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Preparing an older sibling for a new birth

One of my favourite natural parenting bloggers is Lauren from Hobo Mama. I've been following her tweets and posts about her pregnancy with Baby #2 and know she has been doing a lot of thinking and researching. When I was planning my March guest bloggers, having Lauren post about her preparations for bringing a second child into their family came to mind immediately. I knew that she would be great at covering this topic and she more than came through on that. Her guest post is both a wonderful story of their family's journey and a resource rich library for any parent going through this same experience. Please welcome Lauren to the blog.

older sister and new baby brother
I am in the third trimester of pregnancy, awaiting our second baby. Our first child, Mikko, will be turning four years old just about the time our baby arrives. Since we're planning a home birth, we've spent a lot of time prepping Mikko for what to expect, and making our own plans for how to arrange the logistics of the birthing time.

Here are some of the aspects of birthing we've gone over with Mikko, along with the resources that have helped our family prepare. Many of these were suggested to us by others (some very frequently and passionately), so my thanks to Annie of PhD in Parenting, her friend Elizabeth, and the commenters, Tweeters, and Facebookers at Hobo Mama.

Explain pregnancy in general

No matter what age your children are, pregnancy is a fantastic time to talk about where babies come from and what they can expect when you're expecting. I've been glad to have such a natural segue into early sex education. At three years old, Mikko was ripe for talking about genitalia and learning new vocabulary. Sometimes he learned it very loudly. In public. But his enthusiasm was undeniable.

You'll have to tailor your lessons to your audience: Young toddlers might grasp only the basics. Preschoolers like Mikko will find the whole process fascinating but not understand it completely. Older children (I was 9 when my brother was born, for instance, and my older brother was 13) will appreciate more advanced knowledge and perhaps some frank talk about their own sexuality. And if your baby was conceived or will be born in a less conventional way, this is an opportunity for you to talk about the specifics of your family's experience, also at a level that works for your kids.

Here are some books that helped spark discussions of conception, pregnancy, and birth:

  • Babies Don't Eat Pizza, by Dianne Danzig & Debbie Tilley — a fairly comprehensive preparatory book for older siblings, showing a variety of family and birth situations.

  • Mommy Laid an Egg, OR Where DO Babies Come From?, by Babette Cole — the adults in the story present all the possible wrong ideas about where babies come from, and the children correct them. Some think the sex-positions spread is beyond the pale; I thought it was funny, and Mikko was nonchalant.

  • How Was I Born?: A Child's Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, by Lennart Nilsson & Lena Katarina Swanberg — the beautiful in-utero photos help children visualize what's happening beneath the skin.

  • Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle — this is one of the books my mom gave me when she became pregnant when I was eight years old. I found it humorous and informative and couldn't believe my parents were letting me read it.

  • Where Willy Went, by Nicholas Allan — comical story about one determined sperm.

  • My Mom's Having a Baby!, by Dori Hillestad Butler & Carol Thompson — I love that this book goes month-by-month through a pregnancy from the big sister's perspective. It also mixes in a lot of sex ed and shows, non-graphically, a vaginal (hospital) birth.

  • Baby on the Way, by William Sears, Martha Sears & Christie Watts Kelly — being part of the Sears Children Library, this is a very attachment parenting-focused book that has some good ideas for parents and caregivers to smooth the transition from younger sibling or only child to older sibling.

  • Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers & Marla Frazee — a book that just shows babies in action, being cute and doing what they do, which makes it fun reading for toddlers on up. Unlike most older-sibling books I could find, this is one that shows babies in pleasing diversity, with a variety of parenting styles, skintones, and family arrangements.

Start talking about the birth

Who is this?Since we're planning a home birth, the possibility that Mikko would want to be present meant we needed to prepare him for the sounds and sights of labor. Even if your birth plans include not having your children present, they'll still likely be curious exactly how that baby gets out, so you can talk about your particular situation.

Since we'd introduced the vocabulary of pregnancy, it was an easy step to continue explaining vaginal birth. I've explained the work and possible noise involved to Mikko in a way he can connect to — it's like pooping. I think he got that analogy!

You might also try role playing the birth with a doll and a playful attitude, mimicking and laughing together over the silly sounds you might make in labor, and showing your children their own birth videos and photos.

For us in particular, Mikko unfortunately had a bad dream about birth right before I was planning to start talking about it with him. We had been at my in-laws' when he first asked, and I felt awkward saying "vagina" around my father-in-law so hedged and decided we'd talk more when we got home. Too bad I was squeamish, because Mikko had a dream about bubbles and a big gash, and now anything I say about birthing probably doesn't sound any more reassuring! I would advise talking about birth early, then, so you can put in positive messages before they imagine their own scenarios.

