Seeing a baby enter the world is an amazing miracle, and it's an experience that everyone should have at least once. Then again, some dads can't make it through the intense, gory situation, and there are plenty of moms who swear they will never do it again after the first time. Those people are amazed at the idea that some women invite their children to witness the birth of their siblings.
According to scientific studies and surveys, most families who experience birth together have wonderful, memorable experiences. But child psychologists warn that some children could be traumatized by seeing their mom in pain. On the one hand, many people say that it strengthens the bonds between siblings. But on the other hand, having the kids around could make it difficult for a mom to focus on the breathing and other techniques that can help her have a positive birth experience.
Kids react in many ways to seeing a baby brought into the world. Some are fascinated; others are bored. Some get scared by the sounds coming from their mother, and others find them funny. Many kids are supportive and encouraging and some are brave enough to help mom in the most trying of circumstances. As you can see from the stories we are sharing here, moms should think about their own child's personality when they consider inviting them to attend the birth.
Here are 15 ways kids reacted to witnessing childbirth.
15 Overcome With Emotion
Jacee Dellapenna has captured our hearts over the last several weeks. At just 12 years old, she was allowed to be in the delivery room when her mom delivered her baby brother. She was actually able to catch the baby and even cut the cord.
The photos of the pink-haired big sister overcome with emotion took social media by storm this summer. And now Jacee has ambitions of becoming an obstetrician so she can experience the miracle of birth over and over again.
"Every picture you see her face changing," mom Dede Carraway of Brandon, Miss. said in an ABC News report. "Just looking at her, there was not a dry eye in the room. It was so emotional."
The moment that her brother Cayson was born was definitely breathtaking, and we understand all the emotions that Jacee was feeling. What an amazing young woman!
14 Sharing The Experience
Just recently, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools welcomed their fifth child. They celebrated the sweet little boy, whose name we don't yet know, but they also got quite a bit of flak on social media because they chose to share the birth experience with their children.
The little ones — Petal Blossom Rainbow, 7, and Buddy Bear, 5 — were not in the room when the baby was born, but their teenagers did witness the event. Poppy Honey Rosie is 14 and Daisy Boo Pamela is 13, so their parents believed they were old enough to handle the experience. They even cut the cord.
"Jools was really, really amazing, unbelievably composed, natural birth and my two eldest girls got to come in at the very end as the baby was born which was amazing to witness, very very emotional," Jamie wrote on Instagram. It sounds like they handled it better than the social media shamers.
13 Everybody Cries
While many women who share the birth of their baby with their other children say that the experience is pretty amazing, sometimes, the kids aren't too happy about it. In a 2010 essay in Salon, Madeline Holler wrote about the birth of her third child when her 7-year-old and her 3-year-old were home. She had hoped that the baby would come while they were at school, but that's not the way the labor played out. And while the kids had been told what to expect, they were scared by the sounds their mother made during the hardest contractions.
Her 7-year-old cried, upset at the idea that her mother was in pain. But Madeline spent a lot of energy letting her girls know that she was OK and that things were going the way they were supposed to. And in the end, they were smitten with their new baby brother.
We love this part at the end:"'So what did you think?' I asked the girls, the adrenalin rush making me extra-effusive. 'Aren’t you glad you were here?' 'Not really,' Beatrice said. 'No,' that was Frances. I tried. Maybe they’ll thank me later."
12 Little Doctor
James Dukes wants to be a doctor when he grows up, and maybe that's why his instinct kicked in when he heard his mother screaming in labor. The 11-year-old rushed to help his mom, and he called 911. But the paramedics didn't get there in time to deliver the baby. That's when James did his work.
The level-headed boy followed the directions of the 911 operators. He got towels and wrapped up the baby, who was named Royal.
"My son was brave. He didn't shake. He didn't budge,"James' mom Kenyarda said in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. "I was like, 'Oh my God, somebody help me!' He did a wonderful job and I'm proud of him."
The doctor was so impressed that he actually offered to let James spend time in his office to help the brave little doctor achieve his dream.
11 Getting The Giggles
We've mentioned fear and we've talked about bravery, but that isn't the only reaction that some kids have when they witness childbirth. Kimberly Vukovich wrote about the birth of her son on Parent.co. Her daughters ran around the living room yelling, "The baby is coming!" with excitement when the pushing began.
