My birth plan always included a photographer but did NOT include having my children in the room.
I didn’t think I would be able to focus if my other kids were around. Except I’ve come to realize that plans hardly ever go as planned. There was a photographer but no children present at my first three births and for my last birth all three of my children were there and there was no photographer. That’s another story. The most common reaction I get when people find out my kids were there to witness the birth of their little sister is “Were they traumatized?” The answer is- No. They were not. Neither was my husband and neither was I. My oldest son who was 9 at the time said: “I was happy, but I was scared, but I was excited”.
There are some things that make us uncomfortable as parents and we don’t want to talk to our kids about these things. When we come into this earth and when we leave this earth are two big taboo topics. I don’t think it has to be that way. These transitions are a part of every single person’s life. We are all born and we all die.
“For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Most of us know the Bible verse or the Byrds’ song or both.
Is it appropriate to talk about or expose our children to these heavy and graphic truths though? I think it can be.
These moments of life and death are sacred and they need to be handled delicately but as parents it is our job to lead our children.
I am not trying to convince any expectant or future mothers to have all of their children with them while they are in labor. I didn’t want to have my kids there during childbirth. I am wondering though if the stigma or the fear of being traumatized is warranted? When it comes to birth, our level of fear or even disgust will be projected onto our children. I think even the tiniest of tots are prepared to understand the miracle of childbirth. The younger they have information the more comfortable they will be. Children that grow up on farms have a far greater understanding of sex, babies, and death than the urban child because they are exposed to it. A couple of the resources we used to help educate our children are the books “Baby on the Way” and “The Talk”
The Talk is for tweens and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. Instead of your classic birds and the bees talk it takes a biblical and straightforward look at bodies, sex, and conception. If you are waiting until the teen years to approach the subject you are probably too late. The Talk helps navigate this tricky terrain by giving seven lessons geared toward elementary-age children that explain sexuality at a level they can understand. The book encourages parents to keep the dialogue ongoing and not just that one time talk. It has diagrams and gives websites and other resources beyond the book. My husband J and I have gone through this book with both of our older kids when they were around age 8.
The other day J was watching old home movies and videos on the AppleTV with the kids while I was out. He told me that there were pictures of our daughter SJ’s birth in the slides and I didn’t bat an eye. Then he told me about how she burst into tears when she saw them. “Oh no!” I said. I might be a hippie home birth mama but even I had wondered if maybe she was *gasp* traumatized seeing photos of herself as an infant entering this world in a tub.
Then J interrupted my concerns as he shared that they were actually tears of joy. She was moved in a deeply emotional way at the sight of birth. I asked her about it later and she talked about how it made her happy. I have never seen her cry tears of joy before. This isn’t a typical reaction for her at all.
Her response is what got me thinking about how we as a society have made giving birth such an awkward and uncomfortable topic around children. Some of that is inevitable because it is sacred and intimate. On the other hand, it’s miraculous and natural and I think kids can grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. Again, I am not implying that everyone needs to bring their kids with them to witness birth or hospice care. Although I support a parents decision either way in those situations. My hope is that maybe, just MAYBE, we can change the conversation and normalize some of these delicate topics. Your children are probably going to meet you at your comfort level so I say let’s take the trauma out of a typical healthy birth.