Older Siblings at Birth

I realize it’s not exactly commonplace anymore to have the elder siblings in a family present for the birth of younger siblings, but I’m hoping some other berries might have some experience and insights to offer me.

[name_f]My[/name_f] children will be just shy of 4YO and about 15/16months at the anticipated time of my birth this summer.

I’m planning my second homebirth and we will be welcoming our third and final babe (number 2 entered our family through adoption). As we don’t have family to rely on within driving distance, nor does my elder son have anywhere where he usually goes away from the home (due to COVID we have not been to any of our friends’ homes in 13 months and we haven’t seen our babysitter in all that time either), we would have this problem whether having a homebirth or a birth center or hospital birth. There really is no GREAT way to deal with childcare during the labor, birth, and immediate hours postpartum as we have no easy option of people with whom they are already attached and a place other than our home where they feel safe and loved. Neither child attends daycare or preschool so if I’m in labor during the day… they’ll be home with us.

We are hiring sibling doulas for each child to help navigate the labor and birth. If I go into labor in the night, as is more likely, only one of the sibling doulas will come over to be on-site until the kids wake. [name_f]My[/name_f] midwife has expressed that most of the families of multiple children she works with go into active labor in the night anyway and have the baby before the kids even wake in the morning. [name_u]Early[/name_u] labor with my first started at 11:30pm and we had him in arms by 9:30am as a first-time mom (10 hours from first contraction), so I think since it’s more likely than not to be a faster birth second-time around… it definitely might be the case they’ll just sleep (both sleep through the night together in the kids’ room).

But my eldest has expressed a strong desire to be present for the birth. We have been reading books about childbirth and, of his own volition as we had not even asked him yet whether he wanted to be at home, he asked us if he could be there to see the baby born. The sibling doula we have “assigned” for him was a homebirth midwife for many years and is currently in training to be a nurse, so she is someone who is very calm and also deeply understands birth so I trust that she will be able to help navigate the situations even if I appear to be in pain, distress, or if an unlikely emergency scenario were to suddenly arise.

I’m more nervous for my second child. Being so much younger he has much less of a concept of what happens and is simultaneously more likely to physically need me during my labor, and also more likely to be upset by seeing me in labor or bleeding. His entire world is also about to be turned upside down with the arrival of this baby as he goes from youngest to middle, so it just feels like a bigger deal on a social/emotional level.

Any ideas or advice about how to navigate this situation, or for how to prepare both children?

So far, I’m planning to:

  1. read more picture books about childbirth with each of them and continue to talk to them about what might happen
  2. watch videos of different types of births (particularly with my elder)
  3. play with childbirth model dolls (I bought two crocheted moms, one to represent me with a vaginal opening, one to represent my adoptive child’s birth mother with a cesarean opening, and three babies to match them each. The babies can be put into the mother’s stomach area and the children can pull them out. Each baby comes with a crocheted placenta and they can nurse with little snaps on the breasts and mouths of the babies)
  4. continue to involve my kids in my home prenatal visits (my elder loves to help pump up the blood pressure cuff, lay out the measuring tape across my fundus to help measure my bump, help measure out the herbs for my prenatal herb decoction tea, chat with the midwife and her apprentice about how often I throw up, etc. He told me he wants to be a midwife, so we’ll see where that takes him in life…)
  5. do vocal play together to mimic the different kinds of noises I’m likely to make during labor (deep breathing, low moaning, groaning, screaming, etc.)
  6. hire the second sibling doula for my little one
  7. set up games, special treats, activities they can do during the day if my labor picks up or is long into the daytime hours

Other ideas? Advice? I DO feel like having them at home is the right choice for our family, so I’m not looking for anyone to try to talk me out of that decision, but I’d like advice about how to make the best of the situation given that decision.

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I think you’re doing exactly what you should. I personally have never had a home birth, but my mother and many of my aunts and cousins have. And most of the time during labor their older children were there, and if they were old enough even would assist so I think keeping them at home with you is probably the best way to do it where they will feel most calm and comfortable.

[name_f]My[/name_f] only extra suggestion would be to have your children meet their doula’s before hand if at all possible (covid complicates lots of things) that way they’re not waking up to a stranger. But even if that weren’t possible, I think it’ll still be ok as long as they can see mom & dad and are in there own home.