Here are a couple books that helped describe or show birth. I would love to find more that are geared toward children, if anyone has suggestions!

  • Welcome With Love, by Jenni Overend & Julie Vivas — this was highly recommended to me by several people, and I now know why. It's a charming and realistic story of a home birth with midwife and several siblings in attendance.

  • A Child Is Born, by Lennart Nilsson — this is similar to another book my parents gave me when we were expecting my little brother. I haven't read this updated version, but I understand many of the same photos are there, including explicit ones of vaginal birth, which fascinated me as much as the photos of life inside the womb. You'll have to gauge if the birth photos are too graphic for your children.


Watch some gentle birth videos together

To try to assure Mikko that birth can be satisfying and calm, I sought out birth videos of gentle, natural birth — the kind of birth we hope to have, and that we (for the most part) had with Mikko. I use Hypnobabies birth hypnosis, so I was pretty mellow during my long labor with Mikko and hope to be again this time around. If you're a screamer and really want to prepare a child, you might need to find some more active, vigorous births to show. With a sensitive kid, I thought it was best to aim for soothing — to show the function of birth without added drama. Note that very few mainstream television shows or movies tend to show birth in a positive light, and internet videos vary greatly in birth outcomes and helpfulness, so you'll want to screen your selections carefully to make sure they won't unintentionally disturb your children.

Here are some videos we enjoyed. I enjoyed them more than Mikko, but he was still intrigued by it all!

  • Birth Day, a DVD by Naoli Vinaver Lopez. I was fortunate our library had this short documentary — this home water birth in Mexico is absolutely radiant and serene. One older son is present for the birth, and the other comes into the tub afterward.

  • Gentle Birth Choices — this one was more "educational" and a little dated so probably a better choice for older kids, unless you want to fast forward through the boring talking parts.

  • The Business of Being Born is a pretty easy documentary to get hold of. Again, you'd need to pick and choose which parts to watch with your kids.

  • I haven't seen Orgasmic Birth, but I've heard it shows a variety of raw and real births. This is another one where you'd want to cue up specific scenes for younger viewers.

  • "Leo Hart" (home water birth, nothing explicit), "Peaceful Homebirth" (home water birth photo montage, nothing explicit, two older siblings present and helping the mother), "Meadow Ophelia's Homebirth" (home birth photo montage, explicit, older sibling present during early scenes), "Bridget's home waterbirth" (photo montage, not especially explicit, oldest daughter in birth tub catches baby), "Natural Childbirth: The Baby Place Birthing & Midwifery Center" (upright birth at birth center, explicit and very gentle, young older brother in jammies clearly fascinated), all via Bellies and Babies, who has a long list of gentle birth videos to check out.

  • "Mother Directed Pushing at Home" — two home births using Hypnobabies childbirth hypnosis, only vaguely explicit. The mothers are naked below the waist but positioned so that it's hard to see anything. There's a lot of vocalizing in the second birth.

  • "Fiona's Home Waterbirth" at Living in Harmony — nudity but not graphic, vocalizing but gentle overall, toddler sister present and comes into the birth tub afterward.

  • "The unassisted birth of Logan Westley" (unassisted water birth, not overly graphic, vocalizing), "Anya's home/water/hypno birth" (astonishingly quiet Hypnobirth, not graphic), "Twins – A Homebirth With Video" at Homebirth: A Midwife Mutiny, all via Stand and Deliver.

  • If you're having a C-section, an older child who's curious might appreciate "Alex's cesarean section" — the music is soothing, and all of the surgery is filmed but it's hard to see details of the incision because of the bright lights.

  • For a combination of still photos, text descriptions, and videos, Birth Story Diaries has a compilation of many families' birth stories, and you can filter them by how explicit they are and by what type of birth: vaginal, cesarean, homebirth, hospital, and birth center. Again, you'll want to prescreen any of these for more sensitive children.

See how other mammals do it

One thing I found immensely comforting during my pregnancy with Mikko was to watch animal birthing videos. Animals tend to be very quiet and matter-of-fact about birthing — at least, in the videos I've seen. As you're explaining that birth is normal for all mammals, your children might enjoy seeing that truth for themselves — either in video form or, if you have the connections, possibly even firsthand at a farm or with a pet.

Here are some of our favorite animal birthing videos online:

Tell your children their birth stories

Ian_Day0_2739One way we've tried to make birth real and personal for Mikko is to talk about his birth. This hasn't worked so well for us, because Mikko insists he's a big boy and doesn't want to go back inside my belly. Oh, trust me, Mikko, not going to happen! For him, then, I've focused on just the feelings I had when he was born — I've told him how happy we were to meet him for the first time, and how it felt so good to push him out (because it did!).

