Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Siblings at birth: just whose needs are being met?

One of the purported benefits of homebirth is the ability to have children present. It's not clear to me just who benefits from this. Considering what we know about children and traumatic events, there seems to be more likelihood of harm to children than benefit from observing the birth of a sibling. I cannot think of any situation in which it is beneficial to observe a parent in pain and out of control. There is certainly no precedent for this in "nature" since all peoples we are aware of specifically exclude children from birth.

It seems to me that the only people who benefit from having children at birth are the parents. They appreciate the opportunity to have the family together, and many apparently wish to show the children just what they have done. Is there any evidence at all that witnessing childbirth is developmentally appropriate for children at any stage before the teenage years? Children cannot advocate for themselves. They are easily influenced by a desire for parental approval. Is it fair to children to put them in such a situation?

Before anyone writes back to say that childbirth is natural, consider this: Sex is natural, too, but we do not consider it appropriate for children to witness parental sexual activity. It blurs the boundaries between parent and child. Isn't encouraging or allowing children to be present at the birth of a sibling just another inappropriate breach of the parent-child boundary?

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