Have you ever considered having a homebirth? For some, the idea seems daunting, and maybe even a little wild! But to others, giving birth in the comfort of one's own home under the care of skilled, licensed midwives sounds like the ideal childbirth experience. If you are one of these women, you're definitely not alone! I've had several homebirths myself, and they have been some of the most incredible and memorable moments of my life.
One of the many benefits of homebirth is the opportunity for your other children to be more involved than perhaps they could be in a hospital setting. While some women prefer to labor alone, with their children tended to by a loving sitter, you may find yourself wanting to have your children nearby and participating in this miraculous event. But how does one prepare children for birth? The sights, sounds and events in the birthing room may be unfamiliar and even frightening; not only for children but husbands and other family members who might be in attendance!
I'd love to share with you some ways that I've worked to prepare my children for the births of their siblings, and how this preparation has helped them to enjoy these special family moments and treasure them forever.
Tell them their birth stories
My kids love hearing stories about when they were born. We share with them the excitement, the challenges and the joys in each of their deliveries. Pictures of them as fresh newborns are great to share too! They are always full of questions about the details, and it's so sweet to remind them of the love and anticipation with which we awaited each of their arrivals.
Read books together
We've been blessed to find a number of sweet children's books geared toward preparing families for the birth of a child, both in a hospital setting or at home. Here are a few of our favorites:
(Note - make sure you preview these and decide if they are right for your family before reading them aloud. A few contain birth related nudity, mentions of spirituality, non-anatomically correct language, etc.)
Include them in prenatal care
If your care provider is open to this, try to include your kiddos in prenatal care as much as possible. My kids come to all my midwife appointments and are even invited to help with tasks such as listening to baby's heart beat, measuring the belly, and taking blood pressure. This really helps them to feel connected and involved with baby even before the birth date arrives.
Watch birth videos
I have found many beautiful professionally filmed birth videos on Youtube that present homebirth in a real, raw, yet beautiful and slightly curated way. This helps to normalize the sounds, emotions, and events in a birth for kids while highlighting the joy. Again, this is something you'll definitely want to preview before sharing with your kids to decide what level of detail they can handle, as well as check it for language and such. But I've found that my kids love birth videos and even request their favorites on a regular basis!
Give them a job
Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to take ownership of small tasks in the birthing space. Some ideas are keeping mom's water bottle filled, providing cool cloths for mom's forehead, checking the birth pool temperature, helping with younger siblings, getting snacks, or just holding mom's hand and providing encouragement.
Talk about the tough stuff
Another important element of preparation is to talk with your kids about some of the tough things they may see or hear. We tell our kids that labor is hard work and that it hurts mommy, but it's okay! We tell them that mommy isn't scared and that this is a big job for her to do to bring baby out. We also talk about the loud noises and wild faces mommy might make, as well as the reality of postpartum bleeding. Emphasizing that these are all good parts of God's plan for babies to come out, and that mommy is ready and not afraid, helps them not be worried by what they see and hear.
Assemble your birth team
Other than qualified midwives, it may be a good idea to include some other helpers on your birth team, especially when kids around. We make sure we have a sitter/grandma/auntie to take care of the kids so mom and dad can focus on the labor without needing to change diapers, get snacks, etc. Ideally this is someone who the kids feel very comfortable with! We also always hire a doula to provide encouragement, education and physical support during our births. Our doula is also a childbirth educator and put together a neat 'doula assistant' presentation complete with coloring pages and handouts to teach the kids more about how to be great helpers during the birth.
Pray and read scripture together
Praying over the baby and the birth daily is another beautiful way to lead your children in trusting in God's love and provision for the pregnancy and birth process. It will do you a world of good, too! Taking time each day to read scriptures that detail God's lovingkindness and care is a wonderful balm to the soul, and helps the whole family to remember that the gift of life is from Him and He holds us all in His hands.
Prepare your birth space
One of the most special parts of a home birth is being able to create a calm, sacred birthing space in which to welcome your child. Writing Bible verses to hang on the wall, hanging Christmas lights, adding cozy textiles and colors - the possibilities are endless! My kids like to color pictures for me to look at while I'm laboring. It's such a sweet encouragement!
Make postpartum special for everyone
Of course, once the baby arrives the joys of welcoming a new member to your family have just begun! Finding a balance between protecting mom and baby's bonding, rest and recovery while still including the siblings in welcoming the new baby can be tricky. It's helpful to talk with your husband ahead of time to come up with strategies and ideas for both including the big kids, and distracting them with other things when necessary. The kids may be disappointed at how much baby needs to sleep and nurse and how little they can contribute to care. Asking big kids to fetch diapers, choose baby outfits, sing lullabies, etc can make them feel useful and important.
This can also be a great time for dad or grandma to take the big kids on special outings. Gift baskets are another wonderful touch - a new toy or coloring book can make siblings feel special and remembered in the midst of all the fuss over baby.
This probably goes without saying, but savor every moment! Take lots of pictures, write your birth story, save mementos, and make this birth a special family memory to be shared together for a lifetime.
What about you? Have you ever considered a home birth, or had one yourself? What were some ways you prepared your family?
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