Here are some ideas:
- Give them a job.
Depending on the age of a child, there are jobs that can be done during labor that will keep them busy and yet focused. This job will depend on their age, personal preference and desire. So, for example, a seven year old who is really interested in the labor process might want a job actively helping you in labor. An older child who is not so interested in labor, might choose to be there only for the birth, but could be busy baking a cake or making baby announcements or something else related but not in the room. We also had our older daughter, in her late teens, play house manager. She took care of the phones and the door bells. She made sure the midwives and others had food. It was perfect for her and she could come and go as she needed.
- Give them a break.
Not all kids will be able to hang the whole labor. This is perfectly fine. You might want to consider the hour and the projected length of labor. So, you might not wake a child up if it’s 2 a.m. and your water broke with no contractions or it’s early in the labor. You can also have other things that they can do. Taking a computer with a game installed or DVDs with you to the hospital can be a great time out activity. You can have your child use a pair of headphones or go to the waiting room, if they are old enough. Having the ability to come and go as they need will encourage them to take care of themselves emotionally.
- Give them a doula.
This is particularly important for very young children. They need someone whose only job is to supervise them. This is a great job for a student childbirth educator, doula or midwife. It can also be the perfect job for a friend or someone else who realizes that they are there for the child only and that if the child wants to leave at the moment before the baby is born, they too must go. (This is why a professional, even in training, is usually better.)
- Give them an out.
Sometimes, no matter how much you want it – they don’t. Do not try to force your child to attend a birth that they don’t want to attend. This will simply make you both miserable. Do talk about the reasons why they don’t want to come to the birth, if they can articulate it. There may be a happy medium. You might also be able to compromise and let them decide at that moment. Perhaps they want to be there for a part of your labor, but then leave for the birth, but when it’s actually there, they decide to stay. That should be up to them.
One tip is to watch There's a Baby! as preparation.