And for children old enough to understand that their birth happened in the past and you're simply recounting it, a detailed but positive birth story might be just the thing they need to see that every birth is special.

Here are some books that relate birth stories and might give you an idea for how to make a ritual out of the telling:

  • Tell Me My Story, Mama, by Deb Lund & Hiroe Nakata — the older sister excitedly helps her mother narrate the tale of her pregnancy and hospital birth as they await the arrival of her new sibling.

  • The Baby on the Way, by Karen English & Sean Qualls — a grandmother, born to a farming family, tells her birth story to her grandson, who lives in a city.

  • Catching the Sun, by Coleen M. Paratore & Peter Catalanotto — a tender story of a mother-son tradition that would appeal to elementary-age kids

Figure out your birth plan — for your older children

Mikko has made me numerous signs lately, with cryptically written but pointed messages. "This one say 'Baby stay in,'" he says, pointing to a random scribble. Well, OK, then.

Given his resistance at the whole idea of seeing a birth, we're honoring his requests not to be present. This means setting up a series of childcare and backup plans, starting with family and moving on to those friends who might not mind being woken up in the wee hours of the morning.

If you're having birth in a different location and don't expect to have your other children present, you'll need to arrange childcare, as well as some backup possibilities, at your home or your sitters' home.

If you're having a home birth, as we are, you'll need to talk over with your children (if old enough to have an opinion) whether or not they wish to be present — and then create backup plans that will allow the opposite to happen if they have a change of heart.

Even if your children say they want to be with you during the birth, or they're young enough you think they won't care either way, it probably is best to have someone there to support them in particular — perhaps a grandparent, other close relative, or trusted friend — in case things become intense and in case your partner, if you have one, is busy caring for you. You'll want to be able to focus on giving birth, so having someone around for them can be invaluable: someone who can answer curious questions, offer activities or a walk outside, give them a place to watch from where they're out of the way (and possibly out of the line of sight of anything too graphic), and potentially even remove them if you or they decide it's necessary. Some people can go inward during labor and birth and not mind any distractions — and some people become agitated if the atmosphere is not in perfect calm. Your children, in particular, are apt to distract your focus, since you're used to paying attention to them. Try to gauge beforehand whether a busy or a quiet birthing appeals to you, and make arrangements for that scenario — as well as a backup or two in case it turns out you're mistaken!

Since Mikko definitely doesn't want to be present, our current intention is to keep him with us in the early stages of labor, before he would start feeling uncomfortable, and then have Mikko's aunt come over for the rest of the birthing and keep him occupied downstairs while the action takes place upstairs. That way, my partner can stay with me most of the time but can check in with Mikko occasionally. And, if Mikko decides he needs Mama in particular, he can poke his head in and see if the birthing environment is as scary as he thought. Plus, he'll be around to see his new sibling right after birth, which makes me weepy just thinking about it. (Then again, I'm pregnant.)

Our backup plans include having his aunt take him to her house, having a list of friends on call who could come over here or take Mikko with them, and — if circumstances and middle-of-the-night timing allow — having Mikko sleep through the whole dang thing. Our childcare backup plans will also apply if there's an unexpected hospital transfer.

If you don't have family and friends nearby, another idea is to hire your childcare. A suggestion given to me on my post asking for advice on just this topic was to consider hiring a doula. I had no idea doulas would consider babysitting, but I like the thought: A doula would certainly be used to being called at all hours and staying put for a long labor. Plus, if your partner takes a break from tending to you to tend to your other children, the doula could easily pinch hit as an alternate birth partner during that time. If cost is a problem for your family, consider asking a midwife for recommendations of a doula in training, who might offer a reduced rate. (Of course, doulas are worth every penny if you can afford one!)

Speaking of partners, that's another possibility. I prefer to have Sam stay with me during the labor and birth, because he was so supportive last time. However, if you have a partner who would do better staying with your other children rather than you, that could be a very simple way to handle the childcare. If you need birthing support, you could then hire a doula or invite a friend or family member over for yourself.

The only sure thing to remember in all this planning is that things rarely go to plan. So do what you can beforehand to prepare, but then stay flexible, and trust that you and your support team will make the right decisions as they come up.


Hear what others have done

Sometimes the best thing is to hear from other parents about what worked and didn't work for them. Ask the other families you know what arrangements they made, and whether those arrangements worked as planned. Ask for their tried-and-tested suggestions of ways to prepare children for childbirth as well.

To that end, please leave your own stories and suggestions in the comments. What did you do or would you like to do with older siblings during a new baby's birth? How did you and your children prepare beforehand?

To get started, you might check out PhD in Parenting's own series on preparing for a second baby.

Lauren blogs at Hobo Mama about natural and attachment parenting and is the co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She lives and writes in Seattle with her husband, three-year-old son, and a baby speedily on the way.

