Thursday, April 21, 2016

Involving Older Children in your Home Birth

The decision to have older siblings attend a home birth is a deeply personal choice. We chose to have our children at home while I labored, but under the care of a grandparent. I wanted them to be able to join us shortly after birth. However, I usually like to labor privately, so they were not immediately with me.

It was late at night when Baby Ellia came...;)
Home birth, by nature, is a family-centered event. Usually home birth midwives are used to the idea of other family members being present and therefore it is a deeply personal and spiritual experience. One of the advantages of having children present for any part of a home birth is that they feel like they are apart of the experience.

One concern that often comes up is that a child may be scared before or during the birth. In the months and weeks leading up to the birth, be open with your children about the process of labor, that mom may make some funny/scary noises, and that it is all a natural part of labor. Two of my children were 4 and 5 years old at our home birth in June 2015, so we definitely had a lot of honest discussions. We looked at pictures and videos. When it came time for the actual birth, they were astounded that a baby came out of mommy! The realized that they came out of mommy the same way.

During the birth, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have some one familiar to the children to take care of them. One adult needs to be there to focus solely on the other kids. Home births are high energy and can be very emotional. At both of our home births, my mom took care of the other children. She took care of any needs they had, played with them, and took them for a walk. This was helpful for my mindset and I was able to labor in peace knowing my children were having a good time.

Most importantly, do not force your child to be present at a birth if they don't want to be. My eldest daughter made it clear that she didn't want to be there while I gave birth. And I was totally okay with that. It's her decision and it can be scary. She was very happy to be there immediately after the baby was born, witnessing everything that was going on as we welcomed Ellia into the world.

One of the most personal parts of home birth is children being able to join in on caring for the new baby. At our first home birth, our eldest son was invited to cut the cord of his new sister. He was only five-years-old at the time, but it was a defining moment in his life and he's proud to talk about it three years later.

Finally, there are some wonderful ways you can help you children feel more apart of the process. One is having them make "welcome" presents for the baby, maybe a cards or pictures depending on the ages of your children. I've also known one home birth mom who allowed her older children to help her write birth mantras and look up encouraging quotes. She surrounded her birth space with these and it helped her remain centered while she labored.

Have you involved your older children in your birth experiences?


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