If you're pregnant for the second, third (or more) time around, you may be considering inviting older siblings to attend the birth of your new baby. While it isn't as common in the Western culture to see other children present at births, many families choose to do so, depending on the circumstances and their personal feelings. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this decision; some women feel they could never be at ease with their older children present, while others couldn't imagine birth without them. If you are mulling over the decision to invite your children to your birth, consider these few points.
How old is your child? Children aged 5 and younger generally require more hands-on care and attention, and beyond the early stages of labor, you will not be able to attend to your child as you normally would. If you plan to have your younger child at your birth, be sure to designate an adult (who is not your partner or doula) to attend to your child when needed, including taking him home/to bed/out of your home if necessary.
How does your child feel about being at your birth? While there's no way to truly predict your child's reaction to seeing birth, you know your child's personality best. How would she feel about seeing you in pain/distress, or simply watching the hard work of labor and birth, which can appear distressing? There are ways you can prepare and educate your child about birth prior to the big day, including reading books, looking at pictures, and even watching short video clips that show the normal sights and sounds of a laboring woman.
Would you be able to "let go" in front of your child? As a parent, our child's presence causes us to be hyper-aware of their needs and feelings, often causing us to forego our own. Do you think your child's presence in birth would make you feel guarded, preventing you from feeling free enough to moan, grunt, roar, or vocalize in the way you want? Once again, there's no way to predict how you will feel in labor and birth, so it may serve you best to ask your child's care taker to check in with you at different points during labor to make sure you are comfortable continuing to labor with your child present. To set expectations with your child in advance, be sure to discuss that birth can be unpredictable and he may not be able to stay for the duration.
Did you have your older children present at your birth? What advice would you share with other expectant moms?