You can begin this preparation the day you tell your child you're expecting. Talk about how the baby's growing and what changes will happen within your body. Take them to your prenatal visits. Let them be a part of listening to the baby's heartbeat and watching the midwife palpate your stomach. Most midwives have posters and life-size props of the pelvis and baby and she can demonstrate how the baby will come out. Closer to the birth you can also talk about the sounds you may make. You can have your child or children practice moaning and making primal sounds with you. You can talk about what they may see when the baby comes out and what the midwife will do. And you can discuss the child's role in the birth i.e., cutting the umbilical cord, helping to catch the baby etc. and make plans.
Help prepare your child or children for your birth with Rebecca's cute home birth coloring book, "There's a New Baby in My House."
Although you know your child best, you may be surprised with his or her reaction to birth. Some well-prepared children do not handle the birth well and become emotional and other children who've previously acted aloof about the impending birth may be drawn in and fascinated by the experience. It is good to keep an open mind. It is also a good idea to have a designated person to care for your child. Assigning someone to watch after your older child or children will allow you and your partner to focus on birthing the new baby. The caregiver can take the older child out of the room if it becomes overwhelming for you or the child and they can also watch your child while you labor and bring them to you when the baby is about to be born. You will want to choose a person with whom your child feels safe, a person who supports your decision to birth at home and someone you can call at any time of the day or night.1
Last but not least, you must consider your pets if you have any. Although you may want to include your pet in your birth you may want to consider the overall emotional effect that the birth may have on furry family members, dogs in particular. According to Jennifer Shryock, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and developer of Dogs & Storks,. witnessing a birth may impact your dog negatively. "Many dogs that attend such a situation," she says, "often become sick shortly after." She attributes this to stress. As she states, "There is no way to communicate fairly to our companions that all is well. They are wiser then we know. They sense the stress and different situation no matter what we do." She speculates the association between scent and stress may contribute to fear and confusion.
"Babies smell like amniotic fluid and the dog may associate the baby with whatever phase of labor Mom was in when her water broke or the amniotic scent appeared." She says, "So, if mom is in full blown labor and vocalizing and this unique scent is there, then once baby comes....what is the association for the dog? Fear, panic, confusion?"
In addition to considering the emotional impact on your pet (especially dogs), you must also consider how he or she will fit into the birth space. Cats marking their territory or birth kit items or dogs "protecting" their owner(s) is not how midwives want to start a birth. Most midwives however, are open-minded when it comes to animals at birth; some even gave birth themselves with their pets present. They have limits, nevertheless, and most admit that dogs and cats are better outside the birth room.
Some common concerns midwives have are: