There is a conversation I have all the time, especially now that I am obviously pregnant. It goes like this: (s) = stranger (m)= me
s: How far along are you?/When are you due? m: I answer with whatever measurement, right now it is: 35 weeks or 9/12
s: Are you having a boy or girl? m: Boy
s: Is this your first? m: No, I have a 3 yr. old daughter
s: What are you going to do with her during labor?/Is family watching her during labor? m: She will be present during labor./No, our family is in Alabama. She will be present during labor.
s: <giving a shocked, wide eyed stare> Uh, like, she is going to witness the birth? m: Yes, she’s been attending and helping with the appointments. Birth is natural and beautiful and something she may go through too. Besides, we do not have anyone we could leave her with.
Now, some of y’all are probably giving the screen the exact shocked, wide eyed stare and some of y’all are thinking “not surprised with your hippie ass self”. Some people act as if I’ve just admitted to beating my child or something horrendous. I have many reasons why I feel like including her is more appropriate than excluding her.
1.) Realistically, birth is something she may go through one day. Shouldn’t she experience it first hand from me? I don’t feel like birth is a detail I should ignore or hide as if it is a dirty secret. Because it isn’t. While I do promote modesty and keeping your private parts, well, private. You should know about them, even at the age of three. Biologically speaking, what are our privates for? To reproduce! I don’t go into specifics with her, obviously. Yet, she knows her privates will be different than her brother’s. She knows her chest privates are different than her Daddy’s chest privates…that his aren’t private.
I have a hilarious story about that though. For a while, she didn’t understand why Daddy could show his chest privates, yet she couldn’t. They look the same as her’s and different from mine. She figured, she could show her’s in public places. I explained to her several times the difference between women’s breasts and men’s pectoral muscles and that strangers should never touch or see her private breasts or her to touch a stranger’s. During this time of learning, we had a hilarious mishap. My husband comes in from the gym everyday. He doesn’t want to eat in a sweat soaked shirt. He comes into the laundry room, takes off his shirt, throws it into the hamper, and puts on his undershirt. My daughter runs to greet him everyday and expects an immediate hug from Daddy. I’m in the kitchen finishing supper, but can hear their adorable greetings. One day, I hear her shout at the top of her little lungs: “No! Don’t put your private parts on me!! Yucky!!” And she comes running to me, telling me all about Daddy putting his private parts on her. I asked her to point to the private part area. She touches her chest. I die laughing. My husband came into the kitchen so red with embarrassment. I, of course, explained to her the difference again. We still laugh about that.
Back to my reason, though. I believe if we didn’t skirt the sex issue or treat it as some embarrassing/taboo topic; but talk about it as a matter-of-fact topic within life; kids might not treat it as a novelty or be naïve about the topic when people other than parents bring it up. It is what it is, the end. Privates parts do not need cute codenames either. Right now, we call them chest/breast, front, or booty private parts. As she matures, we will begin to call them by proper, biological names.
2. She wants to feel included to know and bond with her baby brother. She knows he is coming. We’ve taken all this time to explain to her she is a big sister now. Heck, strangers feel compelled to inform her her life is changed with this new brother. So, why exclude her from the birthing experience. Ok, big sister, mommy and daddy are going away for a day or so and bring home your life altering sibling that you are expected to accept immediately although you don’t have a clue where we got him from. No wonder some kids are shell shocked. I’ve been told by several other women who had their older children attend the birth, that the kids transitioned much easier. They already felt so bonded. My daughter tells me multiple times a day she cannot wait to see baby brother pop out of my booty or privates. She cannot wait to hold him, give him real kisses, and see his face. She regularly talks to him through my belly button.
3. I know my child. Even if we did have a trusted friend or relative for her to stay with. She would have an extremely hard time processing and adjusting to the change. She cannot help it. It is where her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is very noticeable. For nearly nine months, she’s been coming with me to the birth center, charming the midwives, and getting a sense of the place. New places, routines, and people really overwhelm her senses and frighten or overstimulate her. That’s what SPD does. Short version: SPD is a neurological disorder that scrambles the senses and sensations pathways to the brain. It makes her unable to understand how to process and respond to certain senses and sensations, which sends her into an epic meltdown fueled by fear or over excitement. I’ve spent this whole time role playing and preparing her for this moment to help her process and transition to the whole experience. We’ve watched animal birthing videos, homebirth/birth center videos (thank you YouTube & women who are brave enough to share such an intimate moment), and talked extensively about what I will be experiencing. Even now, I have to tell her I need to take a break for contractions and breathe through them. She offers support by rubbing my back, breathing with me, and telling me I can do it; all things she has gathered from the videos.
4. I know myself. If she were away from me, I know I would be worried about her the entire time, unable to relax and experience the birth.
Just as an unmedicated, vaginal birth center birth isn’t for everyone, neither is having a child present. Yet, do not judge me or make rude comments because I choose to. It is fine to respectfully inform or say you disagree; but do not make rude remarks. Such as: You are going to traumatize your kid. That is too intimate for a child. Yada, yada, yada. It is extremely insensitive.
The Positive Birth Movement, a group I follow on FaceBook, has begun a hashtag siblingsatbirth. It is amazing to see the number of women that share their pictures, stories, and experiences with their children present or being present as a child. I was beginning to reconsider my decision on having her attend the birth and trying to figure out some way to have a trusted person watch her. However, that still did not sit well with me. Today, I was reaffirmed and reminded by the positive hashtag that having her with me is what we need as a family. She will be able to sleep, play with toys, and if all else fails…we are bringing the iPad with headphones and will let her watch Tsum Tsums or Paw Patrol.