Image credits, from top: Paul Hart on flickr, Danny McL on flickr, Chris and Jenni on flickr, Jeff Moore on flickr, Christy Scherrer on flickr
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Reader Comments (58)

I chose not to have my 2.5 year old home during the birth of her sister. She was there while I was in active labour and then my mom took her until the baby was born later that afternoon. She went to gymnastics, had lunch and a nap at her grandmother's house and came home to a new baby sister!

However, my "lesson learned" moment came afterwards. I had decided that I was going to spend a week in bed with the new baby and my midwives were fully supportive. However, I did not think through the impact this would have on my older daughter. She had been home with me full time since she was born. We spent 24 hours a day together (we transitioned her to her own bed 2 months before DD2 was born). Her dad became her primary caregiver in the days after I gave birth and at first it was a novelty for her and then slowly she started falling apart. She would burst into tears at the smallest things, she would act out, etc. I felt SO awful afterwards that I had not thought through how hard me staying in bed for a week would be.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

I really enjoyed your post...the information is so valuable for preparing a child for the birth of their sibling. It is so important to consider the temperament of your child and whether or not they actually want to be there for the delivery.
Your partner not attending the delivery could be disappointing but if you deal with this ahead of time as you suggest, a doula can be with you and give the needed support.
Thanks for the resources...I will be referring to your post in my blog as it really delivers a lot of pertinent information.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorette Lavine

Lauren is one of the most thorough bloggers I know. It is wonderful to see her guest posting here. I love all the resources she provided.
With our second child, my first was only 2 1/2. While I wanted to be able to say that we had had our daughter at her sister's birth (because I think it can be a fantastic experience for children), I knew it wasn't a good idea for our oldest. I think it's important to take into consideration the needs and personality of the other children you might want to have present. We chose not to have my daughter there because of her high needs personality. I felt that no matter how much I could prepare her for what to expect, that she wouldn't have been able to handle seeing me in pain or understand why I couldn't get up and do something for her in the middle of labour. Instead, I had her stay for the first part of my labour to help me make a cake for when the baby was born, and then after that my mom took her to her place. It worked for us to have her witness some of the action but not all of it.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

This is really informative. I have to let my sister in law read this. She just gave birth last month but they are worried about their 2 year old son and he was just quiet and observing everyone ogling at the new baby. He doesn't seem particularly excited and he doesn't look that sad (yet!). He's just watching, maybe he's trying to understand all these reactions to the new member of the family. We try to be there for him when his mom is busy with the baby, but he's still a toddler, so he still cries and wants his mommy beside him every minute. I should let her read this, and we could all learn from this. Thanks again for sharing. :)

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSweepstaker

Wow Lauren, I'm honoured you included Fiona's video in your list. :) Our birth did go almost exactly how we planned it. I really really wanted to include Meredith in the birth, and was a little worried about how she might react. I think someone else was right in that you really have to know your own child and not let your own hopes get in the way of what might be best for the kid. I was pretty confident Meredith would be okay, and she expressed an interest in being around. She can be very high needs in some ways, but very confident and easy going in others. We had back up just down the street if we had ended up needing it, but it wasn't necessary. I loved having her there and was glad she ended up wanting to be there.

To be honest, I didn't do a whole lot to prepare her. She's always loved babies, and was thrilled to find out we were going to have a baby. I think that helped a lot. We watched some birth videos, and since I know I can be loud I made sure to talk about the fact that I might yell, but that I was okay and it was a way for me to help the baby come out. She definitely does do better with some explanation of what to expect, so we talked a bit about how she would have to ask Daddy for things and that I might not pay much attention to her. She actually left the room for about 30 seconds just as Fiona was born (and I got really loud), but came back again right away.

We sat down to watch the birth video tonight after seeing this post, and I'm amazed at how much she remembers still. She was only 2 1/2 at the time, but she was talking about things that happened that day that aren't in the video.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

love this post - thank you so much for all the info and tips! My kids are now at an age where they are asking questions about how babies are born (aged 5, 4 & 2) and there are some great tips and links here. thanks!

Thanks again for letting me guest post! It's such an honor, and I was happy for the opportunity to write out my own research on this topic.

It's so good to hear everyone's experiences so far — it really is an individual thing whether kids can handle being there for the birth or not, and how they react afterward. Thanks for that heads-up, so I can think harder about how to lavish attention on Mikko even when the new baby's here.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

This came at a perfect time for me. I'm 24 weeks pregnant with my second child, and just yesterday my son asked me if he could be there "when you push the baby from you belly." I considered a home birth, but with 3 cats and crazy amounts of hair flying around all the time, I chose to go with a midwife attended hospital birth. This will be a VBAC and I think my husband is more comfortable with the hospital setting. I want to show him a video or 2 to see if he really wants to be there; I will check out some of the ones suggested.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

Thank you so much for this wonderful guest post Lauren.

