Home Birth Reference Site

Children at a Home Birth

Will your older children be in the house when you have a homebirth? Here are some comments from parents on the Homebirth UK email group, about how their families handled the situation:

Will my children be scared if they see me in labour? What if something goes wrong?

My then-4.5 year-old was present for the birth of one of his brothers and was completely unfazed. It was his choice (actually his idea too) and we talked about what to expect, why I might make different kinds of noises, what we'd do if there was more bleeding than expected, etc. He was very laid-back about it and it never caused any problems. When the next baby was due, he was 7.5yo and both he and ds2, then 5yo, wanted to be present for ds4's birth, but in the event it was in the middle of the night and dh couldn't get them to wake up LOL. They were around for a lot of the labour though, and it was fine.

Things that go wrong don't usually go wrong quickly - it's very rare for a homebirth to turn into an emergency situation. Usually if a woman transfers it's because labour's slow or things are just not progressing - very rare for it to be a "scary" situation. I think it's worth discussing with children what you'd do if there was a problem, so that they know that a problem isn't the end of the world, and so that if something did arise, they wouldn't be panicked. But generally, I'd say go for it :-)

Deborah


When my son was born, my then 4-year old daughter was present and wasn't at all fazed by it. Actually it was completely amazing as the baby decided to appear in the middle fo the night - my daughter had said that she wanted to be there but we decided initially not to wake her as these things can take a while!

At about 3.45am she suddenly appeared at the door way and said "Mummy, you're having the baby!". Now this was quite amazing as nothing ever wakes her up at night, and she'd never woken up in the middle of the night before this night and she's not done it since.

Anyway, she got really involved - swimsuit on, got in the pool with me, splashing around, then just as I was mid-contraction, she slipped and fell in. And I mean right under. She was pulled up to the surface and her only complaint was that she wanted her arm bands. These were located and put on and she carried on splashing around and having a good time.

She had to get out of the pool when things got really intense but she flittered between watching cartoons (the ones they show in the middle of the night that you remember watching when you were young) chatting to the midwives and seeing what was going on. She chose what colour gloves the midwife was to use (which made her very happy as they were her favourite colour - purple).

As the baby's head crowned she was right beside me, helping me with my breathing and watching her brother born. We have some fabulous pictures of her standing beside the pool with a completely awestruck look on her face. She got the first cuddle with her brother - beat Daddy to it and again, we have some fantastic photos of this.

Bless her, she even wanted to get into the bath with me afterwards and was very upset when we said that the water was a bit dirty but she could have a bath later.

And after everything had calmed down, the two children and I went off to bed, leaving Daddy to empty the pool and when we woke up we ordered pizza when she ate with great relish. It was utterly amazing and very special because she was there. I have no doubts that she should have been there, despite that we still get odd looks from people she tells - I just tell her that they're the ones who are odd. It really helped her bond with her new brother and even now they have a very, very special relationship. My daughter wasn't at all afraid. And she sees birth as a beautiful thing, she drew lots of pictures of the birth and the pool and things (detail right down to the thermometer!) which we've made into a book and at last count she's going to have 16 "water" babies, all born at home!

I would say, do what feels right for you and your children. Ignore what others say, many we came across were just narrow-minded and could only connect having a baby with sex, to put it bluntly! They couldn't see birth for the beautiful process it is. I'm afraid that the Victorians have a lot to answer for . . .

Lucy


I can't tell you how lovely my last homebirth was with my 10 year old in the room (boy) and 8 year old daughter popping in and out. My son watched the whole thing from about transition when my mum went up to wake him. He was very interested and not a bit scared. I asked him just before posting this if he was glad he had been there and he said in typical "Kevin" fashion "Yeh, some bits were a bit 'manky' but I'm glad I saw it" My daughter found the blood a bit upsetting (she's very squeamish) but wasn't bothered about me being in pain.

After they were both there for the first cuddles and I think they've got a better relationship with their brother because they saw him born.

I also found that I was quieter than I had been before because I didn't want to scare them and I was able to keep control without much pain relief (just used a small amount of entonox).

I'm hoping that my son's experience will make him a better father and support for his partner when she's in labour, if he decides to have kids, that is! :-))))

Jenny


My older two were 7 and 4 when Alex was born and both saw me in labour (all they remember is me throwing up!) In the event they weren't there for the birth because they got bored and my Mum took them to the park, they got back about 3 minutes after he was born. Emily is upset that she missed it but both of them loved seeing him when he was so new, especially Kieran (who was 4 at the time) who had been fascinated by the idea of the baby getting all its food through the cord and it was great to be able to show him the cord attached to Alex before it was cut.

