Should Your Kids Watch You Give Birth?
When I was pregnant with my fourth baby, I looked into giving birth at a local birth center, which focused on family-friendly initiatives, such as a communal snack area and welcoming as many visitors as the laboring mother wanted.
And one of the ways that the center focused on family? Inviting mothers to bring older children to their births if they wanted.
I entertained the idea of having my oldest daughter there for my birth — I really did. As a labor and delivery nurse, I truly do believe that birth is a beautiful, incredible experience (to me, it's the closest example of heaven on earth!), and it's certainly nothing to hide away. I loved the idea of having my daughter be a part of welcoming her little sister into the world, especially because I wasn't sure if I would have any more babies.
In the end, I decided against having my daughter at our birth. I had some complications with my pregnancy and had to get induced at 37 weeks, so I was pretty worried about everything going smoothly and needed that focused mental concentration.
I'm happy with the decision that we made, but I know that when it comes to birth, there is never a one-size-fits-all. And from the reaction I got from my variety of e-friends, the topic of whether or not an older child should be there to witness a birth is one that has a lot of differing opinions.
“No way!” said Lisa Littlewood of Little Writer Momma. “I wouldn't have wanted to see my mother give birth!! Some things are better unseen!” Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection has an equally vehement opinion: “NOOOOOOOO. I don't even want to be there though, so … haha!”
Megan Bishop, a mom of soon-to-be four kids, thinks that birth is just not a time to worry about your other kids. “For us, no way,” she said. “I need my concentration and calm (emphasis on calm) time during labor. Plus my kids freak out if they see me crying. I can't imagine them being around for me in labor.”
On the other hand, some mothers think that having older children present for a birth can be a very natural and beneficial experience. “My last baby was born at home in our living room (water birth),” explained Meagan Francis of The Happiest Home. “It was really peaceful and calm — early in the morning — and right as she was being born, all the kids came down the stairs and ‘saw' (though they actually saw very little.) I think it would have felt different if we'd all been crowded into a brightly lit room together, though.” Kristel Acevedo of Glowing Light thinks it's up to the child and that age can be a big factor — two points I would have to agree with.
Aela Mass of Two Moms Make a Right actually remembers watching her mother give birth. “My older brother and I were both there for our youngest brother's home birth,” she described. “I was 3 years old, and my older bro was just over 4. I remember it vividly and love that I was there. Lots of screaming, yes, but our mom prepped us beforehand and told us she'd need to scream, not because she's in pain, but because it would make her stronger — obviously a lie, but I believed her at the time.”
For some mothers, the choice may simply be out of their hands. While the hospital I worked at had an “open” policy, meaning that children technically could be present, providing there was another adult there to care for them, most parents opted to leave older siblings at home. Other hospitals, however, have a strict adults-only policy. “My hospital wouldn't allow it, and my OBGYN highly discouraged it,” explained mom of two Jessica Ashley. “I thought he might want to be there, but he wasn't, and we were all grateful for that in the end.”
What do you think? Would you let a child watch you give birth to their new sibling?