Although I am not pregnant, my kids have been asking recently to see a video of a baby being born, so I'm looking forward to going through these resources in more detail and picking out some that I think will be right for them.

I also asked my readers on my facebook page to suggest some videos last week. Some of their ideas (a bit of crossover with yours, I think) can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/phdinparenting#!/phdinparenting/posts/10150162804738343

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wow, that is an awesome book list. While my daughter will not be getting a new baby sibling any time in the foreseeable future, she's gotten very curious about babies and where they came from. We also have "Where Did I Come From?" as that was the book I had as a kid (and the video version that was out at the time, so to this day I have visions of sperm in tailcoats waltzing with eggs in stilettos at rather inopportune times) but I am really grateful to see some other good books on the topic because I keep having to ad-lib and revise as I read "Where Did I Come From?", adding that the egg has to make a journey all it's own from ovaries to meet the sperm, changing "he loves the woman and wants to be close to her" to "they love each other and want to be close", etc. etc. It's a fantastic book over all, my daughter thinks it is hilarious, but I am really excited to see some other options recommended here. Thank you, and good luck with your upcoming birth!

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermumsyjr

Amazing list, Lauren!! Thank you so much!

What a great post! I'm 34W, and still debating what to do with my 2-year-old for our upcoming homebirth. He's a little behind when it comes to talking, so I'm really not sure how much he understands. Thankfully he's used to being with his dad, and I'll have a good support team on hand, so if need be his dad can take him out somewhere. I suppose that's not ideal, but not having been through this before makes it a lot of guesswork!!

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I am 36 weeks and have a 3 1/2 year old son. We feel like we've done lots to prepare him for the upcoming birth but we've also prepared him for life with the new baby too. Just like a marriage doesn't stop at the wedding preparation for a new sibling doesn't stop at the birth!! ;-)
Rory has helped me put up the co-sleeper and put baby clothes in the closet. He's chosen clothes for her to wear at the store and picked out a present for her too. (He's also whispered into my belly which gift he'd like her to give him!!) I have a bag full of small wrapped gifts ready to give him whenever someone comes over to make a fuss of the new baby and he's helped me choose the kind of cake we'll bake together to welcome her, when early labour begins. We read books about new babies and home birth almost every night (his choosing). His favourite book right now is 'Baby on Board'!
We've talked alot about what babies do and don't do, how they tell us they're unhappy etc and whether or not she'll be able to play with him straight away. He seems to think he's joining an exclusive club and yalks a lot about friends of his who have baby brothers or sisters.
My favourite moment recently was when I was showing him where abouts she was in my tummy. I explained that her head was 'here and her bottom is here...' He asked 'Where's her penis?' This journey has been such a great sex education for him in so many ways!!
I'm looking forward to showing him some of the birthing clips listed here. That was my next step but you've done the donkey work for me!! Thanks!!

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTami

What a great resource! Thanks for all the video and book suggestions, I will definitely bookmark this for future reference. Lauren, you inspire me to get cracking on some of these discussions with my girls --- I went to a "Birds & Bees & Kids" workshop awhile ago and she stressed how important it was to get talking about all this, and I have for the most point still totally avoided a lot it.

You raise great issues and tips for creating a birth plan for your kids. For our second (hospital twin) birth Emma stayed with Grandma at home, and that worked great for us, but it was sad to be apart from her for a few days. If we ever do this again, the main reason I'd rather not have a homebirth is that I am fairly positive I would NOT want the kids around during the birth -- but also don't want to disrupt their lives too much by shipping them out somewhere else. I know some people have GREAT experiences with kids present but I really can't see that happening with myself! Ah well! Obviously there are other options to work around this but I think for me going to a birth center would be a great alternative. And yes, this is all very VERY much hypothetical at this point, ha ha!

Great article! You made some very important points about sibling involvement. I'm so happy to see this! I have been teaching classes and writing about siblings for several years now and I'm happy to see some of these vital perinatal psychology issues covered!
In case you'd like to check it out, our book, Mommy's Lap,is will be available shortly on Amazon. It is about about prebirth bonding, sibling bonding, homebirth, waterbirth, and breastfeeding.
List Price: $12.50, 8" x 10" (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
32 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1456431464; ISBN-10: 1456431463

Baby blessings to you!
Jill Chasse

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill Chasse

Wow this is very informative and thorough!

