When I was 5 years old I was given one of the coolest gifts. The opportunity to to be in the room when my sister was born. My mom didn't want me to ever feel left out so I attended lamaze classes with her so I could prepare to be in the birth room.
I still remember the day she was born. I even remember when I had to leave the room with my Grammie because things got a little scary for a few minutes. Luckily I got to come back into the room when things settled down in time to watch her come out. Obviously my mom had no idea just how cool this would be for me in the future as a doula and birth photographer! When it came time for me to have my second son I knew that I wanted my first to be in the room with me as well. I've had lots of people ask how to prepare their older child and these were some of the ways I prepared my son for his brother's birth.
1. Have a support person just for them.
When planning to have your older children at your birth it's important they have a care provider there just for them. For emotional and physical support. So not your partner and not your doula. Because nothing makes kids more hungry and thirsty than watching mom in labor. Also if things get rough it's good to have someone that can be one on one with them to explain what is happening or bring them to another room. Sometimes you really just need space as having kiddos around can stall your labor.
2.Watch birth videos and look at birth photos.
This isn't the time to get shy. Have your kiddos watch a variety of different birth videos. The quiet and calm ones as well as the ones were mom is yelling through contractions. Let them see crowning images. Let them see different ways and postitions babies can be born. Explain how hard mamas have to work to get a baby out. I watched so many birth videos with my son. He would get concerned and I would just explain that it's hard work to have a baby!
3. Use proper terms.
Another area to not be shy. And this is good advice whether you are having a baby or not! Using proper terms for all body parts promotes healthy conversation and greater knowledge. Mommy's baby has grown in her uterus. Her cervix has to work to open up to let the baby come out throught mommy's vagina. Also talk about consent. The doctor/midwife is checking mommy's cervix to see if it has opened. She/he asked her permission first. It will also help to show them the different tools that may be used like a stethescope or doppler and a blood pressure cuff.
4. Talk about how hard it is!
Having a baby is hard work. It's so important to teach kids this! Explain when mom is making lots of funny noises it's because she has to move her body and dig deep down to find a way to help the baby come out. She may get frustrated and she may cry. She may yell or ask for space. She may not want to be touched or she may like some cuddles or a nice cold cloth on her head. Use the word safe. Mom is feeling pain but she is safe. Pain usually tells us when something is wrong but when we have babies it sometimes hurts and that is totally normal. The midwife/doctor is there to make sure mom and baby are safe!
5. Give them an out.
Let them know if they are feeling nervous that it is ok to leave. Tell them how much you'd love for them to be there but that it's ok if they need to take a break if mom gets too loud.
Overall it is up to you, the birthing person. Only you can know what is best for you. Some people just know that they would never be able to relax enough and let go the way birth needs us to with kids in the room. And some people know their kids so well that they know they won't be able to handle it well at all. And that's ok too! But if you are considering it I hope these tips help prepare your family for a once in a lifetime experience together. Births with siblings present are some of my favorites to capture. Our culture keeps birth so secret and taboo. Kids are so smart and it's surprising how well they can handle the birth room.
Photographer, Birth and Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Intactivist, Seamstress, Partner to my long time boyfriend, and Mindful Mama.