When people ask where I’m planning to deliver and I answer “home,” one of their first follow-up questions is usually, “Oh, wow, but who wants to clean up that mess?” followed closely by, “What will you do with your daughter?”
The first question always makes me giggle (what kind of bloodbath do people think we’re going to have here?!), but the second one has two answers.
The short answer is: The same thing anyone else has to do when they’re expecting and have other children at home. Whether we stay home to birth or rush off to a hospital in the middle of the night, someone will have to take care of Poppy. So we’re talking to local friends and lining up a couple of options for her, depending on people’s availability.
The long answer is a bit more complicated, but starts with, “Really, we’re not sure yet.”
Being just over 2 years old makes this question a tricky one. If she were 4 or 5 (or older), I’d have no qualms about her attending her sibling’s birth, and would love for her to be present, if she wanted to. With the proper preparation and education leading up to the Big Day, I’d feel confident that she’d understand enough to not be confused or scared or traumatized. But she’s not that age yet, she’s very attached to her mama, and is a very emotional little kid at the moment, so we can’t count on her wanting to be present or it being appropriate for our family.
In our ideal world, this is how the day would unfold:
I’d get some warning contractions sometime in the afternoon or evening telling me that labor was starting. My husband would come home from work (if it weren’t a weekend), we’d do dinner, and put Poppy to bed. Then things would get rolling. I’d labor into the night, much like I did with my first, and give birth to Boo sometime in the wee hours of the morning while the toddler soundly slumbered in the other room. Once things were settled and stable, we’d go wake Poppy up to meet her new little brother or sister, not wanting her to miss out on those early moments as a new, slightly larger, family.
In a less than ideal world (i.e. reality), we’ll have to wait and see and be prepared for several different scenarios.
However it works out, however, we will have trusted caregivers lined up for our little one so that my husband can stay with me and provide the support I so count on him for (I wouldn’t let him out of my sight or reach during my first labor); Poppy can either be home or away, feeling loved and secure either way; and I can labor as needed, without being hindered by concern for Poppy’s emotional well-being when I should be focusing on the task at hand.
While we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the new baby with Poppy, we haven’t talked directly about the birth in any way. In coming weeks, however, we plan to change that, on the off chance that she is present as it happens. She’s young still, but her consciousness is visibly blooming with every passing week so we don’t want to underestimate her ability to understand. We have started a little with two different books – We’re Having a Homebirth! and Runa’s Birth – and hope to start adding some gentle birth videos into the mix soon. We also have a birthing/breastfeeding doll on the way – a generous gift from a friend – and hope that she likes it and we’re able to use it as a teaching tool between now and February. And this guest post from Hobo Mama over at PhD in parenting, on preparing an older child for a new birth, is providing plenty of inspiration as we plan, as well.
So, that’s the long answer. Would I like for Poppy to be present at her sibling’s birth? Yes. I would love it. But until those moments arrive, I can’t be sure that will be the right thing for her or for me, so we’re trying to get a plan B, C, & D in order so that, come the birth, we can all feel confident that our needs are met in the best ways possible. However that may be.
Did you have older children present at your birth, whether at home, in a birthing center, or at a hospital? Would you consider it?