Among the many things on my to-do list, 16 weeks into my third pregnancy, is figuring out what kind of labor I want to have. Do I want to do a water birth? Use the same birthing stool I used the first time? Use a home birth midwife or regular midwives? All these questions are swirling around in my head as I prepare for my third (and probably last) labor. I am excited and nervous -- this third labor has a lot to live up to considering how perfect and quiet and meditative my first two were. But one thing is clear: I want my two older children in or near the place where I deliver.
This wasn't something I realized right away. It has come to me in a series of moments. My kids have spent the summer kissing my growing belly, cuddling it, and talking almost non-stop about "our" new baby. My daughter will be 7 when her sister is due and my son will be 5.5. They are on the young end for being in the delivery room, so it hadn't even occurred to me that they might be able to be there.
Until I heard from friends who'd involved their children even younger than my own.
Soon it seemed almost cruel NOT to have them there. There is this huge event that we have been anticipating for months. It's a family event, something we are all celebrating. And yet, I am leaving them out of the best part? How can that be?
I have some experience in the matter, too. Back when my sister was born 27 years ago, I was in the delivery room. I was 8. At the time, I was well-prepared. My mother had brought me to hospital birthing classes throughout her pregnancy. She had made sure I had watched videos of more than one birth and also that there was an adult who could whisk me out of the room in case things became dangerous.
I spent the morning of my sister's birth in and out of the delivery room (she had a family suite), alternating between reading a book with my babysitter and watching my mother and father and her doula breathe, walk, and go through contractions. When my sister started to crown, I have never been more excited in my entire life. It was scary (the episiotomy, for instance), but it was also moving, thrilling, and really important that I got to be part of it.
Twenty years later, almost to the day, I gave birth to my own first child. Because I had been there for my mom's natural drug-free labor, I wasn't scared. I took the surges as they came, rode them, listened to my midwife, took a long bath, and when it was time, I pushed her out on the birthing stool. No fear. That was what being there did for me. The fear most women have from years of watching movies and A Baby Story on TLC was totally absent for me. I'd seen it done. I knew it wasn't as bad as all that.
In part, that's what I want to give my kids. But it's more than that, too. Sure, there are some scary parts to birth. I am sure I will be loud and moaning and out of it, but this is life pain. This isn't bad pain. To see how we come into this world firsthand is a gift I am only going to be able to give my kids once. I know I want my daughter there. My son may not be able to handle it, and if not, that's OK. I will have someone there to take him out.
But I suspect he will be fine. They have both seen the videos of me giving birth to him. They have seen the miracle of life at the Museum of Science. I think they can handle it. Besides, if my past labors are any indication, this should be fast and furious anyway.
For now, we are planning to have them there, assuming they both want to be there. It's a family event.
Now, I just need to figure out how to make that happen.
Would you ever let your kids watch you give birth?