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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Something Right

Since Anna's birth 15 months ago, I've questioned my decision to allow Sarah to be present at the birth. She asked to. She begged to. She adored her sister from the moment she found out Anna was a girl. What a priceless bonding experience, I thought, for an older sister to attend her baby sister's birth, to "be there" for her from the moment of her birth.

Sarah is very mature for her age. At age three, strangers thought she was in kindergarten. She understands ideas and concepts with an adult-like clarity. We've never had "the birds and the bees talk" with her and yet she understands, somehow, that the making and birthing of a baby is a collaboration between God and (universal) Man. In preparation for Anna's birth, Sarah and I watched dozens of birth videos on youtube. She was fascinated, not frightened. She would tell anyone who'd listen, "my mommy is going to push my baby sister out of her buh-gina!"

So we were all set, right?

All the birth videos we watched were of women giving birth either sitting up or semi-reclined. You could clearly see the women's vaginas and the baby's heads as they were born. When Anna was born, I was on my hands and knees. Sarah could see the baby's head as it first emerged, and instead of seeing it come from my vagina, it looked as if, in Sarah's words, I was "pooping her out". Sarah didn't like that.

She wasn't as excited about Anna's birth as I'd hoped she'd be. It wasn't the huge sister bonding experience I expected. She didn't seem to be in awe of the birthing process. I was so disappointed! Had I made the right decision to allow her to attend Anna's birth? Had she been so traumatized by the birth that she wouldn't have a respect and love for birth as an adult?

Last week my disappointment turned to joy after a conversation Sarah and I had.

Sarah: Mommy, I think I want to be a doctor when I grow up.
Me: That sounds like fun. Do you think you'll be a mommy, too?
Sarah: Well...not really. I think just a doctor.
Me: Why don't you want to be a mommy?
Sarah: Because having the baby is really hard work!

When she talked about birth as "really hard work" my heart soared! She didn't view birth as painful, or gross, or scary or unimportant. It was just hard work. I asked her if learning to ride her bike, learning to read and write, and learning to crack eggs were hard work and she agreed they were. So I asked, "but now that you have those skills, aren't you glad you went through the hard work?" She said she was.

It's been one of my goals to raise my children with a respect for the normal birth process. I think I'm doing something right.


  1. My son was present at our birth (age 3), and he did just fine - except that ever since he has told me that I made too much noise! (I'm super-loud in labor.) :)

  2. It is hard work. What a beautiful sentiment. When people ask me to describe birth I say its like running a marathon (ex marathon runner here) It's hard work, and exhausting and there is some anguish involved or "give up" moments, but you get through it and its beautiful and transforming and triumphant but mostly HARD WORK! :)
    My daughter attended my birth (age 4 at the time) At some point when I knew I was going to "loose" it a little she was guided into another room (i think she was tired anway)
    She brought ear muffs with her in her bag she packed, which is really cute I think.
    After we had the baby she slept in a sleeping bag on the floor next to our bed, where my husband and me and new baby slept. It was a really beautiful experience, and she has fond memories of sleeping "next" to us afterwards