Women choose to labor and birth their babies at home for a variety of reasons. Whether you're hoping for a more relaxed and comfortable experience, or you wish to share the birth experience with your whole family, there are plenty of details to plan. If you are welcoming a second baby, one of the biggest details you'll need to figure out is what to do with your kid during a home birth because sometimes, crayons and coloring books just aren't enough.
About 10 percent of mothers who are not giving birth for the first time end up needing to be transferred to the hospital, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Even if you are able to stay in your home for the duration of your labor and delivery, no birth can be 100 percent planned. To help you plan for the best home birth experience for every member of the family, Romper spoke with Christine Strain, a Georgia-based doula who has attended more than 100 births, including home births.
"Preparation and flexibility are key factors in making a home birth a positive experience for everyone in the family," says Strain over email. To prepare an older sibling for the big day, Strain recommends watching a lot of birth videos together. As the video plays, you can point out the sights and sounds your kids might witness during your own home birth and "put things in terms they can understand." For example, "younger children can mimic 'roaring like a lion' or squatting." Do you know any other families in your community who have had home births? Invite them over to share their experiences, especially from older siblings' perspectives. Strain points out that "kids are generally excited to tell their stories, and they might have noticed things you wouldn't have thought of!"
In order to stay flexible during your home birth, Strain recommends having "an adult present who is dedicated to caring for [any older children] and can feed, watch, and entertain during labor, as well as be prepared to remove the children during birth if they become upset or an emergency arises." Some families may wish to have their older children stay with a friend or relative during the home birth, too. "Whether to have older siblings remain in the home during labor or witness the birth itself is a very individual choice. For many families, having the siblings there is an important part of the birth experience, while for others, the birthing person may not feel comfortable laboring with their children present," Strain adds.
If you and your child want them to be home for the birth, it's important to figure out what their role will be, whether they help out or stay out of the way. According to Strain, this will vary a lot "based on the family, the age(s) of the sibling, and how involved they want to be. This should be discussed ahead of time so that both the parents and the children have similar expectations, and everyone knows to remain flexible as situations can change once labor begins. Ideally, the birthing person will have at least one dedicated support person and the children can help as much as is desired, but not feel pressure to support." Your dedicated support person could be a doula, a partner, or a friend or family member.
I had my husband, my mom, and a doula with me for support during the birth of my first child, but the second time around, my mom watched my daughter and I opted not to hire a doula again. As an experienced birth partner, my husband was able to provide the support I needed and I felt comfortable with that decision. The important thing, says Strain, is making sure everyone's needs are met. If your child isn't comfortable being there for the birth, don't force it, but if your child wants to be involved, make sure you're happy with the idea, too. No matter what, it's going to be an amazing experience.