During my first pregnancy, like many new moms, I recall having specific limitations. One of my biggest worries was who would be present in the delivery room on the big day. At the time, it was extremely important for my birth to remain private, and I was accustomed to seeing the attendees of birth being limited to the husband and, in some cases, the maternal grandmother… Many births later, my knowledge, opinions, and approach to what labor and delivery should be has evolved. In my most recent journey to bringing our sixth baby earth-side, my husband and I decided inviting the siblings into our birth space was the next step for our family.
Why I Chose to invite the siblings into our
Birth is a very natural process, and having a homebirth really made my decision even easier. It isn’t scary, gross, or taboo, and over the years that is how my kids have grown to view labor and delivery. My midwife performed my prenatal exams in our home, my children were always present, and they would often times assist her in finding the baby’s heartbeat or checking my blood pressure. During my previous births, my first four in a hospital, I didn’t really consider it an option… But if I knew then what I know now, my children attending their new brother or sister’s birth-day would never be in question.
How do you prepare brothers and sisters for the big day?
My daughter acted as a doula before she turned five for our fifth baby, but she wasn’t in my bedroom for the actual delivery. I still had not wrapped my head around the idea of my children being present. So, while they were all there for my early labor, I would send them out as transition was about to peak– usually fifteen minutes before baby makes his grand appearance. This time I was very intentional about the entire process, and I began preparing early on. We watched several natural-birthing videos on YouTube as a family. I explained how painful the process can be and how different mommy might look and sound. I also told them that they could leave if ever they felt it was too intense or that they weren’t comfortable being there. I encouraged them to ask lots of questions, and we did this several times throughout my pregnancy.
Setting clear boundaries and expectations
Some would say their biggest worry about having the kiddos present in their birth is witnessing something going wrong during the delivery. My husband and I had a plan in place in the event things didn’t go as planned. My mother was present, and we agreed she would stay with them if we needed to be transferred. But honestly, my main worry was my children being mindful— knowing to keep their voices down and follow directions. My kids are well behaved, but in the weeks leading up to Brooklyn’s arrival I made it very clear– I wanted them to play active roles, but it was necessary for them to understand there would, likely, come a time in which they would need to “just be present”. I gave them examples like: try not to ask too many questions, and if mommy, Daddy, or midwife gives directions follow them right away. I also told them that there was a possibility it may become too overwhelming and I may ask them to wait outside. We had these conversations for months leading up to the day. It was clear that they remembered our talks in the way they carried themselves during the birth.
Having a backup plan
For us, part of the reason we chose to home birth had to do with the convenience. I’m able to identify that I’m in labor and just BE. There’s no call to the sitter, unless you choose to call one to help with the kids at home, no bags to lug into the car etc… Our backup plans, as I mentioned earlier, consisted of who the kids would stay with in the event we needed to be transferred and reminding the kids that they may need to wait outside of the room if a person in our birth-team felt it necessary. However, if I were to be delivering in a hospital I would choose one or two people to be on standby in the event there was a change in plans and the siblings need to be picked up from the hospital, on a whim. I would also have them pre-pack individual bags that contained nonperishable snacks, money for the vending machine, a couple of books, and a sweater :).
Obviously, birth looks different for each family, and planning needs to be adjusted accordingly.
My Final thoughts
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it; If you are considering having your children present for their new brother or sister’s birth…
I know the thought can be intimidating, and you may even be worried about what people will think, but I promise you will not regret it. The birth of our sixth baby was amazing, you could literally feel the love in my room, and there were unbreakable bonds created! If ever there were to be a number seven to join the Modlins, it wouldn’t be a question of whether or not my babies would be present—Their presence is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
To read my birth story click HERE