought I would want her to see
the birth, but lately I've been thinking differently. She is
pretty young and I only know of children attending births who
were older and could process more of what was happening.
Has anyone had their 2 year old attend a birth? In retrospect
was it a good or bad or ok idea for the child? Did it impact
your labor? And how did you prepare your at that age child for
Hi there- This decision is really up to you. I would decide if
my child was ready to be a witness to birth by showing him
some 'gentle' videos of mommy's having babies and see how his
reaction is. There are lots of books and videos especially for
young children who will be present during a birth.
Also- if you think that the laboring wouldn't be so great to
have him at, you can always inform whoever is watching him when
the right time to bring him in for the delivery is and then he
would still get to be a part of those special first moments.
I am expecting my 2nd child in a few months, and wondering how other
people have handled early labor w/ a toddler around. My older child will be
three, and I am concerned about how to handle early labor w/ him around,
especially if it comes in the middle of the night. In my first labor, I spent a
long time at home laboring, walking all around the house, moaning
increasingly loudly, etc. before I was sufficiently dilated to be admitted. I
am concerned that this would be very distressing for my child, who will
necessarily witness it in our small house. While we have friends who will
care for my son when I go into the hospital, I know that early labor can last
for a long time, and that one can have a number of false starts before true
labor begins. I'd hate to have to keep calling them w/ false alarms at 3:00
a.m., but am just not sure how to handle this. Any suggestions?
My kids are 25 months apart. When I was in early labor with my now 18
old (which turned out to be prodomal labor), we would go for walks with my
toddler in the stroller. My true labor went pretty fast (11pm to 2am)and my
2 yo woke up to my mom telling him he had a baby sister. He had bfast and
then came to the hospital to meet her.
I'm a doula and I would say probably the best thing for you to do is to go
about your day. Ignore early labor. Take your child to the park or to a
special restaurant, knowing this is your last day together one on one. Make
sure to take someone with you so if things speed up faster than you
you can make a quick getaway:). I have been witness to several births
the toddler didn't even notice what was going on... If you can, try and have
someone come over whose job is to care for your little one. In case you go
into labor at 3am... ideally your child will be asleep at that point and you
won't have to worry about a thing. Chances are your child will sleep
it. While you may feel you make a lot of noise, in reality it's not that
bad:) and the noises you make are usually pretty familiar to your child,
even when he or she is sleeping. Children are not necessarily always
by laboring mothers. Sometimes the mother is so intent on getting
settled for their kids they're not focusing too much on the contractions
either. Best wishes.
into active labor when I was home alone with my four year old. It was
actually really helpful to have her there while I was waiting for my husband
to arrive via BART. It was just the two of us for over an hour, and she
helped me breathe. What I did find is if I made too much noise, it did freak
her out, and she would tell me to stop it. In a funny way, that was helpful,
because it stopped me from ''losing control'' and being scared, as I was the
one who had to hold it together for her. I could really use the breathing
Luckily, my husband showed up, we dropped her off at a friend's house for
the night, and I gave birth 3 hours later. Much faster than the 25 hours the
first time around, and very different in other ways too.
I'm glad to have shared labor with her for awhile, as she chose not to be at
the birth. Just have plans in place in case it goes faster!
I am due in a couple of months with baby number 2 and seeking
advice about having my first child (who will be just shy of 3)
visit me and the baby during our stay in the hospital. I
believe it is fairly common for the older child to visit, but I
have also heard some folks say that seeing mom in a different
environment, in a hospital, and not being able to go home with
mom could be too stressful. Would love ideas about value of the
hospital visit and/or tips on making that time when mom is at
the hospital more manageable for the older child.
