Kids at their sibling’s birth: “Crazy or a wonderful thing to do?”

Posted in Birth.

An expectant mum headed to Mumsnet to float the idea of allowing her daughter to be present at her baby’s birth.

A family affair

With a real push (!) to normalise birth and integrate it into family life rather than viewing it as a medical intervention, this idea should really come as no surprise.

Indeed, kids experience their siblings’ births in lots of different ways. Some in the early stages of labour before things get too intense, others during the nuts and bolts of birth and others still pop in at the end, when things are a little bit tidied up.

This mum says she’s keen to have her eight-year-old daughter at her home birth, but wondered what other parents thought of the idea – and if it was appropriate.

“I’m pregnant and my eldest [daughter] has expressed that she would like to be there for the delivery. All my previous deliveries have been straightforward, and I have coped well with the pain. This time I’m planning a home birth, and the midwives are not opposed to her being there. They have said it is up to us. This is definitely our last baby too, so her last chance to see a sibling being born. I’m not sure if the idea is entirely crazy, or a wonderful thing to do. [Am I being unreasonable] to let her see the birth? As it is a home birth she can go to her room and read if she finds it too much.”

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A special opportunity?

While her gut feeling seems to be to go right ahead, and her midwives are supportive, it’s clear that she’s not quite sold on the idea. The good folk at Mumsnet were keen to help, piping up with some varied ideas on what’s appropriate and what could go wrong.

Some thought it was not a great idea and that birth could scare a child witless …

“I think it would be very easily for her at best to feel overwhelmed,” one mum wrote. “At worst feel traumatised for life. Even a straight forward labour is painful. With lots of bodily fluids. I wouldn’t. Maybe she could be first in to meet her sibling?”

Others felt preparation was key …

“My [child] wanted to see my youngest being born, home birth too,” another posted. “I let them watch an episode of One Born Every Minute to gauge their reactions- they both decided not to see the birth! They stayed up stairs and came down moments after the birth.”

Pregnant mum and preschooler

“A wonderful bond”

Others still said go right ahead, with a canny plan in place …

“Yes. Absolutely just make sure she understands it all first and has someone there that can be in the room or outside if she needs to get out. What a wonderful bond they would have – a friend did this and her [daughter] cut the cord. Just don’t see it’s an issue if you are okay with it.”

One woman pointed out that historically this was no big deal …

“Years ago children would always have been around when their mothers gave birth, until it was made into a medical issue. My Dad is oldest of 15 and was there for all his siblings births.”

“Our 3 year old was in the room when I gave birth at home 10 weeks ago,” someone else commented, “she was totally fine.”

In contemporary Western cultures, children are generally kept well away from the birthing room when a baby’s about to appear. The assumption is that children may not be able to process what they see, or may become distressed, but it’s clear that for many families having kids at the birth comes naturally and it contributes to family bonding. Each to their own!


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