Our last homebirth was rather faster than we had expected, but the boy woke up for the very end and had a great chat with the firefighters when they arrived a few minutes later. Yes, the firefighters are the only memory he has of his little brother's birth. Quite the excitement when you're two years old.
In hopes of actually having a non-emergent homebirth this time - one that doesn't involve paramedics and firefighters and my mother-in-law catching an unexpected baby - we've been making the necessary preparations for the older boys, both in terms of preparing for their needs during the labour and mentally preparing them for what the experience might look like.
Have a dedicated support person
Our top priority is to have a dedicated support person in the house to care for the boys during the labour. We are fortunate again to have my mother-in-law coming to stay with us prior to the due date in order to be that support person. Our support person's sole responsibility is to be there for the two boys, meeting both their physical needs (food, bedtime, trips to the bathroom) and emotional needs (entertainment, answering their questions, talking them through what's going on, removing them from the room/house if they don't want to be there).
The boys both know they are more than welcome to witness the birth of their new siblings; they are also free to choose not to be there if they find the experience too scary or overwhelming. In that regard, our support person is an optional resource for them. They are not required to be under her care if they choose to be involved in the labour and birth instead.
On the off chance I go into labour before our support person arrives, we will have a second person lined up as backup.
Include them in the preparations
Gathering supplies, preparing food, and talking about the logistics of the homebirth are additional ways our boys can be involved in and prepared for the birth. Who will be there? What can we have on hand to eat? What can we prepare ahead of time? Why do we include this or that in our supplies? What can the kids do during the birth? In what ways might they be able to help me during the labour?
Because they have attended all prenatal appointments with me, they are familiar with our team of midwives, as well as with some of the equipment they use. This familiarity will further increase their comfort when the big day comes.
Talk about their own births
Both boys love hearing about their own births at any time, but we've been talking about those experiences even more in preparation for this third birth. Because their births were so very different in nearly every possible way, it provides a nice range of experiences to draw from. We've also talked about the bit I know of their relatives' and friends' births, thereby adding to their collection of potential birth scenarios.
Be honest about potential experiences
During my second pregnancy, I spent hours reading other birth stories (with a focus on positive ones) in order to mentally prepare myself for what I would be going through myself. I found great comfort in doing so; likewise, providing the boys with a number of birth stories gives them a better grasp on what may be to come. In addition to these past stories, however, we've also talked directly about what this experience may be like.
We've been deliberately honest about the various aspects of birth. Knowing myself, it is likely to be loud. There will be yelling, and that's okay. It will hurt, and that's alright. There will be various birthing fluids, including blood, and that's normal. If the baby or I need help from a doctor, we will go to a hospital while they stay with their Oma. The better they are mentally prepared for these various sights, sounds, and possibilities, along with all the correct terminology, the less frightening and overwhelming those things will be.
These discussions always draw some excellent questions from the boys; again, answering these questions in a way that is both honest and reassuring will help prepare them for the birth.
Watch videos and read books
Finally, watching videos and reading books about homebirth further adds to their understanding of what the experience might look like.
I highly recommend Code Name: Mama's 30 Natural Birth Videos and Slideshows to Prepare Children for Labor and Birth as an immensely useful resource.
The University of Maryland Medical Center's interactive fetal development slide is our favourite in-utero look at how the baby develops; it can also be used to give an idea of where and how the baby will descend through the birth canal.
Our midwives have one of the incredible MamAmor dolls in their waiting room, which has allowed us a fun hands-on look at the process of childbirth. This process is daily reenacted in our living room by our enthusiastic boys/"mothers", with the help of various stuffed animals and dolls!
There are some lovely homebirth books available as well, including:
- Hello Baby by Jenni Overend
- Runa's Birth by Uwe Spillmann
- We're Having a Homebirth by Kelly Mochel
- Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born by Toni Olson
- I Watched my Brother Being Born! by Anne Vondruska
Any additional suggestions? What did you find helpful in preparing your older children for a homebirth?
Preparing siblings for a new baby
Attachment Parenting Series: Birth Bonding