My daughter had just turend two when her sister came along. My father
brought her to the hospital. She was in awe of her baby sister. We were
worried she'd have a tough time leaving so my husband walked her
down to the playground next to Alta Bates to play for awhile, and then
put her in my father's car. We'd also purchased a gift to give her from
her baby sister...plastic food/ plates set. We had ''kitchen parties'' in the
best of luck-
My son was 2.5 years old when I had my daughter. When he first
visited me at the hospital, he was accompanied by my husband's
parents, who had watched him while we were delivering and whom
he adores, and my husband, who had gone home to spend a little
time with my son before returning to the hospital. My in-laws
had him get a balloon for his baby sister, which he really
enjoyed doing. We also wrapped up a train toy (he loves trains)
to give him as a present from his sister. We had a photo
session, where he was the star ''holding'' his baby sister. This
first visit went really well. He enjoyed the new surroundings
and all the attention.
The next visit the next day was not as successful. My in-laws
had left town, and my son was upset that I wasn't leaving with
my husband and him. Furthermore, he wanted us to put the baby
away so we could leave. He also pooped in his pull-up when he
hadn't been dong that for a few months.
My daughter is almost 9 months and he bounces back and forth
between really liking her and wishing she were gone. The visits
were like that, but if you make him the ''center of attention'',
this might make the hospital visit much smoother. Good luck!
When my mother went to the hospital to have my little brother (lo
these many years ago) she asked for no visitors...of course, my
aunts and uncles and cousins all trooped over to see her, while I
got stuck at home.
If there is any chance that your older kid will find out that his
or her cousins, etc. got to see you when your kid
didn't...believe me, I still remember how sad and hurt I felt
that not only was Mommy away but everyone else got to meet my
baby brother first (and I was barely 4 at the time...so don't
think your eldest is still too young to remember!)
I know you'll be coping with a lot, but believe me, you can make
a wonderful memory for your eldest about going to the hospital
and seeing Mommy and the new baby...or you can leave your eldest
at home for three days (or whatever) freaking out and imagining
what's happening and feeling jealous of anyone who does get to
see you. Which isn't maybe the best start for bringing someone
new into the family....
When I gave birth to my son, I was lucky enough to have my Mom
and sister watch my then just turned 3 year old daughter. We
made arrangements in advance for my daughter to stay with my Mom
the nights that I was expected to be in the hospital; my husband
stayed with my son and I. My daughter did not visit her new
little brother until after he was born; I was concerned over the
effects of the labor and delivery process etc. We brought my
daughter to many of my appointments so she was accustomed to
seeing me in a 'hospital' room, on a bed, with a doctor etc. We
also prepared my daughter for the impending delivery and my stay
at the hospital and explained to her that her mommy, daddy and
new baby would need to stay in the hospital for a couple of
nights. She was with my husband, son and me during the days & at
my Mom's only at night. I think my daughter would have felt
alienated if we did not have her visit (I would have missed her
terribly too; is that selfish on my part?)
If your family is not close by to stay with your older child,
ask a really close friend (even if it's for the first night of
your delivery). I've done this for a friend and it really helps
out! Good luck to you!
If I had it to do over again, I would not have had my daughter visit at the
hospital. It was heart breaking for both of us when she had to leave.
She was 3 years 3 months when her brother was born as was staying
with my mother-in-law whom she is very close to and sees several time
a week. She was very excited about having a baby sibling. We had
really prepared that it would be short visit, that mommy would sleep in
the hospital with the baby and we even had her baby brother give her a
gift. However, she screamed and cried and my mother-in-law had to
carry her out and apparently she cried for 2 hours after she left. I only
stayed in the hospital one night after the birth (but was away from my
daughter for 2 nights as I spend the first night laboring) which was good
as I had lots of help for the first 3 weeks home. However, my daugher
came to the hospital with daddy to bring home the baby and me and that
too was a mistake. The discharge was too slow, she got tired and bored
and it was all too hard. Again, if I could do it over, I would have called
my mother-in-law to bring her home once the baby and I were settled at
When my second was born 4 months ago, my first (just shy of
three) came to visit a few hours after he was born (grandma
brought her). She was delighted to meet her baby brother and had a
great time at the hospital (the nurse gave her a popsicle, she
played on the bed with mom and baby, she ran around etc.) And we
got some lovely photos of the whole family. She had no problem
going home with daddy that night, even though she had never been
away from mom for the whole night. She seemed to really understood
that something very special was going on.
