It was reported in the news recently that TV chef Jamie Oliver and his wife, Jools, allowed their eldest daughters to attend the birth of their newborn baby.
As you might expect, the media whipped this story into quite a frenzy, with people clambering over each other to argue about whether this was a good or a bad idea.
Clearly, such decisions shouldn’t be made by the family but by the national press!
This story was of particular interest to me. I am currently (and angrily) awaiting the birth of my second child (three days ‘late’ so far, not that I’m counting…) and I’m planning to have my daughter at the birth.
My little girl is four and a half years old. She is a sweet, caring, and curious child, and is completely and utterly excited about meeting her new baby brother or sister. If it feels to me like I have been pregnant forever, I can only imagine how much longer it feels to a four year old.
We have been talking about this pregnancy since Christmas, counting down the months, then weeks, and now days, until the baby will arrive. Unfortunately, it seems the baby hasn’t heard any of these conversations, and has no idea when to show up (should have been three long days ago, not that I’m counting…).
Deciding To Have My Daughter At The Birth
My daughter was born in a pool, in the living room of our old house. The room was dark, lit only by candles. The midwives were quiet, respectful, and reassuring. It wasn’t scary, traumatic or loud. It was calm and I felt safe.
It was a beautiful experience, and I felt on top of the world afterwards. I have been looking forward to doing it all over again, and I’m excited to share the experience with my daughter. My husband is equally excited about sharing it with her, and we both feel she will enjoy being present at the birth.
There were no debates or discussions about it; we both just knew it was what we wanted.
Here’s why we want our daughter at the birth:
#1: To Help Her Bond With The New Baby
The thought of adding an extra child to our family is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. While I long for the days when they can play together, I’m also scared of how it will shake up the careful balance we have achieved in our family life.
Will my daughter feel left out when she is forced to compete with the immediate needs of a newborn baby? Will she feel frustrated when she discovers that newborn babies aren’t exactly the best playmates?
We have talked a lot about what new babies are like, and how much attention they need. We’ve talked about the kinds of things big sisters can do to help out during the early days. We’ve also read lots of books about new siblings. My daughter has sung songs to my bump, told me all the things she’s going to teach the new baby, and explained the sort of games she’s going to play with her new younger sibling.
Allowing her to be present at the birth just feels like yet another way to encourage a close sibling bond. After all, how many of us are lucky enough to witness the very moment our siblings arrive in the world? I want my daughter to be one of the first people to see the new baby, and I want her to get one of the very first long-awaited cuddles.
#2: So I Know She’s Ok
Some people have told me they simply couldn’t relax during labour until the kids were out of the way. I understand that, but I think I’ll feel the opposite. I can’t imagine being able to relax fully, without knowing my daughter is ok.
Birth is the great unknown and I think that’s bound to make young children feel a little bit anxious. If my daughter is around for the birth, she can see that it’s nothing to worry about, and I can see that she’s happy. I don’t want her to feel pushed out, for the birth. I would prefer that she feels like an important part of the birth team – after all, who else is going to pass me the cold flannels?
#3: So She Can See That Birth Is Normal
There is a culture of fear surrounding birth in modern society. Women exchange birth horror stories, pregnant women are inundated with worst case scenarios, and the average teenage girl regards birth as something horrifically painful for which drugs are necessary.
This isn’t how I see birth and it’s not how I want my daughter to see it either. I see birth as a challenge – an intense moment that you must experience in order to begin the most amazing journey of your life.
I see it as a time of vulnerability, where you unlock your inner strength and really see the amazing things your body can do. I want my daughter to see all of that too. I want her to see the power and strength of labour, and the joy and love of birth.
#4: So She Will Feel Included
I have made a great effort to include my daughter in the pregnancy. She has accompanied me to almost every midwife appointment. She came with us to the ultrasound scans, and she has forced me to play midwives with her for many hours. I have done my best to make sure that the pregnancy is something happening to all of us, not just to me (although, if pushed, I will admit I feel like I’m the one doing most of the work).
I don’t see why the birth should be any different. After months of preparation and learning about birth, I think my daughter is ready to be included in that special occasion as well. When visitors come round to see the new baby, I want my daughter to be able to tell them proudly that she was at the birth (as long as she doesn’t go into too much detail).
#5: Because I Think She Will Love It
My daughter is fascinated by the human body. If you cut your finger, she wants to get a good look, and she’ll talk about it for days after. She has books about the digestive system which she can recite word for word. And now she has some midwifery expertise as well.
She has spent months revising for this, and she knows what to expect. She knows there might be shouting or screaming, she knows that there will be a placenta (she is very excited about this), and she knows there will be a cord to cut. I don’t think she will be scared by the noise, or the blood, because she’s been warned to expect it.
Instead, I think she will be simply amazed at meeting her new baby brother or sister for the first time. The main reason I want my daughter at the birth is because I think she will love it. I believe it will be an experience she will never forget – something she can treasure her whole life.
Recommended Reading: Siblings At Birth – Should Children Be Present During Childbirth?