DS2 was born when DS1 was almost three. I had a hospital birth, so during the last part of my pregnancy I kept reminding my son that his grandmother would come stay with him when mommy and daddy went to the hospital to get the baby out. I was a bit nervous about that because we have never had a night apart. However, we left for the hospital at 3pm and were home before midnight (yay to a natural birth with a midwife!!), so that didn't end up being an issue. We never got into details as to how the baby got in my tummy or how it would come out. I planned on giving accurate information if he asked, but he never did!

My DS1 is still nursing so it was important for me to explain to him that the baby would be sharing his mommy milk. I told him that the baby couldn't have any other food and that when the baby cries it means that the baby needs mommy milk. He has been very accepting of the baby's need to nurse, which is great!

Great post and very thorough. We are not planning a homebirth but there are still tons of great resources here!

I found that my daughter is/was way more interested in the specifics both for my son and also for this new baby who will most likely arrive sometime in May.

My son doesn't seem as interested. He knows that there is a baby inside mommy, that the baby will come out of mommy in the spring, etc. But he isn't interested in talking about how and seems a little more anxious about the whole thing (whereas my daughter was very excited to be a big sister).

What a lovely brilliant post full of inspiration and helpful hints!!! I think folks may have a bit of an ethereal idea of home birth and subsequent babies!!! You know dim candle light and gentle music playing all the while mom to be is reading stories and mumbling "om" from time to time!!! We have had all our babies at home and I thought I would share the birth story that I wrote just after baby #8 arrived... I wouldn't have changed any of it for the world... but babies are indeed part of real life and arrive at dinner time!!! Older kids just add a fun and curious dimension to birth that most people don't add into the equation!!! Not to mention the awesome pride they feel at being present at the birth of their new sibling which they will love and protect forevermore!!! (http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/10/07/how-se7en-became-se7en-1-another-home-birth-story)

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

Great set of resources. We're statistically unlikely to have another child but I want my daughter to learn where babies come from. We keep hoping to catch one of the animals at the Agriculture museum giving birth. So far we missed the lambs by half a day and http://parenthood.phibian.com/?ID=509" rel="nofollow">the piglets by two hours.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary @ Parenthood

I did not plan to have my firstborn present at my second birth, so I didn't push her too much. She didn't want to watch birth videos, and I let that be. However, we did look at some photos in some birth books together, and I did talk to her about birth. I had a very fast first labour, so I was concerned that I might end up giving birth in front of my daughter, whether I planned to or not. I mostly let her know that moms make lots of noise, but they're OK.

What really made me laugh is that when she looked at the birth photos, she was concerned that the baby was being hurt. I had honestly never stopped to consider if the baby was being hurt by birth. I was way too wrapped up in myself.

While I didn't spend much time preparing my daughter for the birth, and I ended up giving birth while she was at daycare so it was a non-issue, I did spend some time preparing her for what life would be like with a newborn. I think it was useful for her to understand that there would be a baby, and the baby would change things. But she didn't really grasp HOW the baby would change things until the baby was here. I think that's pretty normal. Even adults who haven't lived with a baby don't understand what it's like until they live it.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Great post!! Excellent ideas and will have to refer to them when I get pregnant with my second.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe counselor mom

This is great! I wish I'd seen this while still pregnant. ; ) Though really, we seem to have done pretty well anyway. WE watched a few birth videos, mainly one day sort of by accident when Donovan (about 2.5yrs) woke up early from his nap while I was watching Orgasmic Birth and so ended up watching most of it with me. He didn't mind the birth scenes at all, and in fact asked to watch more videos of "the babies coming out" after we were done! I tried to explain basically what was happening, and how the moms were working very hard and that's why they sometimes make noise like that ,etc. We talked about how the baby in my belly would come out one day, and then he'd have a baby brother.

My mom was here for the birth, and we planned for her to be able to watch D, and had a few friends as back-ups just in case. At it turned out, D slept thru most of my (short) labor, then woke up about 10 minutes before Quinn was born. He heard me making noise and was scared at first,. but once he realized what was happening and was able to be in the room with me, he was totally relaxed and excited. It's now 3.5 months later, and he's been so attentive and sweet with his baby brother. I'm so glad it worked out that he was so into the birth, and able to see it happen. I think it helped him really understand the process of baby-in-belly, then born, etc.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

That's a good idea! Maybe you could have someone come to the hospital with you who can take care of your son there and take him out or back home if it's needed.

Congrats & best wishes on your upcoming VBAC, by the way!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

I definitely have to do a lot of those wording changes, too. I like your examples! I was surprised (sorta kinda, but yes) that almost all big-sibling and child sex-ed books I could find were so strictly hetero, usually white & married, often middle-class, etc., and many even added in expectations that all mothers are SAHMs. Now, to be fair, I was going with what my library had on hand because I couldn't afford to buy the 50 or so books I checked out ;) — so I assume other options are out there, but definitely not as easy to get hold of.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

It really does come down to guesswork. And from what I've heard from people who have been through it, not everything they planned worked out exactly as they'd imagined, anyway. It sounds like you have a good support system in place, so I trust all will work out one way or the other for you! Best wishes on your birth!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

"Just like a marriage doesn’t stop at the wedding preparation for a new sibling doesn’t stop at the birth!!"

