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Monday, 21 November 2011

Sibling present at childbirth?

A friend asked me what did I do with K. when I went into labour with J. I answered: “We took her with us to the hospital”, because that’s exactly what we did. That answer seemed pretty obvious at first but then it got me thinking.
Actually, to avoid having to take K. to the hospital, we had planned a homebirth. But then, my water broke, and it was yellow. The midwife said that while this was no emergency, her rules required her to transport me to the hospital. And so we woke up K., put her into her car seat, and off to the hospital we went.

When we had the 36th week appointment with my midwives, we asked them whether it was possible to take K. to the hospital with us if it was necessary. They told us that this was no issue at all. And so, when we arrived, the midwife’s assistant didn’t give us any weird looks for taking such a small child to the hospital. She even brought a bed for K, who unfortunately refused to go to sleep. This was all too exciting.

I must say that K. behaved really well. She wasn’t fussy, she was smiling at the midwives, and showed a deep interest in the beeping machines. My husband was there, playing with her, and making sure she was not interrupting me. I actually liked having her there. Her presence reminded me why I was doing all this hard work: to have another sweet, perfect little baby girl.

Only after J. got out, all dirty and screaming, did K. look at her, and said: “No, no!”. She seemed not to realise what was going on, and was somewhat confused. Then my husband took K. home to sleep a little, and I stayed at the hospital with J. When they came to pick me up 12 hours later, K. saw her little sister again, all cleaned, and dressed up. This time, she seemed proud and happy to have a little sister. I was proud of her to make it through J's birth so well.

My friends reacted in different ways. One told me that she couldn’t imagine to have her son there during birth, as she was in lot of  pain while in labour with him. Another one said that she could have just left her daughter alone with her husband, and gone to the hospital herself, if she didn’t have anybody to look after her child. I was thinking about that, too, but then I decided against it. Another one said that she wouldn’t want her child at birth. Frankly, I didn’t give that one a lot of thought. But it’s a legitimate concern: after all, giving birth is not an easy experience and we don’t know how children react to it. And then, another one had a home birth, and her older daughter didn’t even wake up. So, different opinions, different approaches.

Also, I started asking myself questions. Like, what would happen, had there been any complications? What if the birth would have ended with a C-section? What if it had been more painful? What if I had more children? In the end I felt so lucky to have had a quick, easy labour without any problems and complications. I was also lucky because K. behaved really well and didn’t interrupt me at all.

But I wouldn’t have wanted K. to witness her own birth (38 hours in total, 3 hours of pushing, lots of bleeding, and a long recovery). I wouldn’t have wanted her to witness a C-section. I’m OK with her seeing a easy birth, but you never know. It might change into really stressful really fast.

And then, witnessing a birth might be easier for some children than for others. It depends on their age, their character, and family relations. Would I have done it again? Definitely, had I known that it’s going to be like this. Had things been any less perfect, definitely no.

For all of you pregnant ladies from my toddler group, in the Netherlands, taking your child to the hospital with you is an option you can consider. Otherwise, ask friends to take care of your older child. Ask family to come around your due date. Consider a homebirth. Consider leaving your husband with your child. You have many choices. Think about them, and make the decision that’s best for you and your children. 

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