In general, I think that having children attend births is a very natural and beautiful way to include them in the expansion of the family. I also believe it is important that as a society we are more knowledgeable about the birth process so that it can be normalized and no longer feared. What better way to do that than to include children in births, like our ancestors once did?
I do believe that certain circumstances have to be in place, however, in order for it to be a healthy experience for the child. If there are any serious complications that endanger the mother or baby, it’s probably best that a young child is not involved. Additionally, there should be someone at the delivery whose sole purpose is tend to the child at all time, comforting her if she is scared to see mommy in pain, explaining what is going on, and able to take the child out if any complications arise or if she becomes too uncomfortable. And not all children may be able to handle the intensity of a birth; parents should be able to judge if their little one is capable of attending.
That said, I’m not sure that we will be able to have our children attend future births. When I had Lulu, my husband, the midwife, and a nurse were the only people present. While this was partially due to our recent move far from family and friends, even if we lived nearby I don’t know that I would have been comfortable having others in the room with us. While many women want their mothers with them, I was afraid that would have only made the situation more stressful. My mother had all her children through c-sections, so she never went through labor or natural delivery. Since she didn’t know what to expect, and because she is a worrier, I think she would have pushed for me to go to the hospital (I birthed at a birth center) and have interventions even when while the labor was normal and healthy.
If we are living back in Colorado when our next child is born, I could potentially ask my future sister-in-law who had previously attended births of a good friend who is a nurse to join us for the birth and watch Lucia. But I don’t know yet if I would want them there. Having just my husband with me during labor made the experience very intimate. Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else present even if it would have been possible. The main question I will have to answer when it comes time for another child is not whether I want to have extra support people in the room, but rather would the birth be complete without our daughter present.