Cerys


I've done it both ways. My first two homebirths, my older children weren't around. My oldest was a very pre-verbal 2 year old when I had my first homebirth. He was distraught when I almost tripped and fell one day towards the end of my pregnancy, and I thought it unlikely he would cope well with the amount of noise I generally make when labouring. As his verbal skills were so limited ( his speech was unusually delayed) there wasn't much chance to discuss or prepare the ground.

Next time my children were at school/nursery when I laboured, my brother-in-law collected them and brought them round within a very short space of time after the baby was born. To be honest, I was still at that point a bit apprehensive about how they'd have reacted to the noise ( I cannot emphasise enough how much noise I make in labour. Last time the woman from two doors down knocked ont eh door to see if I was being murdered. Time before that I forgot to close the bedroom window, and was heard in the back gardens of people in the next street LOL) .

This time, my boys were 10, 8 and 4, and we discussed the subject of birth at some length while I was pregnant. I was very open to them being around this time - the boys I'd been concerned about were now older, and the younger one was/is a very different kettle of fish to his brothers anyway. The 4 yo and I read "Hello Baby" a lot ( he loved it, and often asked for it - lovely book about a homebirth by Jenni Overend).

As it turned out, on the big day, the 10 yo had a drama class that he just didn't want to miss (although he'd been quite keen otherwise to be there for the birth) . The 4yo was given the option of staying, or having a playdate with his cousin. He opted for teh playdate - entirely his decision . I was a tiny bit disappointed that those two decided not to stay -but I really felt it should be their choice.

Sam, aged 8 wanted to stay. He announced that he didn't particularly want to witness "all the long, boring, shouty bit" LOL but he did really want to see the baby being born. So that is what happened - my husband called him through from the living room ( I was in my pool in the dining room) and he raced in just as the baby was emerging/had emerged ( I forget - certainly if he missed it it was by a nanosecond). His face was unforgettable - so excited/thrilled. It will stay with me always. He was the first person other than me to hold the new baby - makes him very proud. The cord had not even been cut at that point. so far as I can tell, he has not been scarred by the event, LOL. Rather, it seems to have been a fabulously positive and life-enhancing experience.

When discussing noise/yelling I compared it to the noise an athlete makes when making a really big effort, or that they might make themselves if working really hard - say kicking a ball as hard as they possibly could, or throwing something with all their might. I also said that it hurt, but that it was a good, positive pain - again, a bit like when you run really, really fast, and your body is working as hard as it can. I said it is not a bad or frightening thing, but women in labour often shout and yell, because they find it helps.

Brenda W

Brenda's birth story


In my experience having other children at the birth depends entirely on how the woman feels about it. I have attended births where it has seemed vital that the children were up and out of the house before the labour could really move on, and others, particularly beautiful and very special ones where the other children were there. I'm inclined to think that when other people think children shouldn't be there, perhaps it's because their own memories of birth were frightening and traumatic and they are scared. Birth needn't be frightening and it certainly shouldn't be traumatic.

Personally I believe having children witnessing the arrival of their brother or sister in a very calm, beautiful, gentle way has to be one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation.

Rosie Kacary - Independent Midwife


Books etc. on homebirth for children

Hello Baby by Jenni Overend

Beautifully-illustrated story set in Oz; a mother gives birth at home, with her whole family around her. Kids like it and mums generally cry!

My Brother Jimi Jazz by Chrissy Butler

Chrissy has written to me about her new book:

I am a doula, artist, writer and mother of two. I have recently written, illustrated and self published a children's book about a families experience of home birth. The book embraces the use of cloth nappies, co-sleeping, siblings at birth, breastfeeding and baby moon.

You can visit my website here:

http://chrissybutler.com/index.php?main_page=index

Birth stories involving older children:

Cassandra's two older children were brought into the room when her baby was about to be born: "Not sure at what point the kids and my mum came in; the first time I became aware they were there was when I heard my two children saying "push mummy push, you are doing great!". I think I would have cried there and then if I wasn't busy at the time! Apparently the kids were brilliant through the actually birthing stage; they sat and watched me push their baby brother into the world. My daughter was in complete awe of it all..my son, bless him, spent the first bits peeking between his hands and hiding behind his nanny, but once she explained a few things, his squeamishness left. I am so proud of them both! "

