Kids at your birth?
What age is the best age to have older siblings at a birth? In reality that answer can vary with so many factors. To start with, will you be comfortable having your other child/children present at your birth? Will you be able to focus and not get distracted by them? Are you completely comfortable with them seeing you naked, bleeding and fully giving birth? If the answers to those questions are yes then the next thing to consider is the maturity and understanding of your child/children when it comes to birth.
We always tell our moms that labor begins in the mind and if you are worried or focusing on anything else but trying to relax and breathe during labor then this will absolutely hinder your progress. If you have a small child that still depends on mommy for comfort and attention then it may be a good idea to have someone take that child or care for them in another area so that you can labor with ease. If you have an older child who can talk and communicate well then it may be easier to have them at the birth if this is what you wish. It's important to consider not only age but emotional maturity when considering having them present. Talking to them and showing them what a birth looks like. Reading books on birthing and how everything will be set up. Letting them ask questions and discussing fears or concerns. Creating an open space for the whole family to talk about birth so that it's not a scary or unknown event but a normal and exciting event to look forward to.
We Midwives love to have the older children attend births because we know how important it can be for them to look at natural birth as a normal event. It helps to create a visual that is positive and educational unlike what's shown on TV and movies that dramatize birth as a stressful and negative event. We will often explain what's going on so that the kids understand the normal process. Sometimes we will even get the kids involved with the birth if they really want to be. This would include, helping to catch the baby, cut the cord after and helping mom feel comfortable. We Midwives had our own children present at our births because we knew how important it was to us for them to be a part of their siblings' birth day. Talking to them about birth opens up the conversation about understanding their own anatomy and allows them to explore the ideas of when they have children and how they'd want to give birth or be a part of it. Younger children around preschool to kindergarten age are like sponges and love to ask questions and be curious. Older kids may or may not have already asked about birth, babies etc so they may or may not have different questions or comments. It' also helpful to let them decide too. Having a vision and dream of having your older children present may be important to you but it's important for them to feel comfortable as well.
We've had many families talk about having an older child present and last minute plans change because the child did not want to be there. Seeing your mom give birth can be cool and exciting but it can be scary and overwhelming too. Some kids may not be able to handle seeing their mom in pain and that's ok. The last thing to always consider if you have small or older children is having a back up plan just in case. A back up plan and back up caregiver is important for many reasons but here are 3 very important ones. One, labor can be long and exhausting and mom definitely has the strength and endurance to keep going but kids will get tired, hungry and bored. Having someone to take them if needed, feed them and keep them entertained would be helpful. Two, labor can be intense and maybe your kiddo isn't handling it as originally thought so may need to step away to regroup. Three, if plans change and or an emergency presents it's crucial to have that back up person so that the experience can still be positive and not be remembered as a traumatic one. Birth is unpredictable and so are kids but preparing ahead and having a plan can help make the whole experience better for everyone.