Last week, we published a blog post about children being present during labour and birth, and we asked some of our fantastic Natal teachers to tell us about their experiences and stories.
This week we interview our amazing founder Steph Beaumont, who gave birth to her forth child at home with her third child watching TV in the same room!
But let’s hear the whole story from Steph directly, who now has 4 children and is expecting a fifth in the summer.Q.: Steph, have you ever had any of your children with you when you were in labour with one of their siblings?
“When Oren was 13 months old, and I was in labour with his sister Willow, Oren was with us all day, as we spent the day with me labouring in Starbucks and Mothercare!”
If you know Steph and you are ever trying to track her down, her local Starbucks will probably be a great place to start.
But let’s carry on with the interview.
“The same happened several years later when Willow and Oren were 4 and 5 respectively, and I was in labour with their brother Brock. Then Oren, Willow and Brock were all present when I was labouring at home with my fourth, Heath. By then they were aged 7, 6 and 1.”
Q: What did you say to your children during labour? Did you feel the need to reassure them? What did they do and how did they react?
“We just explained that the baby was coming, which was why we were inflating the pool in preparation for the home birth, or why Mummy was making some noises and concentrating. There was no need to reassure them, as they weren’t worried – we had talked about these things happening beforehand, and they were more interested and excited than anything else.
I found my labour with my fourth child, Heath, very manageable and positive, so there was nothing to ‘hide’ from them. While I was in labour with both Brock and Heath, Oren and Willow played, got ready for bed and then went to bed! They saw me using my birth ball, breathing and sounding. They were just asking whether the baby was coming soon!”
Q: You gave birth to Brock and Heath at home. Were your eldest, Oren and Willow, present during the birth of their little brothers? And Brock? Where was he when his little brother Heath was born?
“Oren and Willow were not present at the births of Brock or Heath, purely because it was past their bedtime, so they went to bed. Had it been earlier in the day, they would have stayed with us, and I specified this on my birth plan.
Brock on the other hand stayed with me throughout the birth of Heath – he was one year old and really didn’t notice anything different from usual. He just kept watching Team Umizoomi on the TV in the same room as us throughout!”
Q: So effectively, during the home births of Brock and Heath, all the children were at home with you. Did you plan it that way?
“Having the children at home with us, with no other childcare in place (unless of emergency) was always intended. Especially with Heath, I had always assumed that Brock would probably be with us, as he co-sleeps and usually would only go to bed when we are going.”
Q: How did having Brock in the room make you feel? Were you worried or aware of his presence? Do you think it affected HOW you laboured?
“I wasn’t concerned that Brock was there, and I barely noticed that he was. The music from his TV programme I did notice, but it wasn’t an unwelcome distraction. I just remember different songs entering my consciousness as I progressed through labour. In some ways, the songs from his TV programme were quite calming, as they were very familiar.
In fact, the ONLY regret I have about my children’s presence at birth was knowing how quickly after Oren and Willow went to bed that Heath was born. I wish I had kept them up, so they could be there! But that is only something I even know about with hindsight, and realistically I’m happy with what did happen at the time. But this has given me a new-found sense of resolve for next time, if circumstances allow!”
Q: And what about Brock? What was his reaction to his brother’s birth?
“I honestly don’t think that Brock really even noticed. While I was getting checked for any tears after Heath’s birth, Brock cuddled into one side of me while I held Heath in the other arm, and then he fell asleep. Staying close to him gave him a real continuity and reassurance. There were no ‘down sides’ to him being there for him, only positives. Plus he didn’t really notice Heath until the next day and was pretty much uninterested in him for a while!”
Q: You mentioned that you have a new-found sense of resolve for the birth of your next baby. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
“I would love to have all my children present at our next birth! However, I would ask the older ones if they wanted to be there first, as I think it is important that they can choose. It would also be dependent on circumstances though; for example, what time of day it all happened, as realistically if it were in the early hours of the morning, it might not be the best plan to keep them up or wake them up! I certainly wouldn’t feel any of them ‘had’ to leave the room at any point though.”
Q: That’s fantastic and so exciting! How will you prepare them for this?
“I will discuss with them, as I have previously, what they might see and hear – just so they understand in advance. I will discuss it with Oren, Willow and Brock, but I would assume that Brock won’t understand it as much as his older siblings.”
Q: A lot of people who are reading this would probably worry about making plan for their own children to be present during birth, as they think the children might see or hear something that could affect them? What do you think about that?
“When I was preparing for Heath’s birth, and making provisions for the children to be present during the birth, if needed, so many people felt the need to say to me: ‘But aren’t you worried that they will be traumatised by it?’ And the answer then, and now, is no. Obviously, if it looks like something might not be going to plan, then at that point in labour/birth, while I may need to make a Plan B, I would also consider them in that, and having a friend on hand to be able to call in is important in that circumstance.
However, I focus on the fact that that is very unlikely to happen, and actually how seeing me in labour/give birth is an important part of normalising it all and taking away fears that they could carry into adulthood about what happens behind closed doors. I believe that seeing a birth would be an incredibly positive experience for them.
When I was pregnant with Brock and Heath, so many parents and teachers would ask Oren and Willow what they were doing when Mummy went into hospital to have a baby – and they would say ‘she isn’t going to hospital! Mummy’s babies come out at home!’ which I think shows a little how their experiences have normalised birth and made it a non-threatening event. And this is something I’m really pleased that they get to go into adulthood with – I hope it means it will positively impact on their future babies as adults too.
This is what feels right for me though. I am now very confident in my abilities to labour and birth, and if I wasn’t, I might feel differently about having them present. I certainly hadn’t considered the ideas of having Oren present for Willow’s birth, because I was in a very different place back then with how I felt about it all.
However, my experience does show that it is also possible to change how you look and feel about birth through what you learn and how you prepare. And this can impact your own future experiences as well as potentially those of other family members, which I think is pretty huge!”
Thank you Steph for your fantastic insight and views. It’s great to see that the message we are giving to the next generation of adults is that labour and birth are normal, empowering facts of life, and nothing to be inherently scared about.
What about you? Were your older children present while you were in labour with their youngest? Were they present during the birth? Or would you ever consider having children present during the birth of a younger sibling?