Monday, 23 July 2012

Preparing siblings for a homebirth

As this week marks the 37th week of pregnancy, our third baby is now officially "full term". (No rush though, little one; Mommy still has so much to do!) In addition to preparing the boys for the presence of their new baby brother or sister, we've begun preparing them for our second planned homebirth as well.

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 Mothering's 6 Birth Videos compilation as an immensely useful resource.

The interactive fetal development tool 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:

Any additional suggestions? What did you find helpful in preparing your older children for a homebirth?

Additional resources
Why homebirth?
Preparing siblings for a new baby
Attachment Parenting Series: Birth Bonding


  1. Oh I am a bit envious of you. I wish I were preparing my boys for a third home birth. But that's just not a reality for us this time around. I look forward to hearing all about how everything goes and what your boys' reactions are.

  2. This is wonderful! I just had a homebirth a week ago with my two and a half year old daughter was home with us. Your list pretty much sums up what we did to prepare her, and I believe it was all very helpful! I actually have a post quite similar to this one in my drafts, so I'll have to refer to yours, too, when I publish :) Wishing you a beautiful birth!

  3. Great list!
    We did a dress rehearsal - each child had jobs to do (take photos, hold towels, get drinks, announce the sex, count fingers, etc) so we ran through the labour/birth, with me in position, making noises and leaning on the ball, birthing a doll, and everyone got to run through their bits. Following on from this, they got to ‘debrief’ the dress rehearsal by more talking or through doing art.
    Otherwise, we did a similar list to you except for your top priority - I’ve had 2 planned unassisted births, and did not want anyone but immediate family at the birth, so no dedicated babysitter, although my kids were older.
    We also spoke about what would happen in the event of needing to transfer.
    Best of luck! xox

    1. I absolutely love the idea of dress rehearsal! That is brilliant. I've never heard of doing that before, but what a fun way to help prepare children.

      If it was just my oldest, I wouldn't feel the need for a dedicated support person either, but I do want one there for my two year old. How neat that you've had two UA's!

  4. Many of your links are dead or outdated. Do you have any new resources to recommend?

    1. Thanks for letting me know! I have updated all links. I particularly recommend the interactive tool; it was always our favourite resource.