After we decided in favor of home birth, we faced another big decision: would Vicki Jo be present for the birth of her younger sibling? It was a big question for me, and there were basically three main points that kept percolating in my mind.
1) I wanted her to understand that birth is a natural part of being a woman. Of course, not every woman chooses to do it, but every physiologically "normal" woman's body is capable of doing it. We are led, in our culture, to believe that all sorts of things prevent women's bodies from giving birth naturally. Especially as a female, I wanted her to see that my being pregnant and giving birth was not some sort of dangerous condition, but rather a beautiful rite of passage. To this end, I have tried very hard not to complain about the normal vicissitudes of pregnancy around her, and instead to show that this is just another life stage of womankind.
2) I wanted her to have a strong investment in her sibling from the very beginning. Because of her age, she is limited in her understanding of what will happen. We talk about the baby in my belly, how it will come out, and how it will cry and need us. I don't want her to go away for the night, come back the next morning, and a baby has just appeared. That seems like a recipe for resentment.
3) BUT . . . as much as I consider my daughter's feelings about the birth, I have to be aware of what will support my labor in the best way. I am a person who craves privacy. When I have guests, I become very concerned about how comfortable they are, whether they are warm enough or cool enough, whether they need more to drink, and so forth. When my child is in need, my heart is immediately with her. Even if that need is just for a clean diaper or a drink of milk. I can see her presence slowing or stopping my labor. The body needs conditions of safety and security to birth naturally. (Of course, in the hospital, we have side-stepped all of that with the introduction of pitocin and other drugs that can bring on contractions without these feelings of security.) There have actually been recorded instances of a woman's body stopping labor for weeks when there are dire circumstances that prevent safety. Having Vicki there would be, at best, a distraction for me. At worst, it could be the difference between a safe homebirth and a hospital transport.
So, our decision is that she goes to stay with her grandparents, with whom she stays overnight very regularly, until the baby is born. It is just our decision - not the right one for everyone. And it's not perfect. Because of the first two factors I named above, I don't feel 100% right about this decision. But, in a way, it seems like the first balancing act of a million that will come with two children. What's in the best interest of one of them is not always in the best interest of the other, and as a parent, you have to make those judgments every single day.
What do you think? If you have multiple children, were the older ones present at the younger ones' births - in hospital or at home?