Originally published at SQUAT! Birth Journal
As we are planning a homebirth this time around, I got to thinking how I would have done if I were to birth in the hospital. With my daughter being our first child, childcare during labor obviously wasn’t an issue, but now, if I had chosen that route, it would have been.
How would we have managed? Would we have been able to find someone who was ready at any time - day or night - to take care of our daughter?
And it got me thinking about something else... Sibling jealousy and the medical system’s separation of families during childbirth.
Before hospital birth was common, there would always be children around the birthing woman. They might be tactfully guided to the neighbor or a female relative, but not everywhere. Having children around and aware - to some degree - of what was going on, was normal and natural. Yet nowadays, hospital birth and it’s separation of families has become such a normal, integrative part of our culture that we don’t think about this anymore. More so, having children around the birth space is considered odd at the least and detrimental to the child at the worst. Even when discussing homebirth, the question will inevitably be:
- “What will you do with the older child”.
When I went to visit with my midwives, they asked that exact question. At that time, we didn’t have any means of childcare, beside ourselves, so I said that she’d be fine assisting the birth, and she would be free to go or come as she chooses. She’s very much interested in birth and claims to want to catch the baby.
- “But what if she doesn’t want to be there?” was the next question.
Now personally, I don’t have any issue with my daughter coming and going as she chooses and at three and half, she can manage herself in the house, so that was just a non-issue for me. But their policy was to have someone else around for the child at worst, or to drop off the child with a relative at best.
When I uttered that my husband was perfectly capable of taking care of our daughter if need be, and that it didn’t bother me to labor alone - I might actually prefer it - they looked at me cross-eyed.
So here are some of the things I would like to address on this topic:
|Image: Oana Hogrefe Photography|
- I think it is normal and natural and even healthy for children to witness birth. This way they see that birth is just a part of life and might learn to fear it less than those generations who where kept from it (there’s always a certain mystique to the unseen)
- I think the modern system of separating families is detrimental to the relationship between siblings. Older siblings get dropped off, because it’s the babies time, only to get picked up again, after long hours, for a short hospital visit, where mommy obviously has fallen in love with this tiny new creature. The older child can’t help but wonder if (s)he is still to be a part of the family, as they went off to have this baby on their own, and mommy and daddy seem to be too distracted to take care of their needs. Of course, this is an extreme, but it is often what happens, and with a hospital birth, the father is often overwhelmed by the responsibilities and running around he has to do, and the mother is stuck at the hospital with the new baby. The older siblings are somewhat left adrift, even in the best of situations.
There is nothing more natural then birth, and having the older siblings around (obviously with the freedom of choice to leave the room if possible, and perhaps a caretaker around to help them out a little if it’s all too overwhelming) is only natural, healthy, and good for family relationships. Birth should not be a time of separation and discontinuity, it should be a celebration of a growing family, where nobody is left out of the marvel and wonder of the event.