This is a personal question and the answer will depend on many factors from personalities to what resources the mama has such as people who can be at the birth to help with the older children.
Here are my two experiences.
First, with my oldest, Zon, present at Ian's birth when she was 22 months, then my second experience with Zon at 40 months old and Ian at 17 months for Ciaran's birth.
With Ian's birth, Zon was very impatient. She didn't understand that it would take a long time for the baby to arrive. And by a long time, I mean anything over 5 minutes. For example, when I was in the birth pool, she kept yelling at me to stand up so she could see the baby, when I was only a couple hours into hard labor. It made her angry that the baby was not COMING OUT NOW as she kept saying.
I woke up DH to start filling the birth pool at 5am. She woke up around 6am b/c of all the noise we were making (not moaning birth noises, but things like filling the tub, taking a shower, talking, etc). That is early for us. So she was cranky and confused. Being in labor didn't bother her or scare her, but then again, I don't think I was ever loud. I never screamed for example. Some contractions, I was saying, "ooooo" and "aaaaahhh" in a meditative tone. And then the rest of the time I was talking really low to myself, like, "I am doing this. I am birthing my baby."
One problem is that she wanted to nurse. Which I welcomed at first b/c nipple stimulation is supposed to help. But I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to be touched at all during labor. No massage, no holding hands...ugh even the thought of someone's breath touching me frustrates me lol. So I cringed internally and nursed for a bit, then had my sister take her to the park.
When they came back from the park, I was literally a couple minutes from pushing. I will forever regret that I was so involved in the moment of birthing (probably the tail end of transition), that I was unable to stop her from running out the door with Memaw. She missed Ian's actual birth by minutes!!!!! And it did impact her. She came right back inside but it wasn't the same. I remember lying on the futon, holding him and seeing her face as she peered over at us. :,( The first thing out of her mouth was, "I missed baby come out!"
I think being there for Ciaran's birth finally brought her full circle and healed a hurt that didn't have words. All of Ciaran's pregnancy, she talked and talked about being at his birth. Every day, she would ask, "And I'm going to be there when the baby comes out, right, Mama?"
In the beginning of my labor with Ciaran, it was simple as I woke up laboring so we just let them sleep in...I think we got about 2 hours out of that trick lol. Then they colored, ate snacks and finally DH put them into the bathtub b/c they were getting antsy. (They like the tub). I don't want anyone around me in labor, so it was great that he was with them in the bathroom.
Then at the end, I crawled into the tub and started pushing, so I yelled for everyone to jump in NOW lol. She got to guide Ciaran out. Ian from what I remember/see in my mind, just jumped around the tub, splashing and laughing. When Ciaran was born, he said, "OH WOW" then went back to splashing hahaha.
Oh and this last time around, I was very whiny, but they weren't bothered by it. I also remember saying, OW OW OW OW through the ring of fire and I swear I screamed at one point but DH claims I was super quiet. I don't know. I always feel as if I make noise, but I guess it's just the intensity of it in my mind.
Anyways, that's our experience. And yes, I absolutely think that being present at Ciaran's birth has connected my children on a deep level. They adore their little brother and although Ian, being 1.5, can get too rough, I have yet to see jealousy or malice. It's just him hugging too hard or pulling on his arm as if Ciaran will jump up and play with him. I'm really happy with the way they stayed preoccupied during my labor, yet they were there with me. I think this might be a good compromise for those parents who are worried about whether or not this will work. Have a dedicated caregiver who can 100% focus on the children and leave if needed.
Other questions I've received:
1) What if the pool is gross? Pee, poop, amniotic fluid, membranes, blood. Yeah, bodily fluids can be gross. But they aren't guaranteed and a quick rinse off in the shower is all that's needed. Ciaran's birth pool was really clean b/c my waters did not burst until his head appeared and I didn't bleed until I moved to the bedroom. At any rate, kids love playing in mud and dumping their dinner all over. Exceptions aside, I bet most kids won't notice or care.
2) What if I don't want my child present? I think mamas can create a lot of guilt over this one. But, hey, to some point, birthing is a private process. I don't like co-showering. I don't like kids in the bathroom when I'm going to the bathroom. Nothing wrong with admitting these things. And it's important to analyze this feeling because if you are uncomfortable at birth, that will impact your experience, even stalling it or making it more painful. The key is to create a plan (such as going over to a relative's house) without negativity or stress. I've also heard of some mamas planning for the children to play outside, then having a provider call the babysitter's cellphone and everyone rushing in just for when the baby is physically being born. Others have said they get raw footage just for the other siblings to watch afterwards.
3) What if my midwife/care provider doesn't allow it? Your midwife might be concerned that no one will be able to attend to the other sibling's needs. But if you have a clear plan and a caregiver for your child, and your midwife is still saying no, you might need to re-evaluate your choice of a care provider and make sure this isn't one aspect of a bigger issue that will negatively influence your birth experience. Nonetheless, from what I hear, most out of hospital providers encourage and appreciate having children and other family members present.
You can preview the hundreds of home birth videos and slideshows on youtube. Look for ones that clearly show how the mother is laboring (look for a variety of labor styles) and that preferably show the baby being born and what happens afterwards. Short ones were helpful for my toddlers.
Here is a popular one for kids
I loved this book, a story about a little brother's home water birth
The Business of Being Born is for adults, but it has several births in it that were my daughter's favorites. During pregnancy I had to fast forward to the births at her request haha.
Welcome with Love is another home birth book for young children
|Ciaran's birth story is here: http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/2012/02/birth-story-of-ciaran-james.html|
|A few minutes after Ciaran was born|
If you have a sibling birth story and would like to share it as a guest post, please email the story to me or message me on Facebook. You're welcome to include photos and/or video as well.
Jennifer shared a photo with us, showing her two older daughters at the birth of their brother, Liam. Her children were present during labor and watched her birth Liam, with Daddy catching him.
|Her oldest daughter drew pictures while waiting for Liam to arrive.|