My husband and I are planning another home waterbirth for this baby's arrival. Our past birth experiences have been wonderful. Four of our five children were born at home, and all five had gentle waterbirths. We love the freedom of being in our own space, with people who trust the birth process - and yet are trained to deal with problems as they arise, too.
|(photos taken in 2010 are not an accurate reflection of how tidy my bathroom is at present)|
It is so nice to be home for all of this - such a comfort to only be able to sleep in my own bed afterward, to know my children are being cared for nearby...and to not have make that horrible drive while in labor! Once we switched to homebirth, we knew we didn't want to go back.
When I first began to consider having my child/children present in the birthing room, I was unsure. Would it be weird? Would I scar my son for ever? Would the things he saw and heard frighten him? I don't remember an actual decision being made when our second child was born. Our oldest was not yet three years old, my labor was during the night, and the baby was born in the wee small hours of the morning. We asked Jeff's parents to wake our toddler up to meet his new brother, and that was that.
But after that point, I'd really started to consider inviting my children to be present for our births. When I was expecting baby #3, our oldest was five years old, and he asked to be there - but once again it was very, very early in the morning, so we let him sleep.
The next time was a little different, though. When I went into labor with my daughter (aka baby #4), it was the afternoon, and she ended up being born in early evening. The timing was perfect - I hadn't been laboring all through the night, and right about the time all the excitement died down and the baby dozed off, it was bedtime. But even better than that? My boys got to be there.
Yes, they were there, all lined up beside the tub like stair-steps. They'd been floating back and forth between the birthing room and the family room, but they were summoned (by the birth team or by my sounds? I'll never know.) at the end and they were able to see their sister enter the world.
It was beautiful. And then they went off to bed.
When my youngest child was born, the two oldest boys were there again (the others were already in bed). You may remember that they were very attentive to me, and played a role in my support team. That made a big impression on this mama.
So here are my reasons to inviting the children to attend the birth of the wee one. In no particular order:
~I've been told that most kids do fine at a birth, as long as they want to be there.
We would never force our kids to be present while I was laboring. If they want to be there and it's not a problem for me or the birth team, great. If they don't, that's completely fine too.
~We've read and talked about the process.They understand, even my 3-year-old daughter, that labor and childbirth are hard work. They get that it can hurt. I've told them that it helps the mama to make noises, sometimes strange noises. And we've read books. Our favorite homebirth book, pictured above, is "Hello Baby" by Jenni Overend. Told from the youngest child's perspective, it is the story of a family welcoming their fourth child into the world, in their home, in front of a fire on a blustery night. And it has absolutely beautiful illustrations!
~They've seen me in labor.
In addition to the boys' presence at my last two labors, we have all the kids' births on video. They have seen them many times. In fact, they've seen a lot of birth videos; that's what happens when mama is pregnant. My daughter loves to cuddle up beside me and watch whatever birth videos I'm sobbing my way through. I've even shown Gabriel a few; he views them with great interest and tenderly points out the "baby!" That's one of the biggest factors, for me...that the kids have seen and heard what it can be like. If the things they hear are not scary to them, they'll likely not be fazed to see their mother behaving like that during labor and childbirth.
There are no guarantees here. If it's not working for the kids to be present, or if it's in the very middle of the night, then they may not be there. I expect to be in the bathroom again, in my tub, and although we have a nice-sized room, it could get a little crowded...so we'll see.
But if it seems like a good fit, and if they want to be there, my children are welcome to be with me when their new sibling is born. After all, it is our family...growing. Beautifully, astoundingly...joyously.