Recently a photo of a little girl hugging her mom before separating from her so her sibling could be born went viral. The comments I read on this photo varied in opinion from those empathizing with this mother to those thankful for not having had this experience. Nonetheless, there is something to learn from the feelings that come with viewing the photo.
This is where I am going to give you my opinion. I do realize you have not specifically requested it, but in continuing to read this blog, you are agreeing to hear – or shall I say “read” – me out.
It was when I was pregnant with our second son that the idea was presented to me by my doula to have our oldest attend the birth. I have to admit, at that point I had never even considered it. She had very valid reasons on why this can be beneficial, and encouraged me to read Carol Phillips’ Hands of Love: Seven Steps to the Miracle of Birth. After doing so I knew this was the right decision for me and hoped my husband, Kyle, would agree. He was hesitant at first but also read the book and listened to my feelings and needs in having Terryn present. He agreed and we gave Terryn the option to attend.
Terryn is a very inquisitive soul and at the age of 3, agreed to join us. We arranged for Kyle’s sister Kirsten to be his support person. When the time came, Terryn joined us at the hospital. This birth was moving along very nicely, but not necessarily at the pace a 3 year old would hope for, so Kirsten took Terryn and brought him back when we knew delivery was near. We used verbiage that was factual and supportive. Anatomy was (and should be) called what it is. We let him know I would be doing hard work and may make noises he has not heard from me before. Terryn sat on Kyle’s lap by my right shoulder while I delivered Canon Gregory Boland into the water at the hospital. Terryn was quiet and still and in awe. He wasn’t scared and in fact, he didn’t cry until the nurses took Canon from me to bathe him. Who knew that at 3 years old, his instinct that baby should be with mom was spot on?
Here is my point: you have options.
Because a practice is common does not mean it is normal. And, it certainly does not mean it needs to be your normal. If you are feeling scared, uneasy, guilty, worried, etc. with a practice, then maybe it is best to question what your need is and whether you want to set a new standard or follow an existing one.
Dr. Phillips points out how beneficial it is for siblings to be involved in the birth process and that it can help with sibling bonding and the older sibling not being confused or feeling replaced. This can have a great impact on the foundation of family for them. It also teaches children that birth is normal and not a fearful event.
We have had “the older siblings” at the births of our next two sons as well and I am forever thankful we did.
My hope in you reading this is obviously to consider this for your family but most importantly, taking the driver’s seat of your pre and postpartum experience. There are ALWAYS options and if something does not feel comfortable to you, explore what you are truly feeling and what you need.
These are photos of our boys supporting me during labor and watching Maclin arrive. The woman with the camera is my sister. She got an amazing photo of when only Maclin’s head had been delivered and Kyle captured the boys’ faces at the same time! The other woman in the photo, Teri Payne, CNM, FNP, changed my life when she opened my eyes to the way birth should be.
Erica Boland, DC
Coulee Health, Spine and Bodyworks
920 W Cty Hwy 16, Suite A
West Salem, WI 54669