My son, who will be 6 1/2 when our new baby is born, really
wants to be in the room when we have the baby. My husband and
I are split on this decision (we still have 5 months to
decide). If we do have him in the room, my sister-in-law would
be there with him to take him out if necessary. He's watched a
ton of ''A Baby Story'' and ''Maternity Ward'' episodes, so he
understands some of what goes on. I'd like to know what other
people's experiences were with having older siblings in the
room during the birth of the new baby. We'll be having this
baby at Alta Bates. My labor with my son was induced (water
broke and contractions didn't start on their own) and lasted 3
My daughter was almost exactly 6 1/2 when her bouncing baby
brother was born. After consulting with our OB, pediatrican, and
therapist, and my daughter, of course, we decided that it was
appropriate to have her at the birth.
My daughter reports that she is very happy to have attended the
birth. She had seen her own birth video, multiple times, and has
said, on occasion, pre and post birth, that the blood and vernix
were a little gross. We had our beloved sitter, over a six hour
period, come in and out of the room with our daughter. Only
watching me dilate over 6 hours would have bored my daughter, so
my daughter took great delight in running over to College avenue
and shopping and eating, and coming back every hour and-a-half.
To insure that my daughter not miss the birth, we armed my sitter
with two phones and one beeper. (Things accelerated hugely at
the end, so the two of them had to hightail it back)
Two caveats: my daughter was (and is) extremely mature (in some
ways) so she was able to handle the birth; many of her peers, now
10 and 11, said that they would not want to be at a birth.
Furthermore, my daughter said that had I been in pain, she would
have been very upset; I was not in pain, at all, since her
brother was induced 4 days post-partum, and I had, essentially,
my epidural started in the hospital parking lot. So there was
nary a groan or whimper from me during the entire process.
One nice thing I will always remember about my precious daughter
being at the birth. I was so fatigued, at the end, from 6-8
hours of dilation, labor, etc., that I kept telling my OB that it
was okay to section me, that I was too tired to push anymore. My
OB, husband, sitter, the nurses all cheered me on, telling me
that it would be over soon, etc; this didn't help much.
What allowed me to continue pushing was my daughter's beautiful
little upturned face and her saying to me, ''You can do this,
Mommy. You can do this. I know you can do this.'' So I did.
We gave a bag of goodies/presents from the baby for our daughter
after her brother was born. As an aside, we did not know the
gender of our second child, so our daughter was a little
discomfitted, a little disappointed when our baby turned out to
be a boy. Post-delivery, she was a little testy about having a
brother instead of a sister (we had warned her that this might
happen), but by the time we got to our hospital room, she was
cooing and ooing and ahhing over her new sibling.
I repeat, however, that our daughter was very adamant about her
relief at not saying me in pain. Whether it is a positive thing
or not, my daughter, now, has a very idealized, happy idea of the
birth process, and, yes, she adores her brother
Honk If You Love Epidurals
My then 3 year old son was in the room during my labor by
accident. Granny & Papa were supposed to pick him up but the
baby decided to come sooner than anyone thought. He had also
watched maternity ward and baby story with me while I was
pregnant. When we first got to triage the nurses were arguing
whether or not to collect fluids. My son put his hand on my arm
and looked me in the eye and said ''Mommy, are they hurting you?
Just let me know if they're hurting you.'' He's such a little
man. I also delivered at Alta Bates. The rooms have a large
couch and when I started pushing he started jumping on the couch
with excitement yelling ''My sister's coming! My sister's
coming!'' When we would watch The Baby Story and the mom would
start to push we'd both say ''come on baby, come on out!''