Totally agree! That's just where I stopped for the post. :) I love all the ways you and your son are preparing for your newest addition. Mikko just wrapped his present for the baby tonight and he's sooo excited and proud of himself! It sounds like Rory is going to be a marvelous older brother, especially considering he has such supportive parents.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

I'm just impressed you're thinking even hypothetically about another birth at this point. :)

I like the idea of having the older kids stay home while you go to a birth center — you're right that they'll be more comfortable in their familiar environment if someone they know and trust is there to care for them, and then you can concentrate on the birth itself.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

I LOVE the sound of your book. Can't wait to check it out! I love hearing about children's books that are more AP/natural in focus, because they're definitely harder to find.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

I hope our timing works out so well! That sounds great.

We've definitely done a lot of talking about breastfeeding, since I've been nursing through this pregnancy. But I love what you've told him about the baby needing the milk after birth since he can't eat anything else — sounds like it's helping him wait his turn. I'm going to incorporate that tip, thanks!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

That is adorable & charming! I love your #8 birth story. I definitely can understand your perspective that babies can come even in the midst of noise and bustle — thanks! :)

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

[...] with whom I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree) blogger: Hobo Mama guest-blogging at PhD in Parenting.  Check out this birth of a baby giraffe. A couple of [...]

That's so cool! I'm glad D was able to relax and enjoy the birth — I can imagine it makes siblings that much closer.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

That is so interesting she was concerned about the baby. I know I've wondered what it feels like for the baby — lots of pressure? Is it claustrophobic fitting through the pelvis? But so far Mikko hasn't voiced any concerns like that, so I won't bring them up. :)

"Even adults who haven’t lived with a baby don’t understand what it’s like until they live it."
Oh, boy, even though I have lived with a baby, it still seems so surreal to me that we'll have a newborn right here in a couple months. I feel the same way — that there's no way Mikko can really grasp how our lives will change till it happens.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

Just wanted to follow up- Rory and I spent some time this afternoon watching the animal clips you listed. He was fascinated and really enjoyed watching them. My husband had voiced concerns about him watching clips of human births and I wanted to respect that but after watching the animal clips R asked to see a mummy have a baby. I'd checked out some of the human birth clips listed above so knew which would be what I felt to be the most gentle. I showed him the Baby Place Birthing and Midwifery Centre clip, with the older brother in his pjs. He was totally absorbed and we ended up watching it a second time. His only question was 'Where's the daddy?' but other than that he was not bothered at all! I reassured him that his daddy would be here for his sisters birth and that seemed to make him happy again!
Thanks again for this post. It really has been useful!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTami

Thanks so much for this post..... I'm 34wks currently and while my DD is only 15 months I have been trying to get her to understand whats in mommies belly and we have even read a couple of the books you had on your list :)
We are planning a home birth and I plan on having grandma here just to keep up with DD.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolly Tinklenberg

What a great post. I'll be coming back to it for resources for my daughter as I'm now pregnant with my third. I didn't plan to have my older daughter at my younger daughters birth, but since I was due right around Christmas, I thought it would be best to prepare her a little about the actual birth. Ended up that she was there because it was the middle of the night, labor was only three hours, and our support didn't get to the hospital in time.

Luckily she was cool about the whole thing and actually announced when the baby was born. "Look it's a baby!" Granted I am generally quiet and I become very indrawn plus there was only one nurse in the room setting everything up with I gave birth so there wasn't even a flurry of activity or a lot of people in the room.

Following the birth, DH and DD fell asleep together on the couch while DD2 and I slept in the bed.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

I love "Look it's a baby!" :)

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

That's so cool! You could tell him the daddy was probably taking the video. :) I don't know if that's true or not, but it seems plausible enough!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

Your post-birth experience with your older daughter is so important to think about — thanks for sharing. I will definitely revise how I think about my "babymoon" period, considering I need to still be present for my older child as well. We've wondered about transitioning Mikko to his own bed, too, but at this point we've felt like it might be too jarring.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

What a wonderful post! My oldest was just barely two when my second was born. I worried and researched and read and watched everything I could get my hands on to prepare him (and myself) for becoming an older sibling. We started really early, utilized the library and friends with babies, and even visited the hospital when a family friend had her baby. But I never expected him to be at the birth. For one it was a VBAC. For another he has always been incredibly attuned to my emotions and mood. He never liked to see me in any kind of pain and I didn't want to have to worry about that. Plus, he was so little and never showed much interest.

