Should Siblings Attend the Birth?

Thoughts on this topic fall into two separate camps: those who think having a child present at a birth can be an wondrous and awe-inspiring experience for your child, and those who think the trauma could produce Woody Allen-like neuroses later in your child's life.

Each separate camp has their reasons, and by exploring some of these grounds, you can better make this highly personal decision.

To Be Or Not to Be at the Birth

Pros. Many midwives report that children who attend the birth of their siblings are delighted to have the opportunity of bonding with their baby sister or brother immediately after birth. Involving your child in your subsequent pregnancies will help them handle the new experience in a healthier way.

Attending the birth is the natural last step in this process. Some children may find the mystery of how this newborn came into the world to have an alienating effect. Allowing them to be present would contribute to a sense of closeness and love. The cautionary note is that to have a successful experience, you and your child really must be prepared for this step.

Cons. A mother may sense that the presence of her child in the delivery room could distract and suppress her ability to have a happy birth experience. This is especially true if she is already nervous about the birthing process because of previous or expected complications.

Things to consider. You may want to base your decision on some factors that could possibly make or break the experience.

Home birth. Whether to include your child in your home birth is especially relevant. Asking your child whether he wants to attend is a good way to avoid making the child feel 'pushed out' of the house.

Your child's willingness to attend. Mention the idea to your child and see how they react to the idea. Your child should feel comfortable and excited about attending the birth. You may want to have the child watch a birth video so that he or she can make a more informed decision. If your child seems at all reluctant to attend, support their decision and make alternate arrangements. Have a trusted babysitter or relative agree to be available to take your child when the moment comes. Make plans for fun activities, so that your child doesn't feel left out.

The age and maturity of your child. Preparation is key! Therefore, most advocates of letting children attend the birth think that your child will be prepared by the age of three. At this age, children have the verbal communication capacities to understand and be able to ask questions after the birth. Your child's temperament is also highly important. If your child is a worrywart, has bad dreams or is very sensitive, it may not be a good idea.

Possible complications. Having your child around if you're worried about possible complications could intensify your stress and cause more troubles than it's worth. If you had a hard pregnancy last time or are expecting difficulty this time, your child's presence will only cause you unnecessary pressure.

I've decided to have my child at this birth

Great, but remember to be prepared. You can choose whether you want to bring your child for the labor, delivery only or the whole shebang. Discuss with your child early on what exactly will happen within the delivery room. In age appropriate language, explain that mothers will make 'hard work' noises and that it shouldn't scare them.

Mimic some of the noises commonly associated with birth. Also tell them that your body makes a lot of blood and fluids for the pregnancy and that it's normal to lose this during the labor and delivery. Show them videos or get a picture book. Go into detail.

Most hospitals now offer sibling tours for your older child. The tours take about two hours, and will allow your child to inspect the new grounds before the big day. Schedule the tour for a few weeks before you deliver so that it is fresh in your child's mind when the big day arrives.

Find a Child Companion

Recruit someone the child feels comfortable with to act as a companion. Don't enlist your husband, as you will be requiring his attention during the labor and delivery. If the child starts to feel uncomfortable, this companion can respond and leave the room with the child.

A child may also get bored, so let the companion know it's OK to eat or play with your child outside the room. Most importantly, the companion should be comfortable in the delivery room and able to provide explanations for what's happening while the baby is born.

Also be prepared to change your mind at the last minute if you feel uncomfortable. Explain to your child that you need to really concentrate on the birth so that it can go easier and faster.


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