'My daughter was at her brother’s birth'

Having a child present at birth is a deeply personal decision. Some people want to share the joy of birth with their children, as part of the natural process of life, while others are very uncomfortable with the idea, and worry how the child will react.

When I was pregnant with my second child there was no doubt in my mind, that I wanted another home birth. Home, however, now included a small person of 2-years-9-months, and heaps of personality. I had to decide whether to involve her in the birth process or not.

Let's be clear: There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to a child being present at a sibling birth. Even the experts do not agree, some saying that it can be a wonderful experience for a child to be involved in, and one that aids in family bonding as well as the child accepting the new sibling, but even those who are pro, do not always agree if there should be an age limit.

Some say that children under 3 may lack the language and comprehension skills to be adequately prepared, while others claim that younger children are quite oblivious to the whole birth process, as long as they have a dedicated person looking after them and making sure their needs are met.

Other professionals feel that it might be traumatic to the child, or that having a child present might distract the mother from being able to properly focus on her labour, making the whole process slower and more difficult for her.

There is always research to be found to back up one view or the other. I simply think the main thing when making this decision, is that no professional knows you or your family better than you do, and so this is a decision you alone need to make, based on knowledge about your own personality and that of your children.

Prepare your child for their sibling’s birth

If you do decide to include them, here are some ways you might like to help prepare them for the big day.
  1. Read stories about births, especially the type of birth that you are planning. I found a beautifully illustrated book about a home water-birth to help prepare my daughter. Named “Our Water Baby”, it gave us a change to discuss the birth process and what would happen. We discussed the possibility of blood, and the noises that may happen during the birth.

  2. Depending on their age and willingness to be involved, it might be appropriate to show them birth videos. I remember pre-screening some home birth videos on YouTube, and choosing some that showed a relaxed natural birth at home, to help my daughter understand what would happen and what it would look like.

  3. Have a dedicated caregiver for the child on the day of the birth. My sister came, to be with my daughter, and they read stories, played, jumped on the trampoline and picked flowers for me, leaving me free to labour without worrying about her. They came in for the actual birth and as soon as her brother was born, she took off all her clothes and jumped into the pool with us.

  4. Be prepared for either you or your child to change your mind about them being present on the day.

  5. Spend time after the birth, discussing their perceptions of the process. Reassure any fears or answer any questions they may have.
For me, having my daughter present was part of what made that day extra special. She often talks fondly of being at her brother's birth, being able to welcome him straight away and introduce herself as his big sister.

Would you include your child in a sibling’s birth?
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