I am having a home-birth in December (or early January). I have an almost 10 yr old DD and an almost 8 yr old StepDD. I've been having a lot of anxiety about having SDD at the birth. Both of the girls want to be there and I can't imagine excluding SDD.
We will have a friend there just for the kids and he knows them both very well....is a dad himself and experienced the birth of his son at home. He's a very conscientious person and will be good with SDD, I hope. She goes to school in Vermont and my DD, partner and I live in Hawaii. SDD comes to Hawaii as much as we can possibly arrange...usually the whole summer and 2 or 3 extended "vacations" per school year.
Part of the issue is her Dad, my partner, feels terrible about being away from her. He took a job at the University here almost 2 years ago and we're always reevaluating whether it works for us to be so far apart from her. They are VERY close. He is the more stable of her parents. Ideally, we would have her come out to live here full-time but her Mom manages to keep things *just* above water enough for us to not have any leverage in terms of the health of her environment there (the bar is set pretty low). DH and she have a fairly cordial relationship, as he believes (and I agree) that when possible, it's better for kids to have their parents non-contentious. So, we won't be having any custody "battle", prefer mediation, but have genuine concerns about her environment at Mom's. There is always the chance things will totally fall apart on her end...really, and we will be ready to be her full-time household.
Anyway, the chaotic environment SDD is often in has created some behaviors over time that I have a very hard time holding space with. her energy is very manic and she is intensely needy, especially for her dad's attention. I have plenty compassion for this but her dad and I "get into it" at times about appropriate boundaries - mealtime manners etc. He is more lax than I am - but I also appreciate our differences because it benefits my own DD at times to have someone softer and understanding to contrast my usual "no BS" demeanor ;)
I tend not to push behavior changes too much b/c SDD is only with us for weeks at a time, and I can't expect her to do a 180 from her Mom's environment every time she comes. I also don't want *our* relationship to be mostly about me trying to get her to meet some expectation that I am the sole person invested in. This includes - eating with a utensil and not SCARFING down food without closing her mouth - spit and food flying everywhere...ewww....being able to fall asleep without Dad lying next to her...not interrupting when people are talking (saying "excuse me" and such)... not barging in on people in the bathroom...practicing decent hygiene...not telling fibs, cleaning up after herself etc.
ANYWAY these are behaviors which do occur that are hard for me to handle, and her over-all energy is very grating on me. It wasn't always - she was younger when we first met and it felt more acceptable to me then, but neither of her parents have helped her to an age-appropriate (IMHO) place. Her Dad sets fewer limits with her I think because he feels guilt about seeing her less - and I think she is less stable in general as a result of being more influenced by her Mom and that environment (CONSTANT chaos, 5 dogs 3 cats, birds, rats, fish etc. as well as hoarding and not cleaning...ever).
Wow, this is long...
I can usually hang with the issues and do my best to pick my battles and communicate with SDD and DH about stuff when it comes up. But I'm concerned about being in labor and having visceral reactions to her and her energy...if she's hyper and needy of Dad or really anything other than quiet and mellow it may have a negative effect on my labor. In my experience with DD's birth, if I felt like something or someone needed "taking care of" I would have a hard time being inward in the way you need to birth your babe. I'm worried about having tension with DH about this too - before or during the birth.
My plan so far is to have a private convo with our birth-buddy to let him know I'm especially concerned about SDD and have him be ready to take her out if I need that. Also, I plan to continue to educate the girls as much as I can before the birth about what to expect and what is expected of them.
DH's Dad remarried when he was very young and his Step-Mother was of the "wicked" variety - referred to him and his Sister as "that woman's children" and was generally crazy , violent, and not accepting of he and his Sister. From what I know, DH's Mom was also not one for instilling manners, social graces, etc and I think his Step-Mom was raised very strict Mexican Catholic with a HEAVY emphasis on manners...so there was some inherent tension there as well. At any rate, DH is extra-sensitive to SDD not feeling excluded from our family and bristles at some of my concerns about manners and things...though he is generally very supportive of me.
Does anyone have experience with blended-family situations around birth?
I should add that I'm also VERY happy about our family and excited to welcome this baby as the first member with blood-ties to us all, and I love SDD very much and would prefer she be there at the birth - just possibly hog-tied and muzzled? JUST kidding - I just would like to find a way to feel secure that she will not be disruptive.
TIA for any advice or BTDT...Hillary
I had a homebirth two years ago under very similar circumstances, though I have a much easier relationship with my step-daughter and wasn't concerned about her behavior. It was my third homebirth but the first time I had any of the kids around (my step-daughter was there most of the time I was in labor with my first, but not for the actual birth). We had two friends here who were in charge of the kids. We went over the plan with them and let them know that we would like the kids to be there, but that if they felt it was too much for any of the kids (I was especially worried about the younger ones) they should use their judgement about taking them somewhere else. I felt comfortable with their ability to make that decisions, as well as their ability to help the kids if they were scared or whatever. My husband was clear that he was there for me and the baby and our friends were there for the kids.
So during the birth, the kids were handling it fine, had support people. At some point I yelled and it scared one of the kids, who started to cry. The midwife saw quickly that I went to "mom mode," worrying about my crying little ones, and that I wasn't focused on the imminent birth of the baby. She asked our friends to take the kids out. One of them took out the younger ones and one stayed in the room with my step-daughter who was handling it fine. The little kids came back in two minutes later immediately after the baby was born.
My point of sharing this with you is that I planned for as many contingencies as I could think of, but ultimately I had NO idea what was going to happen. Different kids could have gotten upset, one of my kids might have tried to climb into the tub, someone could have gotten sick, I could have needed to be transported to the hospital... But I talked to everyone about what I needed, I made sure everyone felt empowered to make their best decisions in the moment if they needed to, and we just kept the communication open as long as we could. I had a midwife, her assistant, and my husband who could all read me well, but you might consider some signal or code word or something if you need the kid(s) out of the room so that you don't have to worry that you will say something badly worded in the moment... I pretty much stick to gestures and 1 or 2 word phrases when I am in labor, so unless I'd had a plan ahead of time I'd be liable to say something like "get out" which might make the kids feel bad... but if I could say something like "gimme room" or wave my hand in their direction and the adults all know what that means, they could handle it gently with the kids.
We also prepared my kids for the idea that they might or might not be present at the birth. They might decide they didn't want to be there, or I might need to have more privacy or quiet, or the midwife might decide they need to leave. We let them know what we thought would probably happen, but that you never know what any baby's journey is going to be like and we were going to have to all work together while we helped the baby be born.
I hope that was helpful. Congratulations and best wishes for a safe and happy homebirth!