My go-to home birth guru friend Arch Mama wrote this great post about a year ago about what they were doing to prepare her son for the arrival of his baby sister (and I adore the story of how the birth actually unfolded, complete with big brother greeting his sister to this world with a Hi, baby! on her way out), and then my friend Natalie just wrote a post about this same topic, and it reminded me that I’ve been getting similar questions from people as well and I wanted to address them.
What are you doing with Stella while the baby is being born?
Does she understand what’s about to happen?
Some people assume she will be here, other people appear freaked out by the thought of her being here, and most are just asking because they are curious and want to know the answer. According to my Dad, I was at the hospital when all of my siblings were born, though I remember nothing from my 3 sister’s births and only vaguely remember my brother’s birth (I was 9 at the time). It obviously wasn’t traumatic or life changing for me, though I do remember being excited to get to be in the room for my brother’s birth.
Honestly, we’re not sure what we’re going to do with Stella, mainly because a lot of it is dependent upon the time of day everything happens. If it’s the middle of the night – she might just sleep through it. If it’s late afternoon and she’s being needy and I can’t handle that, we might send her to the neighbor’s house to hang out with her friend (whose Mommy is a fellow HypnoBabies Momma who also wants to do a home birth if they get blessed with #2). If it’s on a day she’s at daycare already – we’ll probably just leave her there for the time being and see how things go. I definitely want her here shortly after the birth — but during the actual experience, I’m pretty open to just playing it by ear. We will be doing everything we can to not notify my inlaws. I love them dearly, but they live close to us, and it would be way too much pressure to have them even aware that anything is going on. With my hospital birth with Stella, she was born at 2:12am, Charlie called them within the hour, and they were at the hospital shortly after that (we’re talking pre-4am people!). I just want a little more us time this time around.
At any rate, we’ve done a little bit of “big sibling prep” for Stella, but not much. She has been coming to many of my midwife appointments so that she’s comfortable with both the midwife and his birth assistant, we talk about baby brother in Mommy’s tummy (though often he’s in Stella’s tummy too according to her), we talk about all of his stuff that’s accumulating around the house (the swing, the car seat, the itty bitty adorable clothes)…but really, how much can a 2 year old understand? It’s hard for us to even fully realize there is going to be another person in the house and his needs to be attended to soon!
One of the best things we’ve done is buy a couple of books for her to read, and for the past month or so they have by far been her favorite books to pull off the shelf & read (with no prompting from us) which I find very interesting. Hello Baby (also sold as Welcome with Love) is a fantastic book that depicts the home birth of a new sibling, and My New Baby depicts all sorts of scenes that will happen with a new baby in the house – including the fact that the baby will be nursing a lot – and often in the family bed.
Hello Baby is pretty wordy & advanced for a two year old, so we often just talk about the pictures we’re looking at and personalize it to us. “See the baby in the Mommy’s tummy? Just like me! Here she’s leaning on Daddy and making loud noises because the baby is trying to come out. That’s okay though, it’s normal to be loud like a dragon. She’s okay. See the baby? He’s coming out of Mommy’s vagina! There’s baby brother! Everyone is so happy he is here!” etc. It’s a pretty awesome book. :)
So there ya go… our minimal preparations for this big kid in this family. We also bought her a Curious George book set that reads the story to you – it will be her special toy to listen to when my hands & lap are otherwise occupied by breastfeeding a newborn. Hopefully she loves it!