Watching the show was my way of explaining where babies come
from. Before he thought the baby would come out of my belly
button. He was convinced he could see her in there. When I
began pushing, the doctor would count to 10 for me to push and
every break I would lift up my oxygen mask and yell at him to
sit down. As this was all happening I could see my husband
looking down in shock at what was going on between my legs; he
wasn't as involved in the birth of my son. My daughter was a
month premature so when it was over everyone rushed upstairs to
neonatal with her leaving just me and my son alone in the room.
I was tired and hungry. My precious little boy saw the nurse
cleaning up all the tools and decided to give her a hand and
picked up the bowl that had my placenta in it. She turned
around and yelled NOOO! So he put it down and handed her some
forceps and other utensils. When it was all over we had
sandwiches and juice together. I must say I'll try to make
better arrangements for a sitter during my next labor; but I
wouldn't give up that experience for the world.
My (now 14) 5 year old son was present at the birth of my (now
10)daughter at Alta Bates. He didn't actually experience much
of the labor, which was pretty light compared to my first (a few
hours of easy, strong contractions and a couple of hard pushes,
versus about 8 or 10 hours of intense dilation and an hour of
intense pushing, with him) and most of it was in the evening and
at night, so he was asleep through most of the stronger labor at
home. We had a friend bring him to the hospital as the birth
was near, and she took him home fairly soon after. I only had a
couple of intense pushes to get her out and my son didn't want
to watch the birth closely, he sat on the couch and watched from
there--I think he was protecting himself from too much
information! The great thing about having him there was that he
got to hold her right away, and he felt included and ''knew'' what
was happening to bring her into our family. They have a
wonderful, close relationship, and I can't help but wonder if
having him at the birth contributed to it.
But I also feel very lucky that it was an easy birth--as it was,
my partner's attention was somewhat divided, even with the
friend there. I also felt the need to reassure my son that I was
ok during the couple of hard contractions that he witnessed, and
it was easy to do that, but if the birth had been harder and my
attention had had to be divided between laboring, or making
difficult decisions, and reassuring him, we might not have had
such good feelings about it.
Have your son come!! My boy was 5-1/2 when his brother was born
and 8 when his sister came and was there both times -- he was
great! The one mistake I made the first time around was that he
was in the next room during much of my labor, and he got more
scared hearing me yell and groan than when he was in the room
with me. He said he thought the midwives were hurting me. Your
son sounds very ready to go, and it sounds like you have the
perfect support person for him. I would want to be sure my
birth attendant was supportive too. Best of luck.
Our daughter attended the birth of her brother at Alta Bates
last December. She had just turned two at the time of the
delivery. My doctor suggested we might want to have her present
for the delivery. His opinion seemed to be that even at the
tender age of two, children understand a lot more than we give
them credit for. Having her attend and be part of the delivery
would help her adjust to being the big sister. He was a
pediatrician for years so my husband and I carefully considered
Now that all is said and done I'm happy to report he was right.
My daughter was great in the delivery room. She was involved,
she gave me strength and even coached me on pushing! We also
had her grandparents in attendance in case she got scared. It
was never a problem for her. We had the grandparents bring her
to the hospital when I was close to delivering. That way she
wasn't waiting at the hospital for hours. One thing we did that
also helped was to buy a few new toys to give her at the
hospital. They distracted her until the delivery started and
made her feel special.
We also spent a lot of time with her before the birth having her
watch deliveries on television and talked with her about what
the delivery would be like. One additional thing we did to help
her prepare was to take her to the prenatal visits. She enjoyed
listening to the heartbeat and seeing the baby on the ultrasound
machine. I'm sure she didn't fully understand what was
happening, but there was one side benefit. Before going to the
prenatal visits and the delivery she was afraid to visit her
doctor. Afterwards that krinkly paper on the exam table wasn't
at all scary. In fact, at the start of my prenatal exams she
insisted on sitting on the exam table first!
My experience was very positive. I think having my daughter
attend the delivery really helped her adjust to life as a big
sister. Good luck!
If you want more details, please feel free to contact me.
Our, then, 6 1/2 year old daughter attended her little brother's
birth. She was thrilled to have done it, although she said,
without much horror, that the blood, vernix, etc. was ''gross.''