Other than that I think you’ve done everything you should to help them prepare for the birth!

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No advice, I think your preparations sound great. [name_m]Just[/name_m] wanted to say that my oldest was present for his younger brother’s birth in hospital. He was 18 months old. His father looked after him while I labored entirely. They went for a few walks around the hospital for a change in scenery as we were otherwise just in that one room with little for my son to do. When it was time to push, he sat in his stroller across the room, so his father could be with me. He was absolutely fine. No crying, no tantrums, he was quiet and smiling and calm. Moments after his brother was born, they had met, and I loved having him there. We didn’t do much preparation, there was just an understanding of “if it gets to be too much for him, take him out” but that was barely necessary, and I had an epidural (it was an induction and I’d heard horror stories about pitocin). He did leave when they did the epidural, but that was more in case I jolted because of him, less that I was worried it would upset him.

We had planned for both boys to be there when I had my last baby, but I went to the hospital at bedtime, and had her two hours later, so there was no time. And this baby, there’s Covid, so I’m expecting to have no visitors at all, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I’ll be doing it alone as we have no one to look after them, but if they could be there, I would totally do it again.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with the two older kids this time around. The oldest would love to be present for the birth, the second is not interested, and the youngest seems too little to process much (she’s 22 months). So my only thought is to be prepared that the younger one may not get it as he’s still so young, and that’s okay. Lots of conversation to prepare him is good, but he may surprise you like mine did, and be pretty unfazed by the whole experience.

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Everything you have been doing sounds great! [name_f]Do[/name_f] you have any suggestions on kids books about child birth? I’m not sure how to explain it to my kids, and I feel like my 7 year old will be more likely to ask questions about it this time than when her sister was born.

I will be giving birth in the hospital, hopefully with my husband. [name_f]My[/name_f] kids will probably either go with my dad or my husband’s sister while we are at the hospital. With both girls, my strong labor started at 3-4 AM, so my dad came over to my house to watch [name_f]Noemí[/name_f] while [name_f]Kiana[/name_f] was being born. [name_f]My[/name_f] brother called around 9:00 AM (after she was born) to ask if he could take [name_f]Noemí[/name_f] to pick out a [name_u]Christmas[/name_u] tree.

With all the COVID restrictions, I don’t even think anyone would be able to bring my older girls into the hospital to meet their sister. I plan to only stay the one night again this time. I’ve thought about home birth before, especially since my kids come fast, but I don’t know if it’s covered by insurance under Medicaid.


I’d look for a little help w/ teaching the kids, but you seem like you are going a good job so far. :grin:

I have no advice to give, as our oldest son didn’t end up being present for his little brother’s birth and the boys probably won’t be present for this one (we did a homebirth the second time and are planning another, but my parents live half an hour away and can take the boys, unless labor goes very fast indeed.) I did labor through the night and give birth in the morning last time, so he slept through most of it.

Where did you get the childbirth dolls? I might want to look into those for my children at some point.

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Yes we interviewed the sibling doula for my elder (who was my postpartum doula after he was born) outside and they were able to play together for a while. She’ll also be helping us out a tiny bit prenatally provided I don’t go into labor too early. The other sibling doula we plan to hire (who was a postpartum doula for my second) we haven’t met with yet but plan to do so soon and would likely have them see one another for an hour or two a couple weeks before the birth.

@LiliMorgana, that’s so sweet he was able to witness your hospital birth! I feel like that’s even rarer than the homebirth scenario honestly.

@jenni_lynn91, I don’t have many suggestions for childbirth books in [name_f]English[/name_f] as I only speak (and choose to only read) Japanese and [name_u]French[/name_u] to the kids so all the books we have been reading have been non-English options. [name_f]My[/name_f] husband has been checking things out from the library to read with them in [name_f]English[/name_f] but we so far haven’t had any great options, but for the more prenatal/development side they loved [name_f]Nine[/name_f] Months, illustrated by [name_m]Jason[/name_m] [name_m]Chen[/name_m].

@auroradawn, the dolls I found were on Etsy. I found them by searching “childbirth model doll” and there are lots more listing like that but I liked this listing so did a custom order.