Birth: A Family Affair

Homebirthing parents share their experiences of having siblings at births:

“My eldest son Silas was five when his brother was due and was particularly keen to be involved. We got the sibling kit from our antenatal class for Silas’ benefit, although we all got a lot from it – the birth video was a particularly good one. For the birth Silas planned to be in the pool to catch the baby (being in the pool was the highlight) and he was looking forward to the big event. Then, a week before the due date when Silas was at his father’s for the weekend, I went into labour on getting up Sunday morning. Being early I thought it was not the real thing and procrastinated in calling anyone in case everything stopped. Eventually we decided it was the real thing and calls were made to get the support people, including our midwife and Silas who we’d arranged to come with his paternal grandmother. Our midwife arrived about half an hour before baby and Silas about ten minutes after. He was a little disappointed to have missed out but was still very proud of his little brother and all smiles as he held him for the first time. To this day the boys remain close, which I’m grateful for considering such a large age difference.” – Suze

“My first daughter was nearly six when her brother was born and keen to be involved. She was woken by my vocalising (OK, yelling my head off – it was an intense 90minute labour) in the middle of the night and was initially upset and comforted by my mother. But when she could see me, she realised I was fine and she was excited that the baby was coming. She still talks about being the first to see him, and how she named him and cut the cord. The next day she went to school and wrote about her experience: ‘Last night we had a baby. It was fun.’” – Jo

“When my second baby was born, my eldest was not quite 22 months. He had gone down for his midday sleep, just as things were heating up for me. I roared my way through the birth of his little sister…and he slept blissfully on. When he woke up, he joined us in the bedroom to meet the baby. He was pretty underwhelmed by the whole experience, but took full ownership of her from that day on. His “Ro-Ro” was introduced to complete strangers, and they remain great friends three years on.

My husband and I had discussed having our two older children at the birth of the next baby. We decided it would be OK if they were awake, and wanted to be involved. My friend was to be present for the birth, and to help out with the older two if they were awake for the labour. As it turned out, the children were asleep when labour started. Neither of them woke up, even with all the comings and goings of midwives, heat packs being transported to the room and general busyness of birth preparations. I gave birth groaning into the adjoining wall between the bathroom and the children’s bedroom…still,they slept on! Gabe was born at 9:30pm and we didn’t see the children until 7am the next morning, where Sam proclaimed my tummy had gone flat and where was the baby? We went into the lounge to see baby Gabe and Daddy curled up on the couch in front of the fire. Gabe came back to the bedroom to be admired by his adoring siblings.” – Helen

“We were undecided about our two-year-old’s involvement until the last days of my pregnancy. She woke as usual at 1am and with mummy in labour and nanna there, there was no way she’d go back to bed. She was a trooper and stayed involved till her brother was born 12 hours later. With comments like: “You can do it, Mummy,” “Aaargh,” “Eeek” and the act of giving birth to her doll on the swing she was a real breath of fresh air that reminded me why we do this.” – Amanda

“When my second daughter Kate was born Emma (then two) was going to be there! She had Sheila Kitzenger books read to her for the previous nine months and thought of herself as a fully-trained midwife by the time my labour started. She had her auntie as her ‘birth assistant’ but was not at all fazed by the grunting and groaning that preceded Kate’s birth. After baby Kate was born Emma did the baby check and helped dress her sister then sat and ate her Ricies.

When we had our last baby two-and-a-half years later, Emma considered herself a dab-hand at this birthing thing. The girls helped make the birth-mat, and we read lots of books together about birth and I tried to prepare them as much as possible about the whole process. It was a long labour and the girls were very excited during the evening. As the labour went on (and on) bedtime came and went. It was hard to get Kate to sleep – she still has an amazing ability to stay awake no matter how tired if she’s afraid she might miss something exciting. Her birth assistant, Dot, took her in to another room to play games and read books. I was still breastfeeding and the usual bedtime routine of breastfeeding her to sleep wasn’t happening that night. I remember her finally getting to sleep near midnight.

Sometime later my womb did a crazy thing and stopped contracting – this meant that the birth team could sleep and I rested. It wasn’t until the following evening when we had settled the girls into bed that it all kicked back into action. We woke the girls half an hour before Hugh was born. Emma stepped into ‘midwife’ role and sat quietly watching to catch the first glimmer of the baby’s head. Kate snuggled with Dot – her birth attendant. I don’t have much memory of the next hour – lots of yelling, Emma being quickly displaced by the real midwives as I needed to open my legs wide when they saw the size of Hugh’s cheeks. As he was born, Emma yelled out “It’s a  boy!” – she obviously hadn’t learnt that’s a no-no at a home birth. Emma’s natural enthusiasm and acceptance of Hugh’s birth was in stark contrast to Kate who looked shell-shocked. It took her about half an hour to come to me or Hugh – the intensity of my screams scared her and she just clung to Mark as we reassured her that it was OK and I was fine. In time she came and hugged me and looked at her new brother. I worried for a long time as to if I had put Kate off birthing for life – but she has recently gone through a phase of wanting to be a midwife so I guess it was just a mixture of tiredness and adjustment rather than any lasting damage.” – Megan

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