While many women choose home birth for their first child, as many if not more will be giving birth to a second or subsequent baby at home. A question that often comes up when planning a home birth is ‘what about our other children?’
Many women labour at night regardless of other children being around. Birth is a hormonal process, primarily driven by oxytocin – the love, birth and bonding hormone. Oxytocin levels are naturally at their highest during the night which the body recognises as a dark, private, ‘safe’ time to give birth. Mothers often labour during the night because in addition to it offering an ‘oxytocin friendly’ environment, knowing their little ones are safely asleep naturally lowers their adrenaline levels. Adrenaline inhibits oxytocin so the less of it around the more effective the oxytocin can be and there’s nothing more magical than your children waking up to meet a new sibling who was born as they slept!
Some women may find that their children being around increases their adrenaline levels and in turn find this inhibits their labour. If you and your birth partners are mindful of this potential effect, then you can make flexible arrangements for siblings to be collected and go to nursery, school or with a friend or relative if you feel their presence is affecting you being able to fully relax.
You may find that the presence of your children, especially in early labour, is actually very helpful in keeping your adrenaline low by giving you something to focus on. Continuing ‘as normal’ is particularly helpful in the initial stages of labour and focusing on the normality of family life will be calming and reassuring for many women. Because women often feel significantly more relaxed when labouring in their own environment, they will generally find the intensity of labour much more manageable to the point that they find their children’s presence, even in the birth space, a comfort and welcomed distraction.
Families who have had the siblings of a new baby present as they are born often say it helps them feel an important part of their new brother or sister’s journey and increases bonding.
If you were planning to give birth somewhere other than home, you would probably want to put some arrangements in place for while you and you birth partners were in labour. The same flexible arrangements being made means all bases are covered in the event your children needed to be looked after by someone else.
Below are links to more information on having other children present at your birth along with some helpful books if you would like to talk about things in advance. Putting a few plans in place and then taking a ‘wait and see’ approach means that you can be lead by what feels right on the day.
Hello Baby by Jenni Overend
There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae & Vanessa Cabban
Our Water Baby by Amy Maclean