Academic Leigh Speaking

A professor, four kids, and a crash course in work/life balance

Older Children at the Birth of a Sibling June 14, 2014

When Gilbert was born, we had no intention of having Seamus attend his birth. He was 16 months old, we were having the baby in a hospital, and it just seemed very far out of our or anyone we knew’s experience. When we’ve been talking about the upcoming birth of our baby, we’ve been operating under the assumption that someone else will watch the boys while we go have the baby and come home.

One of the reasons we chose the birth center is that we get to come home within three hours after the baby is born. One of the reasons we did not choose a home birth is because we’re very uncertain about the chaos our small place can handle. I know that other people are far more comfortable with this than I am, but really, there’s not even a place for a midwife to catch a nap here, much less catch a baby.

However, when I was discussing our plans with my friend who may watch the boys, she asked if there would be time for visitors, or if we’d just be back to get the boys. It started me thinking about the whole thing again.

Last year, my friend had her baby boy at home, and his older brother was there to welcome him within minutes. Mostly, he’d been asleep, but right at the end, he awakened and played downstairs with her friend who was on older sibling duty until the baby was born. Another friend recently planned to have her son at home during the birth of his baby brother, but he ended up going to her brother-in-law’s house down the road, returning within an hour of the baby’s birth.

The boys are interested in how the baby “pops out of the belly,” and we’ve explained using books, pictures, and descriptions of how the muscles make squeezes that don’t hurt the baby but help him come out. I don’t think they need to be in the room, necessarily, for the birth, but I’m thinking that under certain circumstances, it’d be nice for them to know right away after he arrives, maybe let them see how the cord was attached, or what he looks like before he’s all cleaned up. Seamus and Gilbert are both really curious about what it all means because (I think) they think knowing will tell them more about their own grand entrances into the world.

Somebody would need to be on Seamus question-answering duty because he can go all day with the questions, and somebody would need to snuggle Gilbert because he is starting to worry about his position in the family. The midwives don’t have a particular investment in whether the kids are there or not. The birth center has a room with a TV, toys, refrigerator, and bed for the older siblings, and my friend only lives 8 blocks from the birth center, so they could be at her house for most of the time.

I think we’re going to play it by ear. If the labor is fast and at night, we’ll probably not involve them. If it’s in the middle of the day and progressing well–no urgent situations to attend to and moods are good–we might have them come over to the birth center so they can be there afterward. We’ll see.

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