My ten-year-old daughter was there for the labor and delivery of Karoline. People have asked why we allowed her presence. Mary Beth first proposed the idea. She wanted to be there. It was that simple. I talked with friends who had had siblings at birth and heard nothing but positive feedback. I talked at length with my midwife. I admit that I was a bit taken with the idea that I could show my daughter how to labor. I've always had good labors and deliveries and I liked the idea of sharing that positive with her. So often, young women hear the horror stories; I wanted her to know something else first. But, in the back of my mind was the creeping doubt. What if something went wrong? What if she witnessed something unthinkable? And so I wrestled all the way until the end.
I talked extensively with my friend Melanie who was Mary Beth's choice for her own support person. I was the labor coach when Mel's teenage daughter delivered two years ago, so Mel and I were together as Emily labored to bring Gracie into the world. We had a shared labor experience and Mel had an understanding of what we hoped. She also knew to whisk Mary Beth away if necessary.
We opted not to watch birth videos. She wasn't interested. We talked a lot about labor and delivery and looked through some books. I walked her carefully through the emotional signposts described in Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.
When push came to shove;-), she did beautifully. It turned out to be a hard labor (Karoline was posterior and transition was 21/2 hours long). I worried that she would be so traumatized by watching me in pain that she'd be afraid of childbirth. On the contrary. When I hit the "self-doubt" signpost and began to declare rather emphatically that I couldn't do it, she told Mel, "She really can. She just worries too much." There's a girl who did her homework!
To see her face as this baby was born was a precious priceless gift. A few days after the birth, when I asked if she were afraid, she said she's less afraid than before Karoline was born. Later, she wrote:
I was there when Kari was born, there when they measured, there when they weighed, and there to cut the cord of sweet Karoline and much more. I am posting to tell you such a great experience I got out of this. I loved to see that head pop out into her shiny new world and spend her first seconds. I watched her cry with my mom and I just got to see the beautiful moments and minutes and even hours she first spent in the world. I loved cutting the cord and I knew that I was blessed to have such a good friend (Mel) watch over me at this time.
It took a huge leap of faith for me to have her there. I had to overcome my own fears and my natural sense of protectiveness. But I'm really, really glad I did.