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Birth Videos and Live Birth: Should Kids See It?

She just had a baby...were older kids there?

There’s a whole host of opinions on this topic, I’m sure.  Some moms probably think it is inappropriate to show young children birth videos.  Others embrace it.  And as for my opinion…why not embrace it?

Keep reading to find out why I think we shouldn’t be afraid to show kids birth videos!

In this culture, we’re afraid of nudity.  We find it distasteful (unless it’s on a Victoria’s Secret model…but that’s another topic entirely).  We believe that certain parts are private and we just don’t look at them.

This plays into our fear of birth.  We’re afraid to show our bodies, afraid to let others see our bodies, and afraid of all those things our bodies do.  We clam up when we think about people seeing us naked in labor.  All that grunting, and groaning, and imperfect pregnancy bodies, and what if we accidentally pee or poop on someone?!  Labor’s just about the least delicate process ever.  (And some women are totally paralyzed in their fear of all this stuff!)

We’re so busy worrying about how we’ll feel and how we’ll do.  The idea of a child — who, admittedly, won’t frame it the same way as an adult would — seeing this is…incomprehensible to some.  Why would we allow a child to watch Mommy in pain, Mommy out of control?  And why would we even bother to let our children see some other woman giving birth in a video?  That’s personal, private, and just for people who are mature enough to understand why we watch…right?

But a child’s innocence is a good thing here.  They don’t see it the same way.  They don’t see it as out of control.  They can view it as labor, hard work, concentration…necessary to bring a baby into this world.  They won’t see it as scary or painful.  Granted, that’s going to depend on how you handle labor, which is why you’ll have to make the call for yourself and your child(ren).  But if you’re not scared and feel like you can handle all this, your children can view it as a sign of strength.

And what a wonderful moment when that baby arrives!  Children get to see birth as a normal, natural part of life.  They’re present for the arrival of their sibling.  The baby is joining their family.  It’s not this disconnected, strange experience where Mommy leaves with a big belly…and comes back a few days later with a (less big) belly and a baby in arms.

Plus, children understand life.  They see how life is created and how it arrives.  This is completely normal and to be celebrated!  We should not be afraid of pregnancy and birth.  We should not hide it.  We’ve been very open with our kids: “Mommies and Daddies make babies.”  We told them where the babies come out (they don’t believe us, though!).  To them this is just a part of life.

As for birth videos, it’s good to watch them together, so that you can frame what is going on.  My daughter knows that when a mommy has a big belly, she probably has a baby in it (she’s picked up on the “pregnant shape”).  She enjoys seeing what the mommies go through and the moment the baby arrives.  “Look, it’s a baby!”  To her it truly is an amazing process!

People who are afraid their children might freak out probably don’t need to worry (of course, you know your children best).  Children pick up on intensity, emotions, and involvement.  I know my daughter cried when someone else did even at 4 months-old.  I know now if she’s involved in a task with me (like baking, I test recipes a lot), she’s very careful to pay attention and very aware of what she needs to be knowing.  In the baking scenario, she knows we have to measure carefully and not spill so that we don’t mess up our test.  She picks up on my focus and intensity.

The same can be true in birth.  When the child is connected to the mom, watching her and helping her — perhaps whispering softly or rubbing her shoulders — the child is truly involved.  Children like to be involved!  To them, helping mom through birth is no different than most other things.  My daughter gets extremely concerned if a parent is sick, and wants to sit with them, hold them, bring them things to make them feel better.  She completely forgets what she needs for awhile and focuses on the sick parent (and speaking from the parent who’s usually “well” perspective…it’s very hard to get her to just leave the other person alone!).  She desires to help very strongly.  I suspect the same thing would be true during birth.  Again, every child is different and you know your child best, of course.

Birth is a family event– at least adding a new baby to the family is a family event!  And the pregnancy and birth are part of that.  The mother is the only one pregnant, but she is not the only one who is expecting.  We need to include our children in all the parts of the pregnancy that they are comfortable with.

And finally, let’s stop making birth this scary, strange event.  Mommy is not sick or hurt.  There is nothing wrong with Mommy.  In fact, this is a wonderful and joyful occasion!  Instead of making yet another generation fear birth, let’s invite them in to celebrate it, and empower them.

The key is to know your child and go with what s/he wants.  Some children would prefer not to be present; others would love to.  Go with your child’s feelings on this one.  Don’t forbid, but don’t force either.  My midwife told me a story about one little boy (maybe 2, or maybe not even) who was being kept out of the room during his mother’s birthing experience.  He was screaming and carrying on.  The person keeping him back was only trying to be helpful, thinking he’d be a distraction.  But my midwife went over, picked him up, and set him down next to his mother.  Even so young, he immediately stopped his fussing and quietly watched as his sibling was born.  That was all he’d wanted — to be present and involved.  Give children credit: they know what they want, and many want to help and support mommy!

What do you think?  Should children be allowed to view birth videos or see live births?

Top image by darkmarty

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