It’s hard to predict how young children will react during birth and hard to know how their presence may influence the birth. I was open to having my son present for his sister's birth, but my husband thought it might be too intense for him. He was also concerned about caring for our 4 year old while also trying to support me in labor. We made a plan to have someone available to pick him up when I went into labor.
I went into labor around 3 in the morning. My son woke up soon after. We encouraged him to go back to sleep, that everything was OK, his sister was coming. He lay in bed with his eyes wide awake—too excited to sleep.
The house was full of people he knew and everyone was going about their jobs calmly and quietly. He wanted to be a part of it. I remember him checking on me when I was in the tub, smiling and laughing with me between contractions. It was so sweet to have him there.
At one point during active labor when I was pushing I asked someone to take him out of the room, I couldn’t focus with him there.
He came back to greet his sister immediately after she was born. His two comments were, “What’s all that white stuff?” (vernix) and, “Where’s the placenta?” Soon enough he would see the placenta. He got a full tour, checking out the 3 vessel cord and everything.
When I asked my husband afterward why he decided not to call anyone to pick him up he said, "I didn't see any reason to. He was totally fine. I think it would have been hard for him to leave knowing what was going on." This is birth in his mind. It happens at home, without intervention, supported by friends and family.
When I went to support and film two births this summer he asked, "Is it a kid birth?" He was disappointed when I told him no, he would have to stay home. Birth is a family and community event in his experience, and at the end there's cake.
When I mentioned something about a pregnant friend having her baby in the hospital recently he said, “Is that what you do when you’re sick and pregnant?” Birth in the hospital is contrary to his lived experience.
I don’t know what will change for him in the years between now and the time that he has his own children, but I hope he doesn’t loose his sense of how wonderful and joyous birth can be.