Kimberly said her kids sat on a bed (in a room across the hall from where the birth happened) with a bowl of chips and juice boxes to watch the entire thing. They started mimicking the sounds their mother made as she labored, laughing and having fun. "Every time I beared down and let out a guttural moan, I heard my three-year-old mimic the call back to me from across the hall," the article said. "We went back and forth like this a few times – me mooing and grunting, while my daughters laughed and tried to answer me with their little, high-pitched groans that sounded more like roosters than the cow-ish sounds I was making."
When the baby was born, they rushed across the hall to meet their new sister, and Kimberly said their energy helped get her through. It sounds like they had a great time.
10 Bathtub And Shoelaces
For one Welsh pre-teen, a bathtub and shoelaces were the keys to helping her mom deliver her new baby brother. Shannon Cox, just 11, sprang into action when her mom went into labor while in the bathroom one day. She called an ambulance, and listened to instructions when the baby was delivered just moments later.
Shannon wrapped her new baby brother in a towel, used a shoe lace to tie the umbilical cord and then went and unlocked the door for the ambulance. To reward her efforts, the parents let Shannon name the baby, and she chose Riley Henry James.
“I don’t think Shannon realises just how important what she did was. The only thing she says when people ask her is ‘That’s what the midwives do’, as if it was nothing," mom Sarah said. “We’ve also chipped in and bought her a little trophy because we can’t thank her enough.”
9 Little Empath
Birth photographer Kristy Powell blogged about giving birth to her second child while her 2.5-year-old witnessed the birth. Little Adiah, she said, understood what was going on because they prepped her with books, videos and lots of conversations. She shared that the toddler did mostly little toddler things during her four hours of labor, and she liked to sneak a peak at her mother's vagina to see if the baby was coming out yet.
"She knew what was happening and she intuited what I needed... she's my little empath," Kristy wrote in her On Being Mom blog. "It was a gift, a gift to my and my husband's relationship to have her there, and a gift to the whole birthing experience. And I think having her there was a gift to her as well. She was present in the final moments, started to cry as my sounds grew their most intense, and a moment later I pulled Walden to my chest and... wonder! Amazement! MAGIC! She witnessed birth. I did it. She did it. We did it! Our family grew, together, unified, as one."
Kristy stressed that she had back up plans if Adiah wasn't ready for the experience, but she said she did well and it was a great family bonding moment.
8 A Job To Do
Alison Campbell's daughters have a job to do when she gives birth. The oldest two have been around twice to see their new sisters born, and they were given tasks that made them a part of the birthing team, according to a story about including children in births published by the Daily Mail.
Jemma was 6 for the first birth, and she stayed by the midwife and offered encouragement to her mom through every contraction. Emily, who was 3, would dab her mom's forehead with a cloth whenever she needed it. The girls put on their swim suits and got in the pool to meet their baby sister and cut the umbilical cord. And they did it again three years later, along with their now 3-year-old sister.
"I’m no hippy, but I felt strongly that birth is so often over-dramatised on TV, with women comparing stories of long labours and 'my birth experience was worse than yours' one- upmanship," Alison said in the article. "I wanted my children to understand that birth doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous, and is certainly not something to be fearful of."
7 A Bit Of A Distraction
Things don't always go perfectly, of course, as the same Daily Mail article explained. Belinda Fountaine decided she wanted her two sons to witness their sister's birth, so she prepared them for the experience and had her mother there to be in charge of watching them. But boys will be boys, and dealing with James, 4, and William, 2, while going through labor wasn't exactly easy.
"They were all excited, running around, continually coming over to me in the birthing pool to ask whether the baby was out yet," Belinda said in the article. "It was sweet, but every time they leaned on the side of the pool it disturbed my focus and when things got really intense I remember grunting to mum: 'Just get them out of here!”’
They seemed to be OK with the moment of the birth, but the younger son was disturbed to hear the baby crying and the older one was turned off by the "yucky water" the birth happened. It wasn't perfect, but the baby was healthy and the family was complete.
6 Brotherly Bond
Actress Mayim Bialik is known for her attachment parenting style, so it isn't a surprise that she decided to let her oldest son experience the birth of his little brother. She wrote about the homebirth on her blog Kveller and said that she prepared her 3-year-old by having him watch videos about birth and explaining the process.
While her first birth took days, the second one was only a few hours. When it was time to push, her son was sitting in his high chair eating a bowl of granola for breakfast. She got into a position for pushing where her son didn't get all of the action, if you know what we mean. But he watched as his brother was born and then was brought over to help cut the cord.
A few minutes later, the new baby was in his brother's arms and he didn't want to let go. From that moment, there was a brotherly bond - a moment that he may forget but she never will.
