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Siblings at birth is a normal event in many cultures and yet in the United States siblings at birth is looked at best as crazy and worst child abuse. Some cannot wrap their heads around the fact that someone would choose to have their children present. The goal of this episode is to help you decide if this is the right idea for you and your family. I’ll give you some practical questions to ask yourself if you are thinking you may like you child with you. If you do decide or know right now that this is what you want then stick around to the end so I can give you some tips on how to prepare and what plans to have in place to make this a smooth experience for you and your children.
I’m one of those moms who dream about having my kids there watching their siblings be born. If you would have met me 5 years ago and told me this is what I would be preparing for I would have looked at you like you were nuts. It’s funny how life experiences can shape and mold you into someone totally different than who you thought you would be. I want to talk to the mom right now who in her heart would like to have her kiddo there as she births her baby but is feeling insecure in making that decision. She doesn’t know if she should or shouldn’t. I would say that I don’t think every mom should have her children present. You know your kid best so I want to give you permission to make your decision based off of that alone. I will also add that this is most conducive if you are birthing at home. Although siblings may be permitted in the hospital room during birth it is much less common. If you would like to learn more the first step would be contacting the hospital you’re planning on birthing at and ask if there is an age limit/requirement.
But if you have a desire in your heart but you don’t really know how to make this decision then let me go through some questions with you to see if that helps:
1 . What is your motivation to have the sibling attend? - There are many different reasons you may choose to have your children present. Some of those include:
Avoiding parent/sibling separation
Increasing family unity by experiencing a life event together
Hoping to increase sibling bond and reduce rivalry
Normalizing Birth for your child
Helping the child feel included
The main motivation I have for having my girls there is to show them that women can do hard things and that birth isn’t something to fear. I want them to feel empowered knowing that if mom can do it then they can do it. That it’s normal enough to happen in our bedroom. I also thought with my first that it would bond my girls together… I can tell you that having your child there will not guarantee that whatsoever! Knowing the motivation will help you have a foundation to base your decision off of.
2. What do you know about yourself?- Some women know that they would love to have their kids. They get comfort and peace knowing that they are close. Some know that their concentration during labor would be necessary and that kids would be a distraction that would be unhelpful. It’s helpful to reflect upon past birth experiences. Are you bringing fears into this birth that may change how your child sees this process?
3. What do you know about your child? - Is your child anxious? Would you kiddo be a help or a distraction? Do they want to be there at the birth? Do you have a support person available to attend the birth? Both of my girls have been extremely attentive to baby during this pregnancy. I have asked them both if they would like to be there. My two year old doesn’t quite know what it means but my 4 year old is thrilled and asks weekly if baby is going to come out yet. I will have some support people here during the birth just in case they are bored or getting overwhelmed. Some things to keep in mind about a support person: 1. Do they have a trusting relationship with your child? 2. Do they know about birth and are confident explaining things to children? 3. Do you trust them and are they attentive to your children’s needs? If you would like your child apart of this special day and you don’t have anyone in mind there are sibling doulas that you can hire to be with your children and help them through the process. There will definitely be preparation I do and have done with my girls before hand so they understand what’s happening and know what to expect. Lets talk about what this preparation may look like.
Child Prep for Birth- Many families who chose to have siblings attend do preparation of some kind. Those who choose not to prepare wish they had a little bit more. Some things that I’ve done with my kiddos and other parents do to help their kids prepare are:
Watch videos. The videos I chose to share are ones that resemble what the expected birth to be like. I birth at home so I’ll show homebirths with the loudest moms, the moms in the pool, on the bed, moving, groaning and just doing their thing. If you plan on birthing in the hospital then check out some videos there to show your children. It was so sweet, we had prepared cora with these videos. I would point out the different sounds moms would make. Towards the end sometimes a mom gets a little more high pitch and frantic sounding. I would explain that baby is almost born at this point and that it’s good! When I got to the point of pushing, which I did for 2 ½ hours… she was in another room making the sounds right along with me.
Prepare for blood. Sometimes the blood can be a scary thing for kiddos to see. They may relate it to their scraped knee and think that you are hurt. Preparing with pictures before hand and pointing out that blood is a very normal part of the process can be helpful.
Attend Prenatals with you. This is a great way to get your kiddo comfortable with some equipment as well as get to know and trust the provider in the room with you. Some of the most special times is when my midwife comes over and listens to baby and then has my girls help. They want to be involved and this is a fun way to do that and learn at the same time!
Children who are a little older around 7-11 are very inductive. Some things that may help prepare them is explaining that the noises, blood and other things you may experience at birth are all a normal process. They understand blood = injury so preparing before hand is helpful.
Children older than 11 start hypothesizing. They start thinking in what ifs. It may be helpful to to go more in depth on the physiology of birth and discuss what the plan is if something in the plan changes.
Really this is a balancing act. It’s all about you knowing your child, preparing them intuitively and making sure they know that plans change. That you are able to keep a balance of expectation of child participation as well as preparing. Children need to be able to feel like they can come and go. They need to have a support person there that doesn’t get too attached to the mom so they can focus on the kiddos needs during this process.
You’re the parent, you know your needs and your child needs best. Be sensitive to that and you’re going to make a decision that is best for you all. I know this was a quick episode but as I’m preparing for my upcoming birth I’ve been having more and more conversations with my girls about the birth and I thought it may be helpful to have a show discussing how to prepare. I feel fully confidence that we will be in a safe feeling environment, they will have people they know and love around them and the freedom to do and be however they need to. My 4 year old as verbally expressed her desire to attend the birth, specifically be in the pool. My 2 year old is very sweet and attentive and attached to mom. I am confident she’ll want to be close and if she needs a break I’m confident the people I have chosen to be supportive will be attuned to her. I also know that babies come when they want and I’m not attached to the thought or plan of them being there. I imagine it being quiet and intimate. I imagine people being in our house and close but not hovering. I will feel the community around me and I love that. I also know that if I need total space and peace they will all leave. I’ll be support and so will my kids.
I would love to hear if you would like to have your kiddos attend your birth and what your thoughts are about sibling attended birth. Go over to my IG @empoweredbirthpodcast and leave a comment on this weeks episode. If you liked this episode and found it helpful would you take a screenshot and share it to your IG stories? Make sure to tag me!
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Thanks for listening and Stay Empowered!
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