My daughter was brought in and out of the birthing room, by our
beloved sitter, over a 6-8 hour period, with breaks to go
shopping/eating on College avenue.
My daughter's friends--now 10, 11 years old--have coommented that
they would not have wanted to be at a birth; I think most kids
would not be happy (mature enough, maybe) to be at a birth. My
daughter also said that had she seen me in pain, she would have
been unhappy and frightened. (She knew, however, that, like with
her birth, I was being met in the Alta Bates parking lot with an
Finally, I distilled great encouragement from my daughter's
presence. I was exhausted by the process (ptocin, and all) and
asked for a C-section. (half-jokingly) I remember my daughter's
beautiful, encouraging face and words: ''Mommy, you can do this;
besides, I won't be able to stay if you have a C-section. You
can do this, mommy.''
I would also suggest that you have a lot of telecommunications
equipment so your child, if your child is not always with you,
can be reached. We armed our sitter with 2 cell phones and a
Wishing you a happy birth
HONK IF YOU LOVE EPIDURALS
As my pregnancy progresses my husband and I are becoming very
interested in having my son (who will be 2.5 when the new baby
comes) attend the birth. We are planning a home birth and if we
have to transfer to the hospital we will not bring him along. I
am having trouble finding information or stories about how
children at this age deal with seeing a birth (specifically in a
home birth situation)--most of what I have read involves older
children at births.
I would love to hear any feedback anyone has on this subject.
Is 2.5 too young for this? How did your child react?
Thanks so much!
Birth while natural can be a scary experience for adults let
alone children. At 2.5 your child will be in a delicate stage
of development. He will be trying to break away from you and
become independent while at the same time he will be afraid of
breaking away. Why? Because he needs you. Your child will
look to you in all aspects of their life to help guide them.
They need you to be calm and strong. A 2.5 year old has a vivid
imagination and is trying to sort out emotions and learn how to
deal with emotional situations. I have watched my 2.5 year old
take mildly upsetting normal everyday experiences and react
strongly to them in his sleep and play. If child number one
believes child number two caused you pain there may be some
resentment that you will not be able to control. I understand
your desire to show your child the natural process of birth and
have him share in how your family grows but there are many ways
to do this other than having him watch you deliver your second
baby. I would suggest having him present during lulls in your
labor and then have him join you immediately after the baby is
born. Let him help you hold the baby and snuggle it. He could
love the baby while it nurses. There are any number of ways to
make your child an active participant in welcoming this new
family member without having him attend the birth.
Good luck to you and your family with your new addition.
I haven't actually had an experience with a child attending a
birth -- so take my comments for what they're worth -- but I have
VERY strong feelings about this. I have enough training in
developmental psychology to know that two and three year old
children have some developmental limitations which will make it
very difficult, if not impossible, to understand the experience
their mother goes through when giving birth. I know that when I
had my son I was in a LOT of pain; at a couple of points I cried
and begged those around me for help, and I did a lot of grunting
and screaming during the pushing phase. I was not capable of
stopping myself. I think it would have been very traumatic for
even an older child (say, 8 years) to be exposed to that.
Please reconsider! The birth of a child can be a beautiful thing,
but it can also be scary, unpredictable, and should be kept for an
adult audience (or at least an older child). At two and a half,
the line between fantasy and reality is a thin one, and many
events that we accept as ''a part of life'' are absolutely out of a
small child's ability to understand. Sometimes, perhaps often,
things go wrong with a birth. I have several friends (four, to be
exact) whose babies died during birth. Others have had babies
born who are not breathing. My sister-in-law bleed so much after
she delivered that she needed a blood transfusion. Please
consider what an event like this would do to your child. No one
plans for something to go wrong, but you never know. Both of my
births were totally normal, but I still would not have subjected a
child to my pain during labor.
I have a 3 years old daughter and I am pregnant too. I am french and
not fluent in english, so excuse my approximative english.