I think it is so incredible to see the amount of thought that was put into this from you and all of those commenting. What a great group of mamas! :)

[...] Preparing an Older Sibling for a New Birth – PhD in Parenting (a Hobo Mama Guest Post!) [...]

March 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWeekend Links

thanks! I know- I kept finding books about baby coming home- and bottles and all... I hope this can really help some siblings adjust. Plus since I work in perinatal psychology I find that it really reduces sibling anxiety when they get to know each other during the pregnancy.
baby blessings,

March 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill Chasse

My then three year old elected not to be around for the birth of his little brother, and I was happy that's what he decided. Our homebirth went exactly according to plan, but I was glad that we didn't have to worry about him.

The only thing I didn't think about in the homebirth equation...the dog! He was quite agitated by my moaning, plus the excitement of all the extra people in the house was all a little much for him, he was barking like crazy! I was thrilled to notice that he was whisked away with my older son by Grandma and Grandpa

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn of the Roof

You're so right — pets are something that people can overlook in their planning! I was wondering what our cat would do during our last birth, afraid she would be a pest (she was always attention hungry), but she made herself scarce. I guess that's one of the differences between cat reactions and dog reactions to hubbub!

Good idea to have someone on standby to take an agitated or pesky pet away!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

[...] full of ideas and resources for second time parents, here is a little piece about Preparing an older sibling for a new birth | PhD in Parenting. It includes lots of suggestions for books and videos you can share with the soon to be older [...]

I just recently gave birth to my second, at home. My eldest, 2 years and 10 months at that time, woke up while I was in labour. We called my MIL (as planned) and she came around. It was pretty rough going being in labour alone for the almost hour that we waited for MIL or the midwife to arrive (I had told them to take their time as I thought we had lots of time). DH was with DS and I was rushing through each contraction, very overwhelmed and alone.

DS came to check up on me from time to time and came to see the baby moments after she was born. Mostly he was playing with MIL who had brought him a new toy when she arrived.

He was the cutest helper in the days after the birth, helping DH make me breakfasts and getting diapers etc.

Almost 4 months later he still talks about the night the midwife came and a baby came out of me. In a very factual and non sentimental way. I am so happy that he was able to be part of the process on his own terms.

Good luck with your birth. I hope it goes as planned.

April 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I'm taking encouragement and caution from your story. The caution part is not to expect a non-first birth to take as long! I've been wondering when exactly to call in our support team, so I appreciate your perspective that you found that hour of laboring alone challenging.

But the last part of your story is so touching — I'm glad your son was able to feel connected to the birth and the baby. That's so great.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

Yeah, I was not expecting such a short labour (my first was about 10 hours and my second 3.5 hours.)

Now I know that it was hard to be alone as the labour was very intense and I was imagining another 6+ hours of such intense contractions. My first labour was fairly serene. This one, not so much.

But yeah, I am really happy that DS was part of the experience, on his terms. With someone there to be his support.

Wishing you all the best. SUCH an exciting time for your whole family.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

When I saw this post I immediately thought to write the same thing. My daughter was 3 and a quarter when my son was born a few months ago, and she was present for my labor and home birth. All of this was wonderful, she was well prepared and handled it beautifully. (With the caveat that we relied even more heavily than expected on my mother as a caregiver for her while I was in labor, since both she and I seemed to sense it was better to be apart during that time.) But I had neglected to discuss the immediate postpartum period with her, and when she learned that I was going to stay in bed instead of going to her room to play, or to the dining room to eat, and that I couldn't immediately start "rough-housing" with her again now that the baby was out, she was very upset. She actually was worried about my physical well-being and required a lot of reassurance, for weeks and weeks, about my strength. I think if we had discussed beforehand the idea that mommy's body needed time to rest and go back to its old shape, she would have had an easier time with it.

I would also say that to some extent you have to expect to just roll with things, even if you have carefully planned for the babymoon. In the months before the birth, we had transitioned my daughter to relying on my husband for sleeping company, in her room, so as to make the postpartum bedroom more peaceful, and keep her from being disturbed at night. But that had little effect on what she wanted when the family changed. We adapted, and then adapted again, and it was all fine in the end; it was important to remember that these arrangements were all temporary.

One other (unrelated) thing: while I was pregnant my daughter watched a Sesame Street podcast about family, in which there was a song about a brand new baby coming to the house. She really attached to it, and it turned out to be a beautiful thing for us to sing together, holding her baby brother when he was only minutes old. While that particular song may not resonate for others, the idea of having a very simple welcoming/transition ritual planned for the older sibling to carry out could be nice.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteraa

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