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:
- read more picture books about childbirth with each of them and continue to talk to them about what might happen
- watch videos of different types of births (particularly with my elder)
- 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)
- 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…)
- 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.)
- hire the second sibling doula for my little one
- 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.