Preparing older siblings for home birth

Home birth used to be the norm, before giving birth moved into hospitals. Older siblings would all have been present at a new baby’s birth, and that was normal. Nowadays birth is hidden away from children and even considering having them around is quite unusual. But birth is not scary for children, they don’t have our adult ideas that birth means pain, blood, screaming, drugs etc. And it’s a great way for them to learn about birth by actually witnessing one!

With the news that low-risk mums who have given birth before should be offered home birth, this therefore means deciding what to do with the older child(ren) when the time comes. This is a very personal choice that will come down to your family’s situation and you and your child’s personality and preferences.

For my planned home birth earlier this year, we didn’t have any family nearby who could look after our daughter who was 3, so keeping her at home seemed like the least stressful option for all of us. We also felt that to include her would help her to bond with her little sister.

To prepare her for the birth, my midwife lent me a fantastic children’s book about home birth called Hello, Baby which is a story about a home birth from a child’s point of view. We also watched some videos online of calm home water births, especially ones with other children there, like this one from Mommypotamus and these from Code Name Mama. We also talked about how mummy might make funny noises because I would be doing such hard work and pushing a bit like doing a really big poo!

Ideally you need an extra adult around so that one person can look after the child and one person can look after you. This could either be a family member to look after the child, or an additional birth partner or doula to support you. Sadly this wasn’t an option for us, so instead I put together a big bag of goodies for my daughter including stickers, colouring books, sweets, new puzzles and a new DVD to keep her entertained. We also had a list of phone numbers of friends who were willing to take her to the park for us if she was getting bored (or disturbing me).

You also need a backup plan just in case you need to transfer to hospital. Have someone – a friend or neighbour – who is willing to look after your child overnight if necessary. Pack an overnight bag for them with pjs, favourite teddy and toothbrush. It’s a good idea to have someone on standby who can come and stay at your house if you need to go into hospital while your child is asleep.

In the end I found the labour much harder , and longer, than anticipated as the baby was back-to-back. We had hoped it would happen overnight as it often does but it started in the early hours of the morning and carried on through the day. And my daughter is not great at playing independently so my husband ended up spending all his time keeping her occupied. I was getting quite noisy and she started to get upset and after a few hours of very slow progress I needed more support. So in the end we decided to send my daughter to a friend’s house across the road to play. We had hoped it would be a couple of hours but I had to transfer to hospital in the end so she ended up having a sleepover there. She actually had a great time though and has been asking for another sleepover!

Have you had a home birth with older siblings? Did you decide to keep them at home or make other arrangements? How did it work out?

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Ditch The To Do List

All my life I have been a to-do-list-aholic. I’ve always had at least one on the go for most of my adult life, filled with a mixture of must-dos, should-dos, want-to-dos, and basically any task I thought might be a good idea, regardless of whether I had time to actually do them or not.  I thought it was a sure-fire route to becoming a highly effective person. I loved crossing off items on my list as I completed them, but it was rare that I ever ticked off all the items before starting a new list.

Just before I had baby number 2 in February, I ticked off the final item in my last ever to-do list. Let’s be honest, when you have a small baby you can’t get much done (unless you are very lucky and have one of those magical sleeping babies), and having a long list of tasks you don’t have the time or energy for in the back of your mind is not really helpful for making the most of the time with your baby.

My new approach is this: basically, I either deal with stuff straight away, or it doesn’t get done. I’ve found if I let things pile up I just never have a large enough chunk of time to deal with it. So I try and do things as soon as they come up. That way I never get too far behind with anything. For example I try to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher straight after a meal, rather than letting them pile up on the side.  If I’m checking my emails, I archive every email after I’ve read it (and dealt with it if necessary).  If things are important enough, they get done, and if they’re not, they can be done another day.

The only exception I make is, sometimes I make a short list of tasks I need to do when my eldest is at preschool. Because otherwise I walk back in the front door and my mind goes blank, and I spend the morning pottering around the house, and then remember eleventy things I really needed to do as soon as it’s pick up time again.  But if I don’t get everything done I throw the list away.

I’ve definitely found this approach helps me be a bit more present with my two daughters. I have a daily routine of chores I try to get done but beyond that I just try to be available to them. This has helped me deal with the realities of having 2 small children as having a big task list would just be a stick to beat myself over the head with. My priorities at the moment are a) keeping everyone alive, b) making sure the baby gets enough sleep and c) making sure I have plenty of quality time with my preschooler.  I’ve found the best way to achieve this is to be as flexible as possible and ignore the jobs I want to do around the house.  The children won’t be small for long and in a few months I’ll have more time to work on those projects.

And at the end of the day when they are tucked up in bed, I’m not starting on a list of jobs, I’m allowing myself time to relax, read, watch TV or even just go to bed early. I need to make sure my own cup is filled before I can look after anyone else’s needs. And what task is more important than that?