Should Siblings Witness the Birth?
Allowing your older children to attend the natural birth of their sibling is a very personal decision, and one about which there are conflicting opinions both ways. Some parents feel this is the perfect opportunity to allow children to witness the miracle of birth, while others feel that witnessing a birth can cause a very negative reaction in their child.
The Experts Are Also Divided
Some child psychologists and other experts feel that any child under the age of five is simply too young to witness their mother give birth, while others feel it depends entirely upon the individual child. Each child will be different in how they will react, however, one child who is seven may be totally entranced by the idea of seeing their sibling born-that same child at age 12 may feel nothing other than "ick." It's important to let your child lead you in your final decision. Present the idea to him or her without trying to sway them in any way or exert pressure. Just because this is something you want is not a good reason to force it on your child. Even if the child has said he wants to witness the birth, let him know he is allowed to change his mind at any time.
Finding a Hospital with Progressive Birthing Policies
Some hospitals are open to having children involved in the birthing process, while others have a strict policy against it. If you live in a relatively rural area, you may not have much choice in the matter. If the only hospital for a hundred miles does not allow siblings in the room during birth, then that pretty much limits your options. If you do have a choice of hospitals, however, you will want to talk with each one of them to find the one which is most open to allowing your children to witness the birth. In some cases even hospitals which are not particularly open to the idea can be persuaded; talk to the administrator and your own doctor to see what can be worked out that is satisfactory to everyone involved.
How to Prepare Your Child for the Birth
If you've set it up with your doctor and hospital, and your children are on board there are still preparations you must make prior to the birth. Never allow a child-no matter the age-go into a birth without some sort of preparation. Most children will find it extremely frightening to see their mother in pain. You will need to read books together and even watch a video on childbirth together, and explain to your child that there will be blood and that you may be screaming or crying.
Have one adult assigned exclusively to be with each child in the delivery room. Make sure it is an adult who has a good relationship with your child and one that he or she is comfortable with. The adult will need to pay close attention, and if the child seems uncomfortable or unduly frightened, will need to take him from the room. Some of the more progressive hospitals have family rooms which are separate from the birthing room and can be used for the child to play or watch television and come and go form your room as he chooses. Younger children should probably only be in the birthing room for the actual birth, as being there during the entire process could be too hard on a younger child.
After the Delivery
Once you have recovered a bit, find a private time to discuss the birth with your child and get his feelings about the event. Probe a bit, and make sure there are no fears or concerns you need to address. Childbirth is an incredibly powerful experience, and can end up being traumatic for your child. It can be so difficult for some children to see their mother in such a vulnerable and primal state that the miracle of birth completely escapes them. Make your decision based on your discussions with your child, and try your best not to influence them one way or another.