Siblings at Births
May’s Pickles & Ice Cream Circle was last week and was all about siblings at births: whether to include them, how to include them, why to include them. We started out with a panel of moms and experts, but with several moms in the audience who also had great experiences to share, we dispensed completely with formality and had a great roundtable of stories, plans, and advice.
One recurring theme was an encouragement to leave the choice open to your child, not just ahead of time, but during the birth. As long as you would like to have your child(ren) at your birth, or even if you aren’t sure and want to see how things go, you can let them move in and out of the room as they choose and as their level of interest, the time of day, and other factors guide them.
Every mother advised that the easiest way to keep things flexible is to have a caretaker available just for your children, so that if they are ever uncomfortable or just plain bored or tired, they have their own familiar person to tend to their needs so that you and your caretakers can stay focused on you and your labor. One mama specified in her birth plan that her kids were to be kept happy, because what would break her focus more than hearing another of her babies cry? She said she knew the plan worked, because her daughter came in to give her a kiss and had frosting breath–the kids and their caretaker were having a birthday cake for the new baby’s birthday!
We also heard about an older daughter who was staying with grandparents and could not make it to the hospital in time due to weather, and an older son who was just in another room playing during the birth because no one came and got him. Both were truly disappointed to miss the moment of birth, so their mothers advised telling caretakers ahead of time that if your older children have floated out of the room to do something else, someone should let them know when birth is imminent.
The second theme of the evening was that having your older children with you can be a positive experience, not just for them, but also for you. We heard several stories of even very young children offering their mothers encouragement, gentle touch, and understanding. What a lovely experience for a woman who is becoming a mother all over again!
Several moms observed that being present and included in the process of a younger sibling’s birth helped their older children make a smooth transition to having a new member in the family, which is a plus for everyone.
A mother of four talked about the contrast between being separated from her older children for at least 24 hours for births two and three, and having her children come in from the waiting room just a few minutes after her fourth was born. Even though they were not present for much of the labor or for the moment of birth, she felt that they were more part of the process, and she particularly enjoyed the smoother introduction and not being separated as a family.
Of course, if you want to include your children at your birth, you probably want to begin that process during your pregnancy. Not only does this help prepare for the “big day,” but it also helps your children understand why you already might need more down time, fewer strong smells, and so on. One experienced mother also mentioned that letting older children be involved in your pregnancy and birth can lead naturally and comfortably to an age-appropriate explanation of the birds and the bees.
Several moms agreed that including your children at prenatals can help them understand the process, give them a time to ask questions, and help them get comfortable with your care provider ahead of time. Moms also recommended books geared toward children, such as the home-birth tale Welcome with Love (also titled Hello Baby, depending on the country of printing) by Jenni Overend. Unfortunately, that particular book appears to be out of print in the U.S., so we’d love to hear your own suggestions for kid-friendly books about pregnancy and birth!
If you are interested in attending our next Pickles & Ice Cream Circle, check out our calendar. If you have questions or are looking for resources, you can also visit our website for contact info and a resource library.