Of course people will have very different reactions to this idea. Some will think it’s terrific, a really wonderful shared experience for parents and child as well as a powerful bonding moment for the child and his new sibling.
Of course people will have very different reactions to this idea. Some will think it’s terrific, a really wonderful shared experience for parents and child as well as a powerful bonding moment for the child and his new sibling. Other people will be shocked at the thought and terribly upset that a parent would even think of exposing a child to such a traumatic experience. One mom told me that she didn’t think she would be able to concentrate and that she might even be embarrassed for her child to see her in labor and giving birth. Still other parents will be on the fence, unsure of which is the right decision for their family. This article will take a look at the pros and cons of this issue to help you decide which choice is right for you. We will also make some suggestions about how to make the experience as positive as possible, if you do decide to have your child at the birth of your next baby.
The truth is the experts don’t agree either.
The experts who favor having a child present say that it can be a powerful and positive experience for the child and parents and that having the child present contributes to a feeling of family closeness. They also feel that since parents include the child in as many phases of the pregnancy as possible, having the sibling at the birth is an extension and natural conclusion of this. Many midwives, who tend to be more accepting of children at births than traditional obstetricians, report that most children are thrilled to be there, and that they have an opportunity to bond with their new sister or brother immediately. Other supporters contend that having the child at the birth may reduce sibling rivalry later on.
Even amongst the supporters, there is disagreement as to the ideal age at which children can benefit from this experience. Many feel that a child must be adequately prepared before attending a labor and delivery. And in order to prepare a child she has to be able to understand verbal explanations quite well. So amongst these experts there is a general consensus that about three years old is the youngest age that a child can adequately comprehend what is being explained, and then ask questions if necessary.
Other proponents feel that depending upon the child and the birth, there should be no boundaries on the age at which a child can attend. One seasoned midwife, who’s attended at least three dozen births at which siblings of various ages were present, told me that in her opinion “the real young ones seemed almost oblivious, as long as they were being held by a trusted adult, usually a best friend of mom, or granny. They haven’t learned as much fear yet, in my opinion.”
On the other hand are those who believe that it could be very traumatic for a child of any age to view his mother in labor and giving birth. They believe the sight of blood, and seeing their mother in pain can be very traumatic for a child. These experts also believe that viewing the actual birth could be overwhelming. Another issue is that the child’s presence might be distracting or difficult for the mother who already has a large enough burden in laboring and giving birth. Some obstetricians are worry that the child will get in the way. Still others say that you never know when there might be a crisis during labor and delivery that may frighten you and your child and which you may not want her to observe.
It may depend on your child’s temperament and age.
Regardless of what the experts say, you have to use your good sense about your child to make the final decision. For example, you may have a very sensitive child who gets scared and even has nightmares, very easily. You may not choose to have this child at a labor or birth. What’s more, you can’t assume that an older child will not be scared. There are six year-olds who are tough and fourteen year-olds who are very sensitive. Sometimes younger children are more open to the idea, and as they get older they become uncomfortable with the idea of seeing their mother in this way. This is particularly true of adolescent boys who may be extremely opposed to witnessing their mother give birth.
Okay, I’ve decided I want my child to attend the birth, now what?
Here are some things you should do to make the experience positive for you and your child:
One last thing, if you are still really unsure whether your child will respond positively or negatively to the experience, consider this: if you allow her to witness the labor and delivery she might be scared by it. If so, there is a possibility that she will continue to feel upset long after the birth. This would obviously be stressful for her, for you, and for her relationship with the baby. Remember you can’t undo it once it’s been done. So if you really think your child is the type who won’t respond well to this experience, go with your gut feeling and don’t do it. You can always videotape the birth and let her watch it afterwards when there is time to stop and process it as you go along. For those who feel it would be a wonderful experience for your family, be open, be flexible and most of all listen to your child.