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Siblings at Childbirth

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Pregnancy & Childbirth > Siblings at Childbirth


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5 year old present during Kaiser childbirth?

April 2013

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. ANON


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 cents.

Congratulations! 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. a nurse


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.

Younger child at hospital during birth?

March 2005

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 with grandma. Michael


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, Keegan, down!) Good luck with your decision. Anon

2 year old attend a birth?

April 2004

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 the birth? Thanks, curious


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. Good luck! shaana

Will my early labor distress 3-year-old?

April 2002

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 month 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 expected you can make a quick getaway:). I have been witness to several births where 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 through 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 scared by laboring mothers. Sometimes the mother is so intent on getting childcare settled for their kids they're not focusing too much on the contractions either. Best wishes. Laurel


I went 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 exercises fully!

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! meghan


Three-year-old visiting at Hospital

August 2003

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. Thanks Margaret


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 doctors office. 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! Patty


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.... Sara


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! eileen


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 home. Lisa
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. Gen

6-year-old present at birth of new baby

June 2003

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 hours.
Thanks!
Heather


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.
loco labor
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.

good luck!
Susan


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.
susan
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 his input.

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.
Vicki


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 epidural.)

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 beeper.

Wishing you a happy birth
HONK IF YOU LOVE EPIDURALS


2.5 Year Old at a Home Birth

July 2002

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! Jeanette


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. NFG
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. Karen
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. Anon
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 child... johanne
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 sirpa
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!'' ---Sophie
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 recommend it. Karen
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 decide. P.S.- (I am presently not taking doula cases, as I am still nursing our 16 month old.) Nancy
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 her julie
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. healthcare professional
''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. ---Sophie
November 1996

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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