Saturday 20 February 2016

Children at birth.

Homebirth and siblings .

As a privately practicing independent midwife in Wollongong, one of my favourite aspects of home birth is that it is a family affair.

If it is not the first baby being born, the involvement of siblings in the preparation for birth, the lead up to labour and welcoming their new baby earth side is such a wonderful learning experience and a special time that bonds the whole family, especially baby and sibling from well before baby is born.

The girls would greet me at the door screaming
 "Midwife is here!!!!"

The midwife and children develop quite the
bond of their own over months of antenatal care.

In this blog post i'd like to address a few commonly asked questions about siblings and children at birth.

1. How will they handle it?

2. Will the noises scare them?

These two are best answered together. The key here is in the preparation. As a client recently described to her friends who were concerned for her girls aged two and four watching the birth, "It's not like I just sat them in front of me and said, here watch this. The girls had months of lead up, checking the baby with the midwife each home visit, reading books and watching videos, setting up the birth space."

There are lots of age appropriate recourses to help in the preparation. One of my favourite books is Hello Baby by Jenni Overend. This book shows the home birth of a family, their midwife and the labour. It talks about the noises mummy will make and shows the baby being born.
ABC Homebirth is a great free e-book. Like these, there are many other books available, some only in e-reader format but a quick google search should produce plenty to work with.

As well as books, videos can be used to help prepare little ones for what they are about to see and hear when mummy is birthing. I would recommend mum or dad watch the videos before they are watched together.

The beautiful book Hello Baby
by Jenni Overend, Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

3. What age is best?

I believe homebirth is appropriate for all ages. I don't think you can be too young or too old; each age has different challenges and advantages.

0-2yrs - these little ones are usually oblivious to what is going on. I think it's really important to have a spare set of hands in another support person. While often this age group is clingy to mummy when labour is under way, they almost seem to sense something is going on and can be unusually content being entertained and cuddled by another care provider.

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2-4yrs - the attention span of these little ones matches their years in minutes. They'll seem captivated and inquisitive one minute and then be running away to the toybox the next. They'll have more interest in the Paw Patrol DVD they've watched a thousand times than the noises or the body that is coming out of mummy. Don't be surprised if that same attention span is displayed when they are introduced to their new brother or sister for the first time.

Big sister is captivated...
Little sister... has ice in a cup... enough said.
4-8yrs - intrigue and mystery. These guys are fascinated and don't want to miss a second of the action. Action being the important word here. Normal birth can be slow and boring so these guys will sometimes be drawn to their younger siblings Paw Patrol DVD with strict instructions to be summonsed when something interesting happens. They love the noises, they love the gross bits and feel the love as much as mum and dad when that little baby finally emerges. Most of all they love telling all their friends and family how the baby was born in a swimming pool in the lounge room and how mum pushed it out her vagina and there was blood and even a placenta. If they're lucky enough daddy will even pass the scissors when its time to cut the cord.

Beauty and normalcy of birth being
imprinted for life.

8-12yrs - boys will often fake apathy and disinterest but keeping themselves in ear and eyeshot so to make sure all is going smoothly. Girls at this age are all over it; mini-midwives who want to do it all. They're in there with the torch and mirror trying to spot the first glimpse of babies head. They're giving mum sips of water and ice, heating wheat bags and changing towels and pads.

12 + - this age, whether boys or girls, get the most out of the home birth experience. While they may not know it at the time, they are getting a serious education; mum is setting the finest example of having faith in ones body, trust in birth and how birth is just normal. I believe these concepts are being seeded in each age group, but it's this adolescent group that will have a firm grasp on what it's all about.

4. Will i wake them in the night?
You might... usually not, but you might. When little ones wake in the night to find the exciting happenings of labour and birth, they usually find it pretty anti-climatic and grow weary of it and fall back asleep or asked to be tucked back into bed. More often than not they'll sleep undisturbed and wake in the morning to catch the last bit of action or meet their new sibling.

5. Will they annoy me?
Probably just a little bit. I do think it is a good idea to have a back up plan incase you find your little ones presence too distracting, Grandma or someone else could pick them up for a sleepover or take them out for a play. Usually with the right support your midwife or doula can help keep your mind in focus and dad can tend to the child. Often mums are good at tuning that little pixie voice out and indulging guiltlessly in the surges and what ever she needs to do to get through. Ultimately its up to you and how you feel at the time.

One by one these guys all arose from their beds,
 the excitement was contagious.
"shhhh" says grandma, little giggles continued
to cheer their mum on from the side line. 

6. Who will look after them?
I would say at the majority of births I attend it's only mum and dad and myself present. Between the two of us, myself and dad manage pretty well. By the time birth comes around the children are very familiar with the midwife. the children and myself have built our own little relationship and they are quite comfortable sitting back with the midwife watching on or flicking through a story book.
Mum can anticipate how much support she may need so if she's predicting dad and midwife will be tied up helping her through each surge, having another person to be on child duty makes sense.

They all jumped for joy when they laid eyes
on their new little brother.

Having a private midwife, where your pregnancy is completely normalised and your care is carried out in your own home, is just one of the perks of home birth. Children exposed to this are so very lucky and I believe it's setting them up to make informed decisions about their bodies when it is time for them or their partners to birth. Whether they witness the birth or not is not important. The benefit is in the time spent together, learning, preparing, trusting and bonding.

Thank you mum.
You're my hero.

Until next time,

Louise x

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