I really don't think it's a good idea at all to bring one of your
child at the birth of a baby. He or she is not asking for that, and
even is not asking to have a daughter or a brother. That's your
decision, not his/her. A delivery process is a very disturbing
experience, with a lot of bodily fluid and then when the baby is there
he is covered with those fluids. You're child will not understand what
is happening. I don't think a child could handle that, and I am sure
it is a traumatizing experience. If you think he could assist to the
delivery because it's a natural process, why not letting child
watching adults when they are making love... If you need to prepare
him or her to the fact he/she will have a brother or sister, you
should not expose your child to a situation that could be very
shocking for him/her... When I read "although I know it can be a
wonderful experience for a child, I'm not sure how wonderful it would
be for the mother", I just can't understand how this mother came to
have those kind of thinking... And I think it's just very
selfish... Even if the delivery process turn out very well, I can't
imagine why it could be a "wonderful experience"... He or she will
certainly benefit to have a brother or sister, and finally enjoy it.
And I am not speaking if the delivery process turn wrong... Have you
never read books from psychologist or pediatrician about children and
brother or sister.... Those I read never recommend to do that, not
even bring your child to an ultrasound, independently of his/her
age. They strongly recommend to keep your child out of this (this,
meaning the delivery and analysis)... but they tell about the jealousy
(which is a natural process) and how to manage and help your older
My son was 2years 4 1/2months when our second was born at home
and it was a great experience. We talked about the sounds mommy
would make and the blood so that wasn't a surprise for him. We
also watched a birth video(which he was interested in for about
the first 5 minutes)and baby story on TLC nearly every day
before the birth. In fact one of the first things he said after
his brother was born was now we have our own baby story! He's
almost 4 now and I asked if he remembered his brothers birth
and he said yes and talked about it in detail, how he was in
daddy's arms watching him come out. I then asked how he liked
being there and he said it was great! He can't wait for us to
have another baby. A sweet book for kids on homebirth is
Welcome with Love, it shows the oxygen tank and doppler the
midwives bring and again the noises mom makes and the placenta
so those things don't seem so foreign and scary when the time
comes. Good luck, you won't regret having him/her there.
We had all our four children at home, so we've had many different
age kids attending home births, including 3, 2 1/2, 5 etc. It's
never been a problem. Our midwife came to 'train' the children
with a pregnant puzzle woman, a birthing doll, and surgical
gloves that could be blown up as balloons, etc. We had the same
friend assigned to the kids every time. The children baked a
birthday cake while I was laboring, and then came to see the
birth, and got to hold their brother/sister right away. We had a
birthday party with cake and champagne..the kids got to have a
sip. The new baby brought them each a present, and then they got
to call all grandparents here and in Europe. It was very special
each time, and my husband firmly believes our children's very
close and affectionate relatioships are due to their being at
present when the new baby arrived. The younger kids can get
bored, so don't expect them to stay with you while you're
laboring. My oldest (a 3-year-old girl at the time her brother
was born) was chewing all the gum (at once) our friend had
brought her in her 'activity bag', and kept asking if she could
go to the park when this was over with. This is all witnessed on
an audiotape of an otherwise very quiet birth.....just chewing
noises, and her questions for hours. If you'd like to talk with
me, I'd be happy to share the stories, and have the kids share
theirs. Good luck
Quick 2 cents... Our situation was a little different: we have a
newborn (7/11) and a 22-month old and we made the
decision a week before the birth not to have our 'big girl'
come even to the hospital. I found that when she came with
me to doctors appointments she couldn't really understand
what was going on and was upset that people were
touching mommy , distressed about why I had to wear funny
clothes, etc. She did really really well being with Grandma,
friends, and Daddy while I was at the hospital for 2 1/2 days
and when I came home, she 'found' the baby in the bassinet
- she's been really good and she likes her baby brother, so
I'm happy with the decisions we made. I was crying, happily,
when I first saw her after the birth and she touched my tears
and said ''sad eyes'' - I can't imagine what she would have
felt or feared had she seen me in labor, in pain, or so sleepy
that I wouldn't have been able to be totally there for her.