5 Scared Of The Screaming
In her birth story on She Knows, Stephanie Land said her 7-year-old daughter Mia wanted to witness the birth of her sister. She prepared her by sitting her down to watch videos, and Mia would put her hands over her ears while the mother screamed on screen. Still, the little girl insisted she wanted to be there.
Stephanie asked a friend to be in charge of her daughter during the delivery. The delivery was fast and furious, coming just minutes after they arrived at the birthing center.
"Mia had to step outside when I started crowning, but (the friend) was there for her to sing songs and assure that even though I was screeching for the midwife to just take the baby out, everything was perfectly fine. They came back in, and I sat, calmly, in the tub of water, with a scrunched-up-faced newborn under my chin," Stephanie wrote.
Mia says she never wants to have a baby, but she loves her little sister, and that's all that matters for now.
4 Big Sister, Big Helper
In England, one mom of five went into labor about 10 minutes after her partner left for work one morning. So she needed the help of her oldest daughter, Caitlin. The girl, 11, called the paramedics right away, but they couldn't get there on time, so instead they directed the girl on how to help over the phone.
According to news reports, little Elsa-Monet was born with her cord wrapped around her, but Caitlin kept her cool and unraveled the cord.
"I was a bit scared and shaky at first because I had never seen anything like that before in my life," she said in the news report said. "But when my sister was born, I was really happy. I think she’s really cute and I love her very much."
The baby was born at 7 a.m., but Caitlin was able to help out and still make it to school on time.
3 Pulling Up A Seat
Melissa Roy's girls slept through most of her labor with her third child. But when they woke up in the morning, they found her in the tub and pulled their little kiddie chairs up to sit right beside her.
Melissa, who wrote about the experience on She Knows, says the girls were excited and they joked around before they got hungry and went to eat breakfast. They came back for a while, but then they took a break when the labor got more intense. She said she called them back when the baby was crowning. She believes that the deep bond between her kids is because of the way they met their siblings, and her girls are excited about witnessing the birth of a new baby soon.
"Having my children at the births of their siblings is about building our family. Some of the first sounds my son heard were his sister's voices. My eldest helped hubby cut the umbilical cord. My daughters held their brother on our couch while my midwife looked me over. And after it was all done, all 5 of us snuggled down in bed together at the beginning of a our new family journey," Melissa wrote in the blog post. "My daughters adore their brother and they feel connected to him and responsible for him. I didn't go away for a few days and come back with a baby, I got in my bathtub and they watched him enter our world, breathe his first breaths and see the world for the first time. He truly joined OUR family at that moment, with everyone literally surrounding him with love."
2 Support System
Hazel West wasn't sure about letting her daughter be a part of her delivery. But her oldest child Indie, 9, was curious about her pregnancy throughout. She went along to midwife appointments and wanted to learn as much as she could. Finally, the parents agreed, and they woke her up at 4 a.m. so she wouldn't miss the arrival of her brother.
Hazel recounted the birth to Amsterdam Mamas. She said that her daughter provided amazing support when she began to struggle through a posterior delivery.
"I could feel the calm energy of my daughter beside me. I did not want her to be afraid, so I opened my eyes and lied to her, promising that everything was ok. Her face brightened into a gentle smile and I immediately knew that I had to turn that lie into the truth. Somehow I had to make this OK," Hazel wrote. She added later: "Wrapping my daughter’s hand in mine, I withdrew inside myself until I found what I was looking for - the belief that I could do this."
Indie whispered her support to her mom throughout the pushing phase, and after the birth, she told her father, “Papa, that was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”
1 Kid Birth
Jessica Moore woke up at 3 a.m. in labor, and her son woke up not long after. According to the blog she wrote for Mothering, she tried to encourage her little guy that all was well and that he could go back to bed. But who could sleep with such excitement going on?
"The house was full of people he knew and everyone was going about their jobs calmly and quietly. He wanted to be a part of it. I remember him checking on me when I was in the tub, smiling and laughing with me between contractions. It was so sweet to have him there," Jessica wrote in the blog.
The mom did ask that her son be taken out of the room for a bit so she could focus better, but he came back as soon as his sister was born, and he asked all about the placenta even as it was being delivered. Jessica is a birth photographer, and in her boy's mind, birth is no big deal. So when she left for a job this summer, he asked "It it a kid birth?" He has disappointed when he had to stay home.
Sources: The Sun, Salon, Parent.co, On Being Mom, Daily Mail, Kveller, She Knows, Mothering, Amsterdam Mamas