Joy Mottram's first child, Seth, was 20 months old when baby Malachi was born. Joy had to settle Seth back to sleep while she was having tough contractions, as there was nobody else who could do it: "I woke feeling tired and agitated, and contracting hard... At that point I felt so low and disheartened, then Seth woke screaming, and as I held him I had contractions coming thick and fast - and very painful.. I wanted to squat, but he screamed unless I held him. So I lay crying with pain, sobbing in agony, wondering why they hurt so bad so early, how I would cope, and wishing I could just concentrate on calming Seth. I managed to get him back to sleep, but had pulled the muscle in the right of my back doing it"

Angela Hennessy writes: "Lily was so cute; she kept rubbing my back and saying 'it'll be ok mummy'. She did start to get a little scared as the contractions grew, and I came more vocal. I'm so glad he had my mum to look after her (they disappeared upstairs)."

Debbie Dooley gave birth with her 2year-old daughter, Cassie, present. She writes: "I felt his head come out. I heard Cassie say, "What's that?", and I realised she was actually standing behind Therese(the midwife) with her hand on her shoulder in prime position. With the next contraction his body slithered out and Therese lifted him up onto my chest. He was so warm and beautiful, I just kept saying hello baby, hello baby. At this point, Cassie said "It's a baby!!!" with such wonder in her voice; I knew it was the right thing for her to be there.

Fiona found that her 3 year-old, Yarrow, enjoyed being involved in her sister's birth, and Fiona recommends these books to help prepare older children: Hello Baby, by Jenni Overend - a beautifully illustrated story about a homebirth, and Runa's Birth by Uwe Spillmann and Inga Kamieth (www.runas-birth.de)

Kirsten Millinson's older daughter was present for the birth of her third child. Kirsten and her family have produced a home-made book to help siblings prepare for the homebirth of a baby - contact kirsten_millinson @ hotmail.com for details.

Katherine's two-year-old and four-year-old daughters watched her give birth.

Jeanette's three older children were in the house when she gave birth: My second daughter had initially said she'd like to cut (the cord), but changed her mind. She and my son came into the room to see their new brother, but my older daughter refused to, I think my screaming had really unsettled her. It was a good hour or so before she would come and see us.

Christine's twins arrived via home waterbirth, with their two older brothers popping in and out of the room during the labour.

Miradija's son, Braxton, was born at home in Australia. He was her fifth baby, but her first homebirth. Three of his siblings were present when he was born!

Clare laboured through the night while her daughter slept upstairs: "Miriam woke up and found her sister lying in our chest of drawers. "A baby" she said, with a smile, and life carried on!"

Some mothers are unsure how they feel about their older children being present, until they go into labour. Particularly where there is a toddler in the family, it is common for the mother to worry that she or her partner will have to devote too much time to looking after the child, rather than concentrating on the labour.

Sometimes a mother finds that her labour accelerates rapidly once she knows that her toddler is safely out of the way - eg see Antonia's labour sped up when 2 year-old Hugo left the house, Ziva's mum found that she could oncentrate on labouring once her 2 y.o. had gone to visit friends. Dawn adores the company of her lovely two-year-old, Tommy, but writes that "AS SOON AS I HEARD THE DOOR SHUT AND KNEW HE WAS OUT OF THE HOUSE everything suddenly kicked off.".

Gillian wrote that her contractions picked up 'big time' when her daughters went out of the house; "The idea of a lovely birth with all the family present seemed increasingly unlikely when my contractions stopped just because they were awake in the next room."

Sarah's two older sons visited a friend while she gave birth to Rafferty, and they came back to meet their new brother after everyone was cleaned up.

Cate's labour with her fourth baby, Martha, picked up as soon as her older children were safely in the care of her mother.

... and so did Amy's...

When in labour with my second baby, Bobby, I remember feeling very anxious in case my 2 year-old son, Lee, would wake up and cry, and demand my attention. I didn't see how I could care for him in labour, and I needed my husband to look after me, not our son. I asked my friend, Antonia, to come round and look after Lee in our home. She kept him upstairs until Bobby was born, then brought him down to meet his new brother moments after birth. For us it was an ideal solution. When I had my third baby, Tearlach, Lee and Bobby were present for much of the labour, but created too much of a disturbance so they were parked in front of a video in another room when labour became intense. Again, they were brought in moments after the birth. With my fourth baby, Lachlan, my labour started in earnest as soon as the boys were in bed, and I made sure I had a new baby before any of them woke up!

Links:

Siblings present at home births? - article from the Compleat Mother magazine, on what to do with your other children when you give birth at home.

This page updated 17 May 2007

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