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Enter the world surrounded by love
The decision about whether to allow your child to witness the birth of a sibling is a very personal decision, with many maintaining the philosophy that bringing your bundle of joy into the world surrounded by the people who love your baby is the best start to his or her life. "As a mom who is also a childbirth educator, I think it's fine for children to witness the birth of siblings," explains Ami Burns, owner of Birth Talk in Chicago, Illinois. "I prepared my son for the sounds and sights of labor and birth when he was 3 years old. Turns out he slept through my labor with his baby brother, but came in the room immediately after, and helped cut the cord!" However, not every parent — or child — is ready to wrangle their kiddos in for the big show.
Too much trauma
I understand the idea behind the 'enter the world surrounded in love' bit, but it's hard to ignore the fact that kids are easily traumatized by the blood, confused by the mother's pain and the oftentimes tubes and needles. "Seems way too traumatic for a 2-year-old to witness," shares Charlie Lee, father of two in California. "Heck, it's a little traumatic to witness when I was 42! Plus seeing her mother in such an uncomfortable and unpredictable environment didn't appeal to us." On the other hand, perhaps the most important thing to consider is where you're birthing. "When couples plan for homebirth it's much easier to incorporate children into the birth scenario," explains doula Latham Thomas of Mama Glow. "In the hospital, however, the environment is not as conducive for children to be present during labor."
However, when siblings are significantly older, some moms feel that the shock value could lend positively to teenage offspring, like Elisabeth Carmona, mother of three in California. "My oldest was there for my youngest's birth, but I agree little ones don't belong in there. My middle daughter wasn't allowed in the delivery room, but my oldest was 13 and I felt it would be a good birth control incentive for the future. It was way too easy of a birth though (unlike her horrific one) so don't think it had a profound effect on her as I'd hoped! It was nice for her to be part of the experience though."
Others agree that the age and gender of the sibling is key. "My sister and I saw my brother born," shares Misty Pinkerton, mother of two in California. "I was 8 and she was 10. I would say yes for girls." And looking back, Caroline Carriera of Nevada agrees that it was a positive experience. "When I was 14 and watched my nephew being born, it was the coolest, and the creepiest thing I ever saw. To me, it made me more mature. When I'm older and have kids, I know what to expect."
While I am still not a huge fan of letting siblings into the delivery room, the decision about whether kids should witness childbirth is unique to each family's situation. "Parents need to trust their instincts and decide what's best for their kids — always have what I call a 'sibling doula' around who can attend to the older child's needs particularly if he's younger," cautions Burns. So, before you make the final call, consider your child's personality, age and what he or she feels about the situation to ensure that the experience is as positive as you intend it to be.