With the big move back towards a family centered birth many parents are considering the option of allowing older siblings to prepare for and participate in the birth of a subsequent child.
There are many advocates who encourage this, but it is a very personal choice. Two things you need to ask yourself is:
- Are you ready to have the older child at the birth?
- Does the older child want to participate in the birth?
If either of you is uncomfortable then it is not wise to pursue this avenue, although make sure that your child is educated before trying to ascertain the mind set. They may not want to go because of fears that may not be accurate. For example, Tommy told your child that Mommies all scream and die when babies are born.
If you both feel comfortable you need to make precautions for the birth. This first step is educating the child. Classes offered on preparing siblings vary widely from not any information on the birth itself to details, including information like placentas and newborn exams. So, do not rely on these classes to give your child an education.
Children need to learn the basics of birth. What it looks like, sounds like, feels like. Also discuss what they can do to help you. Perhaps assign them a job, depending on their age and ability. Our daughter, Hilary, will be nearly six when our next child is born. She is in charge of making sure I have a drink and bringing fresh washcloth.
Age appropriateness is also an important issue. Never give them more information than they need or are asking for. It may only serve to confuse or overload them.
Things you can to do educate your child:
- Watch a birth video (realistic ones)
- Read kid friendly books
- Tour Birth Facility (If not your home.)
- Watch There's a Baby!
- Talk about procedures that may occur and ways women labor
- Show them faces mommy may make during the birth
Other things of Importance
Your child will need to have a care provider of their own, not you. It is best if it is someone that they are close to and have had some preparation with. You and your partner should not have to deal with the child and probably will not have the energy to do so during labor. This way if your child needs to leave for a bit (They may become bored, hungry, etc. during labor.), or ask a question they will have someone that they trust and care for with them and neither of you will have to worry about who is watching Susie.
Since both of our children will be attending the birth we have both of our mothers taking charge of a child. We have planned to let them come and go as they want or need to and as I feel comfortable. We are busy planning activities like special videos and cake baking (Birth Day cake for the baby). This will keep them occupied during labor and allow them the freedom to come and go.
No matter what you decide be flexible when the day actually arrives. Be ready for changes of plans, but allow the other caretakers to handle them. A child that has wanted to be there all long may suddenly not want to participate. It should never be a forced issue. Or there may be complication that necessitate the child not being allowed to participate, for example an emergency cesarean.