People are pretty divided on the issue of whether older children should watch childbirth or not. Many people are still trying to decide, after all, whether husbands should be present during childbirth. So having kids watching is a bit more sensitive of an issue.
There are those who consider childbirth a bloody, painful experience that they’d rather shelter their child against. However, there are also those who say that childbirth is natural and witnessing it can make children understand themselves and life so much better.
To answer this heated question, we’ve listed down some of the factors that could mean your kid may be able to appreciate the wonder of childbirth, as well as a few factors that could mean the little one isn’t ready for it.
15 Yes: A Learning Experience
If you’re confident that you and your family can transform childbirth into a learning experience for the little one, then you can probably make it work. This can be an opportunity to teach your child about life and human sexuality which, let’s be honest, schools aren’t always great at educating kids about.
Childbirth is, after all, a normal occurrence in everyday life. Before hospitals became the standard venues for birthing, childbirth used to be an intimate family affair done at home. (As a side note, you can hardly blame hospitals for taking on this role as maternal mortality rates used to be pretty high.) During home births, kids were often around and were even often asked to do related tasks such as fetch clean cloth or water. In this way they were involved and accepted it as a part of life.
14 No: A Traumatic Experience
If you don’t have time or capacity to help your child learn from childbirth, it’s probably not a great idea. Without guidance, it may become a traumatic experience for your little one instead. A great number of kids nowadays, after all, are more sheltered than ever before. Many kids have not witnessed great epidemics, famines or wars or pretty much just the horrific practices and events in the distant past.
They’re therefore more easily afraid of blood and pain. Nothing spells blood and pain as much as labor and childbirth. They might end up more traumatized than enlightened. In addition, hospital births aren’t exactly the ideal place for children.
13 Yes: A Low-Risk Pregnancy
If you’re having a low-risk pregnancy with little chance for any complications, it may be alright. In fact, childbirth that goes fairly smoothly can be amazing for little kids. Your child may be a bit shaken from it, but he will ultimately be able to appreciate the teamwork between the medical staff, the mother and other family members present. He can witness with their own eyes how the lump on his mom’s tummy transforms into a tiny, crying baby. This is, after all, the miracle of life. And it will still be a miracle in his eyes no matter how bloody it gets!
12 No: A Complicated Childbirth
If you have high-risk conditions such as diabetes or preeclampsia, or if you’re at great risk for complications during childbirth, it may be best to keep the kids out. Sure, there is a chance that everything will turn out fine. But if complications set in, you don’t want your child to watch in horror as everyone rushes to correct it. In addition, childbirth complications don’t generally look pretty. Even if the child is ushered out, calm as the medical staff may try to be, children can sense fear and alarm. Again, this may only lead to trauma or fear.
11 Yes: Someone is With Them
You certainly want a mature and responsible adult near your child when he witnesses childbirth. That way, the child has a sense of security and reassurance. Someone has to be around to explain to him what’s going on and answer all his questions. In addition, the grown-up can regularly assess the child’s reactions and perhaps take him away if he looks like he’s not taking it well.
10 No: They’re Unsupervised
If there are no adults to be with your child or, even worse, they’re being looked after by other older kids or teens, the experience might not be good for them. Children and teens may have misconceptions and fears about pregnancy and childbirth that might get passed around. Even those that understand it quite well might not be able to explain the whole process adequately. If an adult can’t stay with them, it might be best not to let them watch.
9 Yes: They’re Interested
Call it quirky, but some kids are actually fascinated about where babies come from and how our bodies work. In some, the fascination may be so great that they won’t mind all the blood. If you think your child may want to see childbirth, bring it up to them. After all, it can be helpful if he’s in on the choice rather than being given a “you have to watch” or “you have to stay out” ultimatum. Make it clear that if, at any time, he wishes to exit, it’s perfectly fine.
8 No: They Say No
If your kid immediately refuses your suggestion to watch childbirth, it’s best not to force him. A blatant refusal is a sure sign that he’s probably not ready for this experience yet, at least at the moment. Explain to him what’s going to happen anyway so that he’s a bit more aware in case he changes his mind later on. The thought of watching may not be appealing at first but his curiosity may get the better of him later on.
7 Yes: They Get an Orientation
If your child is interested, make sure you explain what he should expect during childbirth very clearly. It is not, after all, as easy as waiting for the stork to come in the window with a pristine white bundle. Tell him that there will be blood and that it might be painful for the mother the push. But also reassure him that once it’s all done, he’ll get to see the baby that has been waiting in mom’s tummy to come out. Explain that many babies come into the world like this and so did he! By telling him what to expect in advance, he can prepare himself and won’t be too shocked when it all actually happens. It also gives him a chance to bail out if he thinks he can’t handle it.
6 No: As a Surprise Witness
Getting a child to witness childbirth without talking to him about it beforehand is probably a bad idea. If it hasn’t been explained to him yet, his expectations about childbirth may be less than realistic. This may result in a big shock when he does get to witness it. While some kids will recover from the shock and realize just how amazing it is, others do run the risk of getting traumatized by the event. If you’ve just gone into labor and have only thought of getting your child to watch, it might be better if you save it for next time and let the kid stay home.
5 Yes: Do the After-Talk
Just as you’re going to give your child a little bit of orientation prior to watching, it’s also important to talk him about what he thinks and what he feels about it afterwards. This will allow you to correct any misconceptions he has about what happened, as well as get a gist of what’s on his mind. A bit of talking afterwards could help him transform what seems to be a confusing and stressful situation into a positive memory.
4 No: Ignore Them Afterwards
After childbirth, everybody is usually busy attending to the tired mom as well as the helpless newborn. Because of this, the observing kid may not have the opportunity to talk to anyone about what has happened. Just because he’s silent, after all, doesn’t mean that he’s alright and what he’s seen hasn’t affected him. He probably doesn’t understand what happened in full, and he’ll definitely need someone to explain and answer his questions. Ideally, this is the same grown up who has stuck with him before and during the childbirth.
3 Yes: Involvement
By now your child probably understands that the whole point of pregnancy and childbirth is to basically get a brand new baby into the world. He’ll likely be curious about the newborn, so give him the opportunity to take a look. If it’s possible, he might even want to help swaddle the baby. This is another great opportunity for him to begin getting involved in his sibling or relative’s care. This can also allow him to view the whole thing as a positive experience. Even if it’s painful and bloody it is necessary to bring life in the world. With a baby this cute, it can’t be that bad!
2 No: Just Watching
If you’re only going to restrict your little one to just watching, there really isn’t much point in it. Kids are curious and learn things better by being hands-on. If he’s not going to play a part in it, even if it’s just an obligatory role like helping get a few items, there may not be enough benefit to allowing him to be there.
This, of course, means that your child must wash himself and keep clean so he’ll be ready to meet the baby. This also means that if the kid has a cold or something, it may be best if he stay away from the newborn for now. Basically, if there’s any reason he can’t be near the baby, just don’t let him watch.
1 Making the Decision
In summary, the decision of whether your child should watch childbirth or not depends greatly on a number of things. First of all, you should consider your child’s maturity and readiness to witness childbirth. Second, you also need to get a knowledgeable and mature adult to explain the process and listen to him before, during and after the event. Finally, you should also be confident that childbirth becomes a positive and educational experience for him.
All in all, it is a wonderful opportunity for a child but, at the same time, it must be handled carefully to keep it from becoming a traumatic experience.