Thursday, February 23, 2012

Children Attending Births

I was very intrigued by this week’s Friendly Debate with the Danielles topic: children attending births.  Since we hope to have more children, we most likely will have to make this decision regarding Lucia presence at the births of her younger siblings. 

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. 

What’s your take?  Would you have (or have you had) your other children attend a birth?  Who have you had in the room with you for support?  

See my response to other Friendly Debates with the Danielles topics:


  1. Amy_YouShallGoOutWithJoyFebruary 23, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    Such an interesting topic! I had never considered it before, but if I am lucky enough to have another home birth when we have more babies, I think it would be wonderful if Gus were there. Obviously, this is dependent on his personality / level of comfort at the time, but I think the good thing about home birth is that he could be in a different part of the house as needed so he could be as present or as distant as he wished. I think the difficulty would be the person looking after him. My family is not nearby, and I wouldn't have really thought of asking my mom or sisters--or MIL, for that matter--attend my birth anyway. 

  2. Amy, it seems like you have the same problem we would have about having other people at the birth to be with our older kids!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. My mom is a BIG proponent of children being at a birth, and even developed a program at the hospital where she works to teach children-at-birth classes to the older siblings of a newcoming little one. The idea, in her mind, is that this is a new member of the family, and it affects the whole family. 

    So, I have been at the births of three of my siblings, and barely missed the actual birth of a fourth (Kevin's labor was ridiculously fast compared to the rest of my mom's) and when Molly was born (youngest) I was away at college, but the rest of my brothers and sisters were all there.

    It gave me an enormous respect for my own body, a greater understanding and appreciation for sex and its consequences, and a healthy dose of fear of my mom, who only does natural childbirths and would never dream of screaming the way women in movies do. It only increased my wonder at the tiny sibling with the squished face and alien-sounding wails, that came out of my . . . mom?
    So, anyway, I agree. And I hope you find a place that will encourage you to have your whole family there the next time you give birth!

  4. I wish I had attended a birth before I gave birth myself. I really didn't know quite what to expect, despite the childbirth classes. Although, to be honest, I'm not sure if I would be able to handle watching it...childbirth videos made me very squemish and I had to look away a lot of the time.

  5. I only had my husband present during labor with Elise (and the nurse and sometimes doctor), and it's very difficult to imagine it any other way.  Like yours, ours was a very intimate experience.  Given how Elise is right now at almost 20 months, I cannot imagine having her present at a birth.  There isn't anyone who would be able to soothe her adequately (other than my husband and me -- and we would be quite occupied!).  It would be an absolute nightmare for me at a time when I couldn't handle any more stress.  I guess I might consider it once she is considerably older, but to be honest, I don't know if I would ever be comfortable with it.  I do believe that birth is natural and beautiful, but I don't know if I would personally be able to handle the distraction.  I love your take on the topic, though!

  6. My three older siblings attended my birth. They are 9, 6, and 5 years older than me. My brothers (6 & 5) could have cared less, but my sister loved it.

    Personally, unless my kids were older I would not want them involved. When we has Joseph, my girls were 3 & 2. I think it would have added stress for me and my husband. However, if we have more kids and my girls were older (6+) and be far more open to the idea.

  7. I've given a lot of thought to this topic, and have never settled on any particular stance for my own family. I am pro-children being at the birth of their sibling(s), but I think there are a lot of mitigating factors and each child's individual personality to take into account. I was at the birth of one of my younger sisters (I'm twenty years older than she is), and I am glad to have had that experience.

    I am a very introverted person, however, and while the idea of my own children (and husband, of course) being present at a birth doesn't bother me, aside from midwives/support people, I'm not keen on the idea of other people being there, which would be necessary if young children/toddlers were going to be present at the birth. My firstborn was twenty-six months old when his younger brother was born. We decided to let him stay with my husband's parents rather than trying to have him be present at the birth, and for that particular labor/birth, and that child, it was absolutely the right choice. Both of my labors have been pretty long, and my individual children, at their current ages, wouldn't do well waiting somewhere, no matter how "homey," for a long period of time.  Additionally, even the best laid plans to have a child present at their sibling's birth may not work out:  both of my children have been born at night (approximately 4am, and midnight, respectively), so an older sibling would have to be much older before they would be awake to witness the event during that time frame.

    How we will probably work out the issue of children being present at their siblings' births:  10-12+ year old sibling that wishes to be present, absolutely, I think that older children would do pretty well at a hospital or birthing center, even for long periods of time. Younger children:  If I have a home birth, I love the idea of us welcoming the baby into our home with the entire family there, though not necessarily everyone in the room, according to their age/comfort level.


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