Hope this helps a little...
2nd time mommy
My older son was 2yr 9 mos when he attended the birth of his
younger brother at the Pleasanton birth center. Not exactly a
home birth but pretty close in terms of the sibling thing. It
was not only do-able but something our family has come to
treasure over the years. What you do depends on the specific
child, and of course, the particular birth. I'm expecting again
so we recently watched the video of that birth, and it was just
wonderful to see how engaged my older son was with the whole process.
In terms of preparation, our midwife had told us to stress two
things. 1) the noise. Mommy will be making a lot of noise and
that's OK; 2) you may see a lot of blood and white gooey stuff
(vernix) on the baby when s/he comes out.
I borrowed a bunch of birth videos from Birth and Bonding on
Solano, particularly _Birth in the Squatting Position_ (which my
friends and I have nicknamed ''Brazilian Squat and Pop':-) and he
watched them over and over again. Because the babies in the
Brazilian movie had dark skin and lots of dark hair, my son kept
saying that ''his'' baby would be born purple (his favorite color).
He and his father had a game they played where my son would birth
himself through a corridor of pillows. Since we recently saw
this on video I have to tell you it was incredibly cute. He'd
curl himself up and grunt and groan and then push himself out.
You'll need at least one person to be solely responsible for the
older child, so that you and your partner can focus on the birth.
In our case we gave the job to my mother with instructions to
the others on our birth team that if my mom was freaking out
about something that they should take over and make sure her
anxiety didn't transfer over to my son. As it was, giving my mom
something to do took care of that issue (she'd had a difficult
time at my first labor). They went to a nearby playground for a
while and returned for the pushing and actual birth.
Oh, and since my labor began at night-time in our family bed, my
older son was there for a great deal of the time. He helped out
by bringing me food and also by nursing in the morning which
quickened the contractions.
Two days after the birth, when my older son was nursing, he
pulled back suddenly and declared, ''Mommy, you're colostrum has
turned into milk!''
My 3.5 year old was at the birth of her sister at home about 6
months ago. It was great. She is very imaginative and bonded
with us and did not freak out with either concern for me or
jealousy. The midwife we worked with said she strongly
recommended siblings be present at the birth. Of course it is
always their choice. Have an adult person ''assigned'' to them
and think about places they can go if you child does decide
he/she doesn't want to be there. My daughter and another 3 year
old were present. Their ''adults'' brought games and activities,
read them stories. They would come into the room check on me
and then wander out in search of something more entertaining.
We also watched the ''squatting position'' video before hand, and
a water birth video as we knew we were going to have a tub. We
talked about the blood, fluids, and noise. I am very very loud
in labor, lots of yelling, but none of it phased her. The
midwife advised as long as the people around you and with your
child are not going to panic, if they say its alright, then the
child will be OK. Obviously every kid's different and you have
to gauge how it would work. But if he/she is not showing any
trepidation as you prepare them I think it can be wonderful. My
older child is very bonded with her sister. Even her 3 year old
friend who attended loves to tell people about it to this day. I
I am a doula, and have attended several births with toddler
siblings. Each child is different and perhaps it would not be
for every child, but each of the cases I witnessed seemed to be
very positive experiences. I think the two key points are: 1)
prepare the child by involving him/her in prenatal visits,
working with the midwife, doula or doctor, watching various
birth videos, reading books, etc. 2) Have one person (whom the
child knows well) be with her/him for the entire labor and
birth. That person would have lots of activities available, and
can help the child decide when s/he wants to be in the room or
not. If a more emergent situation arises in the birth,
certainly the child does not have to be there to witness it.
That is part of the reason for having someone whose sole purpose
is to be with the toddler.
We have practiced making deep groaning noises, which the toddler
used to help Mommy during labor. I love Sirpa's idea of making
a birthday cake for the baby during the labor, and having a gift
from the baby. We have also had the toddler have a gift for the
baby. One suggestion that seems to work is: if the toddler
ended up away and is coming into the room after the baby is
born, have the baby NOT be in Mom's arms just as sibling enters.
Let toddler and Mom greet each other, then have him/her meet the
baby. Best wishes for a wonderful and safe birth, whatever you
P.S.- (I am presently not taking doula cases, as I am
still nursing our 16 month old.)
I haven't been there, but have a good friend who had a home birth
with a 2 and 1/2 year old present and it definitely wasn't
traumatizing. All the things people have said about prepairing
the girl, they did, and also, of course they had a good friend
there to play with her and keep her company. She helped in the
early stages of labor with rubbing her mom';s back, and then left
when it got too tough. She was called in once the baby had
crowned because she said she wanted to see it come out. All in
all they had a terrific experience and she is very very close to
This is a little off topic, but one person's reply to a home
birth with her son in attendance wrote that her eldest son
was nursing and let her know that her colostrum had ceased and
her milk had ''come in''. I just wanted to post that colostrum
is a precious and limited fluid that many experts feel is the
essential first immune modulator. To divert any of this fluid
from your newborn infant should be cautiously considered.
''This is a little off topic, but one person's reply to a home birth
with her son in attendance wrote that her eldest son was nursing and
let her know that her colostrum had ceased and her milk had ''come
in''. I just wanted to post that colostrum is a precious and limited
fluid that many experts feel is the essential first immune
modulator. To divert any of this fluid from your newborn infant should
be cautiously considered.''
After receiving this message, I took this person's concerns to a list
of birth-care professionals (obs,midwives, doulas, and lactation
consultants) and asked their opinions. The responses were unanimous:
there is no need to worry about "depleting" colostrum. Colostrum is
not a limited substance; like breastmilk it is regulated by the law of
supply = demand. A woman who gives birth to twins produces enough
colostrum for two children in response to their being twice as much
suckling. The only caveats were to be sure to nurse the older child
after the younger (which I did) and the usual and customary concerns
over weight-gain, wet diapers, and proper nutrition for the mother.
Also, the immunological benefits don't disappear when the milk comes
in. There's nothing less immunologically beneficial about the milk
coming in earlier than later. And a correction: my son did not say
that my colostrum had ''ceased'', he said it had ''turned into'' milk,
which is physiologically a more accurate description of what happens.
Based on my own experiences, I would advise against bringing an older
sibling into the delivery room, for two reasons: 1)although it might be
fine if the birth goes really well, one can't know that in advance; and
there's a good chance that the child will be aware that her/his mother is in
a lot of pain--which I think is not a good experience for the child (indeed,
the mother might even be rushed off for an emergency c-section, which could
be very alarming); 2)the mother has enough to worry about trying to stay
calm during the delivery process; she should not have the added stress of
worrying about whether her actions are upsetting her child (and just having
another adult there to be responsible for the child doesn't take care of
this). I've had two "normal" births (no c-section, no drugs)--one of which
I think a sibling might have handled, the other of which I believe would
have been very upsetting for a sibling, and at which a sibling's presence
would have greatly increased my already-high stress level. Who's to know
which kind yours will be?
To Laurie - Congratulations about baby #2 on the way. My son was 3 when my
daughter was born and I decided not to have him at the birth, mostly out of
concern that he not be exposed to my labor, and quite honestly, because I
didn't want to feel I couldn't honestly express my "discomfort" with
worrying about scaring him. My parents picked him up at his daycare and he
spent the night there - we talked to him on the phone after his sister was
born and his dad went to get him right in the morning to meet his sister and
then took him to daycare. As is the case these days, I left the hospital
less than 24 hours after arriving, and was home by the time he came home
from daycare that day. We have pictures of him holding his sister at the
hospital and he has good memories (fading quickly) of the event.
Personally, although I know it can be a wonderful experience for a child,
I'm not sure how wonderful it would be for the mother, especially if things
aren't going perfectly. I did have my son attend a sibling birth class at
Alta Bates, which he enjoyed.
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