I have an 18 month old daughter and am currently 30 weeks pregnant. I am planning on giving birth to this baby at a birth center who is very encouraging of involving siblings in the birth process. We really have no choice but to plan on having her there through the whole process. My mom will be flying into town for 4 days around my due date, but who knows when I'll go into labor! We have no friends who we can have watch her (we don't leave her with ANYONE lol). We WANT to include her and have her present for the birth :)
I'm just not sure how to prepare her for it? Realistically what can we expect her to understand? How do children at her age generally respond to the birth process?
Thanks to anyone who has any advice :)
I can totally understand not wanting to part with your child during your birth. I think it is a great idea to keep her close during this great family event. I think, though, it might be a good idea if she is going to be there to have a sort of suite setup where she can go into an adjoining room. It totally depends on your personalities ... But I personally think 2 years is pretty young for some of the details of birth and she will unable to prepare and unable to process the event in a healthy manner. If she were older I would say books and talking and some mild pictures, but she isn't to that level of comprehension of a 4 or 5 year old.
For example tonight at dinner my husband bit his tongue and while we were dealing with the blood and putting gauze on it our 16month old daughter was quietly freaking out and making the most horrified faces while sitting with us at the table. My husband and I were surprised at all the blood and he was in a lot of pain and grimacing but no major theatrics so I didn't even think it would bother her. After tending to him I looked at her and she was so uncomfortable and scared but we didn't realize it because she wasn't screaming or crying like she usually does when she wants comfort. I know she would never be able to see the late stages of labor and be ok about it.
I, personally, would get a double room and keep her close when you can maintain your calm but once you start to transition or if you get stressed out I think the young ones should go grab a snack or a nap or play nearby. Labor requires a lot of focus and while I fully agree they should be kept close and know what is going on I wouldn't exactly let them see the more dramatic phases of birth at that age.
Congrats on the little one!
My son was 20 months old when my daughter was born and we had a homebirth. We did have someone on hand to help with him in case we needed it, but it turned out he slept through the whole birth (I went into labor right after he went to bed at 7pm and she was born just after 10pm). So I have no personal experience as to how a 20 month old may respond to actually being at the birth, but I can tell you what we did to prepare.
We watched a ton of birth videos (youtube has great clips you can just search "unassisted birth" or "homebirth"), we read lots of "big brother books" and we talked about the baby a ton. I think by the time my son was 17 months old, he completely understood that a baby was in mommy's belly that would be his little sister. I think he had an idea that the baby would come out of my vagina during birth, but I don't know how solid his understanding of all that was. We also had a name for our daughter picked out, so it was nice to call her baby Emma and then while we were watching birth videos I would compare the babies and say "look that mama just gave birth to her baby like I'm going to give birth to baby Emma!"
I am very grateful my birth went the way it did and my son slept through it, because it turned out to be so fast and intense I really don't think I could have dealt with him being around. It's all personal preference though, and it's different for each person and each birth. I would try to have some kind of backup, just in case you need it. Even if it's just to hire a doula to take her in the other room if need be. But whatever you're comfortable with. I'm sure you'll be fine no matter what happens. Congrats! Two under two is quite the adventure :)
My dd was a bit older, just three days shy of 2 when her little brother was born. We had a homebirth, and planned to have her around as long as she was comfortable. We read books and watched youtube videos, and talked a lot about it, but she really didn't "get" it. I wound up going into labour after she was asleep, and the babe was born at 1am. She DID wake up though. My mom was in rocking her through the actual birth.
I wasn't with it enough to notice or care if dd was there or not (insanely fast and intense labour), so people kept her in her own room. I was a really quiet birther with dd, but shocked myself with how loud I was this time around. Also, we had to deal with a shoulder dystocia so there was a bit of a panic as I yelled about ds being stuck. Like I said, dd missed actually seeing the birth, but I feel really bad about the whole thing because she was seriously affected. I don't know if it would have been better if she could have actually seen things or not. She wouldn't look at me or the baby post birth. She wouldn't let me touch her, and she just hid her face in dh's chest. She was really out of sorts and I think she was quite fearful.
If I could go back, I would have her come out while I was in earlier labour to see me and know that I was ok. And then I think I would have gotten someone to take her out for a walk or something once I got hollery.
You absolutely need someone there to look after her while you're labouring/birthing. Is there no one you know who you would trust to entertain her at the birth center and/or take her out of the room if needed? I'm sure many people would be honoured to be asked if your mom isn't there for the actual